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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Jean Holdridge Reeves, 2008

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Object ID: WV0383.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Jean Reeves’ service in New Guinea and the Philippines with the American Red Cross from 1944 to 1946.

Summary:

Reeves briefly discusses her early life, including her education. She recalls the attack on Pearl Harbor, and shares her reasons for enlisting in the Red Cross. Of her time in training, she remembers receiving lectures on good conduct and learning club work. She goes on to discuss her work in service clubs in New Guinea and canteens in the Phillipines, including making ice cream, not having the electricity to make donuts, the typical work schedule, watching movies, dances and dates, USO shows, celebrating holidays, VE Day and VJ Day, both of which she celebrated while in the Pacific Theater. Other service topics include: the lack of air conditioning, destruction in Manila, making tablecloths out of parachutes, frequent outbreaks of dengue fever and malaria, camping in Baguio, the effect of the war on soldiers, servicemens' treatment of Red Cross workers, scrounging for supplies, and Japanese soldiers in the Philippines.

Other topics include her opinion of President Franklin Roosevelt and President Harry Truman, her favorite songs and movies from the era, meeting her husband while stationed in the Pacific, the adjustment back to civilian life, and why her children didn't join the service.

Creator:

Biographical Info:

Collection: Jean Holdridge Reeves 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:

KA:

Today is Wednesday, February 14, 2007, and this is Kim Adkins speaking. I'm in the home of Mrs. Jean Reeves in Pittsboro, North Carolina, doing an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Thank you, Jean, for agreeing to speak with me. Please tell me about your life before you entered the military.

JR:

Just before I entered the military I was working as a teacher at Gads Hill Community Center in Chicago, Illinois, working with children from birth to six years old in this community center. The children came there, some of them, as early as six o'clock and stayed until six o'clock at night for day care.

KA:

When and where were you born?

JR:

I was born in Marion, Ohio, January 27, 1920.

KA:

Where did you grow up?

JR:

I grew up, until I was fourteen, both on a farm close to Marion, Ohio, and the rest of the time in the city of Marion. On my fourteenth birthday we moved to Bloomington, Illinois, where I lived most of my high school days and my college days. I went to Illinois Wesleyan University, a Methodist school, in Bloomington.

KA:

What did your parents do for a living?

JR:

Well, my mother was a homemaker, took care of all of us. My father was a—in agriculture of some kind, sometimes as a farmer and sometimes selling real estate, sometimes managing farms for a bank in Chicago.

KA:

What were your parents' names?

JR:

My mother was Lillian Johnston Holdridge, H-o-l-d-r-i-d-g-e. My father was Roy Cary Holdridge.

KA:

Did you have any siblings?

JR:

I had three sisters.

KA:

And what were their names?

JR:

The oldest one is Catherine. You want full names or?

KA:

Just first names will be fine.

JR:

Catherine, C-a-t-h-e-r-i-n-e and Helen and Melissa. I was the baby.

KA:

Did you like school?

JR:

Yes. Yes, I liked school.

KA:

Where did you graduate high school from?

JR:

From Bloomington—Bloomington High School, Bloomington, Illinois.

KA:

You said you attended college. What did you major in?

JR:

I majored in home economics.

KA:

And this was before you entered the Red Cross?

JR:

That's right.

KA:

Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?

JR:

I was at a musical concert at Illinois Wesleyan. It was a Sunday afternoon, I believe, and we were all very shocked.

KA:

Why did you decide to join the Red Cross?

JR:

Well, I guess I decided to join the Red Cross because I—my father could not serve in World War I because he was farming at the time and of course was too old in World War II. I had no brothers. I did have two brother-in-laws who were in the service. And so I guess partly out of, I mean, a little adventure and—but also feeling that our family ought to be represented in service. And so I tried out for the Red Cross.

KA:

When did you begin your time with the Red Cross? When did you enter?

JR:

Well, I actually—well, I know it—I went in the spring for interviews and so forth. The first dates that I remember is reporting to Washington, DC, on October 15, I think it was in 1944.

KA:

Do you remember you left the war?

JR:

I don't remember the exact date that I had my discharge. It was sometime in the spring of 1945, I guess. No, '46, I guess actually.

KA:

Did anyone in your family encourage you to join the Red Cross anything?

JR:

They didn't even know I was doing it. [laughs]

KA:

Do you feel like the posters that they produced encouraged—like were you inspired by those to join?

JR:

I suppose all the posters and all that was written and we heard on the radio and all probably had something to do but I don't remember that that was really why I did it.

KA:

Well, once your parents found out you were going to join, how did they react?

JR:

They accepted it and never, never one time said, “Oh, I'm sorry. I wish you wouldn't do that.”

KA:

What about your sisters, how did they feel about it?

JR:

As far as I know they supported me also. They were all married. I was not married. They all helped me get ready and supported me while I was in the service and all.

KA:

What did your friends think about you joining the Red Cross?

