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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Norma Petree Shaver, 2001

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Object ID: WV0217.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Norma Petree Shaver’s service in the WAC (Women’s Army Corps) from 1943 to 1945.

Summary:

Shaver recalls the attack on Pearl Harbor, her brother being drafted into the service, working at R.H. Hanes Knitting Company, and the switch in their production to war materials. She also mentions her reasons for enlisting, and discusses attending a swearing in ceremony held for PR purposes.

Shaver shares details of her basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, including her female instructors and learning rules and regulations. She also mentions working in the motor pool, and later the finance office, at Camp Upton, New York. Other topics from her time at Camp Upton include: traveling to New York City; her first Christmas in the service; working with servicemen; and volunteering for overseas duty. She briefly mentions returning to Oglethorpe for overseas training and traveling on the SS Lurline to Australia. Of her experiences overseas, Shaver describes responding to letters sent to General MacArthur in Brisbane; her brief time in Hollandia, New Guinea, and Tacloban, Philippines; and jungle rot, Atabrine, living in tents, listening to Tokyo Rose, and an attempted bombing of the WAC Headquarters while stationed in Manila. Other topics include the death of President Roosevelt, VJ Day, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Shaver discusses meeting and marrying her husband, Roy, continuing work at Hanes, and obtaining her commercial flying license through the GI Bill. The interview concludes with a discussion of Shaver’s personal photos and papers from her service time.

Creator:

Biographical Info:

Collection: Norma Petree Shaver 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:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. Today is May the twenty-fourth in the year 2001, as time is moving on. We are in beautiful Carolina Beach [North Carolina] today. I'm at the home of Norma Shaver this afternoon with her daughter Polly.

I just want to say thank you to you both for your hospitality of letting me come by today and share whatever are good memories about your time in the service. We're going to start with you the same way I start with everybody, and that's, if you would, just tell us where you were born and where you grew up.

NS:

I was born in Forsyth County, North Carolina, outside of Winston-Salem. I grew up there and stayed there until I joined the service.

EE:

Where did you go to high school?

NS:

Old Town High School.

EE:

I think it's now an elementary school.

NS:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

They spent a gob of money fixing it up. It looks good. What did your folks do?

NS:

They were farmers: tobacco farm, dairy farm.

EE:

So did you have to keep the smokehouse fires burning late at night? Once you grew up, what was your work?

NS:

No, I worked in the back of it. I never cured tobacco.

EE:

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

NS:

I have one brother and three sisters.

EE:

Where are you in that, oldest?

NS:

I'm in the middle.

EE:

In the middle. Well, we've got three kids in my family, and I never hear the end about being the oldest from my middle ones. [laughter] So everybody worked there at the farm, your mom and that?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Were you somebody who liked school when you were younger?

NS:

Oh, I loved school.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject or anything?

NS:

Well, no. I just liked learning.

EE:

You are of the age that probably you remember the difference before and after the Depression. How was that for you?

NS:

[unclear]. Well, it was fairly hard, but I didn't know about it, because we lived on a farm, so we always had plenty of food. We didn't have a lot of money, but we never really suffered from it. Didn't have all the things I wanted, but—

EE:

But if you don't have them, you don't know what you've missed, do you?

NS:

That's right.

EE:

When you graduated from high school, was North Carolina a twelve-year high school by then, or just eleven?

NS:

No, it was eleven-year, yes.

EE:

So you would have graduated in about—

NS:

In '38.

EE:

—thirty-eight. Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?

NS:

Well, I wanted to be a nurse, but I wasn't old enough to get in nurse's training, and so I went to Salem College and had a business course there. I went to work for P. H. Hanes Knitting Company.

EE:

So you took—it was like two years at Salem?

NS:

No, just one year.

EE:

Just one year. Had they built the Bowman Gray School of Medicine?

NS:

No.

EE:

So that was still to come. And, of course, back in the thirties, I think between Hanes and [R.J.] Reynolds [Tobacco Company], they employed about forty percent of the county, didn't they?

NS:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

It was a lot of folks. So were you working in the front office there at Hanes?

NS:

In the main office, yes.

EE:

So it was secretarial, administrative work, that kind of thing?

NS:

Yes. I was a cost accountant, really.

EE:

Is that kind of work something you like?

NS:

Why, yes, I do.

EE:

Did you live at the house while you were working there?

NS:

No, I lived at home, yes.

EE:

One of the things that it's hard to gauge—you know, nowadays we can turn on the TV and you see around the world in an instant. I'm just wondering, when you were a teenager and getting out in the working world, there's a whole bunch of things that are going on in the world. Were you clued in much to what was going on in Europe and all these things on the horizon?

NS:

Well, we had the radio news, and we may have heard lots of things. Of course, I'm sure it was nothing like it is now, but we felt like we were informed about what was going on.

EE:

So there were some concerns before Pearl Harbor Day about what was going on in the world then for people?

NS:

Oh yes. Oh yes. In fact, I remember even in high school, we studied about Hitler, and that was disturbing.

EE:

Did you have any of your friends or your family who had already been joining the service before Pearl Harbor Day?

NS:

Well, my brother was drafted right after Pearl Harbor Day, and so—but see, everybody, I think they started drafting people about a year before Pearl Harbor. So I knew people who were going all along.

EE:

They're going to have that big movie open this weekend about that. It's been sixty years. Do you remember where you were when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

NS:

Oh yes. I was at home. It was Sunday morning, and it came on the radio.

EE:

You had just come home from church, or when was that?

NS:

Well, I think it was, yes, about noontime, I think.

EE:

How did your household take that news?

NS:

Well, my mom and dad were really disturbed, because they knew my brother was going in the army right away, and it was.

EE:

How old was your brother then?

NS:

How old was he? Well, he's three years older than I am.

EE:

So he would have been—

Polly Shaver [PS]:

Would he have been twenty-two?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

So was he drafted that following spring then?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Which branch did he go into?

NS:

He went into the army, in the engineers.

EE:

And you went back to work at Hanes. Did the kind of work, the pace of work, change at Hanes after that?

NS:

Oh yes, because we were an army—

EE:

You were a supplier.

NS:

—supplier, yes. We got an E for excellence in providing army materials.

EE:

Now, I've talked with somebody who worked in a blanket factory up in Elkin, about how the pace went. What were y'all producing for the army at that time?

NS:

Underwear.

EE:

Underwear, so everybody has that. Long before Michael Jordan was advertising, the U.S. Army was advertising for you all. Forty-two is when the WAAC, W-A-A-C, [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] got organized. You had a brother in the army. What was it that got you thinking you needed to move out from behind the desk at Hanes and do something else?

NS:

Well, they kept advertising about how much they needed women so fathers wouldn't have to go to the army, and so that you could really keep somebody—that you could really replace somebody that wouldn't have to go that it would be a hardship for.

EE:

That's interesting.

NS:

And I was looking for excitement and new experiences.

EE:

Had you been outside of Forsyth County much before that time?

NS:

No, I hadn't. I'd been down to the beach. Well, I had been to New York. I went to the World's Fair in 1940.

EE:

The World's Fair was a great place to be if you were [unclear]. They had the big globe there at the entrance gate?

NS:

Oh yes.

