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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Bertha Nichols McClure, 2009

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Object ID: WV0478.5.001

Description: Documents Bertha (“Nicki”) McClure’s childhood in New Jersey and Maine during the Depression and her service in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during World War II and the Korean War.

Summary:

McClure discusses attending nursing school at Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey and the beginning of World War II during her third year. She recalls joining the ANC after her graduation in 1944, basic training at Atlantic City, New Jersey, before being stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and being shipped out to the Pacific, working in Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima until the war ended. She recalls the boat ride across the Pacific, the people in Hawaii and her reaction to seeing the devastation at Pearl Harbor, the beauty of Guam, the fighting on Saipan where Major General Patrick was killed, her typical work day at the Guam hospital on the upper respiratory ward, caring for wounded soldiers, the pain of having patients die and attending funerals, and praying as her mode of coping. Her description of Iwo Jima includes hiding in caves during Japanese bombing raids, living in Quonset huts, her thoughts on President Truman and the atomic bomb, and hearing about the end of the war.

McClure discusses leaving the army after her return to New Jersey and working for the Veterans Association (VA) until becoming a private duty nurse. She recalls using the GI Bill to attend Columbia University, rejoining the ANC at the start of the Korean War, and being stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky where she worked for almost two years. There she married her husband, and her first pregnancy ended her military career. Also included are her thoughts on a career for women in the military.

Creator: Bertha Nichols McClure

Biographical Info: Bertha “Nicki” Nichols McClure (b. 1921) of Greensboro, North Carolina served in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during World War II and the Korean War.

Collection: Bertha Nichols McClure 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:

Today is February 19th. I’m here in Greensboro, North Carolina with Nicki McClure, and we’re doing an oral history interview for the Women’s Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Nicki, go ahead and say the way you want your name on your collection.

Bertha N. McClure:

Okay, it would be Mrs. Bertha N. McClure.

TS:

Do you want Nichols in that?

BM:

Middle initial would be N for Nichols.

TS:

Okay, okay.

BM:

And then, McClure is my married name.

TS:

Okay, that sounds good.  Now how—why don’t you start out by telling us when and where you grew up?

BM:

Okay. In, let’s see, about 1924 or so we moved from Chicago [Illinois] to New Jersey, and I started kindergarten. And let’s see, from—went all through, up through to the seventh grade in New Jersey. And then the Depression years came on, and my father was laid off from work.

TS:

Where was he working at the time?

BM:

He was working at Western Electric [Company]. So we moved to Skowhegan, Maine: S-K-O-W-H-E-G-A-N.

TS:

You don’t have to spell it for me. We can get that later.

BM:

Okay.

TS:

So you moved to Skowhegan, Maine, okay.

BM:

Let’s see.

TS:

Did your—

BM:

He bought a greenhouse, and he and my mother ran the greenhouse. My uncle was fireman and took care of the furnaces to keep the greenhouses going. And then they had a very severe storm and four of the five greenhouses collapsed. And they were able to save a few things, but not a whole lot. So they had to turn it back over to the owner, because they could not keep up the payments on it.

As a consequence, some of his friends hired him as a—to do civilian engineering work. And then one of his friends from New Jersey made a special trip up to Maine to find him, and told him that the Western Electric was looking for him, and about three days after he had left they couldn’t find him—they wanted him back right away. But it didn’t happen that way, so he made a trip down to New Jersey to the Western Electric and they hired him on the spot. And he came back to Maine, and we packed up and moved down to Jersey.

TS:

So how long were you in Maine then?

BM:

About three years.

TS:

Oh wow, so they took a long time to find him.

BM:

That’s right, it was. And as a consequence, my mother regained her health because working in the greenhouses—she was just like a flower, she managed to come around and she did okay. So she got her health back, and not only that, but we got a brother.

TS:

Oh, because you had—there were three girls right?

BM:

It was a very wonderful experience up in Maine. Let’s see, then we went back to New Jersey to the same town that we had lived in originally, but not the same house.

TS:

What town was that?

BM:

It was in Cranford, New Jersey.

TS:

Cranford, okay.

BM:

In fact, my name is on the plaque for the town of Cranford as serving in World War II.

TS:

Oh, very nice.

BM:

Yeah, so it was a—it was a nice experience.

TS:

So tell me a little more about growing up during the Depression. Do you remember anything else specifically?

BM:

It was a very painful period. Everyone was having a very difficult time to go. We survived on hamburger and hot dogs mostly. My mother was very good at managing money. She was a good manager. So we did okay. We were lucky.

TS:

Do you remember what your parents thought about [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt?

BM:

They were for him. In fact they—we had gone back to Jersey and they had a march on Washington [D.C.], and my mother and dad went down for the march on Washington. And it’s a good thing they did, because they had to draw some money out of the bank for the trip; and, as a consequence, when they got back that was the only money that was available. People that didn’t have cash on hand were out of luck. They weren’t honoring their accounts. They were frozen.

TS:

So this was during the bank crisis then, yeah.

BM:

And so we were lucky, because my mother and dad were very frugal. Things were in a bad shape at that time, but things worked out very well eventually.

TS:

Yeah. So you said you had two sisters and a brother then?

BM:

I had two sisters and a brother.

TS:

And where do you fit in there?

BM:

I’m the oldest.

TS:

Ah, you’re the oldest, okay. So did you have to do anything to take care of them at all?

BM:

Yeah. While we were up in Maine, my mother and dad were working full time, so it was up to me to look out for them—to make sure that they had food—we ate and so forth. It was good experience. It was—Being the oldest had its advantages; you were expected to do a lot. Things worked out just fine. It was good experience for me.

TS:

Yeah. So when you came back to New Jersey—so you said you’d left when you were about in seventh grade, I think, to go up to Maine? So you would have been in high school, I guess?

BM:

I was a sophomore in high school when we came back to New Jersey.