JR:

I don't ever remember there were any comments about it, but I had some friends who were in the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—U.S. Navy], in the WACs [Women's Army Corps], and that might have had something to do with it, my joining, also. It probably was part of our women, you know, the women thinking that we ought to be a part of it. So we wanted to do our duty, too.

KA:

When you joined, was this the first time you'd been far from home for a long period of time?

JR:

No. No, because I had spent a year at the University of Connecticut and that was not a problem.

KA:

Where did you join?

JR:

In St. Louis, Missouri.

KA:

Why St. Louis?

JR:

That's where they told me to go. [laughs] I don't know why they didn't have a place in Chicago, because I was working in Chicago, but when I contacted them they sent me to St. Louis.

KA:

What do you remember about the first day?

JR:

Well, the actual first day was in Washington, D.C., and I don't even remember where we all got together, but I remember there was a whole bunch of women, and sat us down for instructions and we were sent to hotel to live for several months while we were in training in Washington.

KA:

What kind of training did you all do?

JR:

I don't remember too much about the training to tell you the truth, but we had lots of lectures on how to conduct yourself and what to wear. And then we were sent out for several weeks to an army camp outside of Washington where we actually had hands-on experience working in a club there. And, you know, a lot of the time was spent getting your uniforms and things, get you ready.

KA:

Where were you sent after you finished training?

JR:

Where was I sent?

KA:

Yes.

JR:

To stage in San Francisco.

KA:

Were you ever sent overseas?

JR:

Yes, we staged in San Francisco for about a month or so, I think it was, and then went onboard ship to New Guinea.

KA:

What did you do while in the Red Cross?

JR:

I was called an able-bodied recreation worker.

KA:

What did you do as an able-bodied recreation worker?

JR:

[laughs] Well, that meant you worked in canteens and clubs. It was different kinds of clubs. Some of them for—most of where I worked was for enlisted men's clubs, and I had canteen duty when I was in the Philippines. We didn't have what I would call a canteen. And I was in Lae, New Guinea, for quite awhile, and there was a club for enlisted men.

We did the best we could. We had games available and music. One of the women was very musical, and she would think up whatever kind of programs we would do to get to put on shows or sing or whatever, you know. Did ice cream. I don't where on earth they got all the ice except that this friend, the man whom I married eventually, was in charge of all the utilities at that base. And they had finally gotten whatever they need to make an ice machine, and when I was reading through some of my notes I noticed that one day we made thirty gallons of ice cream and [laughs] served thirty gallons of ice cream, and something like at least that many loaves of bread into sandwiches. That, we did a lot of that, you know, mainly we would have snacks for the men when they weren't on duty.

This base at Lae, New Guinea, where I was was—I've forgotten just what the name of it they would call it—but, anyway, they were not—the war was over there. It was still—there was no fighting at that time any more. So it didn't have as much to do—the men didn't have, you know, they weren't preparing for a war. They were just kind of picking up the pieces, and before I left they had closed that base. So we had a lot of men who were—who had been there a long time. Some of them had been there for over two years. They had been in the service maybe as long as three years, and most of them had not had any what they called R&R [rest and recuperation] in the service. At one time they—some of them were allowed to go to Australia for rest and recreation, but many of them never got to do that. So they enjoyed going to the Red Cross clubs for something a little different, you know? If for nothing else than to see—probably see a woman instead of all men. [laughs] But there were nurses on the base. There were nurses on the base. Which everything else was pretty much taken care of by the men cooking and all that kind of thing.

KA:

Did you ever create donuts?

JR:

I think I had in my notes somewhere that they didn't have enough electricity at that base to make donuts. Some place else they did. But, apparently, to keep that grease hot—I never even thought about that until I had—I had forgotten that part of it—but, apparently, that made a lot of difference. The lights weren't very—we had electric lights, but they weren't very bright, and at one thing that surprised me was when I was reading my notes that we did have some florescent lights in some places. So, I had somehow thought of florescent lights as being later in my lifetime than that. So, evidently, they were pretty new then.

KA:

So, when you made ice cream did you use one of those hand-cranked ice cream machines?

JR:

No, the—no it was electric. Somebody was smart enough to make electric machine. [laughs]

KA:

What was the typical day like for you serving in the Red Cross?

JR:

Well, when I was overseas there was no real typical day, not like people here who get up and go to work from—they get up at 6:00. They have breakfast. They go to work from 8:00 to 4:00 or what have you. Our schedule was quite varied, a lot of it, I guess, because we kept the clubs open for so long. I think they opened early at, you know, 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning, and then we'd stay open lots of times until midnight. So it was a long day. And there were not very many of us assigned to that base at that time, and there was quite a bit of illness because it was so terribly hot which most of us were not used to the heat. And then quite a few of us that had dengue fever, and so that meant a certain time—hospitalization time. So if somebody wasn't feeling right, well, somebody else had to fill in for them, you know. So you—it didn't get monotonous [laughs] from that point.

KA:

Did you enjoy your time with the Red Cross?

