1. LIBRARY CATALOG
  2. DATABASES
  3. JOURNAL A-Z List
  4. SUBJECT GUIDES
  5. LIBRARY SERVICES

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Pat Foote, 2006

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0360.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Brig. Gen. Evelyn “Pat” Foote’s background; her service with the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1989; her involvement with organizations and committees related to veterans and women in the military in the 1990s; and her work as president of the Alliance for National Defense beginning in 1998. Foote also comments on many issues and challenges related to women in the army.

Summary:

Foote provides a brief overview of her family background and youth in Durham, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.; working her way through Wake Forest College in Wake Forest, North Carolina, in the early 1950s; and working for a newspaper and insurance company before joining the army.

Foote explains how she learned about the Women’s Army Corps (WAC); her decision to join the army; the reaction of her family and friends; and general attitudes about women in the military in the late 1950s. Foote describes her six-month training at the WAC Officer Training Detachment at Fort McClellan, Alabama, in 1960, including why several women did not graduate, and the classwork and types of training she received. She relates her experience with current issues related to women in combat, the war in Iraq, and positions that are still closed to them.

Foote describes her first assignment as a platoon officer; including her lack of experience; training new recruits; the women that she trained; having to judge those that could succeed; and why she enjoined it. She also discusses her recruiting tour in Portland, Oregon, from 1961 to 1964. Topics include recruiting women for commission; the College Junior Program; and doing public relations work for recruitment. Foote briefly describes her assignment as commander of a WAC garrison company at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in 1964. She talks about teaching ethics, morality, and current events and comments on the difficulties in the WAC at that time.

Foote also speaks about her one-year tour in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1967. She describes volunteering for overseas duty and being turned down twice; being assigned to public information after being promoted to major; the information environment in Vietnam and the number of personnel devoted to it; traveling across the country; constant sense of danger; and tracking North Vietnamese regulars prior to the Tet Offensive. She also comments on how the war was fought, compares Vietnam to the war in Iraq, and notes the disillusionment in the country after the war.

Foote discusses the state of the WAC during the late sixties and early seventies, including the impact of the end of conscription; the drive to increase the number of women in the army; poor planning for integrating women into male units; and various issues and related to integrating women, particularly in living arrangements and supplies. She notes that more doors began to open for women in the late 1960s and 1970s, but that steps backward were taken in the 1980s by re-segregating basic training.

Foote talks about becoming an MP in the late seventies and becoming the commander of the integrated 42nd Military Police Group in Mannheim, Germany, from 1983 to 1985. Foote describes her finding out about promotion to brigadier general; becoming deputy inspector general; and her work doing inspections of army bases worldwide from 1986 to 1988. Foote speaks about becoming the first female deputy commanding general of the Military District of Washington (MDW) stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia; changes at Fort Belvoir; working with civilians; and her command style. She also discusses many other prominent women in the army, including Brigadier General Rebecca Halstead and Brigadier General Anne MacDonald.

Foote describes her public speaking engagements and her involvement in various organizations and commissions after she retired from the army in 1989, including the Clinton-Gore National Veterans Task Force; the Atlantic Council; the American Battle Monuments Commission and her trip to Normandy to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day; and being selected for the World War II Memorial Committee. Foote explains her eight-year involvement in the plan and design of the World War II Memorial; opposition to the proposed site from the National Coalition to Save Our Mall; the design competition; and fighting to keep a quote from a woman as part of the inscriptions.

Foote comments on being recalled to active duty in 1996 and serving for one year as the vice chairman of the Secretary of the Army’s Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment. She describes the panel’s procedures; conducting a survey concerning issues related to sexual harassment and discrimination; the findings of the study; and related leadership problems. Foote also comments on contemporary sexual discrimination in the army and why she believes it is still a problem.

Foote also talks about her ongoing work with the Alliance for National Defense. She explains how the organization started in 1998; how it represents women in the armed forces; being in opposition with Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness; and her work with other veterans organizations.

Creator: Evelyn Patricia Foote

Biographical Info: Evelyn “Pat” Foote (b. 1930) of Durham, North Carolina, served as an officer in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1989, rising to the rank of brigadier general in 1986. She retired as the first female commander of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and became a prominent speaker about issues concerning women in the military. From 1998 to 2007 she served as president of the Alliance for National Defense.

Collection: Evelyn Patricia Foote Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Beth Carmichael:

Today is August 8, 2006. My name is Beth Carmichael, and I'm at the home of Evelyn "Pat" Foote in Accokeek, Maryland, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Thank you so much for talking with me this afternoon.

Pat Foote:

My pleasure.

BC:

If you give me your full name, we'll use that as a test of the machine.

PF:

Okay. It's Evelyn Patricia Foote.

[Recording paused]

BC:

I'd like to start by talking a little bit about your background. Can you tell me when and where you were born and a little bit about your family?

PF:

Yes. I was born May 19, 1930, in Durham, North Carolina. My father was Henry Alexander Foote, my mother, Evelyn Sevena Womack Foote, neither of whom had the opportunity to go beyond the seventh grade in school because they had to work to help support their own families. But when I was born, my dad was working, I believe then at the American Tobacco Company, but he became an employee of Seeman Printery in Durham and remained there until he moved to Washington [D.C.] in 1945. My mother was a stay-at-home mom until I and my two brothers, Henry Alexander [Foote] Junior and Richard “Dick” Clyde [Foote], were all in school, and then she went to work for the American Tobacco Company also. So we were latchkey kids way back in the thirties before we ever knew what the term was.

My dad's family originally came into America into Virginia from London and actually from Cornwall, England. My mother was sort of German and Scotch-Irish. But you know, just good, wonderful people from relatively large families themselves, [from a] stable family unit. I was the only girl, the youngest, and I had to survive my two brothers during those years of our growing up together. But it was a good family. My mother and dad both worked, as I said, but the time we had together was quality time in the evening.

BC:

What did they do for the tobacco company?

PF:

My mother worked on a machine that they called a catching machine that would process the cigarettes as they were manufactured and [she would] make sure that they were coming through in proper alignment. My dad was a linotype operator and then a printer typesetter for Seeman Printery, and he became a master printer with them; was actually hired away by the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C., towards the end of World War II and came to Washington to establish a homestead for all of us. We did not come originally, neither did my mother, because housing was so tight. But my mother went the following year and became a clerk at the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], and Dick and I stayed home in Durham with an aunt and uncle to finish the ninth grade for me and the tenth grade for him, and then we moved up and joined the family in the early summer of 1945 to live there, and we've been there ever since in this area.

BC:

That must have been a big change, going from Durham to Washington, D.C.

PF:

Oh, I hated it. Oh, I did not want to leave Durham and all my friends at my school. But I found out within a year I had a new school, new friends, a much broader horizon and far more to do. While I have maintained contact with a number of friends back in Durham, it's never the same when you go back. But I hated leaving, but we all settled in up here, first in Washington, living in Washington until 1957, at which time I had graduated from Wake Forest University [in North Carolina], was still living at home with my parents. My brothers were married, and they [my parents] purchased a home in Falls Church, Virginia. It was the first home they ever owned. So I moved with them to Falls Church and lived there until I went into the army in February 1960.

BC:

If we could just backtrack a little bit, did you attend high school here in Washington then?

PF:

I went to senior high school here, Central High School, which no longer exists. The school is still a school, but it is now Cardozo High School in Northwest Washington at 13th and Clifton Streets. It was the most awesome school I had ever seen. It was so large, and in fact, in my graduating class in 1947, there were over three hundred seniors, which for me, was phenomenal. It had everything in the world you would want a school to have, great sports program, great activities. We even had our own bank that the students themselves ran. Indoor shooting ranges, Olympic—style pools, it was huge, just huge.

But oddly enough, coming up from the North Carolina schools, I was advanced beyond what the students here were, and in fact I skipped the eleventh grade. So did my brother. We both skipped a year of high school when we came here. I had to go and take one course in the summer, and then I graduated just as I had turned seventeen.

BC:

That was in 1947?

PF:

Yes, 1947.

BC:

What did you do after you graduated?

PF:

Well, believe it or not, I was all registered to attend the University of Maryland, but there was a problem. I was flat broke and my parents were not in any position to pay my tuition. So I went to work at the FBI myself for a year.

BC:

What did you do there?

PF:

I was a clerk. I was a little file clerk, started off as a GS-3 and then became a records search clerk, became a GS-4, and worked there for a little over a year, about fourteen months, on a salary of nineteen hundred dollars a year. But I saved a thousand dollars.

In that year, my uncle who was a graduate of Wake Forest Law School told me he thought I would love going to Wake Forest, and that's when I investigated Wake Forest College, which had just begun admitting women during World War II. Of course, I started my first year at Wake Forest in 1948. There were about eleven hundred men and one hundred women on campus in the college, in the liberal arts college.

BC:

How did you like college?

PF:

Oh, I loved it. I worked my way through. The dean of women was the first dean of women that Wake Forest ever had, Dean Lois Johnson, and I had to see her immediately because there was a policy that freshmen women could not work, and I told her that if I wasn't able to work then I would not be able to stay more than a semester. So she gave me a break. She said, “Okay, we'll let you work.”

I was going to work at a restaurant in town, thirty-six hours a week, but still carry a full load. Yes, thirty-six hours for twelve dollars a week and two meals a day, if I worked both lunch and dinner. But she said my grades would determine whether or not I'd be able to do that the second semester, and they were good enough and I did. So it seems to me I was either at work, in class, or washing clothes in the basement, one of the three. But I met some wonderful friends there, who we are still very close friends. I loved Wake Forest. It was just the right size.

Now, at the end of my first year, again, I was flat broke again, so I left Wake Forest and lived at home and went to George Washington University for one year, my sophomore year, and continued working part-time for the old Acme grocery store chain and got my sophomore year behind me, went back to the FBI for another year to earn more money and then went back to Wake Forest and graduated in '53. I was a year behind my buddies because I had to drop out a year, but I graduated from Wake in 1953.

BC:

What were you studying there?

PF:

I was studying—I got a bachelor's degree in sociology with a minor in psych[ology] and Spanish. I wanted to be a journalism major, but they didn't have that major. So I thought, well, I'll just get the social studies and then go from there. But worked on the student newspaper, the old Gold and Black, the student magazine, was an announcer with WFDD radio. I had the least popular program of the week, which was the classical music on a Friday evening, a very small audience. [laughs] But I enjoyed doing it.