TS:

Okay.

BM:

We were on half-day schedules because they needed new classes—more classrooms. And they didn’t have enough, so they made two sessions: morning and afternoon. And I was in the afternoon session.

TS:

Did you walk to school or—did you walk to school?

BM:

Oh yeah. Everybody walked [laughs], of course, in those days. Old Shakesmere[?] we used to call it.

TS:

Shakesmere? Walking to school.

BM:

They were in the process of building the new school. I had a half year of half sessions. And some of the subjects I had up in—taken up in Maine were considered junior and senior courses. But I was a sophomore, so they looked down on me. [laughs]

TS:

Now did you like school?

BM:

Oh I loved school. It was nice.

TS:

Did you have a favorite teacher or favorite class you liked?

BM:

Oh, I had lots of favorites. Mr. Bass was one, and Ms. Base was another, and Ms. Kingsbury was another—she was a good teacher too. Lots of good ones.

TS:

What subjects did you like?

BM:

I took general culture[?], preparing for college.

TS:

Did you have the idea that you were going to go to college?

BM:

No. I didn’t know for sure. I thought about nurse’s training and I figured that I couldn’t go wrong if I took college prep courses in high school, so that’s what I did. Prepared as much as I could for what was to come.

TS:

Were there any expectations for you as a young girl, like, what you would do when you, you know, got out of the house or anything?

BM:

Well I was—my art teacher wanted me to go to art school. She wanted me to go to the school she went to. My father was a very practical man. And he said, “It would be better to keep art as a hobby and enjoy it. But don’t try and make a living on it, because you’ll be very unhappy.”

And it later proved to be true, because I had a friend in high school—one of my classmates—and he was interested in art. And he pursued that, but he had a very difficult way to go. And I saw him on several occasions where he was really down and out. And I thought “Well, my dad made the right suggestion. Take nurse’s training, and you can always enjoy your artwork.”

TS:

Oh well, there you go.

BM:

So that was true.

TS:

Now, so you’re enjoying school?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

And it is still—we’re still in the Depression?

BM:

Yes.

TS:

What—

BM:

We were coming out of the Depression.

TS:

Okay.

BM:

And I had graduated and I put my application in for nurses training, but I was too young. So I had to wait another year, because New Jersey followed New York Board of Regents. And so, I had to wait another whole year.

TS:

How old did you have to be?

BM:

You had to be eighteen.

TS:

I see.

BM:

And I missed the entrance date. My birthday is September 9th, and I think the cutoff date was the 5th. So I missed it.

TS:

You had to wait a whole year to apply.

BM:

That’s right. So my father said, “Well, why don’t you go to junior college?”

And I said, “Well, I can’t see any point of wasting your money. I’ll go back to high school, and just take some extra courses that I would’ve liked to have had but didn’t have time to take.” And so I did. I took shorthand, typing, and a couple other subjects, and filled out my day. And I could come and go as I pleased, because I was not a regular student.

TS:

So they just let you go and take classes as you wanted to?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

Well, that’s pretty nice!

BM:

It was nice. And as I consequence I got—I was glad later for the shorthand and typing, because that came in handy. When I was in the Army Nurse Corps they were looking for help in the office to do paperwork—get things organized for the war problems.

TS:

Right.

BM:

And as a consequence, they latched on to me, since I had shorthand and typing. And I helped them out.

TS:

Well tell me—let me back you up just a little bit. Growing up were there any particular games that you liked to play?

BM:

Let’s see, I was on the basketball team for a while. And, oh, I just enjoyed most everything. My folks had a cottage at the shore. And we would go down there every summer and spend the entire summer down at the shore. And the community had—in the morning they played tennis, so I played tennis. And in the afternoon they had swimming, I swam. The evening was free; they would have movies or things like that. So we just had a good—a real good time. That was the way we used up our summer vacation.

TS:

Sounds like fun.

BM:

It was. My sisters enjoyed it too, all three of us. My brother was just a little tyke. He was about, oh, five years old.

TS:

Yeah.

BM:

And we could go out rowing in the rowboat and just have a real good time. And let’s see—

TS:

So now, all right, so you went back to high—you did some classes in high school, and then you wanted to get into the nursing program. Did you finally get into that?

BM:

Yeah, I did. The hospital that I wanted to get into—

TS:

Which one was that?

BM:

—put me on the register for that following year.

TS:

Where did you do that?

BM:

It was Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, New Jersey.

TS:

And how was that training?

BM:

Oh, it was a wonderful hospital and a good school.

TS:

How long does that training take normally?

BM:

It takes four years.

TS:

Four year, so, let’s see, you started when you were eighteen?

BM:

Yeah. And war broke out when I was in my junior year.

TS:

Okay.

BM:

And I made it plain that I wanted to go in as soon as I could.

TS:

I see.

BM:

So after graduation I had to take state board exams. And then when I found out I had passed state board exams, then I could put an application in for the Army Nurse Corps.

TS:

Well, what did you think about the war when that came about?

BM:

Well, there’s been someone in my family that has been in every war that America has ever been in. And I wasn’t about to let them down.

TS:

Who else was in the military?

BM:

My father.

TS:

Your father.

BM:

Served in World War I.

TS:

Okay.

BM:

And then I served in World War II and it was a wonderful experience. I was glad that I could be a part of it.

TS:

So when Pearl Harbor happened, do you remember what you thought about it at the time?

BM:

Yeah, I was heartbroken about that. “It’s a day that will live in infamy”, [approximated quote from a speech made by Roosevelt to Congress December 8, 1941] and I was with Roosevelt on that, that’s for sure.

TS:

Can you give—for people that didn’t live through that time, can you give us a sense of what it was like and how it felt?