JR:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes, it was very interesting. Very different than anything I'd ever done before, but I wasn't that old, you know? So I hadn't had lots of experiences. I mean there were, you know. I read about women who went in the forties and so forth, and so they had had more opportunities to have had varied experiences, but it was very interesting to me. Women from all over, men from all over. It was really my first experience with Negroes. We had many, many who came to the—to our club, and that was a new experience for me. But I say to this day, that if there was anything good that came out of World War II is the fact that we get to know people from all over the United States. It probably helped us to be more tolerant of other people.

KA:

How did the servicemen treat you?

JR:

Very nicely on the whole. Of course, there were—you know at that time, women didn't have the same privileges that men had; there were times when you were a little leery of some of them who came to the club and maybe didn't want to treat you with quite the same respect you would have liked to have. But that was all part of the risks [laughs], I guess.

KA:

What was the hardest thing you had to do physically while you were in the Red Cross?

JR:

Well, I don't know about that. I probably would change a tire and have to learn how to take care of an automobile, but I didn't have [to] remember that very well [laughs], but we did have to. We did have to learn to do that. Another thing that I didn't know anything about, had never—didn't require to do this at any time that I know of—we had to [unclear] so many supplies that we wanted to use. We had to what we called scrounge for them. They were not just given to you. You couldn't just go to a store or to the ordinance and request most things that you needed. You had to learn to talk somebody into giving them to you. We were at a base, however, close to an air corps unit, and some of them had been there long enough that they knew pilots and they would fly back and forth to Australia, and I had many references in my notes to having steak and fresh tomatoes and somewhere other somebody finally found some eggs, fresh eggs, which normally they didn't have, some fresh vegetables. So somebody knew how to scrounge those, you know [laughs], but that didn't come naturally to me. It wasn't physically difficult.

KA:

How about emotionally? What was the hardest thing you had to do?

JR:

Emotionally? [pauses] Well, I don't know of whether you consider being afraid, but there were several times when there were—in the Philippines, when I was in the Philippines, there were several times when Japanese who had not been caught yet came close to our barracks, and I have to admit that scared me. Several times we had to hit floor. But other than that there were different women who were sent home because they were so emotionally upset for whatever reason. I don't know. I never experienced that.

KA:

So while you were in the Philippines, were you afraid of being shot or taken prisoner or—?

JR:

No, not really. I guess we were usually too busy. I guess. I just didn't think about that much.

KA:

What did you do for fun?

JR:

Well, I guess a lot of—most of the fun probably was—well, there were lots of—lots of movies. The first night we arrived in Lae, New Guinea, [Broadway composer] Irving Berlin was there with his show, This is the Army, and there were many, many USO [United Service Organizations] shows. Always a movie somewhere that everybody could go to, and then because of the type of work that I was in, you know, that was recreation in itself.

So and we were always thinking up something to do, you know, some little something for somebody's birthday. Or like it was Valentine's Day, well, we thought up something or—with whatever we had, you know? We were on board ship going to New Guinea one Christmas, which none of us had anticipated, but you dug down until you found a little something, you know, and we wrapped up little presents and had an exchange. And somebody came forth with something that we used for a Christmas tree, and we might some kind of decorations and decorated them. You know, we just—it was a group of people who were willing to do that type of thing and had lots of good ideas just to keep ourselves entertained, why we did it. And, you know, somebody would think of, let's do some kind of a show. Let's sing. Let's play some kind of a crazy game. We did all kinds of things like that.

KA:

Did you ever attend dances?

JR:

Oh, yes. Yes, there were lots of dances on the base. I think it—at Lae, New Guinea, there were more just that the Red Cross girls and their friends had for themselves, but when I was in the Philippines there were more organized ones on the base.

KA:

Did you go on dates?

JR:

Well, I guess we called them dates. [laughs] Yes, there was always somebody wanting you to do something.

KA:

How long were you in the Red Cross?

JR:

I was in a couple of years. It was just about two years.

KA:

What do you think the mood of the country was during World War II?

JR:

Well, you know, when the war started I was in college, and I thought about this often that even though several of my friends quit college and enlisted somehow or other, I didn't get very stirred up about it. I guess I just—my folks had never been the kind to get really excited. I guess they didn't show their emotions. They probably were quite upset, but they didn't show it to make us nervous, and I guess I either inherited or absorbed that type of reaction to it, because I—and I think now I should have read the paper more and kept up more with what was going on than I did.

KA:

Who were your heroes or heroines of those days?

JR:

Who actually in the war, actually war heroes or?

KA:

It could be anyone you looked up to.

JR:

Well, I was not—I've never been a moviegoer, so I didn't have lots of [laughs] that type of people. I don't know. I guess it probably was more the dean of women at Illinois Wesleyan at that time, and the dean of the School of Home Economics when I was in—at the University of Connecticut. They were both women that I admired very much. And as far as the men, I can't remember having any real great heroes. I loved the musicals, you know, but I never went to very many movies. So I didn't have that. I probably just didn't have too many heroes.

KA:

Well, what did you think of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt?