EE:

That's where they had television, I think, for the first time, the general public.

NS:

Yes. Yes, that's where I first saw television.

EE:

That was a wonderful World's Fair.

When you told the folks that you were contemplating this idea, what was their reaction?

NS:

Well, they were not in favor of it. They really didn't discourage me that much.

EE:

Had you been talking about it in '42 with them?

NS:

Oh yes, when they first formed the auxiliary, I wanted to, but it just wasn't organized. So they were aware for quite a while that I really wanted to do that.

EE:

So after you had turned twenty-one, you didn't really need a parent's signature anymore, and it was time to go. [laughter] What about your sisters?

NS:

Well, they didn't really say much about it. I mean, they didn't want to go, but it was all right for me to.

EE:

Because I know initially, even a lot of the army people didn't look too favorably on having women in the army.

NS:

Well, that's true.

EE:

But you never got any of that personally directed at you before going in?

NS:

Why, no. I mean, people said, well, it wasn't any place for women, but anyway.

EE:

You went to a recruiting office there in Winston?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Did they tell you the kind of work you'd be doing, or where you'd—

NS:

Oh, no, they didn't.

EE:

They didn't say, well—

NS:

No, you just joined, and whatever they [unclear].

EE:

When you signed up, was it for a set period of time, or was it for the duration?

NS:

Duration and six months.

EE:

And you didn't get to say, “Well, I'd like to see this part of the world and that part of the world,” did you?

NS:

No, because I wanted to go to Europe. That was part of my plan, was to see Europe. [laughter]

EE:

You know, the other services, they did not let go overseas. Did they tell the WACs [Women's Army Corps] at the beginning that you could go overseas? Because I know the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], they wouldn't let go overseas.

NS:

No. Well, no, I don't think at the beginning they said that you could go overseas. I think that changed during the time [unclear].

EE:

You told me before we started the interview that you signed up personally, but they apparently pulled a bunch of women together for a PR [public relations] trip down to Raleigh to formally swear you in.

NS:

Yes. Yes, that's right. They were trying to get each state to furnish a company. They were supposed to go through their basic training together.

EE:

So you took what, a bus or a train down to Raleigh? Took the bus?

NS:

We actually went to Charlotte, and then a bus trip to Raleigh, and then on to Fort Oglethorpe [Georgia].

EE:

So right off the bat, you get the idea that you're doing something pretty important, because you get to shake the governor's hand.

NS:

Yes, that's right. [laughs]

EE:

Who was the governor?

NS:

Governor [J. Melville] Broughton.

EE:

When you're down there, I guess that's just for a day, and then they immediately put y'all on the train to go to Oglethorpe, or what was the procedure?

NS:

Yes, we just stayed there one—I think it was just one afternoon, and then we took a night trip to Georgia.

EE:

This was October of '43. It's a long train ride across the mountains to Oglethorpe, which is right outside Chattanooga [Tennessee]. Tell me about your experience in basic training. Now, your family isn't small, and farm life, you're used to getting up and doing the work, so getting up early was not a problem for you, I'm sure. But you are thrown in a mix with a bunch of people you don't know from Eve. So how was the basic for you?

NS:

Well, there was nothing—they kept us busy all the time. We were doing something continuously. But I kind of enjoyed it. I mean, I didn't really complain about it, I mean.

EE:

What was a typical day like for you all?

NS:

Well, we took classes about army life and the rules and regulations, and then we marched, and on Saturdays they had a big parade of all the companies. Anyway, it was activity all the time. And then we took hikes up through the—I've forgotten the name of the park in Chattanooga, but up on the mountain.

EE:

Up behind “See Rock City” or something [unclear]. Actually, I've heard tell of people getting lost back in that park.

NS:

Yes, I think you could get [unclear] easy. [laughter]

EE:

Did you get to go down into the city much, or did they pretty much keep you all there at the place?

NS:

Well, we could go in on weekends.

EE:

Were all your instructors women at that time?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Because I know at some stages, the WAC had some men instructors as well. So women were doing the drill instructing. They were doing the—what was the hardest part about basic for you?

NS:

I guess the hikes, probably, because your feet hurt.

EE:

When you were there, did they give you an option of the kind of work you were to do or—

NS:

No. No, they—

EE:

Like some, I guess they give you some tests about aptitudes and things that you can have some skill at. You came out of basic and went to Camp Upton [New York]. Tell me where Camp Upton is. New York is kind of a big place.

NS:

It's on Long Island, but it's way out.

EE:

Out toward Montauk?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Was this a place where just WACs were stationed?

NS:

No, it was a staging point for overseas.

EE:

So you thought you might be going overseas from there?

NS:

No, I knew I was assigned to the—

EE:

You were going to be sitting in the basement a while. How many women were in your group for training down at Oglethorpe?

NS:

Well, we were divided up into companies, but there must have been two or three thousand who were going through the same—

EE:

Did they keep all those women from North Carolina together as a company, or was that just for show?

NS:

Yes, they did. No, they kept us together during the basic training, but we didn't have enough people to make a company, so they joined us up with South Carolina and Alabama.

EE:

Okay, okay. That's good, they kept you all together. So you had some people right from the beginning that you had some common ties with.

NS:

Yes, that you [unclear], yes.

EE:

And they didn't give you grief about liking grits or anything after that, then.

NS:

No. [laughs]

EE:

Okay, so you're all right. When you get to Upton, though, you were in a different part of the country, for sure. Were you working in the motor pool up there, as well?

NS:

Yes. Yes, and thank God I drove a cab around, and then I could drive up to a two-and-a-half-ton truck, so I just drove for the motor pool.

EE:

Did they give you some special training in that up there?

NS:

Well, they checked to see if I could drive. They didn't—

EE:

If you'd been driving a tractor for a while, I guess you know a little bit about machinery, too, probably. So you were doing that work, and then working as a clerk-typist, as well?

NS:

No, they transferred me from the motor pool to the finance office.

EE:

If there were two to three thousand at Oglethorpe, how many WACs were up at Upton?

NS:

Well, I think there were—we had two different barracks, so there must not have been about three hundred or something.

EE:

Was your CO [commanding officer] up there a man or a woman?

NS:

Well, in the office course, they were all men, but where we lived, we had us a commanding officer of women.

EE:

But your assignments actually were given by the male CO in the office. The woman was basically just to make sure you all stayed in line, I guess—

NS:

Yes.

EE:

—after hours. Did you get a chance to go into the city much, or were you pretty much—

NS:

No, we could go in on weekends. There was a train that went into New York City all the time.

EE:

So you got a chance to start seeing a little bit of the world right off the bat then. Did you keep up with the folks—I guess you had probably been at Upton at Christmastime?

NS:

Yes. Yes, I was.

EE:

So you didn't get to come home that first Christmas.

NS:

Yes, I did.

EE:

Oh, well, that was good. When you were there, you spent about six months at Upton. The WAC worked to free a man to fight, and you were working in an office with other men. How did they feel about you being in the office?

NS:

Well, I never ran into anybody that really didn't think we should be there. I mean, everybody was really pretty congenial, I mean—

EE:

Good. You were there, and did they come to you as a group and say, “We want you all to go to Oglethorpe,” or were just individuals of you picked out to go with the [unclear]?