BC:

Did you know what you wanted to do when you finished?

PF:

You know, I changed my mind several times during that year. Originally, I thought I had wanted to be a phys[ical] ed[ucation] major and a teacher, but I had to work so I couldn't do all the activities that those women had to do. So I changed to social sciences, and I knew at the end of my schooling at the baccalaureate level, a BA [bachelor of arts] degree in sociology would get me a caseworker II status in some community department for the city government or whatever, and that didn't sound too good.

So after school, I went back to the FBI for the third time and stayed on with the FBI for another year and a half, and then left to go become a copygirl on the old Washington Daily News. I said I'm going to break into newspaper work one way or the other. So I took a big drop in salary to go be a copygirl and run copy ten or twelve hours a day, with the understanding that if I wrote byline articles that they accepted and published, that after a year I would be considered for a staff job. After a year, I had twenty-seven byline articles in everything from sports to just general interest and human interest stories. I even rode with reporters in a police car at night to crime scenes and that type of stuff. But when they offered me a staff position, they wanted me to write about foods and fashion, and that's not anything I wanted to do. You know the glass ceiling was there in place. The only women on the staff that I ever saw, there was one woman who wrote editorials, and she looked like she was about nine hundred years old. But the younger women were working in foods and fashion, and that's it, recipes and styles, and I didn't want that.

So I left there and went to work for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Washington. I thought it would give me time to think about what I really wanted to do. In those days, it paid pretty well, but again, I had been appointed to be the enrollment department secretary, which is like an office manager. I could run the daily schedule of eighteen male salesmen, and the manager, but I could not be a salesman or the manager because I was a woman. So after three years of that, and every time I'd get disgusted, ready to quit again, they'd give me another raise and I'd hang on for a little while longer.

So at the age of twenty-nine at a company picnic, I met a woman army officer. I'd never met one, and there was a woman captain there who was a friend of the some of the people who were attending the picnic, and we were talking. At that time, I had my application in to be a foreign service officer with USIA, U.S. Information Agency. Just in conversation I said, “How about Department of Army civilian jobs overseas?” I wasn't the least bit interested in a commission or anything like that.

She said, “Well, I don't know, but I'll look the things up. I'll look stuff up and see if we can get some material for you and send it to you,” and she did. But she also stuck a booklet in there, which was the recruiting command booklet on the direct appointment program for women officers in the Women's Army Corps [WAC], which if you had a college degree and had some supervisory work experience and you passed all the grades and got all the letters of reference, no criminal record, nothing like that, you would be appointed to the grade of second lieutenant or first lieutenant, if you accepted. Because I was twenty-nine years old, had three years of supervisory experience and my degree, I was appointed first lieutenant and commissioned on 15 December 1959, but did not go on active duty until February 1960.

BC:

Had you ever considered the military?

PF:

I had, during the years I was at Blue Cross, I had even looked into the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] program, the navy, to see what they had to offer. But their age requirements were more stringent. You could not be above the age of twenty-seven and be commissioned. In the Women's Army Corps, I could have been right up to thirty-two and been commissioned, and I was twenty-nine. So it became the army by default, but in the long run I was very, very glad it was the army because I had far more opportunities to serve than the women in the navy did in those years.

BC:

How did your family and friends react?

PF:

Well, my friends thought I'd gone out and completely lost my mind, and my mother and dad resisted any time I talked about moving away from home, going on my own, leaving. So I waited until I had already been approved for commission before I told my parents, and when we were at dinner I told my mother and dad that I have been offered a commission as a first lieutenant in the army, it's only for two years, and it would give me an opportunity to see what was offered and help me make up my mind as to what I wanted to do, and get leadership experience and the GI Bill and all that stuff. They sat there very quietly, and my mother said, “Well, if I were you, I'd probably do the same thing.” I said, “Why have you been fighting my going away?” [She said] “I just didn't want you to go away.”

BC:

Probably not quite what you were expecting.

PF:

My dad just kind of shook his head, because my brother Dick was drafted during the Korean War, and he was what I always called the reluctant warrior. He started his countdown calendar while he was still at the processing station. When he found out they got him for two years, he started a calendar of how many more days I have before I'm out of here. But I told Dick, I said, “If I'd had you on my company train, I probably would have booted you out on your ear.” But he was a very, very good soldier. He was what you really wanted in the conscript army, a bright, bright young man who did what he had to do, hated every minute of it, but was a good soldier and smart, intelligent, and learned. They wanted him to go to Officer Candidate School [OCS]. I've reminded him a number of times [that] if he had, he would have retired years ago.

BC:

But he wasn't interested.

PF:

But he wasn't at all interested. So they, my brothers, were quite confounded. My friends thought, “You're the only hippie we know. You're the only one we know in our group who would go off and do something that crazy.” But I had no intention of making it a career, just do the [unclear] [two years and then return to civilian life].

BC:

Do you recall what people thought about women joining the military at that point?

PF:

Well, the attitude towards women joining the military in those days, and in some respects—but certainly not to that degree—but with certain people it's still is that attitude: you're either after a husband, or you're a prostitute, or you're a lesbian. You're one of those three, or maybe a combination, who knows? The reputation—not earned, I will say—for women in the military right after World War II was not the best, but the women were also targeted for a tremendous smear campaign during World War II. It was a very effective campaign that drove many people, many of the women, away from enlisting when they wanted to. They just didn't want their family to have to go through what they'd go through if their daughter was in the army. Somebody would say she's just there to entertain the troops or to get a husband. So it wasn't good. Over time, the women in the military have come to be a highly respected group, and when you match them against any comparable civilian population in any profession, they're among the most highly educated and most interesting, I'll tell you right now. They've had experiences nobody else will.

BC:

What happened after you accepted your appointment?

PF:

I continued working for Blue Cross Blue Shield through January of 1960 and then resigned, had a wonderful going-away party with friends who said, “We'll see you in two years,” and proceeded down the road. Left home, which was a difficult thing to do. I had gone away to college but I always came back, but knowing that this is the break that would give me the independence to go. Whatever I do after that, I'll be on my own, I'll be living in my own apartment or whatever.

I reported into Fort McClellan, Alabama, which was the home of the U.S. Women's Army Corps Training Center, it was the U.S. WAC Center, for twenty-four weeks of officer basic training at the Women's Officer—what did they call it? The WAC Officer Training Detachment, OTD, yes, WAC OTD. I was one, I believe, of thirty-six women in my class that began in February of 1960. I think twenty-eight of us graduated. There was some, two who left with some—one of them who unbeknownst to her superiors and against their wishes was taking flying lessons, and she had landed in her plane on a Friday afternoon at Anniston Airport at dusk, and coming out of the airplane she turned and walked into the propeller. It got her arm. She was medically evacuated to Fort Benning [Georgia] and was out of the class for that year, but she came back a year and a half later.

BC:

Did she really?

PF:

Yes. Then she only stayed for two years, but she said, “I've just go to finish this course.”

Another one dropped a fire extinguisher on her leg and away she went. Two of them had nervous breakdowns. One of them got pregnant, and in those days when a woman became pregnant, you're out immediately. Who was the other? The one that really upset us most was the one who got to within two weeks of graduation and pulled out, and we hated that because she was a real good gal, but she just academically didn't cut it. So she reverted to her enlisted grade and she was a sergeant first class again.

It was a great introduction to everything military. Primarily, it was classroom work, introduction to the Department of Army, the Department of Defense [DOD], the organization of the army, studying the various arms and corps and services, marching, drilling, making beds, standing inspections, all that good stuff, being harassed constantly by two insidious platoon officers, whose job was to make our life miserable and not let us think we were God's gift to anything.

But it was an all-female environment. You had all female company officers. You had all female staff and faculty. The only time we saw male faculty was when we went over to the chemical school to take combat arms training, which was about two weeks during that twenty-four weeks. We spent very little time learning how to live and survive in the field, where the women today do everything the men do.

BC:

But you did have combat arms training?

PF:

No, we only had introduction to combat arms training. What is the infantry? What is armor? What is field artillery? What do they do? What are their missions? And we saw demonstrations of their firepower at Fort Benning, a lot of films, and understood that all other branches of the service were there to support the combat arms, and that was what our job was, to do combat support. But women were not permitted in combat arms at all in those days, and they still are not permitted in ground combat in the infantry. They are not permitted in cannon field artillery. They're in air defense, there's only one unit in air defense that they're not into. But in field artillery, they've just about taken away everything that a woman could be in. They should be in long-range rockets, but they're not, because these, the men still say this is our purview.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the current war in Iraq, because the women have been in everything—although they are not front-line infantry—they have fought as infantry. One of the women, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, an MP [military police], was awarded the Silver Star, and she was recalled. She was called to active duty from her National Guard, with her National Guard unit, and is now back in her little hometown that's in one of the Southern states managing her shoe store again, after she went off and won the Silver Star.

But the jobs that the women have done and the fact that war in the twenty-first century is not World War II, it's not Korea, it is—the battlefield is 360 degrees around you. It was like that—I got a taste of that in Vietnam when I was there in '67. There were no fronts or rears and boundaries. It's everywhere. We were in greater danger in Saigon boarding an army bus to go to work than if we'd been out at division with a great defensive perimeter built up to keep people out, because we had more people killed or maimed by Viet Cong motorcycles or pedicabs. They'd lob a grenade through a window of your bus or under it, and start your day off in the worst possible way, I'll tell you.

But there is no safe place for any of them, and I think the barriers—the last two barriers—slowly will change, but I'm not one who runs off, you have to put women in the infantry by the hundreds. We don't know how many women have the physical strength to deal with everything an infantry soldier has to do. We don't know how many of them have the will to do that. There are a lot of men who would never make a good infantryman or field artillery or tanker, but they could be a lot of other good things. So I think it's something that will evolve with time.

BC:

How do you feel about women being in those positions?

PF:

I'm all for it if they've got—if a woman can do everything the job calls for, with no change in standards, go for it, and that's physical standards, too. I believe—you know, there's such an uproar among the men always about the differences in physical training standards. They are nothing but maintenance standards, and they're based upon physiological differences and age differences of men and women. The women have less stringent standards than men, but still they are very taxing to them based on their physiology. So I have no problem with a difference in standards to serve, physiological standards, but when it comes to the job itself and there is a standard to be met, strict standard, everything, men and women have to meet the same standard. I said, “Other than that, what's the big uproar?” It's just one more thing to yell about. [laughs]

BC:

Let's go back a little bit to when you finished up officer training.