JR:

Probably my feelings towards them now are different than at the time. I don't know that—probably my feelings were very much influenced by the fact that I was brought up in a Republican [Party] family. Now, I can understand why Mr. Roosevelt did many of the things that he did, and I have admiration for what Mrs. Roosevelt did, but at the time, you know, I guess I was a little skeptical with any Democrats. [laughs]

KA:

What about President [Harry] Truman, what did you think about him?

JR:

There, again, I see—I don't think I had too much feeling one way or the other, but I think he did an excellent job for the position that he was thrown into. I think we are a better country for having had him as president at that time.

KA:

Do you have any favorite songs from the World War II era?

JR:

Well, the one that I remember the most of is, Don't Fence Me In because several of us sang that at the club a lot of times [laughs], and I've been teased a great deal about that song. But I love music and loved all the songs from that time. Still much prefer that to the music of the present day.

KA:

You said you weren't very much a moviegoer, but you liked musicals. What were some of your favorite musicals?

JR:

Well, let's see. Before I went in the service, I got to go to Oklahoma! several times, and that probably was my favorite.

KA:

Where were you when you heard about VE [Victory in Europe] Day?

JR:

I was in Lae, New Guinea, and—I might not have been in Lae. I may have been in Nadzab [New Guinea] by then. Nadzab is an airstrip that was twenty-five miles inland. Lae was on the coast of New Guinea, and Nadzab was about twenty-five miles inland where the airstrip was. And I think that was May, and I believe by that time we had been transferred. They had pretty much closed up our club in Lae, and we had been moved to Nadzab, and they had a club there, and I happened to have a copy of the—the little paper that they put out that day.

KA:

Was everyone excited or?

JR:

Yes, they were very excited, but I think in both the cases of VE Day and VJ [Victory over Japan] Day there was not as much drinking which would cause a lot of hoopla as there would have been, because it happened that they had had their beer rationing before then, and it was pretty well gone. I suppose you have heard other people say that they were issued a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes every month, each GI and each office—I think each officer, each Red Cross personnel—and so, you know, some of them probably drank it up the first day they got it. So, when it came along that VE Day was, they didn't have that to pep them up, you know. [laughs] In other words, the officers could control them better.

KA:

Were you still in New Guinea when you heard about VJ Day?

JR:

No, I was in—at Clark Field in the Philippines. Clark Field is about sixty miles north of Manila, and I don't know if you know anything about Clark Field, but it was a big base of the United States. It had been there for a long time, and of course, the Japanese had taken it over. And then we went in to the Philippines and recaptured the Philippines—why, that base, of course, was taken over again. And that's where we Red Cross women were housed, in one of those big houses, and big parade field, and around that were houses and buildings and so forth that the army personnel had lived in prior to the war. And so we had one of those houses.

KA:

Do you feel like they were more excited about VJ Day then they were about VE Day?

JR:

I would think so. Probably because many of those men were staging in the Philippians, ready to go into Japan, and it meant for them that they might go to Japan, but at least they would go as occupation forces rather than to fight. Besides, I think they felt that, you know, we've heard of how many people were killed when they went into Europe, and they would have had the same situation of going in on shore there, and I knew quite a few people who were sitting in ships off the coast of Japan when VJ Day arrived, and they were very much relieved.

KA:

Did you feel like you had to return to a traditional female role after the war?

JR:

Did I feel like I had to what?

KA:

Return to a traditional female role?

JR:

I didn't think anything about that. [laughs]

KA:

Was readjusting to live in the United States seem [unclear] for you?

JR:

It was.

KA:

Why do you think that was?

JR:

Well, I guess that was because I came home and I was married not too long after that. So, of course, I was doing a lot of adjusting because I was coming from the Midwest to the South, but I married into a family that was very much like my own family, so I didn't have that problem. I lived away from my family. My parents lived away from their parents. So that was just, you know, the way we lived. So, it wasn't like somebody who had lived with all their family close by. So I was kind of used to being away from home.

KA:

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

JR:

Yes.

KA:

Do you think your time in the Red Cross helped you to be more independent?

JR:

Well, I suppose it did. I don't know that I [can] really give you great examples, but it probably did help me to be more independent and to use whatever you had available and make it do somehow or other. Of course, I was brought up that way. So that reinforced it.

KA:

Would you consider people—women who served, even in the Red Cross, or in the military, pioneers? Is that how you feel?

JR:

I'd expect so. I happened to have had a mother, though, who homesteaded in South Dakota. So, you know, I figured she was a pioneer, and—but, yes, you know, women did pave the way for women now by working in the factories and having to take over things. It's made a little easier if you want that way. It's made it a lot easier for you and your generation to be able to do what you do today, I'm sure.

KA:

So you think that women serving either on the home front or on the war front had any connections to the ideas of the women's liberation movement of the 1960s?

JR:

I wouldn't know why it wouldn't. [laughs] They'd already proven there were so many things they could do, and finally wanted to get recognition for it, I guess. [laughs] Which, you know, I'm just reading a book about General and Mrs. [George] Washington, and I'm sure you've read some of the Civil War stories, but how much those women did. So if you'd look at it from that standpoint, they paved the way. You know, they did their bit along that, too. Just they never got—they didn't get recognition for it until now.