NS:

Well, you had to volunteer to go overseas, and so I guess they took everybody that volunteered to go.

EE:

Did they give you a chance to volunteer for a particular theater, like Europe—

NS:

No, no.

EE:

—or you just say you want a chance to go overseas?

NS:

If you're willing, you serve overseas.

EE:

Now, was that a volunteer assignment you did before talking to Mama or after? [laughter] The phone [unclear]. I'll tell you, it's one thing to be stateside. It's another to be overseas. Your brother was in—

NS:

He went to Europe.

EE:

Your brother did go to Europe.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

So were you keeping in contact with him?

NS:

Well, yes.

EE:

V-Mail back and forth or—

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Was he supportive of you doing all this stuff in the WAC?

NS:

Well, I never criticized him, but he just kept saying, “Take care of yourself. Don't do this, and don't do that.”

EE:

Being a big brother.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

You come back to Oglethorpe after six months. What kind of training did you do at Oglethorpe?

NS:

Well, it wasn't really that much different, that I can remember, from the regular basic training. It's just further training. A lot of it was I think they were kind of testing you, to see how much activity you could stand, you know.

EE:

Did you get a sense, when you were at Oglethorpe, about where in the world you might be sent?

NS:

No. In fact, it was all secret. You had no idea where, or even when you got on the train, you didn't know where you were going.

EE:

Something that people who did not live through that time don't realize is that the whole East Coast was basically blacked out at night for fear—you didn't know whether there might be a plane overhead that was a spy or a bomb or something. So I guess these trains at night, y'all were—the blackout.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

When you got down to Oglethorpe, did you do gas mask training?

NS:

I don't believe we did that until we got to California, but we did have gas mask training before we went overseas.

EE:

How about rifle work? Did you do any rifle?

NS:

No, no. We had no protection. [laughter]

EE:

You had hoped you would be well guarded, is what you're saying. When you were going out on the street, I guess you were having to wear your uniform, or maybe wear it stateside, aren't you, when you're going out?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

What kind of response would you get from the folks on the street?

NS:

Well, nothing, really. Well, they were all used to seeing women in uniform, and nobody ever did anything that—

EE:

Did you ever get any favors done to you by being a military person?

NS:

No, I can't remember.

EE:

Nobody gave you a free lunch or anything?

NS:

No.

EE:

When you're in Oglethorpe, and you're there for about six weeks, you think, then you head out to California for embarkation. What kind of a ship did you go out on?

NS:

It was a big luxury liner that went from Hawaii to California before the war, the Lurline. SS Lurline was the name.

EE:

What were the accommodations on that ship like?

NS:

Well, they had all these cabins that was supposed to be for two people, and they put twelve of us in there. [laughs]

EE:

Were you on hammocks?

NS:

No, four stacks.

EE:

So you had like bunk bed sets. [laughter] Now, are y'all down in the hold, or where are y'all?

NS:

No, we're up on the upper decks. But they were really nice cabins. It was a luxury liner. But they just crowded a lot of people in.

EE:

Did y'all have an escort, or did you have to do zigzags across the ocean? How did you get across?

NS:

We didn't have an escort. I don't know whether they zigzagged or what, but we were [unclear].

EE:

How long were you at sea?

NS:

About thirty days.

EE:

Too long.

NS:

Before I got to Australia, they stopped off in New Guinea and let some people off at, I think, two different places in New Guinea.

EE:

I guess Brisbane [Australia] is sort of on the southeast corner, isn't it?

NS:

No, it's on the northeast corner.

EE:

Northeast corner, okay. So I'm thinking Queensland, but it's actually northwest—northeast—what is it?

NS:

Queensland is further south. Now, Queensland is the province where Brisbane is in.

EE:

Right. But it goes a long way up and down the coast. So it's basically the whole east side of the country is Queensland. Now, did they give you a map telling you where you were going? It amazes me, because you're going places that many of the folks have never heard of. You're just going where they tell you to go, and yet I guess you're there with buddies. Were there some folks that you had known before making this trip who were out there with you, or was just a whole [unclear] group of people?

NS:

Well, I guess some of them I had been in basic training—I mean, been in overseas training with.

EE:

Thirty-day trip. Did you have any trouble on the trip over?

NS:

No.

EE:

This would have been, goodness, late spring?

NS:

It was in August.

EE:

Oh, it was August of '44?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Of course, now they switch seasons when you get down below the equator, so that would have been in wintertime for them, wasn't it?

NS:

Yes, but the [unclear] is kind of tropical, anyway. It's never very cold there.

EE:

Where were you stationed when you got to Brisbane? Was there a camp there?

NS:

It was in a park. We had stationery tents set up in a park, and that's where we went.

EE:

Was this just for the Americans?

NS:

Just for the women.

EE:

Just the WACs.

NS:

Yes. And then I worked in a building downtown.

EE:

So they housed you there. Was everybody else, their work was just kind of scattered all over town, wherever they had offices, different places?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Downtown, was this where the Adjutant General's Office was?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

You didn't find out about that assignment, I guess, till they—they probably gave you your bunk in the tent and say, “That's it.”

NS:

Yes, [unclear]. [laughter]

EE:

Surprise.

NS:

You didn't have choice.

EE:

I guess you might have been—you had to have been one of the younger ones, because you got in right after that, but were most of the women there about your age?

NS:

No, I was one of the younger ones. We had women up to fifty years old. So it was really a range of—

EE:

Did the women pretty much stay together as they socialized, or was everybody sort of doing their own thing when they went—

NS:

We stayed together. I mean, when we went out, we went in groups.

EE:

Now, was that area—that was far enough behind the lines that there was not a worry about an attack at any [unclear].

NS:

Oh, no. In fact, I don't think they ever had any attacks that far in Australia.

EE:

So that was just the outer islands, yes. You were doing that work for about two months. Was [General Douglas] MacArthur there in Brisbane?

NS:

No, he had already moved out to—I think he was in New Guinea then with the air force.

EE:

The work in that office, what kind of papers were y'all handling? Was this just processing where people were going to be going?

NS:

Well, mostly what I did was, civilians wrote letters directly to General MacArthur saying, “Where is my son? I haven't heard from him. Please let my son or husband or—come home for a furlough.” I'd get those letters, and the first thing I had to do was to read the handwriting and type them out so that people could read them. Then we answered all—we'd find out where the soldier was and write his commanding officer and try to find out how he was doing. Then we'd send letters back to whoever wrote in, telling what his status was.

EE:

It's the kind of thing, it sounded like you could, if you'd let yourself, get kind of emotional about things, because I'm sure you probably read some very affecting letters.

NS:

Well, yes. In fact, I remember one soldier, in particular, that we lost, and we never knew what happened to him. He was from somewhere in North Carolina, but he disappeared from the time he got on a plane somewhere to where he was supposed to land, and then they—

EE:

They never found him.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

So you're making the copies of this to go to the multiple offices, and I imagine it's with carbons and seven copies of whatever it is per file, and you had to do that with each one of those letters.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Did you have any say—so about saying, “Well, these look like they're of more merit than others,” or were you simply just to take what's [unclear]?

NS:

No, I was supposed to take them as they come.

EE:

Right. How many other women were doing that kind of work in that office?