BM:

For me personally, I had—on the spot, I wanted to get in right away. And, of course, I couldn’t, because I wasn’t an RN [registered nurse] at that time. But they had made arrangements that if necessary they would take those that were in their last year of training and use them—put them in to help with the war effort. But they didn’t need us and didn’t take us. And I graduated, took state board exams and passed, and then I went in legally.

Well, I had difficult time—every time I’d go home I’d ask my mother if I had any word from the Army Nurse Corps. And she’d say, “No, nothing yet.” So one day I guess I was complaining and she handed me the telephone, and she said “I want you to call Newark nurse recruitment and find out why you haven’t heard.”

So I called and the woman said, “Give me a few minutes to check.” And when she came back she said, “Your hospital has declared you essential. We can’t take you.”

TS:

Oh.

BM:

And—

[Knock on the door]

BM:

So I said “Well, I can get around that--”

[Conversation Redacted]

[Recording Paused]

TS:

Okay we had a little—

BM:

Now where did I leave off?

TS:

You were saying that the hospital declared you as essential?

BM:

I called nurse recruitment and she came and said that the hospital had declared me essential. And I said, “Well, I can fix that because I can always quit.” So I thanked the girl—lady—and told her that I’d be back in touch with them. I said, “Because, I definitely want to go in to the Army Nurse Corps.”

So I went over to the hospital to the chief nurse. And I said, “You have known ever since the war broke out my feelings on the war.” And I said, “You knew that I wanted to go in very badly.” And I said, “Please let me go so I can serve my country.” And I said, “I know there are ways I can get around it, but I’d rather have your blessing.”

So she said, “All right, we’ll let you go.” So they decided to let me go, and the story takes on from there and has a shining glowing ending.

TS:

Oh good. Well, what was the reason they said you were essential? Do you remember?

BM:

Just I guess they needed the help.

TS:

I see.

BM:

I really don’t know. She didn’t go in—

TS:

They didn’t say?

BM:

They didn’t go into it, and I didn’t push it. I just wanted to get in.

TS:

Yeah. Now why was it that you wanted to go in the Army Nurses [sic, Nurse] Corps? Why did you not pick the Navy [Nurse Corps]?

BM:

Well, my father served in the army in World War I. And we had Fort Dix and Fort Kilmer [sic, Camp Kilmer] all in New Jersey area. And I was well aware of all of them. And our hospital put on sort of an open house, and would invite the soldiers in Fort Kilmer over to our area. And we’d provide nourish—you know, a little snack bar, you might say, and evenings where the nurses could get together with some of the soldiers that were there. So it worked out very well. We had a nice group of young men. And—

TS:

So you told—Well, go ahead. I’m sorry.

BM:

No, that’s okay. They would sometimes get our name and they would call up and ask us out later, and occasionally we would do that. And it was real nice.

TS:

What kind of things would you do? Like, going out on a date, what did you do? What did you do on your dates?

BM:

Oh. I had a date with a couple of fellows: different ones from different parts of New Jersey. Nothing serious— just our friends.

TS:

Did you go dancing or anything like that?

BM:

No. It was just a social evening or something like that.

TS:

Dinner and—

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

Yeah.

BM:

And that was about the extent of it. I had one patient that became a very good friend of mine. And he knew my feelings for the military, and he didn’t want me to go in. I want to make sure I went in so—

TS:

So what—Nicki, what year did you sign up then, when you went into the Nurses Corps?

BM:

It must have been—I don’t recall.

TS:

You said the war broke out in your junior year—or, your third year of nurses training, right?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

So that would’ve been ’41. So then you had to—

BM:

But they didn’t—the military didn’t make any attempt to take you until you were—had your state board exams and were fully qualified.

TS:

Okay. So you went in a year or so after that? Because, I think when we talked earlier you said you went in in ’44. Could you have gone in a little earlier than that maybe?

BM:

No, it was just routine—whatever turned up. They just—as I said, I had trouble getting in—

TS:

Right.

BM:

—because I was marked essential, and I wasn’t at all.

TS:

Well, tell me about—do you want to have some of your ice cream there for a little bit?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay.

[Tape paused]

TS:

We’re going to get you in the army now. Okay. So she had a little ice cream. [laughs] Now, tell me about your experience when you joined the army, like your first impressions and things that happened with that.

BM:

Okay. My first impression was when I boarded the train to get down to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for my basic training. They had taken on different hotels and they stationed the military in the hotels. We were in a hotel called Colton Manor. It was a very lovely hotel. We had classes from eight o’clock in the morning ‘til about four in the afternoon. Then on Saturday mornings, we had sort of like basic training would be—and then we had to go on hikes and things like that.

On other occasions we had what they called field training, where we were in our fatigues and we crawled in foxholes and so forth. They had wire netting over the top, and they kept yelling, “Stay down! Stay down!” And that was good experience. And then as a final sort of enticement, we had a ten mile hike with full gear. And we hiked on out for the five miles and five miles back. And they were bringing us back along the boardwalk, and as we came along the boardwalk a lot of the soldiers and airmen stretched out the whole way trying to see what condition we were in. And our instructor said, “Put on a brave front, girls!” [laughter] “Because they have to see whether you’re dragging in or if you’re coming in the way you ought to be.” So we put on a good show for them. We had a good time.

It was—we made fun of it anyway. Let’s see, after graduation we all dispersed to different assignments. And as I told you, my first assignment was at Fort Dix [New Jersey].

TS:

Fort Dix.

BM:

That was a very nice assignment. I was at the station hospital there and I worked on a gastrointestinal pneumonia ward taking care of sick patients. And some that we had were nationals from Italy that were—became ill and had to be taken care of. And so they sent them to the army hospital then. So we took care of all of them and tried to do the best we could.

TS:

Now you’re—so you’re in the army now and you—how did you like your experience up to this point? Was it what you expected?