KA:

What did you do after you left the Red Cross?

JR:

Well, I came back to Ohio. My parents had moved back to Ohio by then, and after a few months I was married, and then I came here to Pittsboro, North Carolina.

KA:

Did you work?

JR:

No, not as a paid job.

KA:

Well, how did you meet your husband?

JR:

I met him in Lae, New Guinea.

KA:

Was he a soldier?

JR:

Yes, he was a captain in the army. He had at that time had a - was the commanding officer of the utilities unit. It was a small unit of men that he had been allowed to choose, and they ran all the utilities on the base: the water, the lights, the refrigeration, telephone, all of that.

KA:

What is your husband's name?

JR:

Thomas Long Reeves.

KA:

When did you marry?

JR:

We were married March 2, 1946.

KA:

Do you have any children?

JR:

Have four daughters.

KA:

What are their names?

JR:

The oldest one is Lillian Kaye. The second one is Sarah Star. The third one is Melissa Jane, and the fourth one is Mary Ann.

KA:

Do you have any grandchildren?

JR:

I have eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

KA:

Have any of your children either been in the Red Cross or in the military?

JR:

No, ma'am.

KA:

Do you encourage them to be active like that?

JR:

No.

KA:

Why not?

JR:

Well, I—they all went on to college and graduated from high school, and they've all graduated from college, and I—I guess I never thought of encouraging them to get involved in the Vietnam War or the war that we're now fighting. Three of them are school teachers, and that's an important job. The fourth one is in business, and just never thought of trying to encourage them. They are active in community things, but not in the service at all.

KA:

How do you feel about women in combat positions?

JR:

Well, I'm really not sure that it's a good thing. I'm—although we women are physically strong, and maybe in some cases we feel like we're stronger than men, but some how or other it caused for me to think it's the place for women and men to fight next to each other.

KA:

How did the time in the Red Cross affect your life?

JR:

Well, I'm sure that it made me appreciate a lot of things that I hadn't before. Probably not as much at that time as it has later on. I enjoyed the traveling, but probably the greatest change that it made would be the fact that I moved from one section of the country to another section: from the Midwest to the South. That's probably been the biggest change.

KA:

Do you have any funny or interesting stories you'd like to tell about your time in the Red Cross?

JR:

Well, I guess I could tell the time that I—one day a friend by the name of Betty Huckstep and I got our orders to report to the airport, airstrip I think we called it then, at three o'clock the next morning, which we did. And they gave us water—

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

JR:

We boarded the plane which took us on three different stops. We didn't know really where we were going, but we were headed to Lae, New Guinea, the last place that Amelia Earhart was seen alive, and we stopped at three little places along the way. One of them I—was Weewak and one was Finschhafen, and I can't remember the name of the third little outpost. They were Australian outposts, and there each time they would give us what we called Aussie tea, which was very, very strong. So all day from three o'clock until—three in the morning until six at night we had only had one sandwich and this Aussie tea. And we had landed in Lae, New Guinea, and some Red Cross person met us and took us up to the barracks.

And, of course, it's hot and we're tired, and pretty soon Virginia, who was the head of the Red Cross girls there, came and asked us if we didn't want to date, to go to this Irving Berlin This is the Army show. We said, no, we weren't interested. We were too tired, and so we just dismissed it at that. Pretty soon she came back and she said, “Won't you, please, go? We've got these two men that want—one of them saw you down at the air strip, and he wants to date Betty, and the other one wants to date you.” And “No, no, we're absolutely not going.” Well, she kept coming back so many times and finally she said, “You know, they threatened to turn out our lights if you don't go.” Well, that still didn't cut any ice with that. So she came back another time. She says, “Well, they threatened to turn off the water.” So finally we gave in and we went. Neither one of us impressed at all. We were too tired, of course, to really have a good time, but probably slept through the show. I don't remember that. But, anyway, we went and it turned out that I married the young man that I dated that night. [laughs] We don't know what happened to Pat, the other man. He and Betty often got together. The four of us would get together and do things. But, anyway, we've always laughed at—we've always laughed about how we met.

KA:

Is there anything else you would like to add about your service experience?

JR:

Well, let me look at my notes here and see if I have anything that's real important. I don't know what all you want. Oh, we did have interesting times at the—Lae, New Guinea, was the headquarters for the 1st Australian Army, and Tom had been there long enough that he had gotten to know everybody around because he had—he needed different things, you know. And we would go over there sometimes to eat, and I went with other people, too, but I don't know how—I don't know what you call the boards. I'm going to call them boards that they had overhead, and they had beautiful Australian scenes painted on them, and I guess some of them probably were New Guinea scenes, too, and they had little boys at each end. There were probably four or five of them in this room, and like a shutter, they would pull it one way, and then they would pull it back. They would pull them back all these, however many there were it took to cover the dining hall and the dance floor; and that was a fan.

