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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Mary Kate Bonds, 2008

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Object ID: WV0415.5.001

Description: Mary Kate Bonds primarily tells of coming of age during the Great Depression and of her service in the WAVES during World War Two and in the U.S. Navy until 1971.

Summary:

Bonds discusses her childhood in Chickamauga, Georgia, near the Civil War battlefield; her mother's feminist attitudes; the Great Depression; senator Gordan Lee; and joining the navy in 1942. Topics from Bonds' service in the WAVES during World War II include her experiences in one of the early classes of officers; as cadre when the training center at Hunter College was opened; and working with aviators at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Bonds describes how she rejoined the regular navy in 1948 and discusses many of her subsequent assignments. Those include working with Esther Williams at Naval Station Great Lakes and in Hollywood, her time at United States European Command in Paris, and her duties in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Office of the Secretary of the Navy, and Chief of Naval Operations office in Washington, D.C.

Other subjects include the rise and fall of troop morale during her three-decade career; her opinion of the progress of women and civil rights; patriotism; her opinions of several presidents; the role of education in her life; and the evolution of women in the military during her career.

Creator: Mary Kate Bonds

Biographical Info: Mary Kate Bonds (1920-2012) of Chickamauga, Georgia, served in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and the United States Navy from 1942 to 1971.

Collection: Mary Kate Bonds 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:

Therese Strohmer:      

Well, good morning. This is Therese Strohmer. It is June 11, 2008, and I am in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Mary Kate Bonds:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

This is an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. You can go ahead and set that down Mary Kate [in reference to microphone] it doesn’t—yeah, it’ll pick it up. Just turn it the other way around here.

MB:    

Oh—

TS:      

It will pick it up. It’s a microphone that will go a long distance.

MB:    

Oh, okay.

TS:      

So I’m with Mary Kate Bonds. And I’m going to have you go ahead, Mary Kate, state your name in the way that you would like it to read on your collection.

MB:    

Mary Kate Bonds.

TS:      

Okay, let’s go ahead and check this out.

[Recording paused]

TS:      

Well, Mary Kate, would you mind starting out by telling me where and when you were born?

MB:    

I was born in a little town called Chickamauga, Georgia, on the 21 of September 1920.

TS:      

What kind of town was that that you grew up in?

MB:    

A town of two thousand. [A] typical town with a cotton mill.

TS:      

That was like the main industry?

MB      That was the whole big industry: bleachery, cotton mill.

TS:      

What did your parents do?    

MB:    

My mother, of course, was not employed. She was a “take care of the family.” But my father was a realtor and had a mercantile store.

TS:      

Interesting.

MB:    

It was a small town.

TS:      

Now did you have any brothers and sisters?

MB:    

I had three. My oldest brother and my youngest brother died very early before I was born. The middle son—I was born twelve years after him, so I was almost an only child.

TS:      

So you were the baby of the family then?

MB:    

Yeah.

TS:      

[chuckles] Okay.

TS:      

So what was it like growing up in Chickamauga? Is that right?

MB:    

Chickamauga.

TS:      

What was it—what kinds of things did you do as a girl?

MB:    

Well, it was a—to me, my childhood memories are extremely delightful. I grew up with a mother and father who were interested in everything I did. And I had lots of friends. We went to schools in those days that were segregated. They were very small. I did the usual things of skating and bicycle riding and, you know, those kinds of things. But my main—as I got into high school, I enjoyed basketball and tennis, which were my two—although I played softball and track. But basketball in that small town was the Friday night’s social event.

TS:      

Do you want to describe for people who aren’t familiar with the way basketball was played for women—

MB:    

In those days—

TS:      

—in those days.

MB:    

—it was pretty restrictive. You had a central court, and it was very, very different rules from today. But it was a delightful game, and I was fortunate enough to play on the Georgia championship for our class of high school. And we won the championship.

We had a wonderful coach who taught Latin as well as coaching. She guided my life pretty much my whole career. She followed me entirely through my life until a year ago when she died at ninety-nine.

TS:      

Wow. What’s her name?

MB:    

Mrs. Lamar Jackson.

TS:      

Lamar Jackson.

MB:    

We still call her—all the class, we’ve had some reunions—we still call her Mrs. Lamar Jackson.

TS:      

So you won the championship. Do you remember what year that was? Just approximately. Do you remember when you graduated from—

MB:    

[Nineteen] thirty-six, ’36-‘37.

TS:      

Yeah. Well, that’s fantastic. And you played tennis as well?

MB:    

Yes. I played championship tennis.

TS:      

How where you as a tennis player?

MB:    

How what?

TS:      

What kind of tennis player where you?

MB:    

Singles and I played a lot of doubles. Our doubles were probably more successful at times than my singles were.

TS:      

[chuckles] Now were there a lot of kids in your neighborhood where you grew up?

MB:    

No. Having come along late in my mother’s life, my childhood—and also in Chickamauga, for instance, in my graduating class, there were only ten girls and one boy. But because of the football team, the junior boys had failed a course so they could play football in their senior year. So you can tell that I went to a high school that—Lee High School, Gordon Lee High School—that was donated by a congressman who was very, very, wealthy, Gordon Lee, which was what the school was named for.

He was very concerned about the mountain children who were not getting an education. And so he established dormitories, and the youngsters from the mountains came down on Monday and stayed through Friday.  They lived in the dormitories. And he built a teacher’s home, a boy’s dorm, and a girl’s, and then endowed the school.

In those days, there were not any public schools in the state of Georgia. There was an elementary school and what we called a grammar school, but high schools were mostly private. And he and the members of the corporation, the bleachery, of course, he supported—or they supported their families to go to high school. He left that and left the endowments. But it cost, for me and my family, it cost tuition to attend the school, although you could get help if you didn’t [have tuition money]. So I grew up in a very different education environment than the present today.

We don’t realize the advantage that youngsters and families have today versus the days of segregation. Now in segregation, Gordon Lee also donated funds for a black school and set it up, but the black children in high school had to ride the train to Fayetteville [La Fayette?], Georgia, to go to high school.

TS:      

From wherever they came from, they had to go to LaFayette?

MB:    

That’s right. That was the central high school. Gordon Lee donated the elementary and grammar school for the segregated. So I never went, in my young days, to a totally non-segregated school.

TS:      

Now did you—

MB:    

But I had lots of black friends.

TS:      

What did you do with them?

MB:    

Well, this was church, or because of—I’d rather not get in to it. But my father had a farm, and, of course, there were lots of laborers on the farm. He also had lots of help with the mercantile store. And for the people who don’t understand a mercantile store, that’s everything. That’s the present day Wal-Mart. And so he needed a lot of help with that.

And as a realtor, we were very fortunate. He had the philosophy of helping others younger than he was in enterprises. So it worked both ways. For instance, the dry cleaners: he owned half of it. The movie: he owned half of it. The barber shop: he owned half of it. That way he made his rental money, but enabled a lot of the younger men in town to go into business for themselves.

TS:      

So he was quite the entrepreneur then.

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

And an investor as well.

MB:    

That’s right. He helped establish the first bank of Chickamauga, so he was quite an interesting person.

TS:      

Now, were there any advantages or disadvantages of having your father so prominent really in Chickamauga?

MB:    

Well, I suppose so. I suppose so. My mother was one of the first feminists.

TS:      

Is that right?

MB:    

Absolutely. As I look back on her now, she allowed me to do anything that I could possibly do. And it never occurred to me then, although I did know that there were a lot of restrictions with my friends.

TS:      

What kinds of things were you able to do that maybe other girls weren’t doing at that time normally?

MB:    

Probably the freedom to pick my own friends, the freedom to play basketball at that age when many girls were discouraged. They were supposed to, you know, be doing all these lady-like things and not wearing shorts and things like that. You know, it was—remember now, we’re talking about the 1920s, early twenties. I also went through the Depression, and so I’ve had a very interesting life.

TS:      

Yeah, you have. Now do you remember as a child any particular games, besides the sports that you played, but like maybe games that you played with other children?

MB:    

Oh, the usual like hopscotch and marbles and jump rope and who knows. And my mother had a lot of activities. She was what they called the home room mother of the senior class. She never got to be mine, because she was always selected by the seniors. So she had lots of activities: parties, proms, picnics, swimming outings, and things like that.

TS:      

The school that you went to, was it in Chickamauga?

MB:    

Yes. It was the center.

TS:      

That was—okay.

MB:    

And the Gordon Lee mansion, as we called it, was right next [to it], because he donated the land to the church.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

The thing that I had forgotten is about swimming. That was a big activity. The corporation, the mill, owned the swimming pool. It was open to the public, but it was not open until noon in most times, and so some of us who knew the Jewels and the owners of the bank got to swim in the mornings, which was great fun, particularly in the summer.

TS:      

Oh, no kidding. Like a day like today would be—

MB:    

Right.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

I guess I’m rambling a little bit here.

TS:      

No, you’re not rambling at all. There’s—I was wondering when you were in school, was there any—did you like school?

MB:    

Oh, I was—great. I always have been with education, reading, that’s my love. Particularly education.

TS:      

Was there—

MB:    

Unless we get educated and we educate this modern generation, they’re going to have a hard time in their lives. They don’t realize it now because of the technology, but nothing—believe me, and my opinion—this is my philosophy—is ever going to take the place of plain hard reading, doing your own stocks, your own investments, and looking towards that. Technology is not going to do it. The blogs and the internet are wonderful. It gives a wide, wide, world, but it is not the world that is really filled with reality. End of philosophy.  

TS:      

I understand. [laughs] Now was there a particular subject that you liked while going to school? Reading I understand.

MB:    

Yeah. Well, obviously, I was fascinated by biology, because my master’s—my bachelor’s degree was in science. So I was interested in science, biology. In high school, biology was one.

But I took—the school was a very unusual school. There were two areas. There was one the college trained, and then the other was the agriculture and mechanics and that kind of education. So you chose the two, but we had the advantage of taking things like Latin, physics, geometry, and those subjects.

TS:      

So they were kind of split into like a college preparatory and a trade school.

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

Oh, very interesting.

MB:    

Yeah. And f course, the youngsters from the mountains were deeply involved in lumber and agriculture and mining and things like that. But so anyway, yes. So probably the sciences.

TS:      

The sciences. Besides history that’s been my favorite, the physical sciences.