BM:

Yeah. I didn’t have any great expectations. I just took each day as it came and enjoyed it and made the best. And I tried to talk with some of the Italian patients, because they really were sort of lonesome, you might say, for not having anybody to talk to. Since I had had Latin I could understand a little bit of what they were trying to say, but it was difficult. We used the map—we had maps on the wall, and they would point out where they were from and so forth, and tell us about it. It was a nice congenial experience.

TS:

That’s nice.

BM:

So we made do. And the [recuperated—McClure added later] patients were expected to do routine chores like scrubbing the floors. Nobody liked that. I know I was responsible for the kitchen area where the dishes were kept and so forth—the serving trays.

And one gentleman—I’ll call him a gentleman—came on an inspection tour one Saturday morning. And he pointed out this was wrong and that was wrong, and so everything was wrong. And I turned to him and I said, “I bet you give your mother a hard time.” [laughs]

He looked at me and he grinned. And he said, “Yes, she did. Yes, I did. How did you know?”

I said, “Just the way you’re talking to me, I figured you gave your mother a hard way to go.” [laughs] So I told him, I said, “Well, ease up a little bit, don’t be quite so harsh.” I said “Things are—you’re not going to change a whole lot, so just make do, and get by as easily as you can.”

He looked at me and he grinned and he said he’d try.

TS:

Now, how would you say your reception—did you get outside of the base and stuff very often during this time?

BM:

No, because you had to have transportation, really, or money enough to provide bus fare, and so forth.

TS:

I see.

BM:

But if you didn’t know the bus lines and all, it was an inconvenience because you didn’t want to get stuck out in the town and not be able to get back.

TS:

Yeah.

BM:

So it presented a problem. You didn’t go out very often.

TS:

Now, I forgot to ask you what your parents thought of you going into the army. What’d they think about that?

BM:

Well, they just knew how determined I was, and they figured I’d make do.

TS:

So they didn’t try to discourage you from it?

BM:

Oh no, no, no. I told my dad, I said “You served in the army,” I said, “Herb, my brother is too young. He can’t serve.” I said, “I’m the only one old enough to serve.” And I said—Lorraine, who was my middle sister, she trained in the same hospital that I did. And I said, “She’s eligible, when she graduates to serve and I hope she does.” And so they accepted it, and I guess were fairly pleased. Because I know when I was on Iwo Jima one of the fellows stationed on Iwo came to me, and asked if I would pack some of his films that he had in my luggage going back stateside. And I told him, “Oh, I’d be glad.” He wanted to get them to his father. And his father lived in the same town we did, so it made it easy enough to do. So I think my dad contacted his dad and had him come over, and I gave him all the things that his son wanted him to have. It worked out, you know, we helped each other.

TS:

That’s right. So let’s talk about how you got to Iwo Jima then. So you’re working in Fort—was it Fort Dix? Is that where you’re at?

BM:

Yeah, well let’s see.

[Knock on the door]

TS:

You’re very popular here. I think that was your door.

BM:

If they don’t open the door, they don’t know.

TS:

So you were—you told me earlier that you wanted to serve overseas right?

BM:

What?

TS:

You wanted to serve overseas?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

So tell us how that came about. How you ended up going overseas.

BM:

Well, I think I put in an application for service out in the Pacific, because things were winding down in Europe.

[Knock on the door]

TS:

You want me to check that for you?

[Conversation Redacted]

[Recording paused]

TS:

Here we go.

BM:

—from Fort Dix to Temple, Texas

TS:

Okay. We’re okay so Nicki’s talking again about going as a group to—from Fort Dix to Temple, Texas, okay.

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

Because you had decided you wanted to go overseas?

BM:

Right.

TS:

Okay.

BM:

Let’s see, we went from Fort Dix to Temple, Texas. And my grandmother was going from Maine down to Florida, because of her health. And I asked if I could get a leave of absence to go home to see her, because of her failing health. I’d like to see her a few times before I left. So they gave me a leave of absence and I went to see her. And, I guess, on the train trip up I sat with a little youngster. His mother was sitting behind me, and apparently he was ill. And when I got back to Texas, I picked up the mumps.

TS:

Oh!

BM:

So they put me in isolation.

TS:

Think you picked them up from the young boy on the train?

BM:

Yeah. In isolation, I had lots of time to do nothing. And then there was one girl that was also incapacitated like I was and they felt that maybe she was putting on. And I said, “Well, give us some leave to go down to Houston. And we can see some activity in Houston and sort of strike out on our own, and just site see.” I said, “When I come back I’ll let you know how she performed.”

So they did and [we] come back and I gave them the report that she was good company and that we had a good time and enjoyed it, and were thankful that they let us go. It was nothing that hurt anybody’s reputation, so it worked out very well. When we got back, she went back on duty and so did I.

TS:

There you go.

BM:

But there was talk that they were going to have to leave me behind because of the contagious part. And I said, “I’m going to crawl up on that gangplank, if I do it on my hands and knees,” I said, “I’m going to go. Don’t leave me behind.”

TS:

Did you know where they were going to send you when they—right away?

BM:

We knew where our group was going .

[knock on door]

[conversation redacted]

[recording paused]

TS:

And then you can tell me how you got on that ship to get to the South Pacific there.

BM:

You mean my trip to Houston?

TS:

No, no, no, when you went overseas.

BM:

Oh, okay. We were up in Seattle, Washington, area and under cover of darkness we moved out one night. [We] boarded the ship and we were down in the very bottom, and it smelled terrible of oil. And—it made you kind of sick to smell it.

TS:

This is in the ship? I see.

BM:

And during the night we could feel the motion of the ship moving. And then the next morning they had us out of our staterooms and up on deck, and the weather was really rough. They had—the dining room tables were like long boards with an edge built up around the whole area, so that when the dishes slid by one way they’d come back the other way.

TS:

So they wouldn’t slide off the table, I see.