Of course, we didn't have fans. We didn't have air conditioning. We didn't have all those things. Sand fleas were terrible on the beach. We got to go swimming quite often, but the sand fleas were just terrible. And one of the dances was called kangarooing. I remember that. A lot of them drank grog or lollywater. That was awful tasting stuff.

Oh, somebody brought us some parachutes, and we were very excited about having all those parachutes that we could make something out of. So we put them in the washing machines. Somebody had made a washing machine, and we put it in there, and it turned out that that—the covering on it was kind of like wax. [laughs] It messed up the washing machine. But, anyway, I think we had—oh, we must have had at least ten yards of that. So, we made—some of us made some tablecloths out of that and some placemats. And somebody brought me wool from Australia and I ended up bringing most of that home, and I knitted things for the children afterwards out of that.

And, oh, I had dengue fever. Lots of people had malaria. Everybody was kind of yellow because you took sulfa pills to, hopefully, to avoid having malaria, but a lot of people still had it. The dengue fever you ran a very high temperature, and it probably lasted for several weeks, and, hopefully, then you never had it again. Some people did but the majority of the people were immune after that.

You know, I didn't remember having Plexiglas before then, but I supposed we did, but I remember at one time we made—the boys liked to play poker, and they ran out poker chips, so we made poker chips out of some Plexiglas one time [laughs].

And, oh, I had a nice trip up to—when we were in the Philippines had a nice trip from Clark Field up to Baguio. You may have heard of Baguio, which is a lilly of a kind of rest and retreat center for Filipinos. But there was a group of nuns who lived there, and many of them had been killed and displaced and all because of the Japanese. But they had—there were still a few of them there, and some of us—a couple of us drove up there to see what it was like, and they sold a silver that we called Baguio silver. I don't know what they called it, but they made a silver filigree jewelry that was very fine, and they made that to make money for their nunnery. And up there we slept on springs, just open springs. I don't know whether you've ever even seen open springs that are not covered, but that's all we had to sleep on there. Nothing—there may have been a piece of cloth over them, but—and then we had something to put over them. I remember we about froze [laughs] while we were there.

Let's see, I met—there was a young man who came very often to our club in Lae who had designed scenery for movies in Hollywood, and I have some stationery here that he painted. And, oh, we were—somebody made a grass skirt out of strings from the—from some of the parachutes.

Now the women—we saw very few natives in New Guinea. The men—the women did all the work, and the men stood around with big clubs. We—I never saw them do this, but this was our understanding from those who had been there when they went in first, and they stood there with big clubs and they hit the women if they didn't do just what they wanted them to do. Had lots and lots of fresh fruit that they raised. I never saw this but Tom did of a woman walking along with a child—nursing a child on one breast and a pig on the other breast.

Oh, one of the most—one time I was really excited was after VJ Day. At that time I was on canteen duty at the airstrip in Clark Field, and there we really had donuts [laughs], and we would take 1,000 of them out to the airstrip at one time and we'd unload these planes. One day there were prisoners getting off. An American who had been imprisoned in Japan, and a young man got off that I had gone to high school with. He'd been in prison several years in Japan, and that was very exciting.

Manila was terrible, and he just—we couldn't see any destruction in New Guinea. I don't know what it looked like when our forces went in, but, of course, they cut down so many trees and all to make the base, and then to make an airstrip and all that I'm sure for the natives it was very different. But in Manila where you see the pictures of the war, destruction and like what happens in hurricanes and all, and it was terrible.

But one time we were invited to this big celebration, and Mrs. Marcus was there all dressed up and everything, and we, I believe, yeah, I had my—we had a—we were allowed a dress uniform of a beautiful blue pique dress as our dress up uniform, and I had worn that. I think there were several couples, but we were in this big old command car, and they're wide open. No, at least at that time they didn't have any flaps on them that you could close them up like they close up Jeeps here now for this big ball in Manila. It rained. [laughs] The men had gotten out their uniforms and pressed them all up, and shined their shoes, and we were all just like we were going to Washington, D.C., for some special. [laughs] We ended up, by the time we got there we were just soaking wet. But, anyway, we went on and tried to find some place to sit. At the time there were—seems to me like they were round tables like this with chairs around them. Most of the tables if they weren't occupied they had reserved for so and so. You know, some dignitary. We never could find a place to sit for awhile. Finally we would just take something that we had. I don't know, a scarf or what, a jacket or what somebody took off, and kind of laid it over that sign. [laughs] We took over that table. It was a big dance, and it was just, you know, they were giving out a bunch of awards and all that type of thing. It was a very big time. We had lots of fun.

And as I read—I was talking to a friend of mine who lives out at Carolina Meadows yesterday, and she was a WAC in the service, and I said that Margaret—I was telling her what I was going to do today, and I said, “Wouldn't you like to be a part of that?”

Well, she didn't know. She said, “You know, when I think back, the country gave to me a whole lot more than I gave to them.”

And I said, “Well, you know, as I'd read through my notes and my letters and so forth, you know, I had a lot of that same feeling because, hey, you know, we did—what I was doing was something that could be fun. It could be fun or it could be work, whichever way you wanted it to be, and I guess we mostly looked it upon as if we were having fun.”