MB:    

I enjoyed history because my mother, of course, again, my mother was involved—was born after the war between the states [Civil War]. But she grew up on Chickamauga & Chattanooga National [Military] Park, of which my grandfather was the superintendent. And of course he fought in the Civil War, and so that background is very heavy in my family.

TS:      

Yeah. So what’s your mother’s name?

MB:    

Kate Lynam—L-y-n-a-m. My grandfather came from Ireland and became a citizen and settled in the United States. He went into—well, he was—there’s a big history there. But anyway, eventually he was in the army and went with the South and fought all through Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and that area. He was never up in Virginia.

TS:      

Were you ever able to listen to him? Did he ever tell any stories about this time?

MB:    

He was dead before I was born.

TS:      

Was he? Oh, that’s right, because you said your mother had you later in life.

MB:    

Yeah.

TS:      

Well, what—

MB:    

But I have a lot—I have all of his letters which were written—the family that wrote from Ireland, and then a lot of the letters that he wrote during, we call it “the war between the states.” And all of those kinds of things she has kept.

TS:      

That’s fantastic. That’s really fantastic.

MB:    

And I have his gun, his pistol, and all of his letters, his—she saved his naturalization papers, so I have all of those things and all of his letters from Ireland.

TS:      

That’s a remarkable resource for anyone to—

MB:    

Yeah, right.

TS:      

Well, when you were in high school, did you have an idea about what you wanted to do in the future as an adult?

MB:    

Not really, except I wanted to go to college, and I worked hard to get scholarships. And I was one of those fortunate people who grew up in the era of [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt [FDR], and I was able to go to college under the NYA [National Youth Administration], which gave work to scholarship individuals. And I had the great privilege of being assigned to the Girl Scouts [of the U.S.A]. So I worked for four years in the office of girl scouting, which was great.

TS:      

Yeah, Girl Scouts is a great organization.

MB:    

Yeah.

TS:      

So you did that while you were going to college?

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

Under the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] and the NYA and all of the other programs that President Roosevelt provided was really the means of educating—they were really basically education programs.

TS:      

Now when you—as you were growing up then—you talked about growing up during the Depression also. Do you have memories of those years?

MB:    

Well, they were very lean years. They were very bad years. And I hope that this fits in with the interview, but because my father had a farm, the vegetables—and in those days pork and things like that were still being produced on the farm, even though the banks were closed and everything was in chaos and there was just a truly, truly human depression—my mother had the availability of vegetables. So she would make big pots of soup. And a lot of the unemployed, the desperate people, rode the railroads, rode the boxcars on the freight trains. They would get off in this little town because the train stopped there for a period of time. So she would give soup to the hungry.

It was a time that was hard to describe. I was only nine years old or ten when it started, but it lasted a long time.

TS:      

Those were formative years, too.

MB:    

That’s right. That’s right.

TS:      

With your father’s businesses that he was involved in, did he any difficulty, your father’s businesses?

MB:    

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Particularly there was no money for movies. There was no money for haircuts. You know, I mean there was no money. It is hard for people to realize. And when I have shown some of the people—I have saved the ration books. Most of the people—I have them in a lockbox at the bank—have never seen a ration. And many of them don’t even know. And when I mentioned that shoes were rationed, they couldn’t believe it. It’s an untold story. Sugar was not—I think I saw in the paper this morning where sugar was not—was still rationed up until about ’46 or ’47.

TS:      

Up through the end of the war.

MB:    

That’s right.

TS:      

Yeah. Okay. Well now—okay, so you wanted to go to college.

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

And you got a scholarship, or got in the program—

MB:    

I got a couple of scholarships.

TS:      

So what college were you able to go to?

MB:    

The University of Chattanooga, which is in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chickamauga was on the Georgia and Tennessee line, and I stayed at home and rode the bus, which it was bus back and forth. And I went four years to the University of Chattanooga.

TS:      

How long of a drive was it on the bus?

MB:    

About thirty minutes.

TS:      

How was college then?

MB:    

Oh, I completely enjoyed college.

TS:      

What kind of things did you do in college?

MB:    

Well, I was very fortunate, as one of the scholarships, was to be an assistant in the physical education department and also to the bio-science. I helped in the labs after, you know, several hours a week for a scholarship. And then I worked pretty much long hours in the gym for physical education.

TS:      

What—so we’re still talking about Depression years.

MB:    

Thirty-seven to ‘41—forty to what, twenty-two? Forty-one, ‘42.

TS:      

Now as you’re taking your classes and riding the bus, are you thinking about what you might be doing in the future?

MB:    

Not really, except in those days you—most women became telephone operators, fixing coffee in banks or somewhere else, and teaching school.

TS:      

Did any of those interest you at all?

MB:    

Oh, I went for the teaching certificate, yeah. And I did some practice teaching.

TS:      

How did you like that?

MB:    

I liked it very much. I coached basketball and other things along with teaching. I taught biology.

TS:      

Now as you’re going through these years—you were talking about FDR just a little bit— what did you think of the man as a president?

MB:    

Roosevelt?

TS:      

Yes.

MB:    

One of the greatest presidents that’s ever—because the benefits. This—the people who downgrade Roosevelt didn’t really live through it. He was—his vision saved this country actually. Now he had lots of problems with Pearl Harbor, and there are lots of things that I still believe—I still—but anyway, he was a great president as far as I was concerned.

TS:      

So now you’re—when did you graduate from college?

MB:    

In 1941.

TS:      

Nineteen forty-one, so was that the spring of ’41?

MB:    

Spring of ’41.

TS:      

So what did you do right after college then?

MB:    

Well, right after that I continued some courses at the university and did teaching at a little school called Tyner High out in Tyner, Tennessee. And that school was established because of the Tennessee Valley Authority [TVA] which was established, and therefore the engineers and all the people employed with TVA brought their families to Tyner to the small community. So we had—I mean I taught there for a while.

TS:      

And did you—

MB:    

Until July the following year when I heard about the military.

TS:      

How did you hear about the military?

MB:    

Well, I pulled this out this morning. Another teacher that was there—I was very—as I say, I was doing practice teaching in order to get my certificates. And Jenny Lea was a real fine—she had been teaching ten or twelve years or something, and she joined the army WAACs [Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps], and she wrote me a letter.

TS:      

Is that the letter she wrote you there?

MB:    

Yes, that’s the letter. And this is the winning WAAC [bar?] and that’s a WAAC [bar?].

TS:      

And this, for the record, this is dated September 14, 1942.

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

And you notice that the postage is free.

TS:      

Oh, that’s right. It’s from—yeah, it is. It’s free. That’s right.

MB:    

Which was throughout the war for the military in World War II.

TS:      

So what did she say? What did she say in this letter?

MB:    

She was just fascinated and thought that it might be something I might be interested in. But I was not interested in the army, because I had grown up by Fort Oglethorpe [Georgia], and they had brought in—in July they brought in some of the first WAACs to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and I just didn’t think that that was for me.

And I got—another friend had some information about the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service], so I wrote to Atlanta to find out about it. I got a letter back immediately that they’d like to know my qualifications. And from there on I went into the V-9 program.

TS:      

V-9?

MB:    

I believe it was V-9. [chuckle] I was just trying to think this morning, but anyway, into the women’s [program] as enlisted, but then you would become a midshipman, and then you would be commissioned. Now the other program was for people with more experience, and they would go in and they were given a commission. They didn’t have to go to recruit training and midshipman training.

TS:      

Okay. So with your program you did do some kind of recruitment training?

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

Yeah.

TS:      

Now where did—so your ideas to go in the military kind of initiated then from Jenny Lea?

MB:    

But mostly from the advertisement and the contacts with the recruiting people in Atlanta, who were very active. [chuckle]

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

And, of course, I had to convince my father, because—

TS:      

How did that go?

MB:    

Well, he didn’t want me to go, of course. He was very much against it. Again, my mother thought it was great. “Go.” She convinced my father. And he eventually took me down to the bus, put me on the bus to go to training.

TS:      

So what was it about the military that interested you? Do you remember?

MB:    

I guess it was because of my grandfather, and living near Chickamauga [and] Chattanooga Park, and, you know, all of the writing of the battle, and the background of Mother, who was deep, I mean, having lived on the park and lived through the writing of the history and all of that. She married my father who was from Chickamauga, so that’s the way we got to Chickamauga.

TS:      

Where you—was there any sense of patriotism?

MB:    

Well, very definitely it was patriotism, because my brother had gone with the civilian engineers with the Marine Corps and had signed on with a contractor to extend the airstrip at Wake Island. So he had left San Francisco on a ship with about five hundred Marines and a full load of metal behind this merchant ship. He was about fifteen miles outside of Wake Island when Pearl Harbor hit. So it took them about a couple of months to get back to Pearl Harbor, and so during that period of time we didn’t hear from him at all.

TS:      

So you didn’t know what—

MB:    

We didn’t know. We just knew that he was somewhere in the Pacific, and apparently the captain of the merchant ship had decided that he wasn’t going on to Wake, and he took radio silence, and they wandered all through the Pacific [Ocean] dodging whatever he heard on his radio. He eventually pulled both the Marines and the metal back into Pearl Harbor. My brother admired him forever.

TS:      

Wow. Now what did your brother think about you joining the WAVES?

MB:    

Oh, well he was all for it.

TS:      

Yeah?

MB:    

But you know, by that time, this was ’42, so I had already signed up to go in the military. I signed up on the 27 of November, was called on the 22 of December, left the South. [I had] never been above the Mason-Dixon Line. I went to—let’s see, Northampton, Massachusetts. They took over Smith College to train us.

TS:      

In the winter.

MB:    

In the winter. Got there, the baggage went in the snow. We were transferred because I was reclassified and went to Mount Holyoke [College] where there was administration management personnel. Northampton was communications. So I got my first break in the navy by not being put in communications, which were shifts around the clock and those kinds of things. We arrived there on the 22nd of December. The Holyoke people were marvelous to us. They were absolutely fascinated with this group of women.

TS:      

What was it like when you put on the uniform for the first time? Do you remember that experience at all?

MB:    

Well, that was probably three or four weeks later because the supplies, and they didn’t fit, and, you know, it was such a trial period of ordering and sizing and all this mess. So we got them about three weeks later, but then—let’s see. I got there on the 22nd of December and I was commissioned an ensign on the 9 of February, so it all happened very fast, but I learn fast. I learn fast. I grew up. I grew up in six weeks.

TS:      

Is that right? How so?