NS:

Well, there was one other woman in my particular, but there were several men, too, that did the same thing.

EE:

So there were a number of people who were getting those kind of letters.

NS:

Yes, yes.

EE:

You were there for two months, and then you get the call to go to New Guinea. Was it your whole company that moves over, or did they just again kind of pick individuals to move along?

NS:

Well, the whole headquarters was moving. They moved it.

EE:

Okay. So everybody would be at the Adjutant General's.

NS:

But they moved at different times.

EE:

So there was just you and another woman in that headquarters office? Or there were a number of other [unclear].

NS:

Oh, there were others in other departments.

EE:

So about how many folks altogether were in that particular group? Was it a hundred?

NS:

Yes, there must have been about a hundred. Maybe not that—yes.

EE:

You went to Hollandia [Dutch New Guinea]. Is that near Port Moresby [Papua New Guinea], or where is that?

NS:

No, that's up in Dutch New Guinea.

EE:

North side? North coast?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

How long were you at Hollandia, then?

NS:

Well, I may be getting mixed up on these times, but I must have been there—I know I spent Christmas in Australia, and so I couldn't have been in Hollandia much more than six weeks, I don't believe.

EE:

Right. I guess the front was moving pretty quickly, once New Guinea was secured. When was the Battle of Leyte Gulf [Philippines]? What was that? That was—

NS:

I think it was in January of '45. Then they moved into Luzon [Philippines] in March.

EE:

So you were at Tacloban [Philippines]—you had moved from Hollandia to Tacloban before that battle.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Again, the kind of work you were doing was about the same kind of work at each of those stations along the way?

NS:

Yes. Yes, that's right.

EE:

You told me where you were housed and in Brisbane, and when you got such a group moving mobile—I assume you were still living in tents when you go to New Guinea.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

The environment's a lot different, though, isn't it?

NS:

Oh yes. Hollandia was very near the equator, and so we didn't work in the middle of the day. Around noon, we had to go back after the evening meal for a couple of hours, because it was so hot, and it rained every day, just about, that we took the noon hours off.

EE:

Again, y'all were living in a kind of a tent village kind of thing?

NS:

Yes, we were.

EE:

I heard a lot about trench foot over there. Did y'all have problems with that?

NS:

Jungle rot, yes.

EE:

But you, yourself, you got through health-wise okay.

NS:

No.

EE:

You didn't have any problems with it?

NS:

No.

EE:

Were you taking Atabrine [anti-malaria drug] then?

NS:

Oh yes.

EE:

So everybody was turning kind of yellow. [laughter] When you were working there, are you given regular post back to your folks back home about what's going on?

NS:

Oh yes. In fact, the mail came pretty regularly. They heard from me fairly often, and I got letters. I mean, it wasn't any real long periods of time where they [unclear].

EE:

If you were in the adjutant general's office, my guess is, would you have to keep kind of hid from them exactly where you exactly were?

NS:

Oh yes. You couldn't tell them exactly where you were.

EE:

Did you have any secret codes you'd come up with or—

NS:

No. [laughter] But, in fact, my commanding officer censored all the letters.

EE:

So you couldn't get away with anything.

NS:

Yes, I think [unclear]. [laughter]

EE:

What was your CO's name?

NS:

Major Itell.

EE:

What did you think of him?

NS:

Oh, he was really a nice man. A Yankee, but—

EE:

Well, there's occasionally good ones in all of us. You were there, as you say, about five or six weeks in Hollandia. Then in Tacloban, you must have been there for only a month or so.

NS:

That's right.

EE:

Again, in temporary quarters, moving on.

NS:

Well, we lived in an old schoolhouse there.

EE:

In Tacloban?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Had that area been taken over, and had it been bombed pretty heavily?

NS:

Yes, and it was pretty well destroyed.

EE:

Because, I know, Manila, I've heard terrible things about Manila.

NS:

Oh, it was. It was wrecked altogether, I mean.

EE:

You would have been, what, February of '45 in Tacloban, and then moved maybe in March to Manila?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

By the time you got to Manila, had all the pockets of resistance been—

NS:

No, they'd just taken part of the city. This part they called “walled city,” and the Japanese were still in command of the walled city.

EE:

It sounds like you had reason, maybe, to be afraid at that point. Did you ever get afraid in all this travel in all these places?

NS:

Well, yes, I was a little afraid sometimes, but not really. Of course, we were bombed, too, and we had to go get in a bomb shelter.

EE:

Was this when you were in Manila, you were bombed?

NS:

Yes. Also some Japanese came up one night and tried to attack the WAC headquarters, three soldiers that had hand grenades and everything.

EE:

Were they stopped before they got there?

NS:

Yes. See, we did have guards at our living quarters.

EE:

Had they given y'all some special advice on what to do if captured and that kind of thing?

NS:

Yes. You weren't supposed to tell them anything except your name and serial number. And if they attacked you, just let them. [laughs]

EE:

Right, right. But did you ever, other than those instances you were talking about, did you ever have any encounters with any of the fighting directly, yourself?

NS:

No, no. [unclear].

EE:

So it was just close enough that you knew it was right around the corner.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

That probably took, what, another month or two to get settled down by the time you get there. You were in Manila, actually, through the rest of your service, which would have been through November.

Do you remember anything about when President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt passed away [unclear]?

NS:

Yes. We had a memorial service, and that was the only time I was really up close to General MacArthur. He came to the service. He didn't speak, but anyway, I was sitting really close to him at the service when President Roosevelt died.

EE:

What did you think about President Roosevelt?

NS:

Well, we were kind of detached. In fact, I remember getting on the bus, and we were hearing that he had passed away, and nobody knew who was going to be the president. [laughs]

EE:

[Harold S.] Truman who? [laughter]

NS:

So we were kind of out of it.

EE:

You'd had a good year working on kind of dislocating yourself to all these places you'd never been to and not having a sense of time. The USO shows were going through. Did y'all have any kind of regular entertainments there, or was it just too—you were in the work section.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

You were where it was too busy.

NS:

They did that more for the men that were in the combat thing.

EE:

Y'all were usually back far enough where you had the chance to go where the civilians were and were more in that. In Manila, you're still doing that kind of work. VE Day happens in just a month or so after Roosevelt passes away. Was there any kind of a change in the mood after VE Day?

NS:

Well, no, and it really didn't make that much difference to us.

EE:

Yes, because everybody was still planning to invade Japan. That's where it looked like it was headed.

NS:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

Where were you when you heard about the bomb being dropped?

NS:

Well, that was early one morning when we were getting on the truck to go to work. But we had heard rumors before that something was going to happen, but we didn't know exactly. We didn't know what it could be, but we had heard that there was something that could happen that could end the war.

EE:

Had you had any plans of where you all were going to be your next station stop after Manila?

NS:

Well, no, we were settled there till the—as far as we knew.

EE:

So y'all didn't have an inkling of where the next move would be.

NS:

No.

EE:

Because MacArthur was so set on getting the Philippines back.

NS:

Yes. Manila was really his home.

EE:

That's right, but I know I've heard, and that special pointed out, that MacArthur and—who was it—Admiral [Ernest] King weren't exactly on eye-to-eye terms on who was going to take charge of the war going into Japan. But you didn't have any inkling of that day. What was the reaction in the office that day when you [unclear] the bomb dropped?