So I had lots of happy memories, and my mother kept all my letters that I wrote and I do have a few pictures. I couldn't find many of the pictures, and I sent quite a few home, but I think probably that—well, you wouldn't know this unless other people commented, but you know photography wasn't the same then. We had trouble getting any supplies, and if somebody did have something and you got a picture made, you probably couldn't get a second copy of it, and if you did it was poor like some of these is not—that one is pretty good, but I have a—there were a lot of them that look more like that that I used to have. I don't know where they are, what's happened to them. I have lots of negatives, but not very many pictures, so I don't know whether any of the negatives are any good or not, but this—I guess this one must be the one where we were at the Quonset hut up at General [Douglas] MacArthur's headquarters. Of course, we dressed in army gear, and I was not used to wearing trousers. That was hard for me to adjust to.

And I looked, but I haven't—I don't think that's it, but I noticed in my notes that somebody, some man, came in where we were one day and leaned over and put his arm around me and “What on earth?” And he said that—he told me that he wanted me to have this ribbon of his because the Red Cross had befriended him. So he wanted to share that which I had forgotten that. Now, wasn't that nice of him? There were really, you know, so many talented people.

We lived in Lae, New Guinea, up on top of a hill and we slept in mosquito nets. The mosquitoes were terrible, and flowers were beautiful. I don't remember any flowers that weren't, you know, very brilliant. Colors were so bright in the Philippines. Just beautiful, and we had them all the time we were there. I don't know whether they ever were without beautiful flowers or not, but I guess it was tropical enough that they probably bloomed all the time.

One time we were trying to teach Chinese children English, but we didn't get to do that very long. That happened just a short few weeks, and I don't remember where they appeared from, why we were doing it, anyway. That was something that we were asked to do. You never knew what you were going to be asked to do, and now I think, oh, why didn't I do more? There must have been other things that I could have done that I didn't do, but too late now. I did make a lot—many good friends most of whom I either lost track of or they have died, but I don't believe I write to a single Red Cross friend any more. I believe they've all—I still do keep up with some of my college friends who were in the service, but I don't think any of the other ones.

KA:

Did you win any awards for your time?

JR:

No, no awards. I did keep some of the—most of my clothes were lost when we moved from Lae, New Guinea, to the Philippines, and—but I did come home with my Red Cross coat, beautiful wool coat, and it had a red lining. Of course we didn't need that overseas. So it would have been perfect—it was things that I still had, and I wore—I didn't wear it for awhile, but then for, oh, probably at least ten years, maybe longer than that I pulled out and wore it, and—but I did take off my—when I finally got rid of it, I took off the insignia and the buttons. I made one of the daughters a coat and a hat out of the red lining when she was little, and, unfortunately, we've lost that. I loaned it to somebody else in the family and I don't know what happened to this coat, but we don't have it any more either. And I don't remember how I got this Australian Army thing. I don't know how I got that.

And—but I do have a copy if you're interested in a copy of VE Day papers that they put out at the base on VE Day, and the paper they put out up in the Philippines on VJ Day. Of course, we had several days when they had told us that the war was over that wasn't, and I guess that was true in the United States, too, and I do remember out—when it comes about time for VJ Day I think I say it's the 14th—no, I believe I say it's the 15th of August, but the paper says it was the 14th, but because of the difference in the time that—I am remembering it OK. I just thought maybe I got mixed up. [laughs]

KA:

Was Manila the only place that you were in the Philippines, is the only place you actually stationed?

JR:

Yeah, I was only stationed there. When we flew from Lae, New Guinea, to Clark Field we had spent overnight I believe in Leyte, [Philippines], and so we got to see some of the girls that we had known before. And when I—there I tried to get in touch with—I had a brother-in-law who was sitting out in the harbor, but I couldn't make contact. Did make contact with several friends while I was in Clark—at Clark Field. They were—some of them stationed in Manila. I didn't see all of them, but I found one of Tom's relatives there through the Red Cross, and that was interesting. We did drive down to Subic Bay, [Philippines], which was a big navy base, and that I don't know whether it's still a navy base or not today, but I have a son-in-law who goes there quite often now on business which has been an interesting little sideline. Probably lots of other interesting things. [laughs] Trying to think. Has everyone you've interviewed been from Europe or have they been in—

KA:

Some of the women of the Red Cross actually didn't go overseas.

JR:

Oh, OK. Well, I'm glad I got to do that. Here is something that I don't really know about, but, oh, yes, it was Atabrine [malaria drug] we took. It wasn't sulfa. It wasn't sulfa. I think it was called Atabrine that you had to take every day. It made you yellow. Made you look awful. And there were lots of people who had foot rot, a fungus that a lot of people got because it was so hot and so moist.