BM:

They wouldn’t slide off because of the railing, and, as a consequence it—none of us ate very well. [laughs] You’d see it slide by and then slide back, you’d reach out and grab your plate, and it was a rough way to go. And a lot of people were sick to their stomach. And the fellows that were having charge of the dining room service, they’d back up and get out of their way. And as a consequence, I spent a lot of time up on deck, where you got some breeze and fresh air; because down in the basement, where our beds were, it was miserable. It was too—the smell of oil and everything was just too much. So I stayed up topside as much as I could. And we finally got to Enewetak [atoll of the Marshall Islands] after—well, that was after Pearl Harbor.

TS:

Oh yeah, you told me about.

BM:

Tokyo Rose [generic name for a number of English speaking, female, Japanese radio broadcasters specializing in propaganda] said that we were—our ship had been sunk, but—

TS:

Before we get to Enewetak you actually told me how you had stopped in Hawaii, remember? So tell me about that again, because that was off tape.

BM:

We pulled into Hawaii in the evening time. And they told us that they were going to get us to some quarters and that our luggage would be provided to us in the morning, because they couldn’t get it to us that night. The next morning—During the night it was so bitterly cold, and we had nothing. And I told you about going down to the kitchen, before long everyone was down in the kitchen huddled around trying to get warm.

The next morning they did get our luggage to us, and I think we had slacks or field slacks that we could put on and keep warm. They had a routine plan where we had to go on a ship and— landing craft I should say—where you practice getting on and off the landing craft. This is part of our training. And then they took us on a tour of the island in a mesh bus. It had no sides on it— just wire mesh all around. We passed a pineapple plantation and one of the workers in the plantation waved to the driver to stop. And then they brought lots of pineapple out, and they gave pineapple to all of us. So we had a good taste of real Hawaiian pineapple. People were so friendly and helpful. They took us to see the—there’s what they call a sinkhole. It’s a hole in the rocks where when the water comes in, it comes splashing up and out and over, and it makes quite a sound. Something special.

TS:

Now you said you also got to see Pearl Harbor.

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

How was that?

BM:

—part of Pearl Harbor.

TS:

The harbor part.

BM:

Yeah, for Hawaii. And so we spent a short time there in Hawaii, and then they boarded us on another ship and took us out to Enewetak.

TS:

Do you remember any of the devastation in Pearl Harbor when you were there?

BM:

What’s that?

TS:

Did you see any of the destruction from the bombing?

BM:

Oh yeah, it was everywhere.

TS:

Do you remember anything in particular that you saw?

BM:

Mostly the harbor was attacked, it was mostly—that’s where the main flux of their determination to get us—was to stop us right there at Pearl Harbor. But they were—the Japs were determined. And we were determined too. [laughter]

TS:

All right, we’re going back to Enewetak now. So you’re—

BM:

Okay, let’s see. We had an enjoyable time in Hawaii. They were very good to us and taking us around and showing us points of interest. Then when we left they were very good to us too. They gave us a good farewell you might say, and put us aboard ship and out we went. Aboard ship we pulled duty, so that we could take care of any patients that were in the sick bay. And we pulled regular tour of duty. I can remember, you put in your tour of duty and then you had a two hour nap time. And they were joking about me, “Once Nicki takes her nap, you can’t wake her up!”

TS:

[laughs] You needed more than two hours.

BM:

That’s right. I was out like a log. They were real good to us. My hair had grown quite long, and I was stopped in the so-called beauty parlor to see if they could cut it. It was a barber shop—to see if they could cut it. And they said, yes, they would do that for us, and so they did—didn’t charge us anything; they just cut it. So they were real good to us. And finally our group got together and—the tour group—all the formation arrived and then we took out—

TS:

For the convoy?

BM:

—for the Pacific then. The captain let some of us come up to the captain’s area and you could look out and see and see all the instruments and everything. And it was real exciting to see how complicated it was. They were very good to us and made our trip very pleasant. All in all, we had a good time—a real good time.

TS:

As long as you could keep up with your dish, right, you’d be okay.

BM:

There you go. The sad part was when we got to Guam [site of two American-Japanese engagements in 1941 and 1944] and we asked if we could go to shore, and they said “no” and that it was “no place for a woman”. So we couldn’t argue with that. It took us up to Saipan [Northern Mariana Islands, site of a major American-Japanese battle that occurred between the dates of June 14-July 9, 1944], and discharged us to a hospital up there. And they put us in quarters and then decided that they had more nurses there than they needed. So they would send some down to Guam to work.

TS:

Oh well, now you’ll get to go to Guam.

BM:

And I was lucky, I got to go to Guam. [laughs]

TS:

Oh, how was that? What was it like?

BM:

It was wonderful. I enjoyed every minute. It was one of the most beautiful islands in the whole Pacific. It was beautiful. We met some Marines that invited us out to dinner. And they were just real nice to all of us.

TS:

Now, was there still fighting going on when you were out there?

BM:

Not on Guam, not then.

TS:

But the war was still going on?

BM:

Stationary. The fighting was going on. It was up on Saipan, and parts of Saipan were hard-hit. And I can remember one of the generals that came over to Guam to see the patients in my hospital. He was a very lovely elderly man, and he was looking out for all of his boys. And as a consequence, he was very pleasant. He spoke to all of them and looked up each one and told them what a good job they were doing and so forth. And he thanked each and every one of them. Then he went back and I think about ten days later we heard he had been killed—the Japs got him, But he was such a nice man. That’s the way the world went, you never knew from one day to the next. So you lived each day to the fullest. [This incident is most likely referring to Major General Edwin D. Patrick, who was killed leading his troops at the Battle of Luzon, March 14, 1945.]

TS:

What kind of—when you were taking—when you were on Guam was there, like, a hospital? Or was there like a makeshift—how was it that you were able to treat patients? Was it a regular size—

BM:

There was a hospital. The general was seeing his patients that were in the hospital, and that’s how we got to meet him.