NS:

Well, I can't remember anything in particular about it that changed that much, I mean.

EE:

But now, it wasn't but a week or two later that the war ended, and you heard that MacArthur was going to be going up to accept the surrender terms.

NS:

Yes. But some Japanese did come to our headquarters to plan the meeting on the battleship [USS] Missouri.

EE:

So if you had a delegation come to Manila, did you see them when they came in your office?

NS:

Yes, I did.

EE:

What was that feeling like, having fought these folks for four years?

NS:

Well, it just seemed very strange, but they marched in, saving one group, and they had a Japanese flag. Then they went off to General MacArthur's office on the top floor, and they went up there.

EE:

So were y'all told how to act that day or—

NS:

No.

EE:

It's got to be a strange feeling for you to have them, though, after four years and so many terrible things done in the course of war, to then be civil about things to end it.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

But there was a meeting there, and the surrender, I think, took place on the fourteenth of August on the Missouri in Tokyo Bay [Japan]. What was it like in Manila that day? Did y'all have a big party?

NS:

No. We didn't have anything to celebrate with. [laughter]

EE:

Nobody had smuggled any of the good stuff back. They started sending folks back, based on points, I guess. You could have gone on to Japan with the Adjutant General's Office, continuing this kind of work.

NS:

Yes, yes. In fact, that's what they were planning to do, and I could have gone on just fine and been promoted to a T-4 [technician fourth grade].

EE:

So what made you decide against it?

NS:

Well, the war was over, and that's what I got in for, was to get the war over with. So I was ready to come home.

EE:

A little homesick, maybe.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

You got out in November of '45. Did you ever think about making, and had anybody ever offered you, to make it a career?

NS:

Well, no, and I didn't ever consider it as a career, really.

EE:

When you got out, you were anxious to get back to North Carolina. What did you do when you got back to the States?

NS:

I took a month's vacation, and then I went back to work at Hanes. [laughs]

EE:

They held the job for you?

NS:

Oh yes.

EE:

That's great.

NS:

How long did you work at Hanes?

EE:

I worked till I had my first child. It must have been about twelve years altogether.

NS:

Now, you're skipping something here. There's a fellow who comes in here someplace. When did this fellow come into your life?

EE:

Well, I knew Ray [Shaver], my husband. He moved into our neighborhood when I was about fifteen years old, and he grew up and went to the same church, and he was just an acquaintance. So I really didn't—but he was overseas with 13th Air Force. We were not far apart at several different times, but I never did see him while we were overseas.

NS:

So y'all didn't have a correspondence during the war or anything.

EE:

No, no. We really got together after the war.

NS:

Well, that's good. So when did y'all get married?

EE:

In 1950.

NS:

Was he called back for Korea?

EE:

No. That's why we got married, so he wouldn't have to go back to Korea. [laughs]

NS:

Not a bad bonus.

PS:

How romantic. [laughter]

EE:

“Please, let's get married today. Honey, I love you, and I'll love you a lot more if we do it by five.” [laughs] Oh, that's funny. But that obviously was a good choice, because it lasted almost fifty years y'all were married together. That's great.

You know, when I talk to folks—because you went around the world, to the other side of the world, and at such a young age, and you mixed with so many different people, are there any peculiar characters? Surely there are some funny things that stick out in your mind. Are there some characters that you remember from that service time, stories about folks?

NS:

Well—

EE:

That are legal that we can tell on tape. [laughter]

NS:

You know, I can't think of any right now.

EE:

Well, now, one of the questions I'm supposed to ask you is what's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you while you were in the service?

NS:

That's a hard question, too.

PS:

You kept your head down.

EE:

[laughs] You understand what it means, “Don't ask, don't tell,” now, right?

PS:

I know.

EE:

More than just one thing; you just don't want to tell what was going on. You're there at a great time of life, when you're young, and the world, you don't really think about dangers, and you're more open to things.

Is there a song that you hear on the radio or a movie when you see on TV, that when you hear it or see it, takes you back to that time?

NS:

Well, I can't think of [unclear].

EE:

What was some of your favorite music back then? You were into swing music and Glenn Miller, that kind of thing?

NS:

Yes. What is that song about going home? I just can't think of it right now.

PS:

It's not I'll Be Seeing You?

NS:

No.

PS:

We'll Meet Again? [laughter]

EE:

Well, White Cliffs of Dover is one that's out there.

PS:

A song about going home? Was it a man or a woman singing?

NS:

I don't know.

EE:

You talked about you had the chance just to—although you were working in MacArthur's office, you did not see MacArthur himself that often.

NS:

No, I didn't.

EE:

He was sort of an aloof personality, in that sense. He's not the kind who'd come by for morale and shake hands with everybody in the office.

NS:

Yes, and see how everybody's doing.

EE:

It was a privilege for you to see him, in a sense. We talked before this tape about how people had very strong opinions about MacArthur. What about the folks who worked in that office? How did they feel about him?

NS:

Well, they all respected him, and they thought he was great. But according to that thing they just did on The American Experience, he was—the people he worked with, the higher-ups, didn't like him. They thought he was an actor, not sincere or anything [unclear]. But, you know, he had his wife and child with him most of the time when he was over there.

EE:

Did you ever see her?

NS:

No, I didn't.

EE:

I just wondered, because—you're right, he definitely caused trouble for higher-ups, but I just wondered how folks who worked in that office for him—you're handling letters addressed to him. You have to feel some investment in what he's doing, because he's doing it on behalf of the whole country.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

I guess your folks got their flag with two stars on it.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

It was kind of nice being one of those stars up there, I'm sure. When you look back, I know some people, when they compare then and now, the thing that they really miss is the fact that we are not as patriotic anymore. Do you think that's different, or is it just because we've got a different time?

NS:

Well, it's a different time. I mean, everybody was affected then, and now it just seems like a very few people are involved. Even in Vietnam, see, there were just such a few people involved. But during World War II, everybody was. Their lives changed.

EE:

Because even if you weren't in the service, you had rationing, didn't you?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Were any of your kids in the service at all?

NS:

No.

EE:

Any of them have an interest in it?

NS:

No.

EE:

Because both you and your husband were in the service.

NS:

That's right, but—

PS:

That's not true. When I was eighteen, I thought about going, joining instead of going to college. But both of them really, “You don't need to go to the army. You need to go to college.” I really thought, they'd both been there, so if they discouraged me from doing it, I thought they probably know best. But I've often thought of—and then I could be second-generation female army person.

EE:

There's not that many of them.

PS:

I know.

EE:

The thing is, is that it's become—I don't know what it was when you were in, if it was a volunteer army when you were—because they just switched in—I guess, was it seventies when they switched to a volunteer army? And women do so much more now in the service than they were allowed to do then. We had our first combat pilot, for heaven's sakes, bomb Iraq a couple of years ago. Do you think it's a good thing that women are allowed to do so much in the army?

NS:

Why, yes. Why shouldn't they?

EE:

So you don't have any worries about them losing their womanhood by being more of a soldier?

NS:

No, no. [laughs]

EE:

When you think back to that time, who were your heroes?

