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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Annie Pozyck, 2005

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Object ID: WV0333.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Annie Pozyck’s career as a nurse and her service in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during WWII.

Summary:

Pozyck briefly describes her childhood during the Depression, her reasons for becoming a nurse, work as a nurse’s assistant, and nurse training at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. Nurses training topics include: work shifts, social activities, and working with nuns. She recalls meeting her husband at a GI dance in Concord.

Pozyck gives her reasons for enlisting in the ANC and discusses being stationed at Camp Sutton, North Carolina, including her uniforms, nurse quarters, and performing general nursing. Of her subsequent station at Stark General Hospital, Charleston, she discusses waiting to be sent overseas and marrying her husband during his furlough. She describes taking a troop train to Seattle, where her unit treated Pacific casualties; her overseas training at Camp Stoneman, California; and the ship ride to Australia, including the cramped quarters, seasickness, and social activities. She briefly mentions being stationed at the 133rd General Hospital in Sydney; her return trip to the U.S., during which a psychiatric patient jumping overboard, and the troops being unable to save him for fear of submarines.

Of her second assignment to Camp Stoneman, she recalls treating the all black crew of an ammunition ship that exploded. She discusses being reassigned to overseas duty, and setting up the 73rd Field Hospital in Tacloban, Philippines. Topics from Tacloban include: setting up tents; malaria prevention; overseas uniforms, and the details of Victory in Japan [VJ] Day. She discusses her experience as the wife of a prisoner of war, her return to the U.S. when her husband was freed, and being discharged from the ANC. General service topics include: nurse morale, male treatment of servicewomen, food, uniform regulations, barracks life, pets, and the Red Cross.

Pozyck discusses moving to Lawrence, Massachusetts, after her husband’s discharge from the service; working at Lawrence General Hospital; and the birth of her sons Michael, Alan, and Stephen. She talks about her husband’s changed personality because of his POW experience, and discusses her move with her sons back to Concord. She also describes her work at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Creator: Annie Edith Sherrill Pozyck

Biographical Info: Annie Edith Sherrill Pozyck (1920-2007) of Concord, North Carolina, served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. After her discharge, she continued her nursing career, retiring from the Salisbury, North Carolina, VA Hospital after over twenty-five years in the profession.

Collection: Annie Pozyck 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:

Hermann Trojanowski:

Today is Wednesday, July 20, 2005, and my name is Herman Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Mrs. Annie Pozyck in Spencer, North Carolina, to conduct an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Mrs. Pozyck, if you could give me your full name, including your maiden, we'll use it as a test to see how your voice and my voice sound on this recorder.

Annie Pozyck:

Okay. Annie Edith Sherrill Pozyck.

HT:

Thank you so much for talking with me this morning. We really appreciate this very much. Mrs. Pozyck, if you would just tell me a few biographical bits of information about yourself, such as where you were born and when, and where you grew up and that sort of thing.

AP:

Well, I was born in Concord, North Carolina, on January 30, 1920, and I grew up in Concord, went to school there. All of my childhood was spent in Concord, and I grew up there until when I was in my early teens, I'd always thought about wanting to go into nurses training, but then the Depression came along in 1929 and money was very scarce. Jobs were scarce.

In 1932 I entered Concord High School as a freshman, and I planned my subjects accordingly so that I could have the credits that I needed to go into nurses training. I graduated from Concord High School in 1936 at age sixteen, but I was not able to go into nurses training. They were not taking students until they were eighteen years old.

A new hospital, Concord Cabarrus Memorial Hospital was built on Highway 29, which is now NorthEast Medical Center. But it was a three-story hospital, and I went to work there as a nursing assistant. I was the first nursing assistant to work there, go to work there in 1937. It was a three-story hospital. The offices were on the first floor, medical and surgical patients were on the second floor. The operating room, labor room, and delivery room, and nursery, maternity were on the third floor. There were just three floors, and I worked there for twenty-five dollars a month. That was my salary for working at the Cabarrus Memorial Hospital.

So I worked there and in August of 1938, when I went into nurses training at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte. I spent three years at the Mercy in Charlotte. Of course, we were full-time students. We lived there in the nurses quarters when we attended classes, day and night. If we were on night duty we had to get up for our classes during the daytime, and if we were off in the evening that they had classes, we had to still go to classes in the evening.

But we worked twelve-hour shifts, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. But we would have, like, two hours off during the day, which would be our off-duty time. It could be from 10:00 to 12:00. We'd go in at 7:00 and maybe be off from 10:00 to 12:00, or 12:00 to 2:00, 2:00 to 4:00, but we'd have two hours off during the day, and at night we worked twelve hours night. Now, that was twelve hours of night, 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. We didn't get any extra time off at nighttime. And we were lucky if we got a weekend off a month.

During the nurses training we were allowed to go out one night a week. It was on a Friday night, and we were close enough in Charlotte to the Visualite Theater, and a drugstore on a corner, and we could go to see a movie. We were allowed to stay out till eleven o'clock on a Friday night, and we could go to the movie, maybe buy a bag of popcorn and get a Coke, which was maybe a nickel apiece then in 1938 to 1941. We could have a little break from the nursing, as long as we got back to the nurses quarters in time.

But if we didn't get back to the nurses quarters in time, we were in trouble, because the nuns at the Mercy, they didn't take any foolishness. They were very, very strict on us, and it seemed like it was so hard. But after I got out of nurses training I appreciated that discipline that we had while we were in nurses training. Then when I graduated from nurses training in August of 1941, I came back to Concord to work at Concord Cabarrus Memorial Hospital, and I worked in the labor room, delivery room, and nursery.

But in 1941 is when, just before World War II, but they were having maneuvers. A lot of the National Guard troops from mostly New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, most of those states up there, they brought their National Guard troops to North Carolina in October of 1941 to train. They had been on a year of training, from January of '41 until January of '42, and they brought them here and they were camped out down near Ellerbee in the central part of the state, and every weekend some of them would come to town.

I was still living in Concord with my parents, and the men would come to town just, you know, to get away from camp for the weekend, and so many of the families would have them for dinner every Sunday. The citizens of Concord would invite the soldiers to have Sunday dinner with them, and the first Saturday that they came from Ellerbee into Concord they had a dance at the armory on Church Street, on North Church Street in Concord, and they wanted some of the nurses from the hospital to come for the dance.

I went that night, and that's when I met my future husband. And, of course, needless to say, he was at our house for Sunday dinner every Sunday after that until they had to go back north, after the maneuvers in this area were over. They went back north about the middle of November, I believe, and he had planned on coming back to North Carolina to Concord and spend a leave at Christmastime with me and my family.

And then on December seventh when Pearl Harbor happened, he was, of course, automatically activated, as were all of the National Guard troops. They were activated and they were on active duty, so that changed many, many plans.

HT:

Which state was your husband from?

AP:

He was from Massachusetts. He was from Lawrence, Massachusetts. He had been a member of the National Guard for about four years up there in Lawrence, Mass., and after they went back up there and they were activated, they were stationed up there at Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod. That's where they were stationed in Massachusetts after they were—his unit.

He was with the “Railsplitters” division of the “Yankee” division. He was a member of the Yankee division, the Railsplitters division.

HT:

What do railsplitters do?

AP:

Well, that was just a name they had gotten, I guess kind of a nickname.

HT:

Okay, so it had nothing to do with splitting rails.

AP:

No. He was infantry. He was in the infantry, yes.

HT:

If we could just backtrack for just a second, to when you were a child. You say that you wanted to become a nurse. What made you want to become a nurse at such an early age?

AP:

I don't know. I always had, like, a cat for a pet. I never had many dogs, but I had always had a cat, and I liked pretending they were a patient, or if they would get hurt I'd like to take care of them. It was just something about trying to take care of a sick animal or a sick pet that was just something that from the time I was quite young.

HT:

So there was nobody in your family who was a nurse, like your mother or grandmother or relatives?

AP:

No, nobody, because before my time the women didn't go out to do any work at all.

HT:

So your mother stayed at home; she did not work.