MB:    

Well, because of different people who were from all over the country. I was the—there was only one other southerner. I had been born and reared in the South, and, you know, it was just different. Everything was different. Everything was routine.

We had male instructors and they were not as patient as they might have been, having been assigned to women’s training center. They had just come off of the sea some of them­, particularly a couple of them from destroyers. Again, we learned the navy fast. It was—

TS:      

How did you take to it? How did you take to that kind of training?

MB:    

Perfect for me. [laugh] I was homesick, just like everybody else was probably homesick. Some of the demerits for one thing or another seemed pretty harsh, but you begin to learn it fast, as I’m sure you did in your training.

TS:      

Yeah. Well, did you have—I remember the food. What did you think about the food?

MB:    

Well, this was—as you—Mount Holyoke was a very high class women’s college, and everything there was certainly not sparse. It was—and the cafeteria—I mean, they just turned over—the students were sent home, and so everything was turned over to the military, and it was very, very, very good. We were going really to college at Mount Holyoke, so—

TS:      

With demerits maybe. [laugh] So it was—

MB:    

I learned a lot about the lucky bag.

TS:      

The lucky bag?

MB:    

Don’t keep anything adrift. Pick everything up. [laugh]

TS:      

Is that right?

MB:    

[chuckles]You had to claim it out of the lucky bag. And when you claimed whatever you had—for instance, we had all of our things were in the snow somewhere for four or five days, so we tried to washout our underclothes and hang them on the radiators. And if they came through at night and found them on the radiators, they picked them up. The only way you could get them back is by claiming demerits. [chuckles] So that was one of the things that I remember very well.

TS:      

So you wanted to get your underwear back, so [laugh], yeah.

MB:    

It was a matter of do you leave it in the lucky bag or do you take demerits.

TS:      

Yeah. I had never heard that before about the lucky bag. That is interesting. I probably would have left a few things out I am sure. [laugh]

MB:    

So it was a matter—some of the first decisions.

TS:      

Yeah.  Now it was six weeks training and then what—did you know during your training what kind of job you were going to be doing?

MB:    

No.

TS:      

How did that work out?

MB:    

Well, the orders were to be given out on the day you were commissioned, so we didn’t know. We were packed and everything. We didn’t know where we were going until the commission. We were commissioned and then we got our orders.

Yeah. [consulting papers] That’s right. That’s right. Nine February of ‘43 I was commissioned an ensign. That’s right.

TS:      

So where did you orders go after that?

MB:    

[chuckle] I went to the recruit training school at the Bronx, New York. They took over—the navy took over Hunter College and it was in the Bronx. And I have some pictures there. And we were to establish the first reserve recruit training. There had been training out in Iowa at some of the schools, but this was going to be the first big recruit training reserve. So that was my first assignment.

TS:      

Well—

MB:    

I had the first platoon—

TS:      

Oh, okay.

MB:    

— in the first company of the first battalion of the navy reserve recruits to train—

TS:      

So you got to do what was just done to you basically, right?

MB:    

That’s exactly right.

TS:      

Did you have more patience than the—

MB:    

Absolutely a lot more. But it was very interesting because they really weren’t prepared for us.  The recruiters had sent in far more than they had planned capacity, and the navy was taking over the apartments in the Bronx which was near Hunter College. We took over the dormitories, which was fine, but then when they started having too much, they had to start taking over the civilian apartments, and that caused real trouble. Moving—I mean just moving people out and moving us in. They begin to—there began to be some real problems. And when we would march the platoon on the sidewalk in the areas toward Hunter for classes and food and meals stuff, they would fill paper bags with water and drop them on the troops. Then they would put tools and anything they could find hidden down under the step-offs and things so that the kids would fall.

It was really—until the mayor [Fiorello H.La Guardia]—they called him the “little flower”—and when he got fascinated with what was going on and the war effort and why—there were no PXs [Post Exchanges] or anything established at all. So we would take the troops down to the nearest drugstore. When the merchants found out that we were bringing troops down to purchase personal items, everything began to clear up, and we were beginning to be accepted and from there on in. But I didn’t stay there long enough to—I only stayed there about six or eight months. Then I got orders, other orders.

TS:      

Did you? Now did you ever get hit by any of those paper water things?

MB:    

No, but my troops did. My troops did.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

Because, you know, I wasn’t maybe out there when they were assembling and getting ready.

TS:      

So you got orders after six or eight months and where was that to then, Mary Kate?

MB:    

Potomac River Naval Command in Washington [D.C.], and that was with personnel. I got my first job of welfare and recreation officer. And in the navy versus the army, one of the big differences is that you did not have—outside out of recruit training, where I had a platoon, and that was my job—in the navy you got two jobs. You got to be the consultant to the commanding officer—

[End of CD 1—Begin CD 2]

TS:      

This is Therese Strohmer, and this is tape number two for Mary Kate Bonds. And it is June 11. We’re still in Pinehurst, North Carolina. We are going to go ahead, and Mary was talking about her time during World War II service and—what you got there in your hand, Mary?

MB:    

Well, I’ll show it to you later.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

That’s my senior picture.

TS:      

Oh, very nice. She’ got lots of lovely pictures that we are going to have to go through here. Now you were talking about your time in the military, and you talked about how you were in the New England area and you trained enlisted women—

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

—at that station. And then you got transferred out of the personnel welfare management section into avionics, and you went to [Naval Air Station] Corpus Christi, Texas.

MB:    

Quonset.

TS:      

Quonset?

MB:    

Quonset, Rhode Island.

TS:      

Apparently I don’t want to say Quonset because I’ve missed that one a couple of times. [laughter] Okay Quonset, Rhode Island.

MB:    

Naval Air Station Quonset [Point].    

TS:      

Okay. You enjoyed the—you were saying how it was different there, because before you were working in organization and things like that, which you seemed to have really taken to.

MB:    

Oh, yeah.

TS:      

But then now you’re in more of the meat and potatoes of the navy.

MB:    

I was in the World War II war part. It was the aircraft that was actually fighting off the coast of the United States in the Atlantic [Ocean] with the anti-submarine and that kind of things.

TS:      

Right, so even though they weren’t overseas, they were still—because even where they were stationed in the North Atlantic, it was part of the war effort right from that base.

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

The other—the regular line navy, the ships and the commanders who were running the ships were out of Newport, Rhode Island, which was right off of the coast.  So it was a combination of the ships and the squadrons because the squadrons had to—many of them flew back and forth out of the Quonset because the anti-submarines got pretty close to our coast, particularly in that period of time. But otherwise it was aircraft carriers. They were on aircraft carriers and would come into Quonset to be re—maintenance, gas, and all that big mess.

TS:      

And so at Quonset, what was your duty there?

MB:    

Well the duty actually there was to maintain the—it’s kind of hard to say, but how the duties of the aviators and the squadrons, being sure that they had the housing and the meals and that we supported them completely with everything. And I supervised the mechanics in the maintenance department.

TS:      

Oh, okay.

MB:    

—because most of them were women. Some were men and I had those, too, but the large majority in that point in time were women, because the men were on the ships and were—At that point in time, women were not on the ships. They were not flying aircraft, and as a matter of fact, we weren’t even assigned as commanding officers.

TS:      

Right.

MB:    

That came much later.

TS:      

Right, that’s true. Now, and so then after that, then you went to Corpus Christi—

MB:    

The separation center.

TS:      

The separation—oh, right, the separation center.

MB:    

We began to separate a certain number of people, because the D-Days were beginning to—were not at an end, but we were—the navy was letting out a lot of people.

TS:      

It looked like we were going to win the war probably.

MB:    

Yeah, that’s right. So then I got assigned to Corpus Christi.

TS:      

Okay. [laughs]

MB:    

Okay?

TS:      

Okay. [laughs] You were in a lot of places in World War II.

MB:    

For a short period of time, because that’s when I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to stay in the navy, particularly as a reservist, because I began to see at that point in time that the regular navy was really—and we were reservists, and Congress was reluctant to make the women a permanent part of the military for all services.

TS:      

Right, right.

MB:    

And I felt that I had served my time, and I would back to Chickamauga.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

So I got separated at that point in time.

TS:      

Okay, and do you remember when that was? I know you’ve got your little notebook there.

MB:    

I can tell you [unclear].

TS:      

Oh, you are organized.

MB:    

Well, I just—I don’t remember a lot of things. [laughter]

TS:      

Well, you remembered to organize there.

MB:    

Twenty-five April 1947.

TS:      

Oh, okay. So actually that—

MB:    

I stayed two years after V-Days [Victory in Europe and Victory in Japan] and all in 1945. V-Days and [unclear]. I was at Corpus, and I was honorably discharged. And then—

TS:      

Now before we go on just a little bit—just to recap what you did at Corpus Christi, you were helping select reservists.

MB:    

Reservists for training.

TS:      

Reservists for training. Were there—

MB:    

Oh, everyone. I mean navy aviators for training.

TS:      

Okay. Whether they were going to go into helicopters or—

MB:    

Lighter than air jets or whatever.

TS:      

And you said that there was a lot of politicking going on.

MB:    

Well, let’s put it this way, we got a lot of letters from congressmen.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

Particularly wanting to be a jet aviator. He wanted his clients, his political—to be aviators, to be the jet pilots.

TS:      

Yeah. Now helicopters were fairly new at this time, weren’t they?

MB:    

Yeah, but they were slow and had yet to be like they are today. They were a far cry. And they were small and made by Sikorsky up in Connecticut, and they were a new thing. They had not yet become the real, you know—it was the jet pilots and the bombers and the, you know—

TS:      

The glamour jobs.

MB:    

—the glamour boys who landed on the aircraft carriers. And of course, at Corpus there—I don’t want to get Corpus and Pensacola mixed up, because Corpus was mostly advanced training, too. So, you know, that was—and I got to—at Corpus I got to select for advanced training and that kind of thing, so.

TS:      

All right. So you got out because you said, “Well, they’re not really going to make women a permanent part of the navy, and so I did my part.” And you went back to Chickamauga?

MB:    

Chickamauga, yes.

TS:      

So what did you do when you got out?

MB:    

Well, I took several months to kind of—it was a real change coming from the military back to a small town. The high school, Gordon Lee High School, had gone to—had a lot of returning veterans. And they were young, because many of them had gone in, like you did, at seventeen, eighteen, [and] had done maybe three years, four years. The war was over. They weren’t going to stay in or reenlist, but they wanted some education.