TS:

And then what was like—what was a typical day for you, Nicki, when you were working there?

BM:

Getting up at six, being on duty at seven, getting breakfast beforehand. I can’t function if I don’t eat. Everything just worked like clockwork. It was all very well organized. You just fell into line and did what you had to do.

TS:

What kind of things did you take care of for the men—for the patients?

BM:

My ward was at the time, I think, was upper respiratory and—primarily that. And—because I know I had an admission one night—a fellow they picked up off the battlefield—and he was in his fatigues and his fighting gear. And I asked him—I said, “We want you to move from the stretcher onto the bed. And we’ll get you cleaned up and take care of you, and you’ll feel a lot better then. We’ll take care of you.”

So he said, “Nurse, those sheets are clean and I’m dirty.” [laughs]

TS:

Aw.

BM:

I said, “Don’t you worry about that!” I said, “You just slide over on to the bed, and they’ll get your dirty clothes off and they’ll get you scrubbed up and cleaned up and clean clothes and PJ’s [pajamas].” And I said, “Then you can relax and know you’re in good hands.” And I said, “But don’t worry about the dirt. We’re used to that. We want to get you cleaned up.” So we did. We got him cleaned up and lo and behold, he was a different fellow. But they were so appreciative of any little things we did for them. It was a joy to be a part of it. I enjoyed it immensely.

TS:

Was there anything in particular that was difficult about it?

BM:

When patients died, yeah. I had more of that up on—when I was on Iwo Jima. I had one young man who was standing beside me for a funeral of one of my patients that had died. And I told him about his friend being such a good, good patient. We enjoyed him. And it’s just a painful experience. And then to top it, the next day the fellow I had been talking to was killed. So I went to his funeral. It’s hard. It’s pathetic.

TS:

Yeah.

BM:

But at least there were people there that knew each other and were appreciative of what everybody had done.

TS:

What did you do to try to get yourself through that emotionally? Did you have to think about that?

BM:

You just steel yourself and you do a lot of praying, at least I did. I don’t know about anybody else, but prayers have helped me a lot and still do. Even today we live in a rough world.

 [knock on the door]

[conversation redacted]

TS:

Okay so, we can take a little break if you want. You’ve been talking for almost fifty minutes. You want to take a little break for a minute? Let’s do that.

BM:

Oh, the time moved so fast.

TS:

Yeah, here I’ll stop it for just a minute.

[recording paused]

TS:

–a little bit of noise for that.

BM:

Well, you’re a very pleasant young lady. It’s enjoyable talking with you dear.

TS:

Oh Nicki, goodness, it’s my pleasure, really, I enjoy this so much. I’ve actually interviewed a–

BM:

Anytime, anytime, you just come whenever your heart desires.

TS:

I’ll have to do that. Well let me–let me get an idea of what we’re going to go forward to when we turn the tape back on. I do want to hear some more about your time on the island, and tell me how you got to be transported from island to island. That’d be–because, you know, you experienced it and the people that are going to read this and listen to this don’t really have any idea of the little–not little–the very big inconveniences that you had to go through. So any of those kinds of details are really helpful. If you just talk about–Did you take–what did you do on the ship? Did you ever have to take a plane from–you know, those kind of things.

BM:

Well, they did. They took us from when I was on Guam. We had to go to Tinian, which is a neighboring island. She’s gone.

TS:

She’s done?

BM:

You can push it closed.

TS:

Okay, well, let’s go back to that. Let me start that up again. We’re still talking here, I guess [recording paused] Okay we’re on thirteen now.

BM:

I was going up to Guam, and we decided that we were all going to go to our home base–which would be Iwo Jima.

TS:

Okay.

BM:

And they flew us from Guam to Tinian. And the girls that were on Saipan they pulled in from Saipan to Tinian, and we all went together for the first time in a long time.

TS:

About how long was that?

BM:

Oh a number of months.

TS:

Some months that you were apart? So you were down on Guam for a number of months then, right?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

Okay [unclear]

BM:

As a consequence we had a nice trip–a plane trip up. It was raining outside. You could see the windows were scattered with rain. And we got to Iwo and came in for a landing. And the Japs had bombed the airfield the night before, and the fellows had worked during the night to try to repair the damage as best they could.

TS:

Okay.

BM:

And the plane came in and would go down the runway–hit a pothole, swoop down, and we bounced until we finally–it stopped bouncing and landed.

TS:

Did that make you nervous at all?

BM:

No, not really.

TS:

Really?

BM:

No, we knew that it was a long runway.

TS:

As long as you kept bouncing you’d be alright?

BM:

That’s right.

TS:

As long as you stop.

BM:

And so we when we stopped bouncing we got off the plane. And then they had trucks that picked us up and put us back in the trucks, and took us to our nurses’ quarters. The CBs–

TS:

Okay.

BM:

Construction battalions, they’re part of the navy. They had built Quonset huts in the nursing area for us. And would you believe they had made partitions inside the Quonset huts? And there were two beds, you might say, inside each little compartment. And between the two beds, they had a dresser that had five drawers down there, and five drawers for the girl over here. And that filled up the whole Quonset hut. And it was really nice.

[conversation redacted]

TS:

So they fixed it up–the CBs fixed it up real nice for the nurses.

BM:

They painted it a light blue. Everything was so pretty and so nice. They had a building along side of the area, where the nurses’ quarters were. And they had built a snack bar in there for us. And [there were] some about four washing machines so that we could do our laundry. They were so good to us. They spoiled us.

TS:

That’s real sweet.

BM:

So we got the preferential treatment, you might say.

TS:

How was that different from the places that you were living in Guam? What were your accommodations like there? 

BM:

We didn’t have any contact like that on Guam. Our area was surrounded by camouflage netting, and we had a shower area and a bathing area. And–

TS:

Was it like an open bay sort—

BM:

It was all open except for the camouflage netting around the whole outside area.