AP:

No, she didn't work. My father, he was a department store clerk. He worked for Belk Efirds until the Depression came, when he lost his job, and then he ended up working for the Public Works Administration as a timekeeper. And, of course, during the time of the Depression we were lucky to have any kind of meat on the table. A lot of times we used fatback as our meat, sometimes for the week, because we didn't have the money. You couldn't buy anything. You didn't have the money to buy anything.

HT:

Did you have any brothers or sisters?

AP:

I had no brothers or sisters. I was an only child.

HT:

You had mentioned that you graduated from high school at sixteen, which is very young. I guess there were only eleven grades at that time.

AP:

Eleven grades, that's right. We only had eleven grades. And in the meantime, we had moved out from Concord. My father had bought—when I was about nine years old, my father bought a car, an Essex. He bought a car and we moved out of town. Because we had the car, he could go back and forth to work and everything, and this was in early 1929.

When I moved out to the country school, it was just like a little two-story wooden building, and they would have, like, the fourth and fifth grades together, the third and fourth, you know, combined classes, and what I had already had when we moved out there, I had been in the third grade, and what I had already had in the third grade in town, they were just studying in the third grade out there, so they promoted me on up to the next grade level. So I jumped one grade in the half a year. I went from the third grade to the fourth grade, and that's how I made up a little of the extra time, too, graduating by the time I was sixteen.

Of course my birthday was in January, so I was almost seven before I was able to start to school. I wasn't able to start to school till the fall after I turned six years old, so when I started school, like in September of 1926, I would have been seven years old in 1927.

HT:

Do you have any vivid memories of what life was like in the Depression in the early 1930s?

AP:

Oh yes, oh yes. It's hard to explain. People, they had no jobs, they had no money, you know. Of course my family, they weren't the wealthy ones that lost a lot on the stock market, but what they had was lost. Like I say, my father lost his job, and you just made do with what you had.

When I went into nurses training I was lucky if I had twenty-five cents a week to spend. And I might say that when I went into nurses training, the only fee that I had to pay was thirty dollars, thirty dollars to go into the nurses training, and that paid for all of my books and whatever I needed to start nurses training.

HT:

You say you worked at Mercy Hospital. That must have been a Catholic hospital.

AP:

It is.

HT:

The Sisters of Mercy.

AP:

Yes.

HT:

Now, are you a Catholic, by any chance?

AP:

No, I am not.

HT:

So how did you feel, how did you fit in?

AP:

Well, I think because, in fact, I had applied at Presbyterian Hospital, because I am a Presbyterian. I applied at Presbyterian Hospital, and even then they were just beginning to want their students to get two years of college before three years of nurses training, in order to get the degree, the B.A. [bacherlor of arts] degree in Nursing, and also the R.N. [registered nurse license]. But I was so anxious to go into nurses training that I didn't want—well, I didn't have the money to go to college, for one thing. It was right after the depression, or the depression was still in its latter stages, and so that's when I applied to Mercy Hospital and was accepted there. So that's how I happened to go to Mercy Hospital.

HT:

You said that the nuns were very tough on the students.

AP:

Very, very, very tough on us, and they were very strict. They were very strict, and you appreciate that after you graduate.

HT:

Did you have classroom training as well as clinical training at Mercy?

AP:

We had hands-on training all the time. We spent three months in the operating room alone, scrubbing for surgery, assisting with all kinds of operations and learning instruments, three months we would spend in the operating room. That was a requirement of our training. Then we also spent three months in labor room and delivery room, and on the maternity wards. All of that was included in the nursery, maternity, labor room, delivery room, and like I say, we worked twelve-hour shifts at night.

HT:

So it sounds like a very thorough education.

AP:

Very, very. It's very different from what it is now, and as I understand now, even the Mercy Hospital—I got a newsletter from them recently—and they're down, you know, I've kind of frowned on the two-year nursing programs that they have in UNCC [University of North Carolina at Charlotte] or any of the other schools. The two-years programs, I've never felt like there was enough. But I found out that they're doing the same thing at Mercy and most of the other hospitals. They're not doing the three-years intensive training that we got day and night.

HT:

Now, you went for three years. Was that all year round?

AP:

Yes, it was year round. We got a week's vacation in the summertime, but we were there day and night. We stayed in the nurses quarters. That was year round.

HT:

It's really amazing. When you decided to go to nursing school, did you have any objections from your family or friends?

AP:

No. As a matter of fact, my mother and father, when I was six years old they started having me take piano lessons, hoping that I would be a musician, or even just teach music. I took piano lessons for ten years, and I think my mother and father were hopeful that I would go on to pursue that. But instead, I chose to go into nursing, and I had no objections from them at all. They let me make my own decisions.

I haven't played the piano for many, many years. My hands, the old arthritic hands, the fingers don't bend too well, but I did take the ten years of piano. The only regret I have, I'm wanting to learn to play a pipe organ, and I never did get to do that, but I loved the piano.

HT:

So you played after you were an adult as well.

AP:

Yes, oh yes, I did. I did, just for my own entertainment.

HT:

Well, after you got back to Concord when you finished your nursing training at Mercy, this was in the fall of 1941, right before—

AP:

August 1941, yes.

HT:

So what made you decide to join the military? What set of events prompted that?

AP:

I think Pearl Harbor for one thing, and they needed nurses so badly. And see, they didn't have any kind of draft for nurses. They were drafting the men for World War II, and, of course, like I say, my husband was activated with the National Guard. He was put on active duty. But around the first of 1942 I felt like they needed nurses, and my husband—well, of course, I didn't know that he was going to be my husband—

HT:

So you did not get married at that time?

AP:

No, no. No, we did not get married till a couple of years later, while we were both in the service. But in early 1942 I realized that this was something that I needed to do, as far as being there to help out, where I felt like I could be of the most use, and early 1942 is when I first thought about going into the Army Nurse Corps. But I didn't actually—I wasn't inducted until November of 1942.

You know, I never realized until last year at the program in Greensboro, I bought the book [Our Mothers' War] of Emily Yellin. I bought that book and I never had realized before that there was no woman, no women who served in World War II; all the women who served were volunteer women. There were no other women who served except the ones who were volunteers, and I never thought about that before.

But I was inducted. There was a camp near Monroe—Camp Sutton, near Monroe, North Carolina—and that's where I was inducted around the first of November 1942. They didn't have their own hospital at that time. It was a new camp. So we, the nurses there, were sent into Charlotte to the old Charlotte Sanatorium, which was on Seventh Street, I believe. That's where they were taking the patients from the base, from Camp Sutton they'd bring the patients there, until the new hospital was built.

So we spent about six weeks in Charlotte at the hospital there, and we lived in a big house right next door. Evidently it had been a family home, but that's where the nurses quarters were, and so we lived there for about six weeks.

HT:

To backtrack just a second, you said you were inducted in November '42. Did you have to go through any kind of boot camp-type training?

AP:

Nothing, nothing. No, nothing. I didn't do any boot camp or nothing like that until I got to California, which was about a year later. That's when they ended up—no, they were so anxious to get nurses trained to put in the hospitals, because they were needing nurses so badly everywhere, because after Pearl Harbor there were so many that were, you know—well, they didn't have that many nurses even at Pearl Harbor, army or navy. They were mostly navy at Pearl Harbor, but they didn't have the nurses wherever they needed the nurses, all over the country, with the places that were being attacked.

HT:

So when you were inducted you became a second lieutenant, I guess, right away.

AP:

Right. Yes, I was commissioned a second lieutenant.

HT:

And you wore a military uniform; you were given military uniforms and that sort of thing?

AP:

Yes. We were issued—we wore blue uniforms at first, navy-blue tops with the navy overseas cap, and kind of a royal-blue skirt. But then after about six months we were issued the olive-drab uniforms, and then we had, like, the beige uniforms and dresses for summer wear. But we were issued all of our uniforms.

HT:

So you did not have any kind of what they called military indoctrinations about rules and regulations or anything like that, any kind of training?

AP:

Not really. No, we didn't.

HT:

That is truly amazing.