So the high school set up some veterans’ classes. And I volunteered to teach, having the experience, because they were having some difficulty with regular teachers involved with returning young veterans who’d seen death, who’d seen all kinds of things, and had really seen war, had been [on] ships at sea, deprived of all the liberties that we normally think about. I don’t think anyone stops to think about when you serve in the military, you almost give up democracy, in the sense of—at least then. I’m not speaking now, because I have no knowledge of the present, and I don’t intend to, but in those days the security and—once you were in the military, that was your life and your home. And so I enjoyed teaching them.

And then I got a call from the Sixth Naval District, which is in Charleston [South Carolina]. And they—you—because I had stayed in the navy. I stayed in the naval reserve—

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

I hadn’t left the navy. I hadn’t been absolutely—you know, I was in the—still in, and I had to do the two weeks active duty for training. So school was out and I decided, “Well, I’ll get in touch with Sixth Naval District and see if I can do my active duty for training.” And sure enough, they said, “Oh, sure, come on down.”

So it was in the hot July, and I was in the barracks, and the heat was unreal. I was working for what was then the addressograph system, which was the beginning of computers. It was one of the first times that any mechanical device had been so that you can duplicate. And Xerox—at that point it was called Xerox—but it was just coming in, and duplication was beginning to be done. So I got assigned to the head of that department.

In the meantime, the officer that had trained me at Mount Holyoke had become the head of big WR [Women’s Reserve?] and a big person, and was a commander, a lieutenant commander, I guess, at Charleston. So we renewed, you know, the old days and so forth. And she was living with a civilian, had shared quarters with a civilian out at Boone Hall Plantation, and they knew the doctor and so forth that was out there. And this other person that had been raised—well, she was raised with this other person, because she—Kay Dougherty, the person that I knew, was orphaned in the flu epidemic with her mother and father in Washington in 1917 and ’18. So she had gone to live with this family that were friends of her family. But anyway, that is kind of out of the way.

But anyway, it was so hot, and so this supervisor said to me, “We live out at Boone Hall Plantation, and we’ve got plenty of room. And Dr. Deas and his family, they’ve got room. Why don’t you come out and stay with us, out of the barracks?” I thought that was the best thing that I had ever heard. So that started a lifelong friendship between the two of them and myself.

TS:      

I have to interrupt you for a second, Mary Kate. Are you still in the reserves at this point?

MB:    

Still in the reserves. In the reserves and required to do—

TS:      

—the two weeks.

MB:    

—the two weeks for active duty training. Well, because it was a big project at that point in time, all new—they needed extra help, so they asked me if I would stay on. Well, weeks turned into months and months turned into whatever. So I was in Charleston. Then came Congress approving the regular navy, and so you could put in your application.

So I decided, “Why not?” I had enjoyed it. Going back to teaching school and living in a small town—Well, my parents were getting much older, because I was born late in their lives, and they just thought it was a good idea to do it. So I put in my application, and when they set up the school—and got approved, and was getting ready to be recalled, and I got this letter saying that I was being recalled involuntarily for duty at Great Lakes Naval Training Center for again, training, [chuckles] back in education training. So I also found out—and Kay called me and said—this is Kay Dougherty—she had been sent to Washington, and she was named officer in charge of the training center.

So she said, “Guess who’s record was setting on my desk this morning?” She said, “I can’t believe it. You’re being involuntarily recalled.” 

And I said, “Yeah, I just got the telegram.”

She said, “Well, you’ve got exactly three days, and you’ve got to get to Great Lakes.”

So that’s the end of my story for the rest of my life. For thirty years I was in the United States Navy. I went to Great Lakes.

TS:      

That is the beginning of the end isn’t it? [chuckles]

MB:    

The beginning of the end, yeah.

TS:      

So you went to Great Lakes, and you showed me some pictures about something really interesting that happened there.

MB:    

Yeah, that’s the—

TS:      

Well, maybe more than one thing interesting happened there, but these pictures documented one of them.

MB:    

We became quite famous with the males on the station, because over the door was: “Through these portals pass the women of the greatest navy on earth.” So we—there was lots of competition between the male training and the women training, but it was a lot of fun because they provided all of the—both male recruit training and WAVE recruit training were there. As officers we were living in the BOQ [Bachelor Officers Quarters] with the male training officers. And one of the highlights to me—just for your information this is—let’s see. That’s Hunter. That’s Hunter.

Esther Williams made a real big visit, and absolutely the recruits were enchanted with her.  She spent a lot of time with us.

TS:      

Tell people who Esther Williams is, for those of us who don’t know who she is.

MB:    

She is an actress that made many navy pictures and was a champion swimmer in her day, and very popular in the 1940s, late 1940s. So she had made a movie, and I can’t remember exactly the name now, but it was a navy movie. [Skirts Ahoy!]

TS:      

We can look that up.

MB:    

A long, you know, a full movie. And when she got back, apparently she asked Washington—because they were going to make some training films, which was one of the reasons she was with the recruits. The navy was making not only for women but [for] men survival and that kind of films. And she was—and Hollywood was one of the leaders in providing the navy with this business. So she asked if I could be assigned for a while to Hollywood as a consultant, because she felt that I was pretty well qualified from the recruits’ point of view. So I spent several months out in Hollywood.

TS:      

You remember what year that was that you—What year was it that you got to go to Hollywood?

MB:    

Oh, let’s see. Great Lakes, that must be ’48, 1948.

TS:      

So it was at the beginning of the time. It was real recently. It was soon after she left the station then.

MB:    

Well, I was—that was at the Great Lakes Training Center.

TS:      

Yeah, yeah.

MB:    

So I was there for—I mean this was only temporary duty.

TS:      

Right.

MB:    

Just for a couple of months.

TS:      

Yeah. In Hollywood, you mean?

MB:    

Yeah.

TS:      

Now did you—

MB:    

Then I came back to Great Lakes for training.

TS:      

So did the navy pay you when you were doing the temporary—

MB:    

Full duty.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

I was on temporary active duty.

TS:      

Did you get to meet any other actors or anything?

MB:    

Oh, yeah. Of course, I can’t remember now.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

Oh, yeah. It was very great fun.

TS:      

Sounds like fun.

MB:    

And we made some real good training films that saved a lot of lives, as a matter of fact, you know.

TS:      

That’s true.

MB:    

Particularly survival. She was very good. Of course she was a champion swimmer. She encouraged the recruits, because every recruit had to learn to swim.

TS:      

That’s why I didn’t go into the navy. [chuckles]

MB:    

There was a fear of water. And a real fear, and a real honest fear. Several of the recruits just left. They just got out of the military because of it. We tried hard, but there was just some that had never had an experience with it. The officer in charge was—fear of swimming.

TS:      

Oh, geez.

MB:    

[chuckles] So the recruits had somebody on their—

TS:      

On their side.

MB:    

On their team. They sure did.

TS:      

So after Great Lakes now—so we have a long career here of about what, thirty years.

MB:    

Thirty years, yes. Well, maybe a little short, because you’ve got leave time and so forth.

TS:      

[chuckles] Yeah. Still that’s pretty—a very long time.

MB:    

But you got credit for it.

TS:      

That’s right, you did. So let’s go over some of the highlights then after World War II, which we’ve talked about pretty extensively. Because I think we could probably spend a few days talking, Mary Kate, about your particular—

MB:    

Well, I went from Great Lakes to another interesting job at the Bureau of Naval Personnel [BUPERS] in the training division. And again, it harks back to all of the experience, you know, that I had in the aviation and all of the other areas. But that one assignment I got as head super—I mean I was the navy—bureau of naval training center—I mean naval training of the Bureau of Naval Personnel on the preparatory program for the academy at Bainbridge [Bainbridge Naval Training Center]. And that was the program where enlisted persons could apply for the preparatory school to be selected under—not by a congressman or anyone, but under a separate program to go to the [United States] Naval Academy. And that again was a—their training and their selection and working with the congressmen and working with the people at the academy and so forth, and that was a marvelous program.

And I also had other training centers. You know, you just didn’t get to do one thing up in the bureau. Then I began to understand the organization of the hierarchy of the Washington navy at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, because they ran all of the training, aviation, everything. So it was all out of there.

TS:      

You got to know some of them, too, I imagine.

MB:    

Oh, yes. Again political, because the selection of going to, you know—and then out of the ROTCs [Reserve Officer Training Corps], some of the universities, and so forth. Those kids would apply, and there were limited numbers. They were in addition to the other—all the ways to get to the naval academy.

TS:      

Did you feel a lot of pressure at that time in selecting?

MB:    

Not particularly, because the Bureau of Naval Personnel is a big organization, and there were lots of people, you know, who were your seniors., and you were pretty well protected. At that point in time—you know, although I had ability to make the decision, there were lots of people senior. Everywhere I went there were a lot of people senior.

TS:      

Now did you feel—this is kind of a general question for you. In your time in the military,  you served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

Did you—your sense of treatment, say, by your superiors in general, did it stay pretty consistent through those three eras? Of course, there was a lot of gaps in between those.

MB:    

This is a subject that is very difficult for me. I don’t know whether it’s my training, from my family, or whether it was an attitude that was developed with patriotism in World War II, but when I hear of the problems that are going on now, either I didn’t see them or they weren’t there. I just seemed to have maybe—maybe we’ll call it luck that I had some of the finest senior officers and particularly—

[Phone rings]

TS:      

Well, we’ll go ahead and pause for just a second. It’s okay. We’ll catch back up on this. Here we go—

[Recording paused]

TS:      

Okay, Mary Kate. You were describing—

MB:    

This is one of your more difficult questions. And I really don’t know exactly how to answer it. I’d like to just say, “No comment,” because I had good assignments. I was very—had a great deal of respect for my commanding officers, and I was assigned to very interesting duty and served with some of the finest naval officers, including the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon. So I really am not a fair person to probably to ask that question to.

TS:      

Well, it’s your experience.

MB:    

Because I always felt that while we were different—we were treated different to a degree. We did not have that academy connection. We didn’t have that squadron or ship connection. But on the other hand, many of the senior officers felt that we were needed. We felt needed. And some of the finest people I had served were several chief petty officers who had come ashore for their shore duty and had spent anywhere from twelve to fourteen years on ships.

They were some of my finest supporters, and I can’t say enough, enough. If they’re living or whatever, they know, because I kept up with them over the years until very lately. So maybe that’s not a good answer to your question.