PF:

Yes.

BC:

What did you do next? What was your first assignment?

PF:

Well, when the career manager came down from Washington and interviewed each of us graduating, she was nice enough to ask what we wanted to do, and I would have been very happy working in public relations or administration and anywhere, but preferably I thought Fort Hamilton in New York City would be great, or Presidio of San Francisco would be great, Honolulu would be great. Major Butler looked at me and said, “Lieutenant Foote, I'm sure you'll enjoy your first year at Fort McClellan as a platoon officer,” and that's exactly where I stayed, training troops in D Company [Delta Company] of the WAC Training Battalion, 1960-61.

We only had one training battalion to train enlisted members. We had one detachment to train officers. That's all we had throughout the entire army. So I went down to D Company as a first lieutenant and became by virtue of my rank the executive officer to the commander, and then the same year [became] platoon officer, because the rest of the young women were second lieutenants. And I inherited a company in training. They were already four weeks into training and those troops knew four weeks more than I knew. [laughs]

I had a very good sergeant though, Sergeant Belton. I called her and I said, “Sergeant Belton, you know full well that I don't know a whole lot about this, and your job is to keep me from doing anything stupid, and be sure you tell me when I'm about ready to do something stupid, because our job is to train the troops. So I need your advice. I need your help.” And it worked. I think anyone who doesn't put themselves in the hands of a noncommissioned officer when they're that green, nuts, because if they don't work for you, they can sure work against you, and I've always greatly respected the experience and wisdom of the senior noncommissioned officers. Good lord, that woman had sixteen years in the army. I had six months. [laughs]

BC:

Did you enjoy that?

PF:

I loved it. That's when I found out I was hooked. Every eight weeks, I would get—it would be about eight-to-ten weeks considered processing time and breaks in cycles, but every eight weeks I would get thirty-eight brand-new recruits to bring into the army and to soldierize to the extent we could in the time we had them. Most of them came through it. It was rough for them. Many of the young women coming in had college degrees, but they didn't go for the commission for one reason or the other. ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] was not available in those days [for women].

The other thing was many of them came from schools where they were salutatorians, valedictorians, big women on campus, and they come in and find out there are other women in their unit just as good if not better than they are. So it was highly competitive, and some of them came with that and it just wasn't going to be a fit for them, and our job was to make the judgments on those who could get through this and succeed and those who simply would never.

I said there were two categories that I had to deal with. The “Would if I could, but I can't,” and they break your heart, because they'd do anything in the world to make it, but they're not going to make it, and it's your job to ease them back into civilian life. And the other one, “Would if I could, but I won't,” and I had no problem getting those attitude cases out, because they were just disruptive. They'd never be team members either.

But I loved training and I loved to watch them grow and all of a sudden see them begin to click and become a team and watch them making friends that they would have for the rest of their lives. Oddly enough, on occasion I still hear from some of those people.

BC:

What type of things were you training them in?

PF:

Well, we were training them in the basic skills of the soldier, drill and ceremony, customs and courtesies, again the organization of the army, how the corps and branches all fit, what the missions of the army were, inspections, inspections, inspections, how to wear the uniform properly. Even in those days, the directors of the Women's Army Corps were very persnickety about the women having good telephone etiquette, very good personal appearance at all times, and making them understand the very important role each of them played in reflecting the good and the bad on all the women in the army. One bad guy in a group, you don't think a thing about it. One bad gal in the group and too frequently the whole group is judged by that. Not fair, but right.

So I enjoyed training and talking to them. There was one cycle I had that in one day I did three full inspections three times and they did not pass inspection until seven o'clock at night, and at the end of it I was totally exhausted. I said if I had to get down and look at one more footlocker. At the end of it, I just told them, I said, “Sit on your bunks and let's talk about what a waste this day has been, and I'd like to ask any of you if can you tell me anything you've learned today.” They knew it was a good lesson and they knew there was a lot of things we should have done in the first inspection that would have kept us from the second and third. I said, “Yes, you've got to work together, and you were not working together.” And they were at the end of it. To see them come together, it made you feel better.

BC:

Right, because they're going to make that progression.

PF:

Yes, you felt better about that, and I loved it. I was with Delta Company until July of '61, and then here comes Butler again, wanting to know, “Well, where do you want to go now?” She said, “First of all, you're going to go on recruiting, but where do you want to go?”

I said, “Where do you offer me?” One of the places was Portland, Oregon, with my headquarters San Francisco, and I said “I'll take that.” It was to be the WAC officer, selection officer, for the Pacific Northwest to cover Washington, Oregon, northern Idaho, and the Office of Programs. But over the course of the three years I was there, I also picked up the enlisted programs for the women when they lost an officer out there.

My mother, when I told her, “Mom, I'm going to Portland, Oregon,” she said, “Why couldn't you go overseas? You would have been closer.”

I said, “Well, they wouldn't let me go overseas,” and they wouldn't.

BC:

You don't get to choose.

PF:

I didn't get to choose, but I got to choose Portland, Oregon, and I never regretted it, beautiful country, wonderful tour. Again, met wonderful people that I'm still in touch with over time. A reporter on the Spokane Chronicle, she and I, every time I go to San Francisco, we see each other. Many of the deans of women and I corresponded for many years, but unfortunately the ones that I was closest to have now passed on. But their husbands are still writing me, so you go out and you make your own fun. When I arrived, I replaced an officer who had been gone for four months, so the only instructions I had were “carry on.” Carry on what? So you set up your program and carry on, and we did pretty good.

BC:

What were your major responsibilities?

PF:

Recruiting highly qualified young women for commissions and for a program in those years we called the College Junior Program, where we selected—if certain college juniors applied and were selected for this program, they were enlisted in the Army Reserves as corporal E-4 and sent to Fort McClellan for four weeks of summer camp. It was sort of a “we look at you and you look at us” and “we see if you like it and if we like you,” and then if you do and you stay in the reserves your senior year, if you accept a [tour of duty], at the end of that you're commissioned to second lieutenant and go on active duty for two years. But by then you would have accrued a year's seniority in pay and you would have been paid as a corporal E-4 for your reserve time.

We had that program and then I was recruiting for doctors, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, you name it. I did an awful lot of public education there on careers in the military and spent a lot of time with college deans and counselors. Our program was one I felt both good and bad about it, and frequently after I'd interviewed a woman on a campus, my job was to tell her I really didn't think we were what she was looking for. But it was very good, especially in terms of all the public relations work I had to do, speaking before school audiences, before teachers' conventions and all of that, very—you grow up in a hurry, and I had hated public speaking with a passion. I'm still not crazy about it but I do a lot of it.

BC:

It's a good skill to have.

PF:

It is a great skill to develop, and working with press and television continuously has paid off wonderfully over the years.

From there, you know I said my first assignment I trained the raw recruits and [then] I went out and recruited raw recruits. Then I went to Fort Belvoir in 1964 to command a WAC company at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and it was about two hundred and sixty women who were attached to the company for rations, quarters, discipline, support, health, welfare, morale, pay, but they were not assigned to me. They were assigned to all the other offices all over Fort Belvoir in three different major commands, and some of them were shift workers and some of them were day workers and some of them were students. It was what we would call your typical garrison company of people with a great profusion of jobs and offices. But none of them were really yours. They belonged to other people, which made it pretty hard for training them or getting them when you needed them for mandatory training or anything.

BC:

What type of training was this?

PF:

Well, we had mandatory training. It was on any number of different subjects. Most of them had to do with ethics, customs, traditions, morale, welfare. We got away from teaching values and ethics in the army, and it came back to bite us very harshly in the nineties when we gave that up as expedient to go on in training something else, because you found out that giving them an ethical foundation and the values foundation of what it means to be a soldier was really very important. So it's back in the curriculum now. But things of that type. Current events, we have all types of current events programs. I enjoy teaching those courses. It would be my chance to get together with the women and talk about issues in the company, too, and living together and working together.

BC:

Were you still primarily with women?

PF:

Yes, because until the mid-seventies, a woman officer could only command other women, not men, and the only way they could command the women was to command at Fort McClellan in a basic training company or the battalion, or in the field at a fort that had a WAC company. So I had the WAC company at Fort Belvoir in '64 to '66, which was the only command I could have, and then I came back twenty-two years later to command Fort Belvoir, which was a better job! [both laugh]

BC:

Much better, I bet.

PF:

Not even a thought in my mind that we'd ever get to that point.

BC:

Did you have much interaction with the men at Fort Belvoir?

PF:

Oh, yes.

BC:

In the early sixties?

PF:

Right. You know, the men never quite knew what to do with the women. You'd have thousands and thousands of men, and Belvoir in the sixties—in fact into the late eighties—was the engineer center. The engineer center in Fort Belvoir trained all engineer officers and all engineer specialties were trained at Fort Belvoir. Basic training for engineers was at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri], but everything else was right there. So we had a gazillion men—soldiers, officers, enlisted men and officers—who were constantly [nosing] around the WAC company because some of those young women were very attractive young single women, and you sort of protect them from themselves on occasion. [laughs]

But my commander was an engineer brigade commander named Benjamin Bush, and the first entrance meeting with Colonel Bush, and here I am Captain Foote, taking over the WAC company, he just looked at me and said, “I don't really approve of the idea of women in the army.”

I said, “Well, sir, we're here and I've been assigned to command a WAC company here at Fort Belvoir, and I swear to you I'll do the best possible time.” But we got a terrible budget, six thousand dollars a year to run a detachment of two hundred and forty women, very little logistic support from anyone. We made do. We always said, “Don't make waves; make do.” And we'd go out and jerry-rig everything we needed in everything we needed to do. I would always have plans on the shelf if anybody at the end of the fiscal year came up that we could pass them, and all of a sudden they'd be desperate to spend money in September, and I'd have about ten projects there and I could just pop them right up and we would be able to get [funds for] them. Even things like go out and buy six cases of toilet paper, for heaven sakes, or paper towels, just plain cleaning materials.

The Women's Army Corps was barely hanging on in the sixties and seventies. We were always very small. We had fewer than eleven thousand enlisted women and nine hundred officers, and it took—in the seventies is when the build up really began—the knowledge that the draft was ending. All of sudden, the senior leadership at Department of Defense was growing very panicky about how are they going to man the force when they can't conscript virtually everyone the [U.S.] Army or the Marine Corps needs and you're clear up to the all-volunteer army where a big piece of it would be greatly increased in the number of women.