TS:

I see. So, a lot more privacy in this other place that you went?

BM:

Oh yeah.

TS:

I see.

BM:

Let’s see we had–trying to think of how to explain it. Some of the fellows that were stationed on Guam had made me a compartmented deal–squared box type deal. And it was–you could hang clothes on one side, and they had drawers for your clothing on the other side. They just went all backwards to–I couldn’t take that to–into Iwo Jima, so I gave that to somebody that stayed behind. And I said, “Enjoy, because the fellows put a lot of work into this.”

TS:

Oh, that’s nice.

BM:

They were just really good to us. They bent over backwards.

TS:

What was your experience like on Iwo Jima then? How did you end up there? How was it that you got to go there?

BM:

They flew us up because we were getting ready for the invasion of Japan. In fact, the Marines knew it was coming. And they used to say, “Nicki, pray that we won’t have to storm the coast of Japan with pack howitzers [75mm Pack Howitzer M1] on our backs.”

I said, “You have my word. I certainly will pray for that.” We did everything we could think of. In fact, I have to give President [Harry S.] Truman a lot of courage. It took guts on his part to sign the word to bomb Japan with the atomic bomb. It took a lot of courage and he had a lot of it. We have him to thank. I don’t think the country knows how much he really should be thanked for all he did. He was wonderful. As a consequence, it shortened the war. And even though a lot of lives were lost in Japan, many more lives would’ve been lost if we’d had to send men over there. So—

TS:

How did you feel about when President Roosevelt died, then, during the war? How did that affect you at all? Did you have any thoughts on that?

BM:

We were sad, naturally. He had tried real hard to do everything he could do for our country, and—but Truman has my praise, he really does. He had down-to-earth guts. [laughs]

TS:

Now, when you’re over here in the islands did you have any news of what was going on over in Europe?

BM:

Not a whole lot, because we didn’t have a whole lot of time nor the appliances. We didn’t have TVs like you’ve got now. We didn’t have anything like that. It was mostly by word of mouth or anything that came in newsprint-wise. And that’s about all we had. But we tried to keep up with it the best we could.

And, of course, we could see our planes going over on bombing runs to Japan, and coming back with huge holes in the fuselage and landing gear dangling. I did more praying in those months and years than I ever did in my life. I prayed, “Please help them to get down safely.” They would circle the island ‘til they used up most of their gasoline, and then they would come in for what they called a “deadstick landing” [a landing with no propulsive power]. And I hoped and prayed that they had enough gas to land properly.

TS:

Did you—

BM:

It was—

TS:

Did you have any experience with any attacks from the Japanese while you were in any of the islands?

BM:

What’s that?

TS:

Did you ever have any bombings happen to you when you were--?

BM:

Oh yeah. They would come over on the—the Japs would come on bombing runs for Iwo Jima routinely—some even at noontime. We’d be in the dining room having our meal, and then the—you’d hear the alarm. And the instructions were that the nurses were supposed to go to the caves.

They said, “We know your inclination is to be with your patients. But we cannot take three years to train another nurse. And you’ve got to do what the majority need, and that is stay safe so you can still continue to help out.” So we did. We went to the caves. And I was always very athletic, so I could run real fast. I was the last one out of the dining room, but one of the first to get into the cave. [chuckles]

TS:

What were the caves like? What were they like when you were in there during the bombing runs?

BM:

I didn't like the caves at all. It was dank and musty and had sort of a musty closet smell. I’d rather have been outside.

TS:

How much room were there in—how much room was there?

BM:

Oh. It was all packed and crowded. Nobody wanted to get in to the cave. They just wanted to stay near the opening.

TS:

Near the opening?

BM:

And that was me, I wanted to be near the front to get out.

TS:

Were you afraid at all?

BM:

No, no.

TS:

No? Not at all?

BM:

I figured that the good Lord would protect me. I felt I was doing the job that had to be done and he’d look out for me, and he did.

TS:

Could you tell me any other stories what your experience was like on Iwo Jima? What else happened to you while you were on the island?

[knock on the door]

[conversation redacted]

[recording paused]

BM:

I did a lot of praying and it paid off because we won. [laughs]

TS:

Did you get any mail or anything while you were there?

BM:

What?

TS:

Mail?

BM:

Men?

TS:

No, like mail—like letters?

BM:

Oh yeah. My mother was a good letter writer, and she kept me well-supplied with letters.

TS:

What did she tell you about in those letters?

BM:

She just told me about home and my little brother and my sisters and Dad and his work, and what she was doing and all. She was a good mother. She died when she was only fifty-six years old. She had cancer that had metastasized. But she was a wonderful mother. I was very fortunate.

TS:

That is nice. Did you get any letters from anybody else besides your mother?

BM:

My grandmother wrote periodically to me. She was a very intelligent woman. Her husband—my grandfather—was a Methodist minister. And she went to school and she took all the subjects, and she became an ordained Methodist minister. And that was most unusual for women in those days. So she was given the church in Maine for—to pastor.

TS:

What was her name?

BM:

Annie M. Nichols. [laughs] Reverend Annie M. Nichols. She was a wonderful woman. She was a wonderful speaker

[knock at door]

BM:

— and she had gone down to the Boston theological seminary, and had taken course—

[conversation redacted]

BM:

Okay. She did real well. She was constantly sought for speaking assignments.

TS:

Interesting.

BM:

In fact, when she would come down to Jersey to visit us, the Methodist minister there in town would come over to the house and get her to agree to speak to them at church. So she was very well-liked. She was a lovely lady.

TS:

Very nice. So you got some letters from her. Now did you get an opportunity to write any letters yourself?

BM:

Oh, I would write to them periodically, yeah. Routine was when I could, I would write home. I think I told you about my grandmother going from Maine to Florida, and I got a leave of absence to go home, and then when I came back I picked up the mumps.