NS:

Well, MacArthur was one of my heroes, and Roosevelt, and General [George C.] Marshall. We always heard a lot about what he was doing.

EE:

What did you think of Eleanor [Roosevelt]?

NS:

Well, I liked her, and I thought she was great. Everybody made fun of her [unclear].

EE:

She was one of those personalities that everybody had on opinion about.

NS:

Yes, that's true.

EE:

But you thought she was okay. When you come back and you get married, did y'all raise your family there in Winston then after y'all got married?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Was he working for Hanes as well, or where did he work?

NS:

No, he was a construction worker.

EE:

So you stayed and raised the family through there. How did you get from Winston down to the beach?

NS:

We came down here when they built the DuPont plant in 1967. Ray was working in construction, and we moved to Carolina Beach. My children never did want to leave. They didn't want to leave the beach, so we lived at Wrightsville [Beach, North Carolina] a while, and then we lived in Wilmington a while.

EE:

Well, that's great. You were at Hanes. Did you stay working at Hanes the whole time you were raising the kids?

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

EE:

Some folks, they say when the women's movement started in this country was not 1970, but it was in 1942 when the army said, “We need women in the work force,” and they gave them that chance to do army jobs. Do you feel like you were a pioneer, being part of the Women's Army Corps at such an early age?

NS:

Why, yes, but all the women who went to work in factories and things about that time, that changed. The way the women [unclear], most people worked till they got married, and then they stayed home.

EE:

Right, and that changed after that, didn't it?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Have you kept in contact with some of the folks that were in the service with over the years?

NS:

Well, I have, but most of them are not living.

EE:

But you did have a correspondence with some of those folks?

NS:

Oh yes.

EE:

Were you ever active in any of the—you told me before we started this tape that you were in a picture that was taken at the battleship [USS] North Carolina. What group was that?

NS:

Well, it wasn't a particular group. They were just having the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the war, I guess.

PS:

So they had somebody represent each branch of the military, and Mom represented the army.

EE:

Wonderful.

NS:

And General—

PS:

[Henry H.] Shelton.

NS:

—Shelton, who's now the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was down there.

EE:

That's right. So how did they know you were—

NS:

Polly was behind it. [laughter]

EE:

It helps to have a good agent.

PS:

I'm very proud of her experience.

EE:

Well, you should be. You should be.

PS:

The battleship's really good about encouraging women and minorities, trying to make sure they cover the whole scope of people who served in the military.

EE:

Did they let you know about the benefits you would have as a veteran? Were they pretty good about keeping you informed about [unclear] things?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Because I know not all women have had a good experience trying to track down their—I think the army assumed that there would never be another woman in the service after the war, and they weren't exactly the best record keepers. When WIMSA [Women In Military Service For America] started this memorial, they had to ask for people to self-identify themselves as army vets, because the army had lost the records for most of them. So that's definitely different.

The questions that I am supposed to go through with you, I've largely gotten through, but I wanted to see if there's something about your—[unclear] to ask you one other thing, because you told me that you got your license, commercial flying license, with Piedmont Airlines, which was based in Winston-Salem at that time, I guess.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

And you got that with help from the GI Bill.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

I guess they treated it like a vocational training that you were doing. And your intent was to become a pilot.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Had you known some army pilots when you were overseas, or how did you get this idea?

NS:

Well, no. Well, Ray, he was not a pilot, but he was in the air force, and he got his pilot's license.

EE:

So this was something y'all were going to do as a couple, then.

NS:

Yes, yes.

EE:

Y'all learned to fly. That would be quite great. But you did get up almost to your commercial license, and then—

NS:

Well, there wasn't anybody that would hire women as commercial pilots at that time.

EE:

Did you ever do anything like Civil Air Patrol or anything like that?

NS:

No.

EE:

But still, it got you interested in doing something that I doubt you would have done. If you'd only been sitting at Hanes' desk for all that time, I doubt you'd have that interest.

NS:

I know.

EE:

That's good. Well, is there anything else about your service time and the kinds of experiences that you had, that I have not asked you about? You've got a number of pictures here, and maybe one thing that might be of value, if you don't have anything in particular that comes to mind, you might just walk me through some of those pictures, and maybe that will jar some memories of some other things to talk about.

NS:

Well, I don't know. These pictures are not much—

EE:

Now, that looks like an Oglethorpe shot. Rock City, there you are. Chocolate-capped mountain, yes. Now, these were some women from North Carolina. This was the first time through in Oglethorpe?

NS:

Yes, but I think there's [unclear] mountain. Well, now, here's one. I used to have a clipping about the people who joined with me.

EE:

This is the picture of you all going together at the Sullivan Hotel. [reads] “Four well-known Charlotteans.” This is, what, they get the society folks to come in at the same time? This is great.

The Air WACs, did you have any interest in the Air WACs?

NS:

No.

EE:

You wanted to stay on the ground.

NS:

Well, I think it was the WAFS [Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron], and I think they had to know how to fly before they could join.

EE:

I know they had a group called the WASPs [Women Airforce Service Pilots] that had to know how to fly, because they were ferrying the planes from where they were built to the different bases.

NS:

That's a picture of me when we went to the Philippines. Then these are some pictures of the Philippines. There's a picture of me with a little Filipino boy.

EE:

Did y'all have Filipinos working in the office with you?

NS:

No. We had one Filipino who had traveled—he had left the Philippines with MacArthur, and he was still working in our office, and we went back to the Philippines with him. Then these were the pictures of the barracks up at Camp Upton.

EE:

That's not too much different from the view here at the beach. You were getting trained early, and you didn't realize it.

NS:

That's where we lived in Manila. It was a university—I can't think of the name of it.

PS:

[De] LaSalle [University].

NS:

LaSalle University, and the building was really destroyed, but you see the office still standing and we set up cots inside there.

EE:

It was a cover, keep you out of the sun and out of the rain.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

That's you on the street there?

NS:

No, that's a friend of mine that's on the street, and this is me. That's our dress uniform.

EE:

Now, is that a seersucker—

NS:

No, it wasn't seersucker, but it was kind of a rayon white dress that you—

EE:

Okay, so it was white.

NS:

That's a friend of mine.

EE:

Were you wearing those cotton hose that bagged around your ankle, that kind of thing?

NS:

Yes. [laughs]

EE:

Yes, okay. Now, who is this here?

NS:

That's a friend of mine from California.

EE:

Y'all are all wearing the corsages here. Was this on—

NS:

Now, see, that's our dress uniform.

EE:

What was the occasion for this? Somebody getting married that day?

NS:

No, I think it was somebody's birthday. I can't remember. It's been a long time ago.

EE:

Oh yes.

NS:

That's me in front of LaSalle University. Anyway—

EE:

Have you been back there since the war?

NS:

Oh, no. Then there's some more ruins of Manila.

EE:

So there's a steps going to nowhere, because the building has been bombed out.

NS:

Yes, that's right.

EE:

I'll tell you, that outfit looks an awful lot like a nurse's outfit, doesn't it?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Is that a truck you were getting ready to drive with your hand up there by the door? Looks like you could handle it.

NS:

Yes. [laughs]

EE:

Oh, I know that snowman isn't in the Philippines. That's someplace else.