AP:

Because I went to Camp Sutton, and then immediately came to work over at the hospital in Charlotte, and I guess I must have had some sort of indoctrination, but nothing. They were just anxious to get nurses to put on the wards to work, to look after the patients that were needing care. And I guess at that time they were having—I'm not sure whether that early in the war whether they were activating any hospital ships or not. I don't remember about that.

HT:

What type of work did you do at Camp Sutton?

AP:

Just regular, you know, they did surgery just like a regular hospital, in the soldiers that got sick or injured in any way. They were brought to the hospital and we just looked after them.

HT:

What type of hours did you have there?

AP:

Well, we had just like regular hours, 7:00[a.m.] to 3:00[p.m.] and 3:00[p.m.] to 11:00[p.m.], 11:00[p.m.] to 7:00[a.m.]. We didn't have any long hours.

HT:

After you left Camp Sutton, where was your next duty station?

AP:

The next place I was stationed—of course, I stayed there till spring of 1943, and during that length of time my future husband and I had become closer, and we decided we would get married. So we were going to be married at the First Presbyterian Church in Concord. Of course, at Camp Sutton we didn't know where we were going to be sent, so I waited two weeks. It was two weeks before we announced our engagement. I put it in the Concord Tribune, and the very next day I got orders to go to the Charleston Port of Embarkation, to ship out for overseas, so that sort of threw a monkey wrench in our plans.

In the meantime, my husband, he was at Officer Candidate School in Texas all this time after he was activated. He went to tank destroyer school at Fort Hood, Texas. So I got to Charleston Port of Embarkation, Stark General Hospital. Do you know anything about that?

HT:

No, ma'am.

AP:

No. Well, Stark General Hospital was where we were stationed. That was the hospital down there.

HT:

And where is that?

AP:

In Charleston, Stark General Hospital in Charleston. My fiancé wrote from Texas that he would come to Charleston, and we planned on June fifteenth to get married, of 1943, and he said if I was there we would get married. If I wasn't, then he would go visit his parents in Massachusetts, so that's the way we left it.

Of course, every day they kept us, you know, we expected to ship out to Europe. That's the direction we expected to go, but we never did. He came to Charleston on a Friday, and we were married on a Saturday afternoon. We spent our honeymoon on the Isle of Palms, and what's the other beach down there?

HT:

Is it Folly Beach?

AP:

Folly Beach, yes. That's where we spent our honeymoon, in South Carolina, and he went back to Texas the next day, and I stayed on in Charleston another several weeks. About three or four weeks after we were married, I got my orders to ship out. We went to Seattle, Washington, from Charleston, South Carolina, to Seattle, Washington. We went on a troop train, five days and five nights on a troop train from Charleston to Seattle. Now, that was, oh, that was a horrible trip. [laughs]

But anyway, there again in Seattle they had taken over a hotel, because they were bringing patients from the Aleutian Islands. They had planned for our unit, they had planned to send us to the Aleutian Islands, but when we got to Seattle the fighting was so bad that they decided not to send units with women. So there again, you know, you wonder about the little controversy about women in the war areas.

HT:

Now, I'm assuming that on this troop train there were men as well as women.

AP:

Yes.

HT:

There were nurses, other nurses with you, is that correct?

AP:

Yes. What we were, we were like small hospital-ship platoons they called us. We had one doctor, two nurses, and four enlisted men.

HT:

And you all went together.

AP:

Yes, but we didn't stay in the same cars.

HT:

Right. But you went there as a unit.

AP:

As a unit, yes, yes. And that's where we were supposed to be reassigned to whatever our assignment was, as to how many patients we were going to bring back from overseas, if we were shipped overseas. With the hospital-ship platoons, we weren't a regular hospital ship, but they would assign the platoons according to how many patients we were supposed to be bringing back to the States. But in the meantime, we were assigned to this hotel in Seattle where they were bringing back casualties from the Aleutian Islands.

But we only stayed there three weeks, and then we were sent down to Camp Stoneman, California, and that's when we were all sent to Australia in November. I guess we spent our September in Seattle, and then we went to Camp Stoneman, California, which is near Oakland, and that's when we shipped out to go to Australia in about November of 1943. And, of course, in the meantime my husband was sent back to the East Coast from Texas, to Fort Dix, New Jersey.

But then while we were in Australia we were assigned about five hundred patients to bring back on a ship, so we were about—actually, the ship was only supposed to take care of about three hundred patients, but then everything was overloaded.

HT:

Tell me about your trip over to Australia. What was that like?

AP:

Well, it was boring, because we had nothing to do. I was seasick, for one thing, for about the first three days, till I got used to the motion of the ship. We were on a troop transport, which had about a thousand troops on it, but we didn't have anything to do. We didn't have patients to look after. We were just, because they were transporting us, and that was on one of the big ocean liners that the army had confiscated for transport of troops.

HT:

Do you recall the name of the boat?

AP:

No, I don't. I don't remember it. It was a two-stacker. That's one thing they said was an important point. But we just like sat around on deck and just kind of—we didn't read or do whatever we needed to do.

HT:

What kind of accommodations did you have? What was the cabin like?

AP:

There was four of us in a cabin, in, you know, bunk beds, but it was typical army. You had a mattress and a blanket. Most of the way you didn't have a pillow.

HT:

So how did you spend your time? I'm assuming it took several weeks to get from—

AP:

Yes, it took three weeks, three weeks to get to Australia. We shipped out from San Francisco, and just, you know, playing cards. I learned to play gin rummy. And like I say, we hadn't found anything to read, because we couldn't take much of anything with us, you know. We had our musette bags.

HT:

What is that?

AP:

That was like the backpack.

HT:

Oh, I see. Did anything exciting happen on the way over?

AP:

Not on the way over, but on the way back. Like I say, we're talking about sending ships out about every six hours in a convoy, to avoid the Japanese submarines and the mines, and we found out that the ship that left Brisbane six hours after we did was hit by a Japanese sub.

On our ship we had several psychiatric patients, and they had them out on a deck, on the top deck, you know, for a little sun and fresh air one day, and one of the patients got up where he was sitting. He ran straight across the deck and he jumped overboard, and he cleared the deck below, and when he went in the water he just put his hands up and he was gone. And we could not—there was no way we could circle, because we had to keep going. You know, the way the Japanese were out there in the Pacific, we couldn't circle around to try to pick him up or anything, and that was about the worst thing that happened.

But we had patients in body casts, and the food was terrible on that ship. It was like, I don't know whether it was a Coast Guard ship, not a Coast Guard, but anyway the food wasn't very good. Of course it didn't make much difference, because all of us were so seasick. We had to take turns looking after the patients. The patients were seasick, the nurses, the personnel were seasick.

HT:

Because the seas were so rough or it's such a small ship?

AP:

I guess because it was just such a small ship. Now the first, the trip over was on that big ocean liner, so after you get used to the motion of the ship it's all right. But this was, like I say, it was a smaller ship, and I guess it might have been navy, a navy ship, and you just never got used to the ship. It just seemed to be rocking all the time.

HT:

Now, was it normal for patients to be brought back to the United States to be taken care of?

AP:

The only ones who were brought back to the United States to be taken care of were those that were not going to be able to go back to duty. The ones who were going to be able to go back to duty were sent to general hospitals in Australia. While we were there, we were stationed at the 133rd General Hospital in Sydney, Australia, because that's where we landed. But only those who were not going to be able to go back to duty were the ones that were brought back to the States.

HT:

So they were the ones who were seriously hurt.

AP:

Yes, right.

HT:

Sort of like Bob Dole [U.S. senator wounded in WWII], you know, some serious—

AP:

Right. Yes, some of them had body casts on. Some of them, you know, maybe who were going to be paralyzed. We didn't know what their next—yes, just like Bob Dole.

HT:

Was that very difficult for you to see people who were so badly hurt?

AP:

Very, yes, it was, it certainly was, because that was our first real, real test, you know, because we hadn't been—well, I had been in a year, and that's another thing. Before we shipped to Australia, that was when we were given our first, like, boot, what do you call it, boot camp—

HT:

Sort of training.