So after Belvoir and after the Adjutant General Career Course and my year in Vietnam, where again I was put in public relations for a year, I came back to work in personnel in the WAC branch, managing the careers of young women captains and lieutenants. But it was already rippling in the wind that they're going to a volunteer army, you're going to have to greatly increase the numbers of women. How do you go about doing this?

After I left the director's officer, I went to [U.S. Army] Forces Command as WAC Staff Advisor to the Forces Commander, it's a four star billet, and this is at the time we were beginning to deactivate all the WAC companies, all the WAC detachments and integrate the women with the unit to which they were assigned. It was chaos because there was no real planning for it. None. It was just helter-skelter, because women were coming into these units faster than the men knew what to do and many of the men didn't have any idea how to go about doing this.

We never planned properly. We never prepared the environment for vastly increasing the number of women from eleven thousand to fifty thousand in about five, six years, and going from one training battalion to six, and instead of all female cadres we had male and female and male and female commanders. No one ever took time to let everybody in the army know what's coming. It was a rather exciting little time.

BC:

These are all very significant changes to be making.

PF:

Very significant.

BC:

On so many different levels.

PF:

Yes. When you are changing the social fabric of a very conservative institution like the armed forces, you had better do so carefully or people get hurt along the way. We had a lot of men and women, I think both, who were very seriously damaged in the way it was done. To this day, some of the resentment is still out there towards women, and difference in standards is residual from the time. We didn't stop and pause and say “let's really get together and do this right.” But there was such an urgency at the top to get numbers and to just go in helter-skelter and open jobs that had never been open since World War II to women and put them in units that had been closed to women forever and expect it to work easily. It didn't. I'm amazed that the women survived as well as they did. A lot of them had a good sense of humor. You had to, really. But with the buildup and everything, we didn't have uniforms to put on their backs, we didn't have shoes to put on their feet, coats to put on their backs, because it takes the logistics system two years.

BC:

Incredibly thorough preparation.

PF:

Yes, two years just to begin to generate more and get more contracts going. When I was with the directors office, I was programs officer, I was buying thousands of pairs of shoes that had been rejected for one reason or the other. I said, “We'll take them.” At least put some—

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

PF:

—short-sleeved shirts and we were taking the postal insignia off, and we were buying blue shorts so that they would have a PT [physical training] outfit. They didn't have that. We didn't have raincoats, so we went to London Fog in Baltimore and bought thousands of black raincoats off the shelf until we could get the proper items into the inventory. There are women who were shipped out to cold weather climates with tennis shoes on their feet and no overcoat. I said, this has just got to stop. What to do?

So it was bedlam, and I was up to my neck in it with the director's office and then at Forces Command as WAC Staff Advisor. I was at Fort Carson [Colorado] with the 4th Division, General Hamlett, and he—the type of thing that he meant well. He was going to make the adjutant general company his first integrated company, and it was a three-story barrack. Well, he went in there and put the women on the middle floor. Wrong. Then he completely remodeled and paneled the middle floor with bathrooms and new showers and everything while the men here and below were living in wretched conditions. The women refused to go in the company, they said, “They'll kill us.” And I went to Gen. Hamlett, I said, “Gen. Hamlett, you might as well tear that building down. If you put those women in there, they'll be eaten alive.”

BC:

Put them in a very difficult position.

PF:

You put them in a terrible position. They cannot survive in that. You haven't done them a service, and it was my job to go tell, please don't do that. Don't ever do a favor like that. Don't ever single the women out for something the men don't get. Make sure it's equitable. Heck, I was at Fort Stewart [Georgia], and we were looking at all these old barracks that we were going to take over, and we still wanted to ensure privacy for the men, privacy for the women, when we didn't have the types of units where you walk in [and can] shut the door, you've got your room and a bath and then co-ed spots. You're talking about community living. We were taking barracks that had urinals all over the place and the battalion commander, a male, said, “What are we going to do about those?” I said, “Make flowerpots out of them. Fill them with dirt and put potted plants in there, and then if you need them again for urinals, just take the dirt out and clean them. But don't rip them out. Don't. Just think. Improvise.” That's what the women did for about ten or fifteen years. I would venture to guess that women still have trouble getting all the uniform items they need. They have never caught up, not to this time.

BC:

Well, let's backtrack just a little bit. I'd like to talk some about your time in Vietnam. You were in the army. How well were you following events overseas?

PF:

Very closely, really. I'd always been very much a newspaper reader, a student of current events, news, and I had twice volunteered, put in my papers to the director's office asking to be assigned to Vietnam, because I simply felt that I make the same pay the man makes and the men are going two and three times, and no women are going except nurses and a few doctors. Finally, in 1966, maybe a hundred women went in a WAC detachment that was in Saigon.

Every time I volunteered it was disapproved, and it was disapproved by Colonel Elizabeth P. Hoisington, then the director of the Women's Army Corps. She was as old school as they get. She believed that you release a man to go to war, and you leave a woman at home doing his job. So we were supposed to do the jobs that the men were leaving and let the men go and do this. I said, “No, that's not fair.”

So she twice turned me down, and then it came time for me to go to my advanced course, and I was asked if I wanted to stay in command for six more months and then go to the WAC course or go to the adjutant general [AG] course right away, and I picked the AG course, not because I was crazy about AG work, but number one, the timing, and number two, I knew that I would be detailed to go for two years, and I had no doubt that those guys would send me to Vietnam, and they did. There were two of us who did that, Sherian Cadoria, who went on to become one of our early brigadier generals, and me. We both went AG Corps and we both volunteered for Vietnam and we both went at the same time.

I only stayed a year. I was brought back to get my—I was working in public affairs out of Saigon for six months and then out of Long Binh. I had not volunteered for the job. What got me into it was the fact that between the time I was placed on orders as a captain to go and the time I went, I was promoted to major. So when I got to Saigon, I had been promoted out of the job I was to go in, which was a godsend, and then they had to get me a job. One of my friends who was a lieutenant colonel very much wanted me on the G1 staff at U.S. Army Vietnam Headquarters, personnel, but the G1 turned me down because I had not been to [Fort] Leavenworth [Kansas] yet to Command and General Staff College. Eventually there was a vacancy in public affairs, they called it public information in those days, for a major, and I was assigned to take that billet, working in army public relations as a major working on the daily summary that the army wrote on what was happening in country.

I was the only woman in an office, very extraordinary office, [which] supplies public information. Usually, you think of two officers, two enlisted, two civilians. We had sixty-two assigned to the public information office itself at headquarters, a colonel in command, a colonel as deputy commander, me a major as executive officer and public information officer, two separate detachments of public information specialists who were attached to us, so when we got all our people together, we had well over a hundred people working on information only for Vietnam. Vietnam was just an extraordinary information environment. We had over six hundred correspondents in country, most of them camped at the Brink Hotel, writing all of their dispatches every day after what we called the Five O'Clock Follies, which was the Joint Units Public Affairs Press Conference, every evening at five o'clock in Saigon.

But my biggest pleasure in that job was going out working with the divisions and separate corps and the brigades, all the people who had to deal with the press when they came to report on the war. Because of that, I was one of the few women over there who got to travel from one end of the country to the other. I spent most of my time hanging out of a door of a Huey helicopter, hooked in with web seating, sitting beside the gunner, looking at the land below. We would be going from some point to some point, and the thing is, if you saw a target below, you engaged. So we would break off our trip long enough to take care of whatever's down there and continue on our way.

I was out with every division, every separate brigade, every field artillery brigade in both corps areas. I got to see the war from one end of the country to the other. I did not get to Da Nang. I got thirty-five miles south of Da Nang, with the Americal Division right up on the South China Sea, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. It's the Riviera of Southeast Asia, and I kept thinking, what a wonderful place in this country, beautiful place to be. You name it, mountains, ocean, you got it over there.

I would have extended [my tour], except my branch manager told me, “Don't you dare, and you put in your application for graduate school,” because they were going to send me to get my master's at George Washington [University] in personnel management, and I was accepted and came back the end of December '67. I had phone calls waiting for me when I got home to my mother and dad's home, “Call Colonel Heinz immediately,” and what they wanted, they wanted me to go to WAC Branch and work there instead of going to get my master's [degree], and then I'd pick up my master's later.

I thought about it. It was up to me, they said. I thought about it for over twelve hours and then I thought, “Well, where else would I get this experience of working in the Department of Army during this particular tumultuous time?” So I said okay. I did. Now, I was the branch assignment officer to captains and majors—no, captains and lieutenants, and also the executive officer for the branch for three years.

When that ended, instead of going for my master's, I was sent to Command and General Staff College. We were only sent for a year, twelve hundred men, six women, ridiculous. After I left there, I came back to work in the director's office as her plans officer, just as the bubble burst and we were bringing women in by the bucketsful with the environment totally unprepared.

But Vietnam was an extraordinary experience. When you see in the oral history, my Vietnam diary is in there. In fact, when Mary Maier, who did the history—she was a student at the [U.S. Army] War College [Carlisle, Pennsylvania], retired colonel now—but when I gave it to her, I told her I had never read it, but she said could she put it in the oral history. I said, “Yeah, you can put it in there.” I said, “I haven't read it since I got home.” So I've read little bits of it now and then, and I thought occasionally maybe I'll write something some day, but the whole year's experience, most of the year's experience is in there.

BC:

Was it difficult to return to the United States?

PF:

No, not for me. I remember writing a crazy letter to my parents about coming back here and that if when I'm ironing I'm down on the floor, crouched in a crouch and ironing on the floor with, you know, everything lying on a sheet, or if I'm doing this, that and the other, then don't be surprised, I've been over in Vietnam for a year. But it didn't take me any time to get back into it.

But I had not been home a month when Tet [Offensive in] '68 exploded. We knew something was coming. It was no surprise. We were tracking North Vietnamese regulars within thirty and forty miles in brigade size units. [Near the] Michelin Tire rubber plantation, about forty miles out of Saigon, we were tracking huge numbers of troops moving all through the area, and something was coming. I read the intelligence estimates every day, and no one quite put it all together in time. When the attack came on Saigon and Cholon and Hue and Cam Ranh and then Da Nang, all at one time, that was the first time they had really attacked the cities. It had always been more in the hinterlands. That was a very precarious time, but I got out just before it started. I left just before it started, but we knew something was up. There was no surprise there.

BC:

How did you feel about the protests that started to go on, the public sentiment changing so drastically against the war?