NS:

Yes, [unclear] these pictures all mixed up with other things. That's part of—that's in Manila, too.

EE:

Boy, that's a—now, did you take that aerial picture of it all bombed out like that?

NS:

No. I got that from somewhere else. That's about all the pictures I've got. Then there's me in the uniform. Yes, I'm really proud of being a PFC [private first class].

EE:

Oh yes. Well, now, when you were in, they've got this U.S. [unclear], now that's on your outward coat there? Did you have Pallas Athenas, too?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

When did they switch to Pallas Athena?

NS:

I think Pallas Athena was always—

EE:

Oh, Pallas Athena was on one side, and U.S. was on the other.

NS:

Yes. Yes.

PS:

Didn't you call it something else, like Winged Victory or—I thought you called that one something else.

EE:

Did you have a “Ruptured Duck”?

NS:

Oh yes.

EE:

I'm trying to think; you've probably got an Asia—what's the theater medal that you probably got?

NS:

Asiatic-Pacific. And I had three battle stars, too, so I was in the military zone. There's a company picture.

EE:

This was at Oglethorpe the first time through, November of '43, when there was a chill in the air. Where are you in this picture?

NS:

Way up here. [interviewer laughs] See, the tall ones marched in the parade at the beginning, but when they took a picture, they—

EE:

This time you'd be in the back, yes. There's a lot of women in that group. These were all women from the Carolinas and Alabama and Georgia.

NS:

Yes. South Carolina. Then there's a [unclear] newspaper from the day the war was over.

EE:

That's a nice paper to have, isn't it?

PS:

Yes.

EE:

Because you know there's a lot of soul under that headline and banner.

PS:

That's right.

NS:

Have I forgotten anything?

PS:

Didn't Tokyo Rose [Japanese radio personality] warn that there was going to be an attack on the women?

NS:

Yes.

PS:

The story that when she was telling about the Japanese came, they had known that there was going to be an attack, because Tokyo Rose specifically mentioned.

NS:

She said it was going to be at the WACs, around the WAC [unclear].

EE:

Now, this is the kind of thing I was wondering. What were you listening to over there? So you were listening to Tokyo Rose on a regular basis?

NS:

Yes. But, I mean, we just had usually one radio or something in the barracks.

EE:

And this is the group that—

NS:

That went overseas, I think.

PS:

The only other thing you left out was that when you went to the World's Fair and saw television, the model on the television was from Winston-Salem.

EE:

And you knew this person?

NS:

Mary Martin, yes.

EE:

Mary Martin. Is this the same one that sang in South Pacific later?

PS:

Oh, no. [laughs]

EE:

Okay. Company B. Where's the “boogie-woogie bugle boy?” Company B, seventh of August, '44, and this would have been your group assembling to go to overseas.

NS:

Overseas, yes.

EE:

So was this picture taken at Oglethorpe, or was this taken in California?

NS:

I think it was taken at Oglethorpe.

EE:

Where are you in this one?

NS:

High up there somewhere.

EE:

Right here?

NS:

I believe that's right, yes.

EE:

Pretty good. I'm getting to where I can pick you out from fifty years ago. Okay.

NS:

You want to show him that thing I wrote when I'm landing in Manila?

PS:

Yes.

EE:

What was the hardest thing about your time in service?

NS:

Well, just being away from home, I think, and worrying about all the other people I knew that was in service. I mean, I had about eight or nine first cousins who were scattered all over the—

EE:

Did all of them get through the war okay?

NS:

Yes. Well, I had one second cousin who was lost on an island in the Pacific, and they never did find out exactly what happened to him.

EE:

But all in all, that's pretty fortunate, to have that many folks involved in the war, and everybody get home—

NS:

Why, yes. Yes. Why, that's true.

EE:

—but one, safe, okay. What is this letter from?

NS:

Well, this is a thing I wrote when I landed in Manila.

PS:

It's all dusty.

NS:

You probably can't read it, but anyway.

EE:

This is one of the letters to back home, huh?

NS:

No, I wrote it for myself, because I couldn't believe what was happening.

PS:

You know, it was like a diary. But I thought it was so impressive, I got a friend to—that does—yes. And it's like supposed to be museum, archival frame, so it will be—

EE:

Has Betty seen this yet, Betty Carter?

PS:

No. I don't know who Betty Carter is.

EE:

Betty Carter is the person who runs the archive at our place.

PS:

Oh, okay.

EE:

Could you take this to a Xerox machine and copy the text of it?

PS:

Yes, definitely. Or I could even just type it up or—

EE:

However. I think it would [unclear].

PS:

I know. I think it's—when I read it, it's such a nice slice of history.

NS:

Anyway, well, I stopped off—the lights went out, and I stopped off. [laughs]

EE:

Was the landing strip bombed up?

NS:

Yes. We couldn't land there.

EE:

[reads] “The front line is five miles away.” And you're in the front line [unclear] than WACs have ever been before. Is that what they told you?

NS:

Yes. [laughs]

EE:

“Congratulations, you're now made [?] to be at the front.” Good gracious. Did you understand what war meant until you got to Manila that day?

NS:

Well, no, not really. But just seeing all these people wounded, and it's just unbelievable that it could happen.

PS:

Well, you talked about all the people cheering in the streets as the—

NS:

Oh yes, the Filipinos were so glad to see us.

EE:

But, now, MacArthur himself had already come in earlier, I guess—

NS:

Yes.

EE:

—and this is y'all coming in to stand behind him. [reads] “Still a terrible stench from the bodies left in this backyard.” This is a—

PS:

Do you want letters?

EE:

Yes, do that for her, and she might even like to see the manuscript writing as much as anything else.

PS:

Okay, I'll Xerox it.

EE:

It's very readable. [unclear] this. It wouldn't have been readable, especially if I'd written it five miles from the front. That's a very calm handwriting, in my opinion. [laughter]

PS:

I think there's a commemorative stamp that commemorates the Marines landing. The stamp says, I think, it's March sixth. Is that what it is?

EE:

Is that what it is?

PS:

Yes. It's impressive to me that it's a mere three days later that—

EE:

This is a photocopy of the picture. Do you have the picture?

PS:

Yes.

EE:

Because one of the things we're trying to do is, as you know, is collect additional stuff.

NS:

Well, is this the kind of picture you want from me?

EE:

Yes. You're not behind a desk here. You're out in some—this is “me on location.” And this is kind of [unclear] here, because this is about North Carolina women there, so I don't—this is the kind of thing we could take back just to make a copy of or something like that?

PS:

Yes, that would be fine.

EE:

Excellent.

PS:

I told her to show you all the pictures, because I didn't know exactly what you might be looking for.

NS:

See, I think this is the same picture.

EE:

What they'll do is make a copy of the picture. If we were doing it at Eckerd's, you'd get it back in a week, but state bureaucracy, you'll get it back in three to four weeks. But it will get done and back to you.

Now, this is downtown in the ruins of Manila.

NS:

[unclear]

EE:

They're not worried about—did they have land mines over there then, or—

NS:

Well, we didn't worry too much about that, except when we went into the—they were worried about them where the barracks were, but otherwise; I mean, where we were living. But we couldn't go out for several weeks. We just stayed there and went into town to work. I mean, we weren't allowed to wander over the city or anything like that.