AP:

Yes. That was at Camp Stoneman in California.

HT:

So I would imagine you would have specialized training preparing you to go overseas and that sort of thing.

AP:

Yes. We'd go on our five-mile hikes. We'd get up for calisthenics every morning. We went through the obstacle course. We climbed rope ladders. That was when we finally got our training.

HT:

How long did that last?

AP:

That lasted about six weeks, about six weeks.

HT:

Which is typical for boot camp.

AP:

Yes. It was something that when we first went in, they were too anxious getting nurses sent to where they were most needed. They didn't have time to give them that particular training. They needed nurses to get to where they needed to be nursing.

HT:

Who were the instructors at that time?

AP:

I can't remember who the instructors were.

HT:

Men or women? Do you recall if it was a man or a woman?

AP:

I think that they were men. They were men.

HT:

So when you came back to the United States bringing all these patients, where did you land?

AP:

We landed again in San Francisco. Then I was reassigned to the station hospital at Camp Stoneman. That was in January of '44. Then the hospital at Camp Stoneman, it was a station hospital. You looked—

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

AP:

—after the servicemen, the soldiers who were sick or required surgery or whatever. But I think the biggest thing that happened was in June, I believe it was June of 1944, an ammunition ship blew up in Oakland, California. It was a navy ship, and it was an ammunition ship. You may have heard about—

[Blank space on tape.]

HT:

Before we changed the tape you were talking about the ammunition ship blowing up in Oakland, California. Could you elaborate a little bit more about that?

AP:

Yes. It was about, I guess, nine or ten o'clock at night, and all of a sudden we heard this loud sound, and things, like, were knocked off the wall in our barracks, things that were on the ledges around our rooms in the barracks, and the first thing that we thought about was an earthquake. We were about, I don't know, twenty miles from Oakland, and that's where the ammunition ship had blown up.

There were three hundred who were killed, of the all-black crew, and the remaining injured, the ones that were burned were brought back. We had to open up ward after ward after ward of the hospital that night to take care of patients who were badly burned or injured in the explosion, so we worked all night long. It's ironic that before that time all the wards had been segregated, but as of that night, well, I never saw a black nurse the whole time I was in the army, but we opened up ward after ward that night to look after all of those black men who were injured so badly in that explosion.

At first, in recent years they questioned whether it was an act of terrorism, but I think they've pretty much ruled that out. It was just all ammunition on that ship, and for some unknown reason it blew up. It was terrible.

HT:

How long did all these injured people have to stay at your hospital?

AP:

Well, I guess different amounts of time, because some of them had burns, and just like with the patients we'd be bringing back from overseas, these patients were sent back to general hospitals or maybe to places like Walter Reed [Hospital], places that took for rehabilitation or whatever treatment they needed, whether they were ever going to be able to come back to duty, or not.

HT:

How did you and the other white nurses feel about helping the black injured?

AP:

[unclear]. We just did it. It was something that had to be done that night.

HT:

They were just patients.

AP:

They were patients. They were patients, and we did what we could for them, as far as relieving their pain or treating their burns, or whatever particular treatment they needed, we just did it. We didn't think anything about it.

HT:

Did any other eventful things happen while you were stationed at Camp Stoneman?

AP:

No, because in the latter part of 1944, well, it was about the middle of 1944, I was reassigned from the station hospital to the hospital ship [USS] Comfort, and there was a doctor there again, a doctor, two nurses, and we didn't have to worry about corpsmen, because the navy provided the corpsmen, but one doctor and two nurses, another nurse and I were assigned to the hospital ship Comfort. And I just didn't want to have any part of ships. Getting seasick like I did, I didn't want to be on a ship, so I asked for reassignment, and that was when I was assigned, reassigned to the 73rd Field Hospital.

So then the latter part of the year, the 73rd Field Hospital was activated at Fort Ord and we were sent there for several weeks, where we were, I guess, trained pretty much. It was just sort of a training program getting us ready to go overseas. We didn't know where we were going.

HT:

So you never served aboard Comfort?

AP:

No, I didn't. But I need to tell you that after I got overseas, we sailed, we left San Francisco the latter part of December, I think it was, because it took us thirty-one days to get to the Philippines, because we dropped off troops at Guadalcanal, and then we landed in the Philippines the first week in February, and they were still fighting on Leyte when we landed on Leyte. We had to go in on a landing craft, because the water was too shallow. The ship couldn't go in.

So we had to climb down the rope ladders on the side of the ship with our musette bags, and wade in water that was knee deep, into the Gulf of Leyte, where our hospital was set up. While we were setting up our hospital, the USS Comfort came into Leyte Gulf, and they invited some of the nurses out to have lunch with them, and that was wonderful because they had fresh fish with fruit and stuff like that, that we hadn't been able to get for a long time.

But anyway, shortly after that a Japanese kamikaze dive bombed the Comfort right there in Leyte harbor, and the doctor and one of the nurses that I would have been with was killed. But when we got to Leyte we started setting up our hospital near the little town of Tacloban [Philippines].

HT:

How do you spell that?

AP:

T-a-c-l-o-b-a-n. Of course, we were set up in tents, and there again the nurses, we dug post holes, we set up tents, we set up cots, we just did whatever was to be done and we got our hospital set up. Our surgical unit was in like a bombed-out school building. That's where we were able to set up our hospital surgical unit, but the rest of the hospital was all in tents, and, of course, we lived in tents. We were supposed to take care of about three hundred patients, but there again, we ended up taking care of a lot more than three hundred patients.

HT:

Could you describe what it was like to set up a hospital in tents?

AP:

It was hard. Like, you know, we had to dig the post holes for flooring. We had, like, wood flooring, and then to get those tents set up, it was real hard.

HT:

Did the nurses have to help actually physically set up the tents, or did you have army personnel, just regular army personnel do that?

AP:

No, just our unit. It was our unit. We had four doctors, twelve nurses, and I think about twenty-five enlisted men, and we had to do all the work ourselves setting up our hospital, the field hospital. Before we got the hospital set up, we lived back in a bombed-out building. It didn't have any roof over it. It was so hot it didn't make any difference, you know, and everybody had to use mosquito nets at night.

And all of the patients, everybody had to use mosquito nets to ward off malaria, but a lot of the patients ended up with malaria anyway, though they were given medicine. We were given atabrine to try to ward off the malaria, and it turned your skin yellow. It was just a beautiful yellow color.

HT:

So you turned yellow as well, I guess.

AP:

Right, yes, yes. Didn't get malaria, but my aunt when I got back home, she thought I was deathly ill. It made you look like somebody that has a bad liver disease.

HT:

Now, what type of uniforms did you wear when you were overseas?

AP:

We had to wear slacks, khaki slacks and long-sleeved shirts.

HT:

So no typical nurses' uniforms, no white uniforms.

AP:

No, no.

HT:

What was a typical day like on the ward?

AP:

Well, we would go in about seven o'clock in the morning, and depending on how many casualties we got that day, whether we'd get off at seven o'clock at night, or ten or eleven o'clock at night. We got all of our casualties when they invaded Manila [Philippines]. Now, there was an airstrip right near our hospital, and they did fly the patients, the air force now would fly patients from Manila to that airstrip, and that airstrip was bombed one night during blackout. But I have one battle star on my ribbon for that particular—

HT:

Did you ever feel like you were in danger from the Japanese?

AP:

You don't think about it at the time. I guess we didn't think about it at the time. You're young. You're out there. You're trying to do what's expected of you, and I guess you don't really—I don't remember thinking about being afraid. I remember just trying to get done what needed to be done.

HT:

So how long did you stay at Leyte?

AP:

Till the war ended. Now, the war in Europe ended on May 8. The VE [Victory in Europe] Day was May 8, 1945. And, of course, in the meantime, after I had gotten overseas—this is going back a little bit—ten days after I got overseas I got a War Department telegram saying that my husband was a prisoner, saying that my husband was missing in action in Europe. I didn't know anything at all as to what had happened to him. The Red Cross investigated.