And see, in New Guinea as such where we were, there was no civilization as we know it. No towns. No stores. No theaters. Nothing like we were used to. So everything that the army had, they had to bring in and make their own entertainment, set up their own hospitals. There had been a general hospital there because there were lots—there must have been just lots and lots of troops there, that was Base E, I believe. I don't know how they named the bases, but I believe it was called Base E. And so they had to take in everything. You know, I just can't imagine how anybody planned all this. When we sit here and say the troops in Iraq don't have this and they don't have that, and I know some people here who have family in Iraq, and they complain that they can't talk with them every day. Sometimes it was six weeks before you got a letter. When you did you might get six or seven at one time, and it might be the same way with your mail going back to the United States. So I think people think they ought to live over there like we live here, and it just didn't work out that way. And, of course, war is being fought a lot differently than in World War II.

Another thing they had in New Guinea were lots of snakes. Now, they didn't bother us, but they ordinarily had had lots of snakes, real big ones. Lots of beautiful birds. By the time we were there there was too much civilization for them to be there, but they apparently had had lots of parrots and other beautiful birds.

Of course, I was not used to Jeeps. I had one note here that I wrote sometime, and I don't know when this was, but the Japanese wore a type of a flip-flop with a mold of New Guinea natives' foot on it so the Americans or the Australians would be fooled. I thought that was interesting. And, of course, the Japanese fought a different type of war. They were—I wonder if it isn't more like what they're fighting now: guerrilla type of war that, I guess, that our troops were used to be more organized and they—even at Clark Field there were the occasional Japanese who came in and raided, and I think the probably—that probably was because they were hungry, and they were trying to find supplies just so they could live. I don't know how they ever felt they could ever get back home again, but there apparently was still quite a few living up in the hills at that time. Well, they wouldn't have—Manila was taken while I was in Lae, New Guinea. So it wouldn't have been very long actually. So, I don't know how they herded them all out and—that would have been a big job. So, there probably were lots of them. I guess that we would call them snipers. I don't know what the Japanese called them.

But one thing that was of great interest to me was that Tom was one of those sitting on board waiting to go in on the first wave in Japan. And so when VJ Day came, of course, they went in, but not as they thought that they would have to. And he was sent to Hokkaido, Japan, to the northernmost island, and apparently the snow was like they are having it up in New York now. They went in on the second floor of the houses, and he said that one of the conditions, I believe, when they made the treaty, [was] that they would still have their emperor. Well, you know, the Japanese did what the emperor said, and, apparently, when they were told to lay down arms, they laid down arms, and at least in Hokkaido they felt safer than on the streets—they would feel on the streets of Raleigh [North Carolina] today at night. They didn't feel the need of carrying their guns anymore. Those people did what the emperor said. If he said “be good,” that's the way they were. So it was amazing.

I think our men, you know, felt a great difference, and I know Tom did because he had gone over to New Guinea as a battalion, in a battalion, a whole shipload of Negro men, and they were—I don't know how many officers. I don't remember how many officers you have in a battalion, but that—they were only white people, and they had to sit in the harbor off of the coast of Australia for several months. Now, could you imagine being on board ship? You are going to fight a war and you're sitting on board ship for a couple of months, and you know it's such a contrast, too, because what they were told—and of course I'm sure the Japanese could go on much with their own lives, which you couldn't when you were on board ship. But I'm sure it was hard for both sides, too. But I often think what a terrible experience those men had just sitting out there in the harbor for so long aboard ship where you were so confined. I'm sure they had some kind of recreation for them, but that's still when you get into hundreds of men who didn't want to leave home anyway. You don't know where you're going. It must have been a terrible thing. Terrible, terrible.

KA:

Can you think of anything else you would like to share?

JR:

Well, I think I'm about running out [laughs] of important things. I don't know just what—because some, many—so much of it as I read now was really trivial.

KA:

Well, we're interested in the trivial, too.

JR:

[laughs] Well, I mean, you know, you went to see this movie or you—or you went to this dance or whatever, those—things like that that don't seem as important now. But it was amazing how the men managed to do, you know, it wasn't just the Red Cross personnel, but the men themselves by the time I was there, because this was very—a base that was very far behind the fighting. And so they had time to think about doing things to entertain themselves and to make their life a little more pleasant. And so it was good that they learned how to do things to help themselves. I'm sure a lot of them came back home better off for it, and a lot of them were worse off. You can't help but wonder how it did change a lot of people's lives, and the psychological part of it that a lot of the trauma that so many men went through would be very difficult. At the time I don't think I thought much about it, but I've thought, you know, during this war thinking about because we'd been so concerned, I think of this war with that type of thing, and we are in the general public. We have so many more people going through depression and what's the word they call it now, when you're sometimes you're Mr. Jekyll and sometimes you're Mr. Hyde? Can you think of what the word I'm trying to think of? So many people diagnosed with, not—we used to call it schizophrenic.

KA:

Thinking about bipolar?

JR:

Bipolar. Don't know whether that causes it or contributes to that situation. I don't know whether the psychiatrists know or not. But I'll be glad to share any of these things with you that you want to look at or take or whatever.

KA:

OK, well, I thank you again for speaking with me today. Nice to have met you.

[End of interview]