PF:

I had a lot of young enlisted men working in public information, and they would come to me after some group had spit, had dropped bladders of blood on the steps of the Pentagon. There was one self-immolation. Some man burned himself to death at the Pentagon, and burning the flag. They would say, “Ma'am, why are they doing this? What have we done?”

I said, “You haven't done a thing. You simply were drafted. You answered the call. You came. So you haven't done anything wrong. This is just a war that is being fought so incorrectly.” Everybody got us into it, starting with [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower and then, of course, [President John F.] Kennedy was with special forces and the advisors.

During my years at Belvoir as [company] commander was when we had a tremendous buildup started, so that by 1966, by the time I got over there, we had well over four hundred thousand army troops on the ground in Vietnam. But no one could win. Your job was not to win. You could not cross the parallel, 38th Parallel. You could not go past the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone]. The 38th Parallel was Korea, but you could not cross the DMZ into North Vietnam. You could not go into Cambodia where the enemy was attacking you from Cambodia and fading back in, you couldn't go. You could not. They would not let you win the war.

They tried to describe success in terms of body count, which was ludicrous. I read not too long ago that some commander in Iraq was doing the same darn thing again on body count. I said, “Don't you dare do that. That is no way to tell if you're winning.” And are we winning? I don't think so. No. This is an out-of-control insurgency that could go into a civil war at any minute, and I will not be surprised when it happens. I was very much opposed to a preemptive strike on information that proved very false. America has never preemptively struck, and I was very much opposed to anything except a UN [United Nations] action, coordinated through the UN. But we're going to live with this war for a long time, and it, Vietnam, didn't teach us anything.

BC:

Well, I hear a lot of people making that comparison.

PF:

Yes, yes.

BC:

And saying that what's happening now is very similar.

PF:

Well, of course, what we were involved in there was urban warfare, terror insurgency, terrorism, counterterrorism, the same thing, but on a much more refined scale now. It's like, I am sure the Israeli armed forces are quite shocked at the ferocious will and strength of Hezbollah right now. They, the people have just given Hezbollah short shrift, you know, [saying] they're not well organized or there are not many of them. There's a whole army out there, and it's not a national army, it crosses the Mideast. And they're not about to give in. Hezbollah has the hearts and minds of the people, so where is that effort is going to go as we watch Lebanon destroyed. I think [President George W.] Bush and his policies kicked off all of this, with the war in Iraq. So, oh, well, that's another day and another war, but I am not a fan of what we did.

BC:

Meanwhile, having served in Vietnam and seeing what happened there—

PF:

Absolutely, like those young men said, “Ma'am, why are they doing that?”

I said, “I wish I could tell you. Except I will tell you that this war is being considered by many Americans to be an illegal war, and there's no question it's unpopular.” We're losing thousands, thousands and thousands of young men. Only eight or nine women died as a result of the war, but fifty-seven, fifty-eight thousand young men. For what? This peace with honor that [Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger and [President Richard M.] Nixon talked about? No way. As soon as we pull out, then the North Vietnamese will take over the country, no question about it.

I have never regretted being there. I met many wonderful Vietnamese people. Whatever time I could get away—I could speak enough that I could talk to them in the marketplace, ask them their names and tell them who I was. They were wonderfully gifted people, but they had had thirty-some years of war, straight war since World War II. And we wonder why they're not real eager to be fighting again and why they're not the best soldiers in the world? They're all worn out.

But we treated them with such disdain, calling them “slopes” and “dinks” and everything else, and treated their women so cavalierly, stepping all over their customs, as I'm sure we would do in Iraq if they had ample chance, and have done to the great horror of all of us, particularly heinous instances of rape and murder, that fourteen-year-old girl. I hope those young men never see the light of day once they go to Leavenworth or whatever federal prison they go to. But here are young men who go in who have so completely dehumanized people who aren't like them. Well, I'm straying.

BC:

I know. I lost track of where we were. [both laughing]

PF:

We were talking about Vietnam and the young people.

BC:

And then coming back.

PF:

And then coming back, and well, I'll tell you, I came back working in personnel and the army was totally, generally speaking, was totally depressed and dejected, and the war, and right after I got back My Lai [Massacre] broke and the army was on the brink of really coming apart at the seams because of what the war was doing to them. Heck, three or four times I had to leave my building when I was at WAC Branch because of bomb threats. Oh, yes, we'd get bomb threats here. One time when we were filing out to be away from the buildings again, the guys behind me from another branch were saying, “Burn, baby, burn. Burn, baby, burn.” Just going, “Burn, baby, burn.” You get kind of macabre with your sense of humor after you've spent so many hours out just staring at the building wondering when it's going to blow.

But a terribly divisive time in America. It was the war compounded by the push for women's rights, The Feminine Mystique [by Betty Friedan], the real rebellion of youth against how their elder generations were leading the country. Total disillusionment on their part, too. A level of violence we've seen among young people and organizations, that was unprecedented until it was really the seventies. The late sixties and early seventies were difficult times, transitioning times.

But it was during those years that career doors began opening for women. The law changed in '67 permitting women, theoretically at least, or actually, to be promoted to general, if we ever got one. It took three years before we got our first two, and that was absolutely wired to their gender, director of the Women's Army Corps, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, women, women. One woman star, one woman star, that's it, for years, for years and years. But still things were happening, and the end of the draft was the real impetus for the massive changes that happened in how women would be recruited, utilized, trained in the future.

The seventies were years of stumbling along in the dark most of the time, doing great damage to some people, making others very strong, and all of us laughing our way through much of it, idiocy. Then the eighties, we had really a turn back for women when [President Ronald W.] Reagan came in, and they stopped the buildup of numbers of women for about four years. Oh, yes. General [Edward C.] Meyer, who was chief of staff of the army, went back to segregated basic training. I had an integrated basic training battalion at Fort McClellan, worked beautifully, but General Meyer was very uncomfortable with men and women going through basic combat training together, so he stopped it in '81 and it didn't resume again until '94, all because of his whim. It was absolutely nothing but he didn't like it. I was so disappointed, terribly disappointed.

BC:

Particularly when you've got them leading a unit that you see is succeeding and working properly.

PF:

Oh, yes, very well, and everybody said so. And not only did he end integrated basic training, he changed the designation of all the battalion command positions to require that the commander be a combat arms officer, whereas I was an MP officer, AG officers command, quartermasters command, transportation commands, but then all of a sudden he says only combat arms officers, so he knocked out battalion command opportunity for men and women. No.

BC:

How did you get involved with the Military Police?

PF:

Well, a friend of mine, this Shirley Heinz I mentioned who told me I should defer graduate school and come to WAC Branch, she was chief of WAC Branch at that time. When we were branching the women to all the—we knew the Women's Army Corps was going to go away, we knew the corps was going to go away in '78. We decided in '74 to end gender-specific career management and to put the women in all the branches, and this time assign them, not attach them. And we were making our choices and Shirley came to me and she said, “I think you ought to go with me and be an MP. I'll be an MP colonel, you can be an MP lieutenant colonel. We'll get three or four majors and others.” There were about eight of us who all signed on for MP, because the MPs and the WACs trained together at Fort McClellan, number one. We were always very friendly, one to the other.

I said, “Eighteen years in the army, I don't know the first thing about being an MP,” but I took courses, correspondence courses, and I would have applied for courses on active duty. I never got to attend a single MP course, and the only pure MP assignment I had was commanding a Forward Deployed Brigade in Europe as an MP colonel. I said, “Well, hot dog, I've never been an MP. I haven't gone through the stations of the cross that MPs have to go through. I haven't walked the walk and talked the talk.”

So when I took command of the 42nd MPs, I called the commanders and staff together, and the senior NCOs [non-commissioned officers], and I said, “I know that you know that I haven't spent five minutes in MP duty. What you need to know is that I have commanded companies and battalions and led platoons and I know how to keep monkeys off your back. Now you go out and do the job, and I'll get you what you need to do your job, and then I'll come out and find out what you're doing and learn real quick.” It was the best two years of my army career. What a wonderful time over there.

BC:

Where were you?

PF:

I was headquartered in Mannheim, Germany, the 42nd MP group, but I had detachments in Bremerhaven, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Nuremberg, and there was one other, Kaiserslautern. I had thirty-seven field offices in Germany and two in Italy.

My principal in—peacetime job was to be the executive agent for all DOD [Department of Defense] customs matters for the armed forces in Europe. When we went to war, then my unit would become the headquarters for all echelons above corps for enemy prisoner of war [EPW] collection and management. So I would be the EPW Command. In fact, to liken it, if it were today, I would be in charge of Abu Ghraib and I would be in charge of the prisons in Afghanistan and wherever they have them in Iraq. That would be my job, to run them, run them.

During the time I was there, we converted from being what we call a Headquarters Table of Distribution and Allowances unit, which means they could take away your unit, they could change you into any configuration they wanted to at any time, instead of being Table of Organization and Equipment, which is an absolute prescribed formula for what this unit will be. So we converted from the Table of Distribution to the Table of Organization with units having flags and histories and everything on the day I gave up command. I said, “Thank god we got that done before I left.”

The 42nd MPs was reactivated two years ago. They were out of 1st Corps at Fort Lewis [Washington], and they just came back from Iraq. So they've already had their year over there, but they'll be sending units back over.

BC:

Was that an integrated unit when you were commanding?

PF:

Yes, men and women.

BC:

Did you have any troubles with that? Did you see much discrimination?

PF:

In my own unit, no. The very few people I had to do anything about for serious breaches of either discipline or integrity or what have you, were a female captain, one major who was having an affair with his company clerk, which is a no-no in the army, that is fraternization within the chain of command, and it cost him his command. A first sergeant of a company in Mannheim who turned out to have a very severe alcohol problem, had to relieve him. But I had very few people that I had to deal with and only one discrimination complaint in the time I was there. So I told the people, male or female, you feel you're being discriminated against, bring the proof to me, and I'll investigate. But it was just the best two years, and again, I'm in touch with a lot of these people, and we have a 42nd MP Association that meets every year. It's always good to go to that and see old friends.

BC:

What were the dates of that?

PF:

I took command July '83 and stayed in the command until July of '85, and then my third year in Germany was as an administrative aide to the commanding general of the 32nd Army Air Defense Command up in Darmstadt, and it was during that year—I had thought that my career was really—I said, you know, “Colonel, commanding, I'm not going anywhere else, but I will not retire from command. That's an insult. I will serve another year over here as a staff officer and at the end of that I will retire and quietly go back home and go do something else.” Well, during that year, I was picked for brigadier, to my great surprise. Really, my great surprise. I was fifty-five years old. The average age of the men, I was the only woman [on the list], so the average age of the men was forty, forty-two, and here I was a fifty-five-year-old woman.