Three months later, through the Red Cross I found out that he had been taken prisoner of war in the Battle of the Bulge. He had been wounded and taken prisoner, so he was a prisoner of war for six months in Europe. But that was when I found out that he at least was alive, you know. Of course, now, he came back to the States when he was liberated in May. When he was liberated from prisoner-of-war camp, he came back to the States in June of 1945. But he didn't know I was in the Philippines, because he never got any of my letters.

HT:

I was just going to ask you, did you correspond all those years?

AP:

Never heard from one another all that time, because he never got any of my letters. They all started coming back, you know, to me, and then as the war went on, all of those that were in the Bataan March were liberated along with [Douglas] MacArthur. Of course, some of the information that I got was through, some of my information about him being missing in action and that sort of thing, some of that came through MacArthur's headquarters, so, you know, it was pretty official. I felt like I—

HT:

Had you corresponded with your parents during this time?

AP:

Oh yes. Oh yes.

HT:

And you got letters from them, and they got letters from you?

AP:

Oh yes. I had plenty of mail from them. Sometimes I might get Christmas cards in February, but it didn't make any difference. As a matter of fact, my mother saved every letter that I wrote to them while I was in the Philippines, and she numbered every one of them, and I have them. That's another thing, some of these are the things that when I have some of my family here, I'm going to have them get out the boxes and see what I can contribute to the, up there in Greensboro.

But she—and the letter that I wrote the night that the Japanese surrendered, we were all having a party. We, of course, had been talking about the war was going to be over, and we knew the war had ended in Europe, and the best thing about that was that I knew my husband wasn't going to have to come to the Pacific, because if the war had not ended in the Pacific, we were headed to Japan, our unit.

But we were in the officers club that night. It was like a little thatched hut where the natives had built a little hutch for us where we could be cool and not be in any tent, and enjoy booze or whatever. We were all sitting there watching a movie, and somebody came in, some man, and said, “The war is over,” and nobody paid any attention to him. They thought he was drunk or something. [laughs]

So anyway, after a little while, about twenty or thirty minutes, we heard the fire from the guns in the harbor, because the whole Sixth Fleet was in Leyte Harbor, preparing to go to Japan if Japan had not surrendered. They had dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, and then this was on the night of August the tenth, and the guns—and we knew those guns wouldn't be firing in the harbor, because everything was supposed to be blacked out. You know, all the time we'd been over there, you couldn't even light a match outside. So we knew that the war must have been over.

So we started celebrating, and we celebrated all night long. Then we went back to the nurses quarters, took a shower and went on duty. I saw patients with casts up to their waists and one leg get out of bed and stand up. They were all so excited they couldn't, you know, you couldn't stop them. It was such a wonderful, wonderful feeling. Then that was the day that they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, and that's what I had written in that letter to my mother and father when we heard the war was over; they said the Japanese had surrendered.

HT:

When you mentioned earlier that you think your husband never got any of your letters, I was really surprised. He was in Europe all this time.

AP:

Yes.

HT:

Was that because of censorship or just poor postal service?

AP:

Well, I think the fact that he moved so fast. He moved so fast, and they were out there in Belgium. That was where he was taken prisoner, in Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge. They said it was the coldest winter they had ever had there. They were waist deep in snow in the Battle of the Bulge, and had he not been wounded he might have escaped, but those that were wounded did not get away. They were taken prisoner, and the others managed to escape back to their unit. But I think the fact that from the time he left the States he was on the move so much that mail never caught up with him, until finally he was taken prisoner of war, and then there was no place to send it. They didn't know where to send it.

HT:

So you knew he was a prisoner of war eventually.

AP:

Eventually, yes, through the Red Cross. They notified me that he was a prisoner of war. I never knew exactly where, but I did find out that he was a prisoner of war toward the end of May, after he was liberated.

HT:

So he came back to the United States, I guess, you say in June of '45.

AP:

Yes.

HT:

Where was he stationed at that time, do you recall?

AP:

He had a thirty-day leave, and then he went to Alabama. What's the name of the camp down there? Well, I can't think of the name, but he was stationed in Alabama.

HT:

So once he got back to the States I guess your mail finally caught up to him, and you were able to communicate?

AP:

Well, when I got back to the States I was able to come back before any of my unit, because any nurse whose husband was returned to the States was automatically sent back to the States, so I came back.

HT:

So that was the first time you'd seen each other in two years?

AP:

Two years, right, right.

HT:

That's truly amazing.

AP:

Yes.

HT:

So you came back, and where were you stationed, or did you get out of the service then?

AP:

I was discharged at Fort Bragg in November of 1945.

HT:

Did you ever give any thought about perhaps staying in?

AP:

I think had I been single, yes, but I never really did. I was like everybody else. The war was over; I was anxious to get out.

HT:

Right, and to continue your life with your husband.

AP:

That's right. That's right.

HT:

When did he get out of the service?

AP:

He got his discharge at Fort Devin, Mass., in I think January, but we were back up. He had so much leave time accumulated that we were able to go back up to Massachusetts from, where was it, Fort McClellan, Alabama. That's where he was. And when I first came back and got my discharge at Fort Bragg, that's where I went, and we stayed down there several weeks, and then he was transferred back up to Massachusetts, and he was on extended leave that he had accumulated during the time that he was a prisoner of war.

HT:

So did you move to Massachusetts after?

AP:

We did, and we made that our home up there in Lawrence, Mass. He was a printer by trade, so he found employment there, and like I say, I didn't have any trouble finding a job. But I was able to set my own hours, because they were happy to get nurses for any hours, so at Lawrence General Hospital I went to work, and I told them I'd come to work, I could work Monday through Friday and have weekends off, and they took me on.

So that's where I worked until I got pregnant with my first son in 1946, and he was born at Lawrence General Hospital March 7, 1947, and then my second son, Alan—Michael is my first son. My second son, Alan was born at Lawrence General Hospital on August 27, 1950, and my youngest son, Stephen was born at St. John's Hospital in Lowell on June 25, 1952.

HT:

After you had the children did you continue working in nursing?

AP:

Yes, in between time I did. Yes, I did, because as it ended up my husband was not the same person when he came back from prisoner-of-war camp. He was a different person altogether. As time went on, I was working, he wasn't. I was supporting the children. Many times I would, in those days they'd give you money back on Coke bottles and all sorts of tonic bottles and cans, and I was cashing those in to get money to buy baby food. But it was just a struggle for me, and he wasn't contributing to their support.

I finally moved in December of 1952, my three sons and I moved back to North Carolina to Concord, and there again I was employed by Concord Cabarrus Memorial Hospital, and I worked there for two years. I had a friend who was a VA [Veterans Administration] nurse, and she kept—I didn't even know they were building the VA hospital here in Salisbury [North Carolina] until I moved back down here. And she kept after me, you know, “Why don't you apply at the VA?” So I did.

Of course in the meantime I was declared service connected for my hearing loss, so that gave me twenty points on my preference, you know, being a disabled veteran, to apply for employment with the government. So I applied and I started working for the VA here in Salisbury, North Carolina, in September 1955, and I worked till I retired there. I was mostly on the geriatric unit, total care. I worked till I retired in February first, 1980, and I have enjoyed twenty-five years of [unclear] retirement. [laughter] Until the last few years it's been kind of tough on me.

But I've been able to be active in other things. Since I've retired I've volunteered, I've delivered meals on wheels, I've been active in church work at Spencer Presbyterian church. I'm still able to do my own shopping and most of my own running around.

HT:

That independence is great.

AP:

Independence is great. Two years ago, almost two years ago in December 2003, though, I had kind of a very bad time. I guess it's the worst time in my life since my son Michael passed away. That was something that I'll never get over. You don't think you're going to outlive your children, but that was very, very hard, and that's still there.

But in December of 2003 I went into congestive heart failure, and my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter took me to the doctor, and he put me in the hospital right away on continuous oxygen and the nebulizer. They treated me for a week, and then I came home and I had oxygen here, continuous oxygen day and night, and they had the tubing so that I could go to every room in my house except to my front door. But I was on continuous oxygen.