TS:      

Well, I think that it is a good answer, because I think part—one of the things that seems to make a difference sometimes is that sometimes some women had men and women who helped mentor them.

MB:    

This is correct.

TS:      

Was that your experience?

MB:    

This is my experience. Also, I have to say this, the values that I learned in a little town under my own family, under my teachers, in a small university have—in a place where I knew the president and the president knew all of his students and so forth, I had a sense of values, and I never tried to put myself in harm’s way. Now that may sound strange, but if you don’t respect yourself and know where you are and what’s going on, particularly in a big organization like the United States Navy—

Now there were a lot of officers and a lot people, personnel, who were against us and made it known. And of course, the promotion system was, at that point in time, very difficult, because we were not—We were first. Even the head of the WAVES was only a lieutenant commander. She finally made commander. And then we did get eventually, after all of the years, a captain who was a yeomanette before World War II, Joy Bright Hancock. It was—I was one of seven four-stripers [captains].

TS:      

What’s “four striper” equal?

MB:    

Captain. So the promotions were slow.

TS:      

One of seven? At that time you were captain there were there only seven female captains?

MB:    

At that time. When I made captain in 1966, maybe.

TS:      

— maybe ’67.

MB:    

Oh, 1967.

TS:      

I think that’s when they passed that one law [Public Law 90-130]. 

MB:    

Yeah. No, the regular navy law [The Women's Armed Services Integration Act] was passed in ’48.

TS:      

Well, the one the lifted the cap—the ceiling on—

MB:    

Oh, yes!

TS:      

—on women. 

MB:    

Yes, yes. That’s right.

TS:      

I think that was 1967.

MB:    

Yes, 1967. I was never in for rear admiral. That came much later.

TS:      

You’re right.

MB:    

And well deserved, and I [knew] good junior officers who made admiral, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

TS:      

Did that get under your skin a little bit, though, the promotions?

MB:    

No, no.

TS:      

Try to explain that to a woman today who is—

MB:    

I can’t.

TS:      

Yeah? Okay.

MB:    

Because they won’t understand it.

TS:      

Yeah?

MB:    

They don’t really understand the Depression. They don’t—many people, not just women. But they don’t understand when women couldn’t have credit cards. Even when I came here, I went to a bank and couldn’t borrow money as a single person to build a home; there were so many restrictions. And there were certainly restrictions in the military.

But actually the military, the navy, led the way in so many things. They were to first to allow women to have commands, to fly aircraft, to serve on ships. I never had that advantage. I would have loved it, but you know, that’s the way it was. So I’m not sure I’m being very helpful to the present generation.

TS:      

[laughs] Well, I actually—I’ve heard the phrase you just used, “That’s the way it was.” Many times women have said that about the restrictions. “That’s the way it was.”

MB:    

And you tried hard, and it was hard work is what did it. Now there is favoritism, of course. And I have already repeated about how fortunate I was to have command—to have gone to commands that were—particularly aviation. That was kind of open anyway. I mean they were risk-takers to begin with. So one more women risk-taker was fine with them, you know?

TS:      

That’s an interesting point.

MB:    

Yeah. And they weren’t afraid to—the flyboys were daredevils, and they worked hard, played hard, and many of them were single at that point in time, so it was a good experience.

TS:      

What about after the restrict—after ’48 it changed a little bit for women for having a family. Was that any hardship for you?

MB:    

That’s correct. That’s correct. In—I guess it was close to 1950—but many things began to change. When I was—let’s see. Let’s see what I’ve got here. [mumbling] Bureau of Naval Operations.

When I went back to—now this is many, many years, and I had made lieutenant commander, I guess—I was sent back to navy personnel. This time I went in to what they called [PERS-A?] plans and policy division, and that was where you were planning for personnel—staffing personnel with the congressional budget.

I think it is interesting for posterity to say what happened. I had a fine crew who were far more better mathematicians than I was. And at that point in time, computers had began to come in. I’ve forgotten what went before computers, but it was getting into the technology. And we were trying to figure how many seamen we could promote to petty officer third class, second chief, you know, in the congressional budget.

So we had always said that the big thing in the navy was once you got a crow on your sleeve, made third class, you’d get married. So you could always depend on one dependant. The third class had to go to sea probably for six months, so in fifteen months or more, they would have—they would come ashore in six months, then they would have another dependent, so you could count on one dependent. So that makes two dependants, so you’ve got a dependant allowance, housing, and all that kind of thing. You’ve got increasing in the medical profession and all of the other things.

Then once they went back to sea, you begin to get a rotation of how many dependants they would have. Well, we did the budget, and the chief that I had was so proud of his budget. He went over to Congress with me to testify. We were just proud to death. So they bought our calculations and bought it.

One difference: the birth control pill had become available to military personnel. So we had a lot of money in there for a dependant, which was fine, instead of having done it the other way. So the next year we had lots of money for promotions.

TS:      

[chuckles] Because it wasn’t used for the dependants?

MB:    

That’s right.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

For that first dependant.

TS:      

Yeah, interesting.

MB:    

But it shows you what change has come about in our country. And lots of times it’s not planned, it’s not thought about. It’s not—because it made a big difference in our country.

TS:      

Kind of an unintended consequence.

MB:    

That’s right. That’s right.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

Now whether you want to use stories like that, I don’t know.

TS:      

I think that that’s a great story. It’s very interesting.

MB:    

They thought that we were geniuses, and we really weren’t. [laughter]

TS:       Well, maybe you were in a way you weren’t aware of. What—in your career, did you ever go overseas?

MB:    

Yes. I had two and a half year’s duty at Headquarters United States European Command in Paris, France.

TS:      

How did you like that?

MB:    

Oh [chuckle], I loved every bit of it.

TS:      

What did you do there?

MB:    

I was in logistics, the executive—the executive officer to the logistics command. I had a two-star air force general and a one-star army, and the third billet as executive was navy. And I got the navy billet. I spent two and a half years. As a matter fact, Kay Dougherty and another gal was ahead of me, and they had two years and two years. And then I got—I worked hard for my two years. But I had two years, two and half years at Camp des Loges. And that’s when we made the move from France to Germany, the headquarters. Anyway, [Charles] de Gaulle, General de Gaulle, had thrown the military out of France.

TS:      

So this was in the sixties wasn’t it?

MB:    

It was ‘64 to ‘66.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

Let’s see, at the beginning of—about two and a half years.

TS:      

So did you enjoy—

MB:    

I lived on the economy.

TS:      

Oh, did you?

MB:    

Yes. I lived in the heart of Paris and commuted.

TS:      

What kind of social things did you get to do there in Paris?

MB:    

Oh, all kinds of things, because that was the headquarters. General [Lyman] Lemnitzer was in what was then called SHAPE— Supreme [Headquarters] Allied [Powers Europe] command—and we had some billets there. Of course, we were located practically the same—different cities, different areas, but we worked a lot with—they worked a lot with us.

And there, being the exec, I got to travel with the generals wherever they went in Europe. So that was again—that was a little more difficult. There was a lot of competition between the air force and the army. And then the navy—the only navy division was in intelligence, and that was the only navy there, because the navy headquarters was in London. And that’s where are big headquarters were. This was really the joint command. And then the European Command, and that was Heidelberg [Germany], Wiesbaden [Germany], and London, I mean the three of them.

The interesting thing there is that I got to know a lot of the foreign women’s services and to work with them. I fortunately traveled to—I think I’ve got—travelled, you know, to the headquarters and so forth. But also these were women who had been in World War II.

TS:      

Like you.

MB:    

And they had been far greater in the service—I mean they had been more integrated into the services than we had, because many of them fought against the Nazis.

TS:      

Oh, okay. This picture is at SHAPE Headquarters.

MB:    

That’s right.

TS:      

Are you in this picture? Where are you? Oh, I see you. You’re on this end here. Is this you here?

MB:    

Right there.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

There. And these were all—let’s see, that’s the United States, Britain, Denmark, and all of them. And they were wonderful, wonderful, women. And they had many stories of the things that they did, particularly in France, at night. Where they—

TS:      

During the war?

MB:    

During the war. They had sons in the war or grandsons—I mean, other people’s children. Many of them didn’t have children, and at that point in time, we weren’t marrying. Or if you married, you left the service. But they were wonderful, wonderful, people. I kept up with them a long, long time. I had several of them over here to see the United States.

Particularly, I was very—I had a lot in common with the Danish and the Norwegian women. The Israelis, at that point in time, of course, were not a country or anything. But surprisingly, there were some of the Jewish that had gone into other services. So we did have an opportunity to know them, and they were strong, strong, military women. Not these women were definitely—they’d been there, seen that, done that. They were fascinated with our service.

TS:      

Why?

MB:    

Because we were a little different. They had struggled to become the regular part of it, where as we, at that point in time, were regular navy. We were the same as—and it fascinated them. Now some of them were—I’ve forgotten now—

TS:      

We can look that up.

MB:    

The Germans, I believe. But anyway—

TS:      

Yeah, that’s something that I can look up. It would be interesting to see that.

MB:    

Yeah.

TS:      

Did any of the women in—

MB:    

The British were very strong, because they had been through the bombings and all of the other.

TS:      

That’s what I was going to ask you, if any of them had been in the anti-aircraft batteries. Because I wondered—

MB:    

That’s kind of hard to remember, but I’m sure, because two of them had maintained a great—these two, these two [indicating figures in photograph]. Of course, we were a little closer to them.

TS:      

Now they look like they were in the navy with that uniform.

MB:    

They were in the navy, yes. Some of the others were army, some of them were navy.

TS:      

Now is this French here? This one, she looks French. I don’t know. In the middle.

MB:    

Yeah, she’s French.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

She’s French.

TS:      

That’s really—that’s a great picture.

MB:    

I prize that picture. I really do.

TS:      

I can see why. That’s just terrific. Well, let’s see now—

MB:    

I haven’t thought about it. Maybe that picture would be interesting.

TS:      

Oh, yeah.

MB:    

I could just leave it with the other things.

TS:      

Yeah, or we could just even make another copy of it and get it back to you.

MB:    

Whatever.

TS:      

What—

MB:    

I’m probably getting wordy here.

TS:      

No, no you’re not. [chuckle] You have a lot to cover. Now did you—did you spend any time anywhere else overseas?

MB:    

No.

TS:      

That was—your assignment was in Paris. A great spot to—

MB:    

Right.