BC:

How did you find out about that?

PF:

My boss, the commander of—my senior boss, Major General Ayers called. No, Lieutenant General Ayers, he was three-star, Deputy Command and Chief of the Europe Forces in Europe, had been trying to track me down for a week. I was on leave and I was traveling all over Germany, France, Italy, everywhere. When I got back to Frankfurt, at the airport, flew back in with all my friends, I had a detachment at the airport, and they said, “Ma'am, General Ayers wants to talk to you as soon as possible.”

I said, “What have I done?”

He said, “You can call him from our detachment.”

So I went down and called, and he said, “Where in hell have you been? I've been trying to catch you.”

I said, “Sir, you knew I was on leave and I didn't know where I was going to be every day, but here I am. What can I do for you?”

He said, “How can I tell you you're going to be promoted?”

I said, “You're kidding, sir.” But I just shook my head. I could not believe it.

So I stayed on for not too much longer. No, I guess I did stay a fair part, not quite a year. It was right after I gave up command and was on that vacation that I found out, and it was during that year when I was promoted that I worked for General Hugo, Dick Hugo, and he promoted me. He “frocked” me, what they call frocking, which means they put the stars on my shoulders three months before I was actually promoted, because I was coming back to Washington to be the army's deputy inspector general for inspections, and you had to have a star. I was replacing a two-star general. So they put the star on my shoulders, but then I was actually promoted three months later. I served in that capacity, worldwide inspections for the army, for two years and then went to Belvoir to command [Fort] Belvoir.

BC:

So when you did the inspections, you would travel and inspect various army bases?

PF:

Oh, yes, and worldwide, wherever we were. We were in Europe. We were in Korea. We were all over the globe. I had special weapons inspections, the nuclear programs. In fact, I wound up out at Indian Head [Maryland], which is only five miles south of me, down the road. It's a naval facility, on which is located the Department of Defense Explosive Ordnance Disposal School, and I was down there for an inspection with two of my technical inspectors one day. I found out all of a sudden I'm giving the graduation speech, because whoever was supposed to be there didn't show, or something happened, and they came running frantically, wanted to know if I'd speak to a class. I said, “Sure. Who are they? What are they doing?” But you know when you've been around the army for while, you don't think anything of it and you've always got something to hash about. Here are these bright young men and women who liked to go around blowing things up, and better them than me. We have used those so extensively in Iraq, getting rid of the Improvised Explosive Devices that are so hideous. There was the school, so I said, “I'm just out here to inspect you, and look what I'm doing, we're graduating you.”

So I stayed on until my age mandated my retirement. It was the will of the chief of staff in the army that I retire after three and a half, almost four years as a general at sixty, but I know he could have extended me to stay on. [Major] General Don Hilbert, who was commander of the Military District of Washington for whom I worked, put in two requests to keep me at Belvoir for two years, because we were in transition.

It had been the engineers center in June of 1988. All of the engineers moved to Fort Leonard Wood, and Fort Belvoir became the army's largest admin post that would be host—at that time it was host to seventy-eight different tenant activities of Department of Defense, many engineer battalions and units that were still there. But now, I think, they're expecting about twenty-some thousand more soldiers to be assigned to Fort Belvoir, and it's a big hassle in Fairfax County now because of all the traffic problems that that will create. But they're coming. They're coming and they'll be on Fort Belvoir.

It is a huge job. I had fifteen thousand people, three thousand sets of quarters. When the training and doctrine command left, they took most of my budget and half of my people with them, which they were not supposed to do, so I spent my first six months just trying to get money and people. But I had wonderful people working there. It was a great tour.

BC:

How did you feel about that?

PF:

Oh, I loved it.

BC:

Had you ever imagined that you would make the military a career and one day end up—

PF:

No. No. I said I was at Belvoir twenty-two years before as the commander of the only company a woman could command, and then I come back here and I've got the whole thing. MDW [Military District of Washington] is a neat command. It's the one that gives you the inaugural every four years. Every presidential funeral is [conducted by] the ceremonial troops of the Military District of Washington, all the armed forces. The Old Guard, the oldest regiment in the army, 3rd Infantry Regiment, is at Fort Myer, and they are the premier troops who guard the Tomb of the Unknown [Soldier]. They are magnificent soldiers, they really are.

The interesting thing about it [is that] when I commanded Belvoir, I was also deputy commander of the Military District of Washington, which means when General Hilbert—he had a couple of operations and a long convalescence, and I sit in command. I called up the infantry colonel commanding, I said, “I'd just thought you'd like to know that I, a woman, am in command today.” He just laughed. I said, “I'm the one that's [not] supposed to command infantry, but my orders tell me that I'm commanding infantry today.” Now we've got a wonderful young officer named Becky Halstead. She was U.S. Military Academy at] West Point class of '81, brigadier, commanding the 3rd Support Command in Iraq, and she has two infantry battalions in her support command, and she's coming back to command Aberdeen Proving Ground [Maryland], and to be the chief of ordnance. I said, “Okay, Becky, when are you going to get your second star?” She's about that tall [gestures], a little bitty nothing, a marvelous soldier.

Ann McDonald, class of '80, brigadier, who is, if she isn't now she will very shortly be the deputy commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division, first woman to get that position. So you know, things are still breaking, slowly but surely, and sometimes I think it happening over time is better, but there are so many wonderfully capable women out there.

BC:

What was your favorite part about commanding at Fort Belvoir?

PF:

Being top dog, [laughs] that, you know, that I would make the decisions. I think you hit a point. I thought when I was a brigade commander that this is absolutely the height, that maybe I can correct so many of the mistakes you make along the way when you're commanding people as a platoon leader, as a company commander, as a battalion commander. Now I have a chance to educate the company commanders and lieutenants and continue to work with the troops, and the same thing when I was in Europe with the 42nd MP group.

But at Belvoir, not only do you have the military component, you have a huge civilian workforce that are really the bread-and-butter, day-by-day people who keep the place going. So to me, I enjoyed working with the civilians as well as the military, because the military are here today and gone tomorrow, and many of these civilians had been there thirty or forty years. They knew where all the bones were buried on any problem. And I found out with all of them, if you gave them due recognition for good work, they would just break their back to help you. If you stood up for them, they stood up for you. I've always found out with whatever level I've commanded, if you've got the guts to admit you made a mistake to your subordinates, then they'll correct it so fast your head would swim. More than one time I've called commanders together and said, “I have really screwed something up, now how are we going to correct this?” “Don't worry, ma'am, we'll be back with an answer in a few hours,” and away they'd go and come back with a better answer than I could ever have had. Because I trust my people and I've always felt—I will go into any situation with a view that I trust everybody, until you prove me to the contrary, and then I will deal with that. But in the meantime, I will put faith in all of you to do what is right and proper, and then handle the ones who don't one by one. And it's worked for me, real well.

BC:

So you retired in 1989?

PF:

Yes.

BC:

That's correct?

PF:

Yes.

BC:

What did you do next?

PF:

Well, I had at the time in '89, I was serving as a member of the board for building the Women's Memorial. As soon as you retire, everybody assumes you've got all the time in the world to do everything in the world, so I was a military advisor to an organization called Women in International Security, a military advisor for Women's Research and Education Institute, Board of Visitors, Wake Forest University for twelve years. I finally came off after I had chaired the board for two years and I told them, I said, “It's time for you to bring in new blood. Give me a break, maybe I'll come back later and serve though,” because I really enjoyed serving on the Board of Visitors.

I did a tremendous amount of public speaking, and still do. As soon as I come back from Minnesota in October, I have the Academy of Women [Academy Women's Association], which is a wonderful organization, women graduates of the service academies of all of the services. The Academy of Women will have their three-day conference at WIMSA [Women in Military Service in America] in October, and I will take part in that program. Then I've got a speech on November 13 up in Yardley, Pennsylvania, about the building of the World War II Memorial.

What really galvanized my life was when I was called and asked in retirement—certainly when you're in active duty you are a member of a political party, you vote your conscience, but you're not political. If you're smart, you're not political, because I am going to obey whatever commander in chief is there, Republican, Democrat or whoever. It's my job as an officer. But in retirement I was called by a guy who knew me very well, and he knew I was Democrat, and asked if I would serve on the first Clinton-Gore National Veterans Task Force. I said, “Let me think about it tonight, and I'll call you tomorrow.” So I thought about it, and definitely I was voting for Clinton-Gore, no question about it. I called him back and I said, “Okay, what would I have to do? Am I just going to go on their letterhead [or will I have work to do]?”

We had a press conference at the steps of the Capitol. John Kerry was on the committee with me, Bob Kerrey, both senators, Max Cleland, Bill Mauldin, wonderful artist cartoonist from World War II. Cleland lost three limbs in Vietnam. He had been the secretary of state, director of veterans affairs in Georgia, and then he was a Georgia senator, wonderful guy. All of these guys were on there, and me, and we worked for the campaign for Clinton-Gore. I was with a group of eleven generals and admirals who went with [President] Bill Clinton to Philadelphia during the height of the controversy about his resigning from the ROTC and not serving in Vietnam. I was one of the eleven who went to stand with him in Philadelphia and say, “That makes no difference. He is our candidate for President,” because he turned down ROTC commission, but he threw his name in the draft lottery. He said, “If I'm called, I will serve.” Never got credit for that, and the opposition, of course, tried to make it look otherwise. So there we were, standing with him at a press conference, supporting his presidency, his candidacy, and then we go on and he gets elected. Boy, was I happy!

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

PF:

—through my participation in the Renaissance Weekends that were started back in probably 1980 by a couple named Phil and Linda Lader. You know the way things happen, it's just amazing. Phil was the executive director of an organization in Washington called Businessmen for National Security (BENS). I had worked as a member of the Atlantic Council when General Goodpasture and former Ambassador Roz Ridgway were co-directors and Roz wanted me to be on there. I met her when I was in language school to go to Germany, and she was in language school because she was going to be the East German ambassador, the first one that we had. We had become great buddies over the years and she got me on the Atlantic Council. Through the Atlantic Council, I went over and did work with Business Executives for National Security, met Phil Lader, and my area that I worked in was personnel issues, because when they were talking about national defense in the twenty-first century, they never talked about people, they always talked about material, equipment, weapon systems. I said, “How about the people?”