I'd been home about a week and I fell. I fell and hit my head on the table, and I didn't break anything, thank goodness, but I went back to the hospital and stayed for another week, and then I spent time in Autumn Care Rehabilitation Center, and they got me in excellent shape again, the best shape I guess I've been in for a long, long time. But that's been about the worst thing could have happened to me since my retirement, but I have enjoyed my retirement.

HT:

If we could backtrack to the forties, when you got out of the service was it difficult to readjust to civilian life?

AP:

I didn't have that much of a problem. I think my husband did. I think he did. I didn't have the problem. Nursing was nursing. Of course now I couldn't go back to nursing with all the new things that they have, but I didn't have a problem getting back into nursing, but he had problems.

HT:

Yours has been sort of a continuation of the same type of work that you've been doing ever since you were sixteen years old, practically.

AP:

Just about. Yes, indeed, yes, indeed.

HT:

How did you get back from the Philippines to the United States? I know it was another ship; you came back on a ship.

AP:

Yes, and we came back into San Francisco. I came back through Camp Stoneman, the same camp that I'd gone out from, and it's so funny. It's a big joke with my sons. Like I said, Camp Stoneman was across Oakland Bay Bridge. We had to go across the Oakland Bay Bridge to get into San Francisco from Camp Stoneman, and I've been under the Golden Gate [Bridge] four times, because I sailed out to Australia and I came back from Australia, and I went out to the Philippines and I came back from the Philippines. I sailed under the Golden Gate four times, and I never went across it when I was out there, never went across the Golden Gate Bridge. So that's come to be a big joke among my family.

HT:

You've answered just about every question that I have on my list here, but let me just hurriedly look through to see if there's anything that we haven't covered. Do you think you were treated equally as men who were in the same position? Of course, I guess there really weren't any male nurses at that time.

AP:

No, they did not get commissioned. Of course, there weren't that many male nurses, but even those that were, they were not commissioned like the female nurses.

HT:

So you were considered officers, and so you have very little to do with the enlisted—

AP:

Yes, and I made my promotion to first lieutenant while I was stationed in the Philippines.

HT:

How high did you receive before you got out?

AP:

I was just first lieutenant.

HT:

I have heard women say that it was very difficult to get promoted in the military, particularly in the nursing corps.

AP:

It was. I was overseas the second time before I finally got made first lieutenant. Yes.

HT:

Were the women resentful of that, or how did they feel about that?

AP:

I think, in looking back, although I didn't realize it at the time, I think that some of the men resented the women being in some particular positions that they were in, you know, where they felt like men could do the same thing, like a male nurse. I think at times we were resented a little bit, but I never personally felt that at all. I never personally felt it at all.

HT:

What was the relationship with the doctors and the corpsmen, and nurses?

AP:

We were just like one big family. We were just like a big group, you know, and we never were able to have a reunion or anything. I don't know whatever happened to any of them. The only thing I know, one of the nurses who stayed in and got to be a major, she's passed away, and the other one that I used to keep in contact with Christmas cards, she's gone, the only two that I kept in touch with, because there are not many of us left, not many World War II nurses left.

HT:

What was the morale like for the nurses in the Philippines where you were stationed?

AP:

Well, I think considering everything it was pretty good. We couldn't—now, if we went out from our nurses quarters, if we went anywhere, we had to be with a male escort, and he had to be armed.

HT:

Were you armed as well?

AP:

No. No, we were not, and I had to confront patients about that, too. One of the officers that took me out, we'd go out to the beach. There was nothing to do over there, till we finally, after about three months we got our officers club, but until that time there was no place to go except just to drive out to the beach.

He drove out to the beach and he was not particularly on the up and up, so after a few rounds around that jeep I told him I wanted to go back to the nurses quarters, and as we drove back they had like these pontoon bridges, you know, where just one can go across at a time. When he stopped to let another vehicle come across, I got out and I told the sentry that was on duty there, I said, “I want a ride back to the 73rd Field Hospital because,” I said, “I don't want to ride back with this man.” He was a captain in the air force.

HT:

You were by yourself; it was just the two of you.

AP:

Yes. So he got me a ride in one of those big old weapons carriers, but at least I got back to the nurses quarters all right, without having to have him take me back there. But then when we got our officers club we had a place to go, and that helped a lot.

I'll never forget, we landed on Leyte around the first week in February, and I had my first day off the day that Franklin Roosevelt died, which was April twelfth. That was when we were setting up our hospital and getting all of our patients in. That was the first day off that I had. That was by the time our little officers club was—and we could go there and make like a little lunch for ourselves. So the first couple of months the morale wasn't all that great, but I think after that.

HT:

How was the food in general? Did you eat with the rest of the troops?

AP:

No. We got nothing but the powdered stuff, canned stuff.

HT:

Nothing fresh.

AP:

Nothing fresh, no milk, no eggs. All of that was powdered milk, powdered eggs. That's the reason we enjoyed our visit to the USS Comfort, the hospital ship Comfort, because we got fruit, we had salad, and it was a nice meal. But the food left a lot to be desired. And I'll tell you, I wrote home. If you wrote home for anything, whoever you wrote to, like my mother, I had to show that letter at the post office, show them what I had requested so they could mail that. But I wrote home for pork and beans. [laughs] And she had to show that letter at the post office, so I figured that was one thing that I enjoyed.

HT:

Did your parents send you goodies from time to time?

AP:

They did, and some of my friends, you know, different people from church, cookies or, you know, just a lot of people helped make my stay over there a little less miserable. Yes, they did, and close friends, schoolmates.

HT:

When you first decided to join the Army Nurse Corps, how did your friends react to that, and how did your family react to that?

AP:

My family, my mother and father were wonderful, because I'm sure that as an only child, they were not happy to see their only child, a daughter at that, volunteer [unclear] with the war. But they never ever said one word, never. They supported me all the way. They even went to Camp Sutton with me, the Sunday when I was inducted over there. They took the bus down there from Concord to Albemarle, I mean to Monroe, and we had lunch at some little restaurant there, and then we went out to camp where I was inducted.

HT:

Were your grandparents still alive at that time?

AP:

My grandmother was, but she—no, I'm sorry, she wasn't. No, she had passed away. No, she was still living, but her health wasn't that good, but I have some pictures that we took when I would come home on leave.

HT:

In your uniform, I guess.

AP:

Oh yes. We couldn't wear anything else. I couldn't be married in anything else. The only civilian clothes that I could wear to be married in was my underwear, and I couldn't carry flowers. I was married in my beige uniform.

HT:

Were those army regulations?

AP:

Army regulations. If you went off the base, you couldn't be seen outside your barracks if you weren't in uniform. You had to be in uniform at all times.

HT:

So do you still have that wedding dress, the beige uniform?

AP:

Yes.

HT:

That's okay, you can show it to me later on.

AP:

Yes, I do. And I have an article that was in the Salisbury Post last year, just before the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. I didn't know whether you wanted to take that.

HT:

That would be great. What was the hardest, in your military time, what was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the military?

AP:

I think setting up the hospital—

HT:

In Leyte.

AP:

—setting up that, hard work, very hard work. I had never dug post holes before. [laughter]

HT:

And did the doctors help as well?

AP:

Oh yes. Like I said, we were just like a big family setting up housekeeping, the doctors and everybody just pitched in and did—

HT:

What about your medical supplies, where did they come from?

AP:

You know, I'm not even sure. Now, a lot of them—

HT:

Did you bring them with you?

AP:

I guess a lot of the stuff, like as far as our clothing, all we were allowed to bring when we shipped out was that musette bag and a bedroll, and a duffle bag. We rolled up in that bedroll, we had sheets. Of course, we never did use the sheets, because we didn't have anything to put them on. All we had was a cot. We didn't have any mattress, no pillow cases there, nothing. But that bedroll—

[End Tape One, Side B—Begin Tape Two, Side A]

AP:

—was all that we had. And I guess, I don't know whether Quartermaster had charge of getting those supplies, whether they might have gotten some of them from the hospital ships that would come in. I honestly don't know where our supplies came from.