PS:

He might take that one, too.

NS:

Yes, maybe he'll have something like that.

PS:

I don't know.

EE:

Yes, that's kind of a dramatic “welcome to my world. Welcome to what's left.”

PS:

Those are the pictures we've always gotten out to show, like her battleship stuff, yes.

EE:

When you went out, was this a bunch of WACs that went out together to go walking around?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

Did y'all have to have an armed escort with you?

NS:

No. No.

EE:

It was quiet enough for you then. Were you there when the Roosevelt Club opened in Manila?

NS:

I don't believe I know about the Roosevelt Club.

EE:

It opened in October, I think. There was a big typhoon that came that fall and wiped out Okinawa [Japan] right after the war. I talked with some women who were in the Red Cross who were in Manila, and they were drafted to serve punch and cookies when the Roosevelt Club opened. It had a hailai court and some all fancy stuff. But you probably were on the ship home, because it was probably at the end of the thirty days coming back, or—[unclear] fourteen, anyway.

NS:

We did have a typhoon while I was there, and it was flooded and everything, but it must have been in August of '45. I just can't remember.

EE:

Well, they have them about as much as southeast North Carolina has been having them lately. We're getting a few too many the last five years.

PS:

I know. We're not getting any more, though. [unclear]

EE:

Have y'all had to get out of this place?

PS:

Yes, we've evacuated every time, yes.

EE:

But, so far, no big structural damage or anything?

PS:

No. I think we had roof issues, one of them, but that was it. Yes.

EE:

Well, if you can dodge Fran and everybody else, you're all right.

PS:

Yes. Especially after the people that have flooding up in like Pitt County and places like that. It's just terrible.

EE:

Yes, I would never have thought that Greenville [North Carolina] would have been that prone to [unclear] flooding. That was a [unclear].

PS:

I know, and Tarboro, the places in Tarboro that were underwater just amazed me.

EE:

Now, do you have any where you were actually in the Adjutant General's Office?

NS:

No.

EE:

See, most folks, either they didn't have it, or they don't allow you to take pictures in their office.

NS:

Either they don't take pictures, or we didn't have cameras that much. We could get film, but we didn't have cameras to take pictures with.

EE:

Were you going to the NCO [Noncommissioned Officers] Club? Did they have an NCO Club in Manila?

NS:

No.

EE:

It was just bare bones at this point—

NS:

Yes.

EE:

—where you getting [unclear] what you had to do.

EE:

Well, I know—well, I can only guess. Do you think if you had to do it over again, you'd do it over again?

NS:

No, I'm too old. [laughter] Yes, I'd do it over again.

EE:

If you joined to help make a difference, surely being in that position as the front changed had to make you feel like you were part of something big.

NS:

Yes.

PS:

I know answering the letters, that's the part of her job she's always told us about, and like told stories of letters she remembers. I know you felt like you were really helping people in need, just getting the letters responded to.

NS:

Yes.

EE:

It was never a case where you responded to any of them personally, but it made an impact on you, the kind of situation [unclear].

NS:

Why, yes, that they were so desperate, they'd write letters to somebody they didn't even know and tell exactly how hard they were having it and how badly they wanted their soldier to come home.

EE:

That's beautiful. Well, you're blessed to have this much material. I can tell you that, because I know a lot of folks who wish they had more things from that time period. But if you don't keep it in a scrapbook, it's the kind of thing that will get lost. It's like socks in the dryer, you know, they get gone if they're not brought together. You have been fortunate, in that you've had a chance to talk all these many years about these special times, because it makes it special for you and everybody else in the family.

PS:

That's true.

NS:

Oh yes, I forgot about these.

PS:

Well, I was wondering if [unclear].

NS:

I do have some copies of the letters that I made during the—

EE:

Oh, this is some of the ones that you wrote. Now, I can tell you, on or off the record, but you're officially off the record, this is the kind of thing that Miss Carter would love to have copies of, because it's the work that you did, and it also tells a lot about what people are going through, just everyday folks, which is what this is about, everyday people's experiences with the war. I don't know how you feel about letting me borrow this folder to take with a couple of these pictures and things to just make copies of and get them back to you. This is different things that you—

NS:

Why, it's just things I collected, that [unclear] when I was putting in there, but it's things I had copies of that I thought were interesting.

PS:

She's going to write a book.

NS:

Not [unclear]. [laughter]

EE:

Well, it's the kind of thing that, if you don't, this is the kind of thing that other people would use to help write one, I can tell you that.

PS:

I know, exactly.

NS:

I don't even know what that is, except they were things that were distributed over at our headquarters, and I don't know what it said or—I never have found anybody who knew what it was—

EE:

Well, these are the Japanese. Is this propaganda fliers that they dropped down?

NS:

Yes.

EE:

This talks about the Americans coming in, and then they're facing the Japanese. It would be interesting to get a copy of, to see what they're actually saying. I'm not sure if they are meant to encourage anybody American, because I don't think any Americans could read Japanese. But maybe they're support for their own folks to say, “Do you think that we're going to give up the motherland? They've come in this far. It's up to you to protect us.” Maybe that kind of thing, I don't know.

Here is somebody complaining about an underhanded action, where his brother's name was taken off the list to go home, and somebody's was—

NS:

That was the big thing, the point system; how many points you had to get home.

EE:

[reads] “Forty-five months been in service, and thirty-nine overseas. Please send him home on furlough. Any boy that has been away from home for that length of time should surely get to see home, his mother, dad, and family.” Yes, but he wasn't alone, unfortunately. There was a lot of them that had that same—

NS:

That's right.

EE:

[reads] “Dear General MacArthur, Now, won't you please see to it that my husband and the rest of these old men of the 32nd, who have already put in more than thirty-three months overseas, are sent back to the States? It doesn't seem fair to me that some fellows have never seen the front lines, whereas I know my husband has been in the thick of it.” Yes. I mean, you got to see this. You got to see a lot of hearts. Most folks, you don't get a chance to see their true feelings up front.

Were you ever afraid that we might not win the war?

NS:

Well, yes, I did think about what would happen if we didn't. I mean, was I ever going to get home again?

EE:

Only in retrospect was it automatic that we'd get a victory, because up through '43, the Japanese were still on the offensive, so it's pretty scary. Even looking back at it, it's a scary prospect [unclear].

I'd like to say this is the kind of stuff that I know she'd enjoy looking through, because our focus is on the women, but, in a sense, this is the work of one woman who was doing it and handling this kind of stuff. I know we've got a number of folks who have sent—the reason I was talking about that letter, we've got a woman who sent us some letters that she had written to her mama. She did not go overseas, but it's a pretty good amount of letters, just from—what they're out doing this week in this town and whatnot. It's that kind of first-person accounts, so it's very precious to have.

PS:

Right.

EE:

This is a wonderful thing. I don't know if it was legal or not, but I'm glad you did it. [laughter]

NS:

No one told me not to. I put that poem in front. You didn't appreciate that poem, did you?

PS:

No, I did. I love that poem.

EE:

[reads] “I'll always be at liberty,” yes. [laughs] Oh yes. “To COs everywhere, don't read this.” That's great. I'm going to stop this for a moment.

[End of interview]