Well, Phil just got intrigued with me, and he invited me to a Renaissance Weekend. I didn't know what that was. But it was the year that Bill was campaigning. He wasn't at the first one, but I loved doing it. You meet over New Year's at Hilton Head and you have conversations with fascinating people from all works of life or on any subjects imaginable. So that first year I went and enjoyed it. The next year I was invited back again. By then, of course, the Clinton campaign was in full swing, and I had joined the Veterans Campaign and then he won. That year at the Renaissance Weekend, he and Hillary [Rodham Clinton] were there, and I was sitting off enjoying myself at a table and they came and fetched me to go sit at the table with him and the Laders. And I thought, “Well, what in the name of God am I doing here?”

But anyhow, it was right after that out of the clear blue sky, Hershel Gober, who had led the task force for Clinton-Gore, Veterans Task Force, and had been appointed deputy secretary for veteran's affairs, called me and said he had nominated me to the White House to be a commissioner on the American Battle Monuments Commission. I said, “Well, that sounds wonderful.” I should have known much more about it than I did. It's the small federal executive agency established in 1927 to take care, maintain, and operate the American cemeteries abroad, and there are twenty-four of them. So I had been nominated [for a ] presidential appointment as a commissioner, and I got the nomination.

Well, what I meant to tell you, even before that, I had attended the inaugural ball, and all of the inaugural events and I, well, that's pretty good, to go to one of the big balls, that was once in a lifetime. I got my very good friend, Colonel Graham Beard, I said, “Graham, you're going to be my escort.”

He said, “Where are we going, doll?”

I said, “We're going to the inaugural ball.” We both put on our dress mess uniforms and away we went.

But then, you know, I didn't think anything about it, and then the commission, American Battle Monuments Commission, came through, and then in April of '94 I became a commissioner, and my very first mission was to go to Normandy [France] for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing. And, of course, everybody in the world was there at that one.

BC:

What an opportunity.

PF:

Yes. When we came back from that—

BC:

What did you do while you were over there?

PF:

Oh, my god, we were staying at a beautiful chateau in Normandy, right very close to Saint Mère Église, but we were there for the ceremonies on the sixth of December. I did not make the ceremony on the fifth of June. I mean June. It was June. The fifth of June, I was—it started out the fourth. On the fourth of June, I was at my niece's wedding in Nassau until about six-thirty at night. Then I left the wedding and went to the airport and flew to Miami, got on a plane, flew to Paris, got in a van and was taken to Normandy to be there by the fifth, the evening of the fifth.

By not being there during the day, I missed the parachute landing where they simulated the 82nd Airborne dropping over Saint Mère Église, so that many of the old—I think about a dozen of the old World War II troopers that actually parachuted came, so I missed that. But then I met up with all the commissioners at this beautiful chateau where we were staying, and the next morning we went by bus convoy to Normandy.

We had ceremonies at Normandy that lasted virtually the whole day. Then the next day, we went to Pointe-du-Hoc [Normandy, France] where the Rangers landed and scaled the cliffs and came up, and we toured the old German bunkers. But we toured all of Normandy for three days. We went to the tapestry, what is that?

BC:

Bayeux?

PF:

Bayeux, we were at Bayeux. We were invited to come into the museum and see the tapestry at Bayeux. We were there. We went to where the Eisenhower statue had been dedicated in Caen, toured the museum at Caen that the French had opened, marvelous war museum, to the D-Day landing. Then we went back to Paris and toured the American Military Cemetery at Suresnes. But the one at Normandy is just so awesome and beautiful. It's built on a bluff above Omaha Beach, and we were there for a couple of days. But it was a wonderful week.

Then after Paris then we flew back, and in November had a meeting at which Fred Woerner—the four-star general Fred Woerner, who was chairing the commission-appointed Haydn Williams, Governor Hugh Carey, former governor of New York, and me to be the original World War II Memorial Committee. The American Battle Monuments Commission had been mandated by Congress to select the site, the design, and oversea the construction of the World War II Memorial. So I worked on that for eight years.

BC:

This is the current memorial that just opened?

PF:

Yes, the one that just opened two years ago. Yes.

BC:

What was your involvement in that?

PF:

Total. We were part of the group that determined where it would be located, rejecting the eight sites that were initially offered and fighting to get the Rainbow Pool site, which up to the very end it seemed that we weren't going to get it. But finally we broke through with the National Park Service and got them to agree.

BC:

Was that the opposition, the National Park Service?

PF:

Oh, no, but they said they didn't want to mess with the Rainbow Pool. Well, the Rainbow Pool was a total disgrace. It was—the fountains weren't operating, the pipes were rusted out. It was not part of the Lincoln Memorial at all. It was like an add-on to the landscaping as part of the MacMillan Plan, but it had nothing to do with the Lincoln Memorial. But we wanted it because it's on an absolute dead-center line between [Abraham] Lincoln and [George] Washington, and if Washington was the father of our country in the eighteenth century, and Lincoln was the savior of the country in the nineteenth century, then the twentieth century's most significant lynchpin event was World War II, and it belonged on that main drag on the National Mall. Our idea was the centerpiece would be the reconstructed from scratch, the Rainbow Pool, which it was, and then everything would fly from that. Once we got the site, then we knew how to direct the design competition. So the design competition was all the next year. Friedrich St. Florian eventually was the selected design architect, out of four hundred and three submitted.

BC:

Were you all involved in the selection of the design?

PF:

I was not. Haydn Williams, our committee chair, was. He was on the committee to judge the designs as well as the final jury of which they got it down from four hundred and three to six, then gave those six architects fifty thousand dollars apiece more to expand their concept and present their design concept later in the year. Then from the six, you pick one to be the winner, and that was Friedrich St. Florian.

But that was another year that all of that took, and in the meantime the controversy after the announcement of the design win, and that was at the White House, when [Senator Robert] Dole was given the Presidential Medal for Freedom by Clinton. At the same event, the design was unveiled. From just about that point on, we were in the war of the worlds with the [National] Coalition to Save the Mall that was beginning to dispute our using that site for the World War II Memorial. That was a year-long, million-dollar litigation that just about stopped us in our tracks until we could get through all the courts.

BC:

What was their opposition?

PF:

They said we were building a memorial on a memorial. They said we would destroy the view between Lincoln and Washington. You name it, they came up with it, and none of it held water. I was made the attack dog to go on television or radio against this gal named Judy Scott Feldman, who was the head honcho in this attack on the World War II [Memorial]. So anytime she was on the radio, I was too. Anytime she was TV, I was on there too. Members of her group refer to me as “that horrible woman.” [laughs] But this is almost eight years.

BC:

How did you respond to those criticisms?

PF:

Well, we had all the facts. We had all the facts, all of the public hearings that had gone before, thirty-some public hearings where if they had objections, where were they? All of it. Also, we were able to prove without any question when you looked at the design, which was sunken six feet going into the plaza, you have absolutely no distortion of the view.

BC:

It's a clear view.

PF:

It enhances it, really. So we went on and on until we won. In fact, when we had groundbreaking in 2002, we had to do it in an artificial sandbox because we could not actually break ground yet because the last federal hearing had yet to take place and until we cleared that, we couldn't do it. So we should have dedicated it 2003 instead of 2004, but we couldn't get past the lawsuit. But it's the only involvement I've ever had in a memorial where well before we finished construction we'd already collected more than enough money to build it and then to have a repository of almost twenty million dollars for special events.

Well, this committee is all getting together in October, as soon as I get back, the original committee. When Bush won the White House, then our committee, we knew we're leaving, because Bush will appoint his own people. But we were asked as a committee to stay on to finish the work we were doing and turn it over in 2001 to the committee appointed after. The only thing we really did not complete were the final bronze bas relief panels down the stairs. We were there for all of the work to identify the subject matter, but the final panels were approved by Fine Arts and National Park Service and the National Capitol Planning Commission after we had been replaced. And the inscriptions, one thing we regret, we did not get to finalize the inscriptions. The people who replaced us changed some of them.

BC:

Were they changed?

PF:

Yes, some of them, not all of them, but at least a third of them were. They even knocked out the only quote attributed to a woman, and I got involved in that. I wrote the new chairman, General P.X. Kelley, a former Marine, a letter telling him I thought he was making a very serious mistake in not having among twenty-five quotations the voice of at least one woman of that time. You know, I said, “This was a landmark event for women in military, four hundred thousand served, all volunteers, and it changed our whole concept of women's utilization by the military, blah, blah, blah.” He never answered.

I wrote a follow-up letter after that. And then—oh, what was Sarah's last name—Sarah McClendon [died], that wonderful correspondent, White House correspondent, who was White House correspondent to eight presidents and gave all of them grief. One of the most famous quotes—and she had a voice that would shatter glass—she asked John “Jack” Kennedy one day, “What are you doing for women, Mr. President?”

He looked at her and he said, “Whatever it is, I'm sure it's not enough, Ms. McClendon.” [both laugh]

Well, Sarah was wonderful. She was a World War II veteran, WAC, and she and I were on the Phil Donahue Show back in '80 or '81 on women in combat, and I loved her death. Well, she died, and I went to her memorial service at the National Press Club and sat beside Helen Thomas, who is the current doyenne who Bush hates and ignores and tries to shut up all the time. Well, I was sitting there, we were talking about Sarah and what a great gal she was and talked about the World War II Memorial, and I said, “Yeah, and, it's a shame that the commission has knocked out the two quotations we submitted that were—Eleanor Roosevelt was one and a woman major was another.”

Helen Thomas, being Helen Thomas, wanted copies of all my correspondence, everything I had written, all that I had said, dah, dah, dah, dah, and I sent it to her, and about two weeks later in a syndicated column it went out, went over the world. She took on the American Battle Monuments Commission's decision. I got a phone call two days later telling me they changed their mind, that there would be an inscription and that they would choose it and let us know. And then they invited me to the meeting where it was being offered.

As you come down the steps on the right, at the corner, is the Oveta Culp Hobby quotation. She was the director of the Women's Army Corps in World War II, perfect location, perfect statement. So I said, “It's one for Helen Thomas, zero for them.” [laughs] Good to have Helen Thomas as a friend, plus without her I don't think they would have changed things.