HT:

Well, you've mentioned that you set up initially a tent hospital. Did it ever become wooden barracks or anything like that, or was it always a tent hospital at Leyte?

AP:

That was always a tent hospital, yes. The only time we were in barracks was when we were at Camp Sutton in Monroe, and Camp Stoneman in California, and Fort Ord, California.

HT:

We had talked a little bit earlier about the hardest thing that you ever did physically. What about emotionally? What was the hardest thing you ever did emotionally while you were in the military? What affected you the most?

AP:

I think we would get, we treated a lot of Filipino guerillas who were fighting with us, but sometimes they would [unclear, blank space]—about the guerillas?

HT:

Yes, you were talking about the guerillas.

AP:

—brought into the hospital. Sometimes they'd been laid up in the mountains for days or weeks, and the wounds were full of maggots, but even while those maggots would give you a horrible, horrible feeling, those maggots had kept the wounds clean so that those infections, even though they may have a lot of leg blown off, those wounds were kept clean by the maggots, and they did not get any infections.

HT:

That is amazing.

AP:

It was amazing, and I think that was one of the worst things, because some of them, they were just kids. Some of them were just kids, you know. But they were fighting for the Philippine Islands, and when they were wounded, some of them way up in the mountains there, because of the tough terrain that was around there, they couldn't get to where they needed to get some help. I think that was about the worst.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid?

AP:

No. I don't remember even thinking about being afraid. Like I said, we were just out there doing what was expected of us, and when you're young you don't think about these things.

HT:

Well, do you recall any humorous or embarrassing moments while you were in the military?

AP:

Well, I guess when that guy came in and said the war's over, and we didn't pay any attention to him because we thought he was drunk. You know, that was pretty funny because we'd been hearing about it, you know, “The Japs are going to surrender, the Japs are going to surrender.”

And then on my wedding day it was just about like the weather we're having today, in Charleston, South Carolina, and you know what that can be like down there. And my chief nurse, her name was Maudie Bowman, and she was a World War I nurse, but she was the chief nurse at Stark General Hospital, and she had a palm-leaf fan. And, of course, we didn't have many fans or air conditioners around then, back in 1943. And she stood and fanned me as I got dressed, getting ready for my wedding that Friday afternoon. She used a palm-leaf fan to fan and try to keep me cool and comfortable. It was hot. It was awfully hot.

HT:

Speaking of your wedding, who else was in the wedding party other than you and your husband?

AP:

There was nobody else in the wedding party. We didn't have any attendants. We had music. We had a young lieutenant who sang, and we were married by an Episcopalian chaplain, but we didn't have any attendants, because it was all my mother and father could do to get down there for the wedding. They made it down there for the wedding, from Concord to Charleston, but they had to sit on their suitcase all the way, because of the troops traveling on the train. But they were able to get there for the weekend, and they were the only family that we had.

HT:

In those days it was very difficult to go anywhere, because of the restrictions on travel, and gas was scarce.

AP:

Yes. Right.

HT:

I know you were very happy to have them—

AP:

I was happy to have them there.

HT:

And being the only child that was even more wonderful for them as well.

AP:

Well, yes, yes.

HT:

I know when you were overseas you said that there really was very little to do off duty, that there was very little recreation time. But when you were not on duty, how did you typically spend your time, you and the other nurses? What did you do for fun and relaxation and those things?

AP:

Well, a lot of times, like I say, we'd go to the officers club after we had that place there, and we would kind of relax. You know, we might go swimming on the beach there. It was right on the beach. And we'd spend time writing letters. I spent an awful lot of time writing letters. I was able to write every three or four days. I think in that stack of letters, I think there were sixty-seven that I wrote home to my mother, because like I say, she numbered every one of them. But there are sixty-seven, and that's what I'm going to have to do. I'm not exactly sure where some of these things are. I'm going to have my family when they come down, to help me to pick out some boxes.

HT:

Well, that would be great. Do recall what your favorite songs, or movies or dances were from that period of time?

AP:

Well, I guess at that time we did the jitterbug as much as anything, and the one thing that did stand out in my memory, as far as shows that we saw overseas, the stage production of Oklahoma was over there, and we—of course, it was out in broad, open daylight. I mean, we were able to have the cast and everything, and the clothes were so beautiful, and everything was so clean and so nice. But we sat out just like they used to do. We'd see programs of the Bob Hope show. We'd sit out and watch that performance of Oklahoma, and that's one thing.

HT:

This was outside.

AP:

Yes.

HT:

Was this a USO [United Service Organizations] troupe that came in and did this performance?

AP:

Yes, it was a USO troupe.

HT:

Did they come by on a regular basis to entertain?

AP:

That was the only thing that we saw in the nine months we were over there. Had we stayed longer, you know, there might have been more. But like I say, had the war not ended with Hiroshima, we were scheduled to go to Japan. The field hospital was going to Japan.

HT:

What was the mood of the country like in those days, do you recall?

AP:

The mood of this country?

HT:

Yes.

AP:

I don't know, because I was out there. So I don't know what the mood of the country was back here, because my mother and father never wrote any news that would have a tendency to make me depressed or feel bad about anything. They didn't write—their letters were all pretty much upbeat, as much as they could make them, because by that time my father was back working and everything. Everything was going pretty well for them.

By the way, I forgot to mention that when I did come back from overseas I had little dog that one of the natives had given to me, like a little rat terrier, and we called her Rebel. She always went with me to work on the ward, you know. The patients loved to have her come around, and when I came back I brought that dog home with me, and when I got to Camp Stoneman the Quartermaster built a little cage, and I shipped her back to Concord, to my mother and father. Unfortunately, though, she wasn't used to vehicles, cars and things like that, and six weeks later she got hit by a car. It wasn't a busy street where my mother and father lived at the time, but I brought that dog home with me.

HT:

Did you have a problem bringing her back due to quarantine or anything like that?

AP:

No, because the doctors with our unit, they gave her all the shots that she had to have. They had to give her all the shots, and on the deck of the ship there were other dogs. They had all sorts. They had parrots, they had all sorts of things. And some of the food, the meat that they would serve those dogs was delicious. Of course, we had good food on the ship coming back, too. You had to keep them on that deck, but you could take them anywhere on a leash. You could walk them around the deck or take them anywhere you wanted.

HT:

And the dog didn't get seasick or anything?

AP:

That's the only time I didn't get seasick, when I knew the war was over and I was coming home to stay. I did not get seasick, not one day, so I think maybe it's all in my head. [laughter] That's the only time I didn't get seasick.

HT:

During World War II, whom did you admire and respect the most? Who were your heroes or heroines?

AP:

Well, I think like a lot of the other service people, I admired Franklin Roosevelt.

HT:

Did you ever have the opportunity to meet him?

AP:

No, I never did. That's the reason when we heard that he had died, you know, that was—but I do think Harry Truman did a fantastic job when he took over. A lot of people didn't think Truman had it in him, but he showed what he was made of.

HT:

He sort of rose to the occasion, I guess.

AP:

Yes, he did. He did that.

HT:

What about Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

AP:

Well, Mrs. Roosevelt was Mrs. Roosevelt. [laughs] Now, she was in Australia during the time that I was there waiting for ships to bring patients back, and one of those koala bears bit her. They look like such lovable little bears, but they're mean. But I never, you know—she was all right, and sometimes I wondered if she told Franklin what he should be doing. But that was all right, too, as far as I was concerned. I thought Roosevelt did a wonderful job.

HT:

When you were in Australia did you ever have the occasion to meet any Red Cross personnel?

AP:

A lot of Red Cross personnel went over on the ship with us, Red Cross, yes. Red Cross and like our units, our small hospital ship unit, as well as enlisted men, officers, they were all, all, a lot of different people onboard ship. But we did have Red Cross personnel going over.

HT:

What type of work did the Red Cross people do overseas, do you happen to know?

AP:

Well, pretty much like they do here. Just like I said, it was through the Red Cross that found out for me through MacArthur's headquarters that my husband was a prisoner of war, because I went to see somebody in the Red Cross that very night that I head that he was missing in action, and they do pretty much, you know, if you have a problem and you maybe want them to find out or check up on something, that pretty much would be what they're doing now, every day, go wherever the help is needed and help you in any way that they can.