TS:      

—be stuck in, huh?

MB:    

That’s right. Well again, the navy—very few shore duties, unlike the person you’ll interview this afternoon, Betty, who was in the army and actually was in Italy and Germany and the places, and Mary Cannon who was a nurse. But line officers, you know, at that point in time, we were pretty much not integrated into the “sea navy”, I guess I’ll call it.

TS:      

Right.  Well, you really didn’t want women on ships too much.

MB:    

That’s right.

TS:      

Now out of all of your assignments, did you have one that most memorable?

MB:    

I don’t—I really—I don’t think so. It would be difficult to sort one out. I guess my least interesting duty was in Washington.

TS:      

Really?

MB:    

Well it was, you know, it was very high authority, whereas when I was at some of the others in Europe and in Pensacola and Corpus and the recruiting and all this other business and training, you know, it was reality. In Washington, you know, it was a lot of pushing papers and that kind of thing, although I enjoyed it. I did enjoy being in the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon. That’s an interesting place, and to find the workings of that was very interesting. But that was next to my last duty, which was a good one, but it was pushing papers, and that was in the office of the secretary of the navy.

TS:      

Oh, excellent.

MB:    

Now that’s not the secretary of the navy’s office. 

TS:      

Right.

MB:    

Because the secretary of the navy’s office is very small with hierarchy, but the secretary of the navy had a big office of assistants and help. And I served in the office, but in that one, I hate to tell you, it was mostly pushing papers.

TS:      

Yeah. Well, I talked to a woman recently who was enlisted, and she served as the secretary for the secretary of the army.

MB:    

Yeah, so she was in the office of the secretary of the army.

TS:      

Yes, yes. So she had—so I think she enjoyed that too, for learning the inner workings of the government, the military.

MB:    

I learned the inner workings of the government, but I was in the Pentagon with the chief of naval operations. And that was really an operating—that was controlling personnel and that kind of thing, but when I got to the office of the secretary, then that mostly support, let’s put it that way. I was very senior so, you know, it was mostly kind of, “What are we going to do today,” and, “Here’s the policy,” and that kind of thing.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

But it was a great experience, because I had not only duty in the navy at the personnel level, naval operations, and SECNAV [Secretary of the Navy]. So I had a pretty wide variety. I pretty much knew, but now I can’t tell you. I mean the world seems so entirely different.

TS:      

Does it?

MB:    

Yes, it does.

TS:      

Why do you think it seems so different now?

MB:    

It doesn’t seem to be the patriotism. We have a war going on—and I’m not going to get in it—but who even talks about the war? When I was in the military, you know, people were supportive. You were the military. It was—all they needed was to see a uniform, respect it. Now I’m sure they’re respected; I don’t mean that. But there doesn’t seem to be the realization of what these people are doing, how they are saving this country. And nobody seems to want their young people to share it. You know?

TS:      

I understand.

MB:    

In the days—I mean I have tried very hard, and I have moved into civilian life, and I have had a wonderful civilian life here. And I’ve had lots of volunteer things, done a lot of things. And I try not to be old fashioned, and I try not to talk about what was, because it was, but it’s over, and now we’ve moved on—except I would like for the world to be little deeper involved in our young—or in our whole military. Not just the war, but in our whole military, because we’re just not getting the support of the people in my generation that went into the military. I could be wrong.

[End of CD 2—Begin CD 3]

TS:      

Well it’s an interesting question to think about for sure, for sure. Now what—was there any—oh, I know what I was going to ask you about. You talked a little bit about FDR but we didn’t talk about Eleanor Roosevelt. Do you have any feelings about Eleanor?

MB:    

Oh, yes. She is again one of the women who paved the way, and he supported her. He really was the one that tolerated it and admired her. And incidentally I just wanted to give this to you. I didn’t know whether  you were interested, but I thought as a historian—my mother saved a lot of—and you can look at it later—saved a lot of cartoons and the—in the days—and in all his—all the things, but these are cartoons during that time.

TS:      

Fantastic.

MB:    

The first Memorial Day, and then these are—this one is very interesting. The debt—$65 million.

TS:      

Oh. Is that million or is that billion?

MB:    

It’s a billion, isn’t it? Yeah.

TS:      

A billion, wow. It’s a little bit more than that now, huh?

MB:    

So there’s lots of cartoons from during that time.

TS:      

Well fantastic. I would to love to look at these. Thank you!

MB:    

So if you as a historian might like to see these.

TS:      

Yeah, I’d like to. Thank you. I’ll put that back here.

MB:    

And they’re all dated.

TS:      

Yeah, it looks like they’re—

MB:    

In ’43, ’44.

TS:      

Very good. Thank you very much.

MB:    

So if you’d like to—if you want to take those and bring them back to me, I’d be delighted.

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

If you’re interested.

TS:      

I am totally interested.

MB:    

As a historian—

TS:      

We’ll see about the archives, too.

MB:    

Since you told me you were—and then with the archives, I thought you might be interested.

TS:      

Yeah, we can copy them and get them—

MB:    

Whatever you want. That’s my mother’s collection.

TS:      

Excellent. Well, thank you very much. It looks like she taught you how to organize it too, huh?

MB:    

Well, that’s the reason I have any of this, is because she—

TS:      

She kept it?

MB:    

She kept things.

TS:      

Say thank you.

MB:    

That’s the only reason I have the letters from my grandfather and all is because—

TS:      

She kept them.

MB:    

Yeah, she kept them. She was an unusual woman.

TS:      

Yeah. Well, she should have been a historian I think.

MB:    

She was one of the leaders, and I’ll never forget her telling me about—see, I was born the year women got the vote.

TS:      

That’s right. I think you told me.

MB:    

It was the first time my mother could vote. And you talk about a day that was in her memory forever was the day that she could walk in and cast her vote. She talked about and told me about it and impressed me with it.

TS:      

Fantastic.

MB:    

So, again, it’s a forgotten era.

TS:      

Yes.

MB:    

It’s a forgotten era.

TS:      

That’s true.

MB:    

Hillary Clinton tried to bring it back to a degree, but it’s passed, you know? We don’t think a lot of times for our past because we wouldn’t be anything. I wouldn’t be anything without my past. But I can’t dwell on it either, and didn’t and haven’t for thirty years here. I used to live in Southern Pines [North Carolina] out in the horse country. I grew up with horses, but I moved there when the family died, so twenty years.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

So—

TS:      

Well, we’ve got—I was going to ask you too—you talked about Eleanor. How about some of the other political leaders like you would have been in the service—of course, you were in the service for many political years—how about [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower?

MB:    

One of the greatest generals to me, and he is the person who warned us about the industrial political complex, and we didn’t listen to him. We’re selling arms all over the world and then acting like we’re saving it. We’re the greatest arms merchant, which he foresaw. He was visionary, a fine person.

TS:      

How about JFK [President John F. Kennedy]?

MB:    

Well, there was a man that was absolutely adored in my generation, another visionary.

TS:      

Do you remember the day that he was assassinated?

MB:    

I absolutely do. I could not believe it. I was the saddest day of—that I can think of. He had the charisma, and regardless of anything else, at that point in time, this country needed, like we need now, so yes, he was a fine, fine, man.

Now I also feel that Lyndon Johnson was a good president, and I admired him. People forget what he has done for this country. So he was another patriot. Our presidents have had their faults, but in most senses, to me, this country has had good leadership.

TS:      

What were you thoughts about the Vietnam War? You would have been serving at that time.

MB:    

That is, along with slavery, are the two worst times in American history as far as I’m concerned.  I am not a great historian, so I really don’t know, but the Vietnam War was again maybe a lot like this war. A lot of people didn’t pay attention to it. It was just something that was going on and other people—except that there was more people—but people were getting deferred. The colleges were filled with deferred people. Again, it wasn’t basically the American public. It was a war that shouldn’t have been fought—maybe. How do I know? 

But we were working—and my connection with the Vietnam War was that I was in the Pentagon, and therefore it was night work—two and three o’clock in the morning—and just again routine—not routine, but it was paperwork, planning, policy, doing, you know, keeping up with information to the people who were making decisions. Sending down policy papers to be staffed and this kind of thing.

TS:      

Do you think that your feelings about the Vietnam War were different at the time that it was happening than they are now?

MB:    

Probably, probably. Because when you’re in history—until I talked to you, I never really realized that I was in history, you know? It was a part of my life that I devoted to my country. I’m proud of it, loved it, but never conceived—and, you know, now I guess I do realize that there were—that it was a little—I did go through some things that other people haven’t.

TS:      

Yeah, you sure have.

MB:    

Lots of experiences, though.

TS:      

Yeah, you have. You had talked a little bit earlier about how you really respected many of your superiors.

MB:    

Absolutely.

TS:      

And also petty officers and other—

MB:    

Well, all the personnel, but again it was an era in which it was volunteer. It was a cause. There was a sense of patriotism that’s hard to even understand. For instance, I have in there when my mother received a little plaque or piece of paper that said this family has a WAVE in the navy. She saved it for years and years and years. Fortunately, she didn’t get a gold star [signifying the death of a loved one during military service], which was gold star mothers. 

There was a pride. It didn’t make any difference who you were or what. If you came home on leave, you know, the small leave that you got, it was—you were just, you were just the “Our girl in the military, serving, saving this country.” Now this was, you know, back—and even toward the Korean War. But the Korean War was really a forgotten war.  Now Mary—have you interviewed Mary Cannon?

TS:      

Yes, I have.

MB:    

Well, she probably told you a lot about Da Nang [Vietnam], and so their experience—their experience is totally different from mine. It was like we weren’t in the same, you know—but we’ve been friends for a long time. But the nurse corps and the line corps were totally different.

TS:      

That’s true. That’s true. I’ve talked to a lot of nurse in different services. It’s interesting the similarities and the contrasts that they have with that.

MB:    

You’ll find Betty Ray very interesting.

TS:      

Yeah, I can’t wait to talk to her either.

MB:    

Yeah, she’s—anyway, she’s a very, very fine person. She gave a lot to the country, but totally different.

TS:      

Well, did you find—so one of the things I’m curious about is, in your fantastic amount time you spent in the military from 1942, when you were just talking about the high level of patriotism, to 1971, when I would say the military was not at its height—

MB:    

That’s correct.

TS:      

How—what did you feel about that?

MB:    

I was ready to retire.