TS:

That’s right. Well, tell me a little bit more about in the Pacific on these islands. So you’re having some bombing on Iwo Jima: daytime and nighttime, right?

BM:

Yeah. They would come over on bombing—I tell you, towards the end it was mostly on photo reconnaissance missions, where they take pictures of the air strip and then send those back to Japan; so the next bombing run they would know where to hit—to drop their bombs.

TS:

Were you on Iwo Jima when the [atomic] bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

You were actually still over there at that time?

BM:

Oh yeah, yeah. Fighting was still going on. It was sporadic. They were coming over and pot-shooting at us. They tried to do as much damage as they could, and we tried to do as much to them as we could.

TS:

How did you hear about the end of the war then?

BM:

We were all grateful. Very grateful.

TS:

Do you remember when you heard about it?

BM:

Yeah. It was one evening. I heard about it and some of the fellows were getting a party up to celebrate, and I was the only one on the island that had a bottle of liquor. Officers were allowed a bottle a month and I don’t drink, so I would use mine as an exchange deal. I would say, “If you’ll give me a carton of Toddy”—which is a chocolate milk drink—“I’ll give you my bottle of liquor.” So that worked out just fine. So I got my Toddy and they got their liquor.

But at the very end there, I was the only one that had a bottle of liquor on the island, and everybody knew that Nicki had a bottle—nobody else did. So they tried to get my bottle of liquor, and I said “no”. I said, “I am thankful for my heavenly father that the war is over”. And I said, “I’m not going to let you spoil it by having liquor.” So I wouldn’t give up my liquor.

TS:

Nobody got to drink that night?

BM:

No. I kept my liquor and I didn’t put it to any bad use, so it worked out. I had a conscience.

TS:

So how was the aftermath of the war then? Once that happened—what happened—what was your experience?

BM:

Everything sort of went downhill real fast. And they were shipping people out real fast too. It was just a matter of months before we got down—back down to either Saipan or Guam, and then they would load us on ships to take us back to the states.

I was fortunate. I landed back in the states on Christmas Eve. And I stayed up all night in the telephone center waiting to call my mother and dad to let them know I was back in the States. Finally, my name was called and the connection was made, and my mother answered the telephone. And I told her—I said, “I’m back in the States. I’m in California and I won’t be able to get home right away, but they’re making arrangements for us to get to the East Coast.” And I said, “It’ll just be a matter of time, but I want you to know I’m back home, safe and sound.” And I said, “We landed last night.”

And it was such a beautiful sight on the bus looking out the window—see the houses with Christmas trees and the Christmas lights on, and you didn’t see any of that over in the Pacific at all. It was just so heartwarming. It was really good.

TS:

Nice welcoming back.

BM:

Yeah, it was. The best was just being back. It was real nice.

TS:

How much longer did you stay in the service after the end of the war?

BM:

They loaded us up on a train as soon as they could. They were taking big groups at a time. And I think it took us about two weeks to get over to the East Coast. And then, soon as we got in, my destination was at—let’s see, where was it? Fort—not Fort Campbell—Fort Dix, New Jersey, I was sent to. And then they had separation papers for us. And we signed them. And I had leave of absence, so I couldn’t take a federal job. So I just enjoyed my vacation with my mother and dad.

TS:

What does that mean, that you had a leave of absence, so you couldn’t take a federal job? What does that mean?

BM:

You have time that you’ve accumulated for leave time, and you’re entitled to it. And the government is going to pay for it, but it means that you can’t work during that time, then. And so I enjoyed just staying home with my mother and dad [laughs] and had a good time. Just really enjoyed it. It worked out very well until I used up my leave time, and then I went to a VA [Veterans Affairs] hospital and worked

TS:

And that’s when you started your work at the VA?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

So what about—

BM:

I have a sister that’s a nurse also.

TS:

That’s right.

BM:

And she was working at the VA hospital. And she talked me into coming up there to work, too. So I thought, “Okay, I’ll come there to work.”

TS:

Now, you told me that when you worked at the VA you also got to use part of your GI Bill. Tell me about that a little bit.

BM:

They had the GI bill, so I asked if they would give me a leave of absence, then, to go to Columbia University to pick up twenty college [credits—McClure added later]—so I would have a total of twenty college credits. I already had a number built up, but I needed a few more. So I said, “If you give me a leave of absence to go, I’ll be glad to go.” So I moved home, stayed at home then, and went to school and got my college credits.

Went back to the VA hospital, and found that the assistant chief nurse was putting me on Men’s Violent. And I said, “No, that’s not for me.”

TS:

Well, you were expecting that you were going to teach, right? When you came back to the VA?

BM:

That’s right. I had gone to school. And the whole thing was I was supposed to take a job teaching in the insulin shock therapy department. And she said, “You’ll go where I send you.”

I said, “Yes, ma’am, I will. But I’m going to make a little detour first. I have to make a stop along the way.” And then I said “I’ll go directly over to Men’s Violent like you insist.” So I went up to personnel and told them that I was resigning. “You can put in one day of active duty and resign.” I said, “This is my one day of active duty over at Men’s Violent”—and I resigned— “And my mother’s going to pick me up at four o’clock.” [laughs]

TS:

And what was Men’s Violent? What was that?

BM:

They were patients that were really unpredictable and prone to violence. I had been on Men’s Violent before, one Sunday morning [I went in to ask if any of the patients would like to be escorted to the hospital chapel for church services—McClure added later]—, and one of the patients tried to strangle me. And two of the assistants came over and tried to pry him loose. Couldn’t get him loose, so I reached up and got my hand under his fingers and got it loose, and then they jerked him away. And then I said, “Is there anyone else that would like to go to church services today?” They both turned to me and said, “Get the heck out of here! Get out!” [laughs]

TS:

So it was a place that was kind of—you were not comfortable in?

BM:

No.

TS:

Yeah, I see.

BM:

But