HT:

Did you consider yourself to be an independent person?

AP:

Well, I don't—yes, in the last twenty-five years I think I've become, but yes, I've been a pretty independent person. I'm going to fight for what I believe.

HT:

Would you think you've always been that way, or did the military make you that way?

AP:

I think it's always been there. I don't think the military had any more to do with it than it would have been ordinarily.

HT:

It took a lot of courage to join the military at that time.

AP:

It did, that.

HT:

Not many women did that.

AP:

No, and that's the reason I thought about it for a few months before I actually went in. I got my papers in February, but I didn't go in till October or till November, and I think my husband, he didn't want me to go in, and I think that was one of the main reasons that I delayed. The more I saw and the more I heard how badly they needed nurses, I knew it was something I had to do.

HT:

Did he finally accept the fact that you joined?

AP:

Yes, he did, he did. And in reading that book that I bought up there last year, I can realize how in some of the areas back home here, the defense plants, places like that, how much the men resented the women taking over a lot of their jobs so that they could be drafted. They didn't like that. Yes, I learned a lot from that book that I didn't really know, like you said, about what was going on back here in the United States, because I was out there.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a pioneer or a trailblazer or trendsetter, since you were one of the few women who joined the military at that time? Even though there were several hundred thousand, it was still not something that most women did.

AP:

Well, maybe a little bit of all three. I guess I was a pioneer at the time, but over the years the many, many things that I've gone through over the years, and then I think especially my last illness when I went into congestive heart failure, it made me realize how precious life is. And I said, the good Lord left me here on this Earth for something, for some reason, and when I find out what it is I'm going to try to do it.

But I'm taking advantage of so many things, just like the Fourth of July celebration. All of these things that I'd like to take advantage of, because I don't know if I'll be here next year or not, and I'm taking advantage of so many things that I want to do, and if I feel up to doing it I do it, especially I like going to church. I've missed church. The only Sunday that I have missed church since I got out of the rehabilitation center was last October.

The first weekend in October my son and his wife took me to Washington to—I'm a Red Sox fan, and took me to a Red Sox-Orioles ballgame up there, and then that's the Sunday that we came back to the World War II Memorial. I'd remarked to them one time that I would love to see the World War II Memorial, so they took me for a trip [unclear], and that was to see the World War II Memorial. It's hard to express. It's just breathtaking when you see it. It's hard to describe the feeling.

But you know, they asked me about going and I said, “Yeah.” If they were willing to put up with me, I was going to go, so we had a wonderful trip up there.

HT:

Did you by any chance go by and see WIMSA [Women In Military Service For America] Memorial as well, the Women In the Military?

AP:

Yes. They're all in pretty much the same area. Yes, I did, saw the women's memorial. The only one that we didn't get to go close to was the Vietnam Memorial, and they were working on the lighting down in that area and it was kind of blocked off. We could see it at a distance. Oh yes, and we saw the Korean [War Memorial], and the statues from the Vietnam, that's a part of the Vietnam Memorial. Yes, they're all right in that same area. There's a lot of walking. Of course, I had my wheelchair, and they had to do the walking, but walking all the way from the—of course, the Washington Monument was not open at the time either, because they were working there.

But we walked all through the World War II Memorial. I've got a bunch of pictures from that. Then we walked along the reflection pool toward the Lincoln Memorial. Now, the only memorial that's opposite, on the other side from most of them is the Korean Memorial, and that is really inspiring, too. It's quite a—

HT:

Sounds like you had quite a trip.

AP:

I did. And that's the reason I'm taking advantage of everything I can, and everything I can. Of course, this hot weather's kind of knocked me for a loop, but I can't get out and do it in this weather.

HT:

It's tough on all of us, unfortunately.

AP:

Yes, it is.

HT:

Well, have any of your children ever been in the military?

AP:

Michael, the older son. He was in Vietnam. He was in '67 to '72.

HT:

Do you think his joining the military had anything to do with you having been in the military, or, of course, at that time—

AP:

No, no, I don't think so. Well, it was at a time when he felt like, you know, he was in college. He was going to Catawba [College], but he felt like his number was going to be coming up, not the draft as such, but whatever they were doing then. They had numbers. He didn't want to go in the army, and that's the reason he wanted to join the navy, so that's what he went in, so he could choose the branch of service.

He wanted to go into radar, but he found out he's colorblind. I wondered why when he was growing up we used to disagree on colors of his socks. Never could agree on that when he was little. [laughs] But he was colorblind, and he couldn't do that.

HT:

Well, when your children were growing up were they aware that you had been in the military, or was that something you discussed at home?

AP:

Oh yes. They used to get a kick out of telling their friends that their mama wore army boots. [laughter] Yes, they're all very proud of the fact that I did serve, and I'm proud, too. And I'm proud of the young men and women that are out there today. I tell you, I respect them so much.

There's a young man, he was home from the navy on leave at my church, and I used to babysit him in the nursery when he was about eighteen months old. The reason I remember him so much is he got stuck in one of those little rocking-chair things, the seats. He was a chubby little boy, and I thought I wasn't going to get him out before his mama and daddy came to get him from church. But I finally managed. But he's with the navy; he joined the navy a couple of years ago.

HT:

Speaking of the current combat, women, of course, today have more opportunities than your generation did—

AP:

They do.

HT:

—in the military. How do you feel about women in combat?

AP:

Well, the combat that they have now, it's hard to know where to draw the line. I feel that there are a lot of areas in combat that women are comparatively safe, but I think that has to be a judgment thing on the superior officers or the people that are in higher command. I think in its hospitals, yes, put the nurses there, but I do think there are areas where they should be, and there are areas they shouldn't be.

But the war that they're fighting now, with the suicide bombers, you don't know where they are, just like the ones in Vietnam. They didn't know whether a kid had a grenade or not. You didn't know who the enemy was. When we were in World War II we knew who the enemy was.

HT:

What impact do you think the military had on your life immediately after you got out in 1945?

AP:

Well, not much of anything, except that I was able to start my family, and my family has been my life saver. They have been my life saver. My family has been there for me, and they're still there for me every day. All I have to do is say I need something, and they're there for me.

HT:

That is so important.

AP:

Absolutely. And I think Michael's death, sad to say, brought all of us closer together. You know, we were close but you didn't call one another. But his two brothers now, they're keeping in pretty close touch, because they're both getting into their fifties. Alan, he's the same age as Michael when he died. Alan's fifty-three now. But my family has been my life, my family has been my life.

HT:

After you came back you were eligible for the GI Bill, both you and your husband were eligible for the GI Bill. Did you ever use the GI Bill, either one of you, for anything?

AP:

No. I was going to. I was going back to get my B.A. degree, B.S. degree. I was going up there in Massachusetts. But instead I started raising a family and I never got back to school, because Michael, like I say, was born in 1947, and three years later Alan was born in 1950, and Stephen was born in 1952, so I've got a family, but I never got my education. But I was going on the GI Bill and so was he.

He was going to a place in Boston, Wentworth Institute, but the course that he wanted to take, he would have had to go to New York. And at that time, you know, where we had just gotten back together after the war ended, after being separated like we were for so long, he didn't choose to go to New York, take the course, so we just started our married life and started our family, and I thank God every day for them, for my family.

HT:

Well, if you had to do it over again, would you join the Army Nurse Corps again?

AP:

Oh yes, oh yes. And like you asked earlier, if I had been single I think I would have stayed in the Army Nurse Corps. I really do, if I hadn't been married.

HT:

You'd been separated so long, I guess you wanted to start your life together.

AP:

That's what I said. We'd been separated for so long, and all the things that—both of us getting out of the service.

HT:

Well, I don't have any more questions, but I do want to thank you so much for a wonderful interview.

AP:

Well, I tell you, I've been doing quite a few interviews. We're having—is that shut off now?

HT:

No. Okay, thank you so much.

[End of interview]