TS:      

Okay. Do you want to talk about that a little?

MB:    

Well, I’m quite sure in my own mind what really influenced me, but suddenly I saw the military changing from what it had been. I didn’t see my service—although here I am, a navy captain, four-striper women, in the office of the secretary of the navy, and I was ready to start something else. So I really can’t answer your question. But my motivation, I guess, pretty through my whole navy career, was my country, the flag.

Now that sounds—because I grew up knowing about Fort Sumter and the flag, and went through the history of a family that had been very influenced by the Civil War. [They] lived it. Grandfather wrote the tablets and organized Chickamauga Chattanooga Park. Mother grew up in the house on the park. So I was saturated. And as a southerner, I had grown a great deal by moving into the navy. Had I stayed in the South, I don’t think that I would have been the person I am today, because I learned diversity. And I learned the value of other people and having the pleasure of working with all kinds of motivations, and all kinds of backgrounds, and, you know, so it’s—

TS:      

It’s a great wonder of the military I think that’s overlooked is that. I had that same experience.

MB:    

You did?

TS:      

I came from a little tiny town in Michigan and pretty homogenous, you know. [chuckle]

MB:    

So you know what I’m talking about?

TS:      

I do. I understand, yeah, totally.

MB:    

But I really go back to that original community. Family, community, church, you know, whatever, and if you don’t get the values there, I’m not sure that values are going to be as ingrained. Because the values that I had in the navy, I really—they came without thinking. But then the navy also had tradition, and in that point in time, devotion, dedication. Now they probably still do today. I just don’t know the military, except I go over to Fort Bragg [North Carolina], and it’s a different—I was never in the army, but it’s a different world.

TS:      

Sure, that’s true. That’s true.

MB:    

That’s the way it should be. Our country has grown.

TS:      

It has grown, hasn’t it? Now was there anything that was emotionally hard for you to do in the military?

MB:    

Well, I guess emotionally, being a woman in the military required a lot of discipline. It required a lot motivation, which came, but it was difficult. It wasn’t easy being—I’ve always hesitated to use the word discrimination, because I never felt there was really discrimination. I think there’s not equality. There was definitely a definite lack of equality and a lack of appreciation for ability until you proved it. Once you proved it, it was reflected in your fitness reports and you could read it. But as far emotion was concerned, there was very little real support for women, except individual. Many of the male part of the navy were very jealous, and probably should be because we probably did get from time to time things they didn’t get. We got a little help now and then. I’m just trying to be honest.

But it was difficult. I mean I’ve talked this morning about all of the good things, but they were not all easy. Particularly moving and being accepted by a different command and building your reputation. And living in a BOQ was not exactly that easy with some of it, but it was fine.

TS:      

Well, how was that? Describe that a little bit for us.

MB:    

Well, it was pretty confining really, but it worked out very well. I shared—the junior officers—I happened to be sent down to Pensacola as a senior officer because the admiral was not very happy with some of the performances of the junior WAVES. But they were living next to the Blue Angels [Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron], and there were too many parties.

TS:      

They may have been distracted a little, huh? [laughter]

MB:    

A little distracted. But the Blue Angels were a fine, fine, group of men. It was a great experience.

TS:      

You really did like aviation, didn’t you?

MB:    

Oh, [chuckle] I’m a born and bred brown-shoe navy.

TS:      

[laughter] Well, I was liked the planes. That’s why I joined the air force.

MB:    

So the air force—I have great respect for you and the air force.

TS:      

Well, see I didn’t have to swim either.

MB:    

[chuckles] Well, the aviation part called us the “water girls.”

TS:      

[chuckles] Now did you command—you said at different times that you did command over other women or—

MB:    

No, we never had command. Just like in PERS-A, I was head of the division. And maybe in the personnel department I was head of the division. But at that point in time they had not given women command.

TS:      

No command authority, but responsibility.

MB:    

Oh, yes. All the way.

TS:      

Okay. There’s—I think there’s a distinction there that people understand.

MB:    

Yeah, that’s right. We had the total responsibility, but the navy felt that they wanted to keep it separate. They wanted to keep command of men and women under a commanding officer. They didn’t want to split it off with a woman command of women and men command of men. They kept it all together. Like in Great Lakes Recruit Training Command, the command structure was—for instance, we had reviews of men and women together. Everything that was done—except they didn’t live together. They lived in separate barracks.

TS:      

Did you find over time that the housing accommodations got any better?

MB:    

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, as more money was spent. But right after the war of course, there was kind of a regrouping and combining of commands and that kind of thing. I don’t remember too well. But again, most of the accommodations for big commands like the Naval Air Training Command and all were well-kept and well, you know—aviation got lots of money for aircraft.

TS:      

Did you ever get to Hawaii?

MB:    

No.

TS:      

So you were in—

MB:    

I went to school and spent a year at Leland Stanford University to get my master’s [degree].

TS:      

Where was that, Leland Stanford?

MB:    

In—Stanford. Stanford [University] in Palo Alto.

TS:      

Oh, okay. California.

MB:    

There was a group of twenty, twenty-three naval officers, and I got one of the billets.

TS:      

Approximately what year was that that you got you master’s?

MB:    

Fifty—

TS:      

In the fifties, okay.

MB:    

Fifty—I should know.

TS:      

I know you’ve got your little booklet there.

MB:    

I’ve got it here somewhere.

TS:      

I don’t mean to pick your brain about those dates. I was just trying to get a sense of when you—

MB:    

I’ve got them somewhere.

TS:      

So you actually did get training educationally—

MB:    

Oh, yeah.

TS:      

—rather early.

MB:    

I went to a lot of navy training schools. Let me see, where were—I need to slow down here. Where’s my education—you may not want your tape playing while I’m finding it.

TS:      

Yeah, I’ll pause it for a second. I’ll turn it back on later.

MB:    

June of ’58.

TS:      

So it was—

MB:    

Masters of Arts from Stanford.

TS:      

Do you know—’58?

MB:    

June of ’58.

TS:      

How did you get selected, do you remember, for that program?

MB:    

Applied.

TS:      

You applied?

MB:    

I applied for post-graduate education.

TS:      

Was that something that was important to you?

MB:    

Oh, yeah. Absolutely education, as I’ve said, is the secret to me.

TS:      

Was it important in the military too for—

MB:    

Oh, yes.

TS:      

—for advancement and promotion?

MB:    

Oh, yes. In ’58—let’s see—I made commander. [unclear] I made commander that year.

TS:      

Oh, in ’58?

MB:    

I made commander in 1958.

TS:      

So that probably helped contribute to that.

MB:    

Yes. Lieutenant commander in ’52 and captain in ’67.

TS:      

Yeah, that’s terrific. So that was your highest rank was captain?

MB:    

Yeah.

TS:      

That’s as high as you could go at that time, though.

MB:    

That’s right.

TS:      

You were at the highest level.

MB:    

There were seven of us.

TS:      

That’s a great honor.

MB:    

Yeah. Again—

TS:      

Did you—did you ever receive a particular award that you are particularly proud of?

MB:    

Sure did. One of my ribbons—I’ve got it somewhere here. I just passed it.

TS:      

I’m going to have to take after you for this organization. I’ve got to work—

MB:    

Well, I don’t have family. I only have a niece left, and she lives in Texas. And there’s not very—you know, I don’t have a great deal of—Well, anyway, it’s a Joint [Service] Commendation Medal from the Joint [Chiefs of] Staff.

TS:      

Was that from when you were in Paris?

MB:    

No, that was from when I was in the Pentagon.

TS:      

Oh, in the Pentagon. Okay. So it kind of makes—

MB:    

Well, wait a minute, maybe it is Paris. [sound of shuffling papers] I’m sorry, I should—

TS:      

We’ll let you flip papers. It’s all right.

MB:    

Okay, here we go.

TS:      

Let me turn it back on.

MB:    

Wait a minute let me—

TS:      

Okay.

MB:    

Joint Service Commendation Medal and that was in Paris.

TS:      

This was in Paris?

MB:    

Yeah, joint headquarters command.

TS:      

Because I was thinking you were with the army and the air force.

MB:    

Yeah, and the Navy Commendation Medal—

TS:      

Oh, you received that also?

MB:    

—and that was in the Pentagon. I mean that was chief of naval operations.

TS:      

So explain why you’re particularly proud of these awards. What kind of meaning do they hold for you?

MB:    

Well, I guess it was service acknowledged and well done.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

You know it’s—again, you know, I don’t think about it often. [laughs] And then, of course, the National Defense [Service Medal], World War II Victory [Medal], American [Defense] Service [Medal], the usual ones that get pined on you just for living.

TS:      

Well, it’s the ones that are—

MB:    

But these are the two—

TS:      

You worked the hardest for them, probably.

MB:    

Worked hardest, that’s right. And they’re the ones that are recognized, you know, as two of the highest before you get the real military, you know, Purple Hearts and—

TS:      

Bronze Stars.

MB:    

All those—Bronze Stars and things like that.  Yeah.

TS:      

[pause] Did you ever go on any special duty?

MB:    

Not really, no. A lot of navy schools of various kinds, but, no, not that I remember.

TS:      

We talked about some of these other things already on my list here, so. Here’s a question for you: is there anything particular that you would want a civilian to know or understand about what it’s like to serve in the military that they may not understand or appreciate?

MB:    

Probably in my era it was discipline. How disciplined and how important your teammates are, or the person regardless—officer, enlisted, or whatever—how important they are daily to you and how you depend on each other. It’s that team, that team spirit it seems to me—at least in the days, in probably my junior days. In my senior days it was important, but you were moving into policy and things. But even then, it’s the—it’s sharing, helping each other. And although there’s competition—and there’s a lot of competition, there is no doubt about that. I’m not downgrading the jealously and the competition, but on the other hand, you only survive if you have the respect and the assistance of your own teammates. You’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t respect and admire those people that are helping you.

TS:      

You talked earlier particularly about how some of the enlisted helped.

MB:    

Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

TS:      

I think you said something like, “I couldn’t survive without out the petty officers,” or something.

MB:    

That’s right.

TS:      

How is it—what’s their significance to you?  What did they do that make you feel that way?