So that occupied a lot of time, and I continue as president of the National—you know I've been president of the Alliance for National Defense since 1998. I was recalled to active duty in 1996 after the sex scandal at Aberdeen Proving Grounds and served in the '96-'97 as the vice chair of the Secretary of the Army's [Senior Review] Panel on Sexual Harassment with a mission to go out worldwide and measure the human dimension of the army and find out how bad the problems were and report back.

BC:

Can you tell me a little bit about that work?

PF:

Well, it's tremendous. We spent so much time organizing. We had nine PhD behavioral scientists to develop the protocols and to conduct the surveys and then to process the data and analyze it and organize it. We had four teams of enlisted men, women, and officers who had high qualification for human resources work, and scientists—organized one team to stay in Washington and receive data coming back in, the other three traveling teams.

We went to fifty-five army installations worldwide to talk to soldiers about their lives, treatment in the units, the leadership climate, sexual discrimination, harassment, experiences that any might have. We did that for nine months and came back in and wrote the narrative with the help of the scientists and came up with major findings. Number one, sexual harassment is a problem. Over 22 percent of the women and about 7 percent of the men said they had experienced serious sexual harassment in their career. Of greater seriousness was discrimination, sexual discrimination, because of gender.

The army's, what do you call it, Equal Opportunity Program, Human Rights Program, looked beautiful on paper, read like the perfect blueprint, didn't work worth a darn. Troops didn't trust it as far as they could pull it because as soon as they complained about anything, they were immediately tagged the whistleblower, the troublemaker, and were made victims all over again. So they didn't use the system. They didn't trust it. The army did not staff the human relations office positions. Few officers were allocated to this job, so that was broken.

Then the [most] serious indictment was [that] poor leadership at all levels in the army created the problem. Good leadership at all levels would solve it. So it really nailed the senior leadership all the way down to the unit level for creating climates that let bad things happen. We had a lot of recommendations, so the report was very well received and for a year after, we had reported out close to four hundred and fifty pages. Anybody could go to it today and pick it up right now and it would still be current because the army in its current manifestation is broken and we're having very serious problems of sexual assault and rape throughout the army and in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the problems haven't been solved at the academy, so there are still very serious problems in climate that take women who don't have a critical mass in the unit and make them victims again.

So I worked as a consultant for a year. After I had been in uniform, I was recalled. Had to suspend retirement, suspend Social Security, suspend the APEC, suspend everything, go back on active duty, and it took the army four months to get my pay back, took me two years to get my VA [Veterans Administration benefits] back. Social Security came back just like a charm.

BC:

One of the three.

PF:

But we were still working with these issues and haven't solved them.

BC:

Why do you think that is?

PF:

Because institutionally the army has not changed its image of what the warrior culture should be. To me, there are good warriors and bad warriors. Good warriors don't rape, pillage, and plunder. They go in and they capture, they kill as few people as possible, and then they create an environment where civilians are not at jeopardy. A good warrior values the contributions of every soldier, not just the men, and there's still this macho thing that only men can swing through trees and be soldiers. I've got news for them. The world has changed. Women—the army could not do its job without the women. The women are over 40 percent of the logistical force and if we pulled out, as some people have tried to get us to do, then the army would collapse. You couldn't do it. It's a logistics support group. So we have to start from scratch on how we educate and socialize men and women into coming to the service as to what each does, because women aren't trying to emulate men, they're a complement to the men and no one is trying to take their place. They simply are trying to have their own place. But the military is an institution that very slowly changes.

And the [U.S.] Air Force is having its severe problems, the [U.S.] Navy, even the Coast Guard had its rape case recently, they all do, and you just have to let your—the thing is, the education has to be continuous. You educate one generation, they leave, you've got to start all over again. So that's why the problem is there, and as long as we do not have women in what I consider sufficient numbers in any unit to be a very visible presence, then a small minority will always be picked on and marginalized in what they can do. So it's—the battle is still brewing and it still goes on, and that's why we have the Alliance for National Defense to keep fighting.

BC:

Tell me about the Alliance and your work there.

PF:

We formed together [in 1998]. We got a whole group of people. We came out to my house and we met. We met here and we met at the National Women's Law Center with Duffy Campbell and Marcie Greenberg. It's a wonderful organization in town, very successful in being a legal voice for women's issues from Title IX to military to equal pay, you name it. But we had some very key women from all over the area who came together to discuss forming a nonprofit group to represent the armed forces women as an educated voice on issues impacting women in the military. Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness—she's the director—she is a clone of a woman named Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, neither of whom think women should do anything in the military except paperwork. In fact, they'd love to see the WAC come back. They'd love to see—the reason we came in '98 is they were making every effort to re-segregate basic training, with women only training women and men training men, and which would have set us back another twenty-five years. So it was because of that direct threat of a gender separation that we came together and formed the alliance to be a spokesperson. Any time Elaine Donnelly spoke, I'd be there. Or somebody.

BC:

Did she call you “that horrible woman,” too? [laughs]

PF:

Oh, Elaine Donnelly hates me. She calls me a Feminazi. Well, Rush Limbaugh—no, it was G. Gordon Liddy who called me a Feminazi, which is good. I was honored to be called a Feminazi by that idiot. But they are so well financed by the religious right, by the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, all of the far-right groups who are anti-ERA [Equal Rights Amendment], anti-women in the military, anti-women being anything but conventional roles—which is nothing wrong with conventional roles. They're great. But there is something beyond that for most women, and so our job is when they pick up—you might want to go and look at the Web site of the Center for Military Readiness and see some of the things that Donnelly says. She usually has something nasty to say about me somewhere along there.

But we've testified in Congress together on opposing sides. She was on a commission that tried to re-segregate basic training in '91 and failed, tried to get women off ships and failed, tried to keep women out of flying tactical air and failed. But her mission is to do everything she can to impede the fullest possible integration of women, because when that happens, then all of the arguments that they used to kill the ERA twenty years ago are moot, and it's going to happen. One of these days the ERA will pass.

I also served on the board of directors for the National Woman's Party, the ERA Party, Alice Paul's party, so—I've been involved in this type of stuff along, but not just women. It's military men and women that we work to be the right voice for, and we have, our principal means of communication is a newsletter that goes out to about five hundred people and we have a very modest budget every year to pay for that, and we get contributions from our supporters.

But when things are happening in Congress that could be against the women, we're there, and we've worked with Congresswoman Heather Wilson of New Mexico. She's a Republican, but she's also an Air Force Academy Rhodes Scholar, and she's not about to let the—she's the only woman in Congress who's a veteran. She's not about to let them run over her. If Tammy Duckworth wins the Democratic race in Chicago, Cook County, and wins that seat and goes to the House, she will be a second voice in Congress. She is the woman Black Hawk aviator who lost both legs and one arm, just terribly maimed, when a missile [struck from] underneath and exploded right between her legs. But she landed. She landed the Black Hawk.

BC:

That's incredible.

PF:

Terrible. And she is funny, she is bright, witty, upbeat, walks with a prosthesis and use of canes, but she's out and campaigning, and exceedingly articulate. So she's running in Cook County on the Democratic ticket.

There are fifty-some veterans from Iraq and a couple from Vietnam who are running on the Democratic tickets, and we're hoping the veterans' voice will be a little louder in the future. I work with two veterans organizations on their boards, the Veterans for Common Sense, the Veterans United for Truth, and these are what I consider the veterans organizations of the twenty-first century that will attract young men and women today, far more than the American Legion, the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] and the old guys who—I shouldn't say this, they're wonderful men, but their idea of a great time is to go sit on barstools and drink their beer on a Friday night at the lodge or club. They've done a wonderful service, but the young people are not attracted to what they offer, and they are still quite biased in their attitude towards roles for women.

So there's more to keep me busy than I've got time. I haven't given away—oh, I've got uniforms for you, a few things to give you.

BC:

Great. As you look back over your military career and all of the veterans work that you've been doing, are there particular incidents or moments that stand out to you?

PF:

Well, I'll tell you, oh, there always are. The night after the dedication of the World War II Memorial, and that was an awesome event, probably two hundred thousand people down on the grounds, all of us who had been on the committee, the original committee—the architectural design team, the sculptor, the landscape architecture or designer—all of those who had been that original group for seven years had dinner together at the Cosmos Club. As we were leaving, those of us on the World War II committee decided to get cabs and go down to the Memorial and just see what's happening and walk among the veterans and talk to them, and just to see the joy on the face of these men and women who were veterans was just a thrill—it made you think it was so well worth it.

We would go talk to them and I had a handful of World War II Memorial pins and I put them on the collar of the veterans as we identified them. This one guy I pinned was sitting in his wheelchair just in front of the Wall of Freedom, which are the stars, over four thousand stars, each representing a hundred dead from World War II, and we were listening to the fountains and he was looking at it. He said, “Yeah, I was one of those battling bastards from Bataan.”

I said, “Bataan. Can you imagine?”

Here he said it, he said, “And I'm glad I lived to see this.”

So things like that. Or to go back to Belvoir and people still recognize you where we go, or walk into the Pentagon and people stop you in the halls or you hear out of the blue, the young lady who was my aide-de-camp when I commanded Belvoir is now a lieutenant colonel back at Belvoir as the judge advocate general for the CID [Criminal Investigation Division] Command. I saw her two weeks ago, and she'd been a lieutenant working for me, so you keep—you never say goodbye because you'll always bump into people, and they remain your friends forever. So a lot of us still get together and we have reunions at the Army Women's Museum.

But the decision, the most important decision I ever made in my life was the decision for two years, which became much more than that, and everything that I've told you about emanates from that decision. Had I not made that decision, what would my life have been? I don't know.

BC:

It's probably hard to imagine anything else.

PF:

Yes. Yes. People say, “But aren't you sorry you didn't have children?” I say, “Yeah, in a way. I think I'd have been a very good parent,” but I came in at a time when you couldn't have a career and a family, and I was an older woman at the time and nobody had ridden up on a white horse yet, so why should I think they would, so it became my career. So I said I've spent my whole long career on people and soldiers and young people, and I continue to do that. So no, I haven't missed a thing along the way. It's been way of a more full life than I ever would have had otherwise. No, it's been great. It has.

BC:

Well, it's truly been a remarkable career and such a pleasure to talk to you. I don't have any more formal questions—

PF:

Good. Because you've got the whole oral interview there with all my slang-y talk when I talked to Colonel Mary Maier. That interview was staged over a period of maybe two months, and she'd come in for two and three hours at a time when she put all of that together. So that is about it, but come in here a moment, I'll show you some of my military mementos.

[End of Interview]