MB:    

I guess it was a chief petty officer, the one that I mentioned, who had been at sea, was in a classification that—the rotation in those days of coming ashore, you only got about two years ashore and about five or six or seven years at sea.  He had never worked with a woman. He had never had a woman approve—write his fitness report. He was pretty upset. When he came he was a first class. And in those days there were thirteen-button sailors. They were wearing the navy pants. And I said to chief the day he walked in, “You’re not going to like me. I’ve never served at sea. I have no idea what it’s like, but we’re here. You’ve got orders. I’ve got orders. I need you. But you’re going to be upset with me, and you can walk out that door and tell my senior officer. I don’t want a thirteen-button yeomen. I want a chief petty officer. I need a chief petty officer with all of these other people.”

Within in a year, I assigned my JG [junior grade] WAVE and a chief to study for chief exams. In a year he was on the chiefs’ list. That’s the way I felt about all of the people that served with me. They were better than they thought they were. And if they were going to work, we were going to work together. And they were going to—

I took correspondence courses right with them. They saw me sitting there taking correspondence courses. I had them taking correspondence courses. Now that may sound a little arrogant, but it was important to me. That’s when I began to have and understand and know how important people were to me. That is what I loved about the navy, and I loved the navy. I really did.

TS:      

Would you say it was like a family?

MB:    

Yes, yes.

TS:      

In a—had—one woman I recall talked about how when she left the military, that sense of family also left in the civilian world. Did you have that experience?

MB:    

Well—

TS:      

Maybe it was a little different.

MB:    

Not really, because I was ready to retire. I had bought property out in the hunt country. I wasn’t—my parents died in the early fifties, both of them. And I had sold the house.  I mean my family was gone. My brother was still alive but lived in Texas, and we had been apart for years because I was in the military. I got very interested—I felt that I wanted to do some volunteer work. Some friends that we made were looking for people to help with The Humane Society [of the United States]. Well, of course, that was my love, so I started—

Then I had been with [American] Red Cross. I had been with Red Cross even when I was in Europe and even when I was in the navy. I volunteered with Red Cross. So it was a perfect assignment for me to take—to be of service to military families. In other words, I had been on the end of requesting families, but now I could get the information and talk to commanding officers about the need for the military at home. It was a natural for me. And so I got all involved with American Red Cross.

And then a friend got me interested in the St. Joseph [of the Pines]’ long-term care facility, and I got very fascinated with that. I was chairman of the board and on the board for years. So I just got—then the fire department was all-volunteer. They needed somebody to do their records, you know. I can move cards so easy, and I’m the best filer in the world, and I kind of keep records. So I was a natural for the fire department. And I’ve just, you know, that’s just the way I have kind of—the Rotary Club, you know. So I move very quickly. And then, of course, with the horse country, there were shows where I could be of help and work the shows in one way or another. So I just got very interested.

I’ve slowed down now, unfortunately. The years have moved on me, and I’ve slowed down a great deal. But, you know, it’s—

TS:      

It doesn’t appear that way to me. [laughter]

MB:    

Well, I have. And you’ve asked me about from time to time things I was proud of?

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

I guess one of the proudest ones—let’s see if it’s here.

TS:      

You want me to push that out of your way?

MB:    

No, in here. [unclear]. Anyway, I got the [Order of the] Long Leaf Pine from the governor for volunteer work.

TS:      

In North Carolina?

MB:    

In North Carolina, yes.

TS:      

That’s fantastic.

MB:    

Yeah. So that’s one of my real—

TS:      

I can see why you’d be proud of that. That’s a rare achievement.

MB:    

That’s just kind of pulling everything together that—but I enjoyed it, so.

TS:      

Well, what—looking back, which you’ve said a few times that you don’t necessarily want to do, but if you’re looking back at your service years, how do you think that—how was it—except for the fact that it was thirty some years of your life—how did it significantly affect you?

MB:    

I grew up as a person. I went in at twenty-one, and I came out at fifty. So my adult life was in the military, so most of my adult life was influenced by the military. But I still will never forget my little town of Chickamauga and my family. I say it again and again, the community, the schools were the foundation.

I just—you can’t explain to people who haven’t served in the military really what it’s like and what it does—what it gives to you. It gives you a confidence because you’ve seen it all, you’ve done it all, and you’ve had adversity, you’ve had success, so you know the joys of a big continuum. I guess that’s the best way I can express it.

TS:      

Would you recommend the service for young people today?

MB:    

That’s a question I can’t answer.

TS:      

No?

MB:    

I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the military now. You know better than that. But hearing some of it—I probably shouldn’t say this for the tape—I’d probably be court marshaled.

TS:      

If you were still in the service today?

MB:    

If I was in the service today.

TS:      

Why do you think that?

MB:    

Lack of disciple and lack of—

TS:      

But you would have discipline.

MB:    

What?

TS:      

You would have discipline.

MB:    

I know, but I’m talking about the people that I would be serving with don’t seem to have that. I mean, I don’t know. But from what I see and when I go over to Fort Bragg, they’re wonderful I’m sure, a lot of the young people there, but some of them really haven’t even gotten good manners for—I’ve seen them and the way they treat their children and the way they kind of talk to their wives in the commissary. I’m living, probably, with what happens to the elderly. Everything past looks good. [laughter]

TS:      

Yeah. Maybe there were things like that happening at the time. Yeah.

MB:    

Memories, you see, get brighter instead of they fade. They get brighter, and those things you remember. If you really had them today, they were not all that—you know. [chuckles]

TS:      

Rosy?

MB:    

Rosy.

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

But I guess I would always—I would always want people to serve their country, because regardless of changes or anything else, there’s nothing—to me, there’s nothing like the United States. And you feel it. I felt it a great deal in Europe. And I’ve felt when I’ve been on other stations and so forth.

TS:      

Did the women—now you talked about your mother being a feminist and—

MB:    

Well, I call her that because she was so much, seemed to me, ahead of her time.

TS:      

Yeah, but the feminist movement, the women’s movement, did that have—what did you think about that? Did that have influence on your thinking, or positive or negative or—

MB:    

Well I never—some of it I think is a little overdone, but most of it, there is—and I will use the word—there is discrimination in lots of areas, and in particularly in pay, in leadership positions, and in the areas of—we still live in a society that is male-oriented. And it’ll take—it’s taken along time and it will take a—However, the advantages that we have moved into, I think, should be celebrated more by the feminists instead of being continually being complained about. Because I’ve just seen it. I mean, I’ve seen it myself in what I have been able to do. But that’s because people came before me like my mother, who raised not only a daughter but sons to be independent, and sons—a son that went into the army voluntarily. And so we’ve come a long way, believe me. This generation is very—and the technology is unbelievable. It’s just—you know, when I think of ringing a telephone to get an operator and now picking up my cell phone—I mean here, this is the constant [unclear].

TS:      

Yeah.

MB:    

You know, just because I haven’t gone into computers—I just never was really interested in that kind of thing. I have my magazines—

TS:      

You’re a filer. [laughter]

MB:    

I am a filer, right.

TS:      

Well did you—have you—you talked a little bit about the training that you received in the military. Did you use any of your GI benefits?

MB:    

It was education as much as training.

TS:      

True, right.

MB:    

And the navy not only trains, but it educates. And that’s one of the big things about the navy is requiring education for promotions and those kinds of things, not just training.

TS:      

Right. That’s a good distinction. Thank you for correcting me.

MB:    

That’s right.

TS:      

Thank you for correcting me. [laughs]

MB:    

No, I didn’t mean to correct you—

TS:      

No, no. It’s a good way to think about it.

MB:    

—but training. As for my master’s, which you are getting now, or you already have—

TS:      

I’ve just gotten it.

MB:    

—it was very important to me, and to get it from a school like Stanford—

TS:      

—no kidding.

MB:    

—where women, again, when I went there in that year, very few women were accepted. The navy made a point of, “You’re going to have to accept a woman in this class of male personnel.”

TS:      

That’s true.

MB:    

Again, it was the navy that did it. And that’s why—I couldn’t have ever have afforded going to Stanford, but they gave us a whole year to work on our master’s. And we were able to work in the Hoover Institute [on War, Revolution and Peace], you know, the highest—one of the highest of that.

TS:      

Fantastic.

MB:    

So, anyway.

TS:      

Well, now after you got out of the service, were you able to use any of your GI benefits?

MB:    

I didn’t.

TS:      

Did you use it even for a house, finding a house or anything?

MB:    

I just moved here, built a house out in the hunt country, and got involved in Southern Pines and Moore County community. I didn’t work or anything. I was—fortunately I didn’t have to. 

TS:      

Yeah, that is fortunate. Now so you—you kind of touched on this question. Have your thoughts on patriotism changed from the time that you signed up until today?

MB:    

Well, of course, in World War II there was a patriotism and the whole country that was just awash with volunteering and—you know, Pearl Harbor really just blew the country apart. And had we known, or had the Japanese known at that time that they had destroyed the navy, they could have come right to San Francisco, and eventually that began to sink in. Then when the Japanese Americans were held in prisons, that sent a real signal through this country that where was all of the—where was all of this danger? And were they—had they infiltrated this country? So it becomes to be a patriotism that I haven’t felt sense. I didn’t feel it in the Korean War. I didn’t feel in the Vietnam War. I have always been a flag-waver. No doubt about it.

TS:      

I see it out—right out there.

MB:    

Yeah, no doubt about that. I have the small flag because trying to raise a flag in the morning is a little more than my strength. But World War II was a very special time for those of us who were born into it. Having gone through the Depression and then World War II, it was sort of a double whammy.

And of course, to see—to think of grow men jumping out of windows and killing themselves, and families with men leaving them, the only thing, I guess, worse was the Dust Bowl when that hit this country and was a—of course, I don’t know anything about World War I except what I heard.

TS:      

We were involved with that a lot shorter timeframe.

MB:    

Well, I wasn’t even a child. I wasn’t born into the twentieth, 1920.

TS:      

Nineteen twenty. Well, we have covered quite a lot. Is there anything—

MB:    

Well, I hope that it has been valuable to you. 

TS:      

Oh, my goodness. It’s been terrific.

MB:    

I kind of rambled and—

TS:      

No, you didn’t ramble. Is there anything, though, that you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about, or any other pictures you wanted to share?

MB:    

No, but I began with some—you know, with a little comprehensive, and I’ve ended up finding it absolutely delightful.

TS:      

Well, very good. Well, Mary—

MB:    

You’re a delightful person.

TS:      

Well thank you, Mary Kate. Well, I have enjoyed it very much, so we’ll go ahead and shut it off for the transcriber here. Thank you very much for sharing your time with us.

[End of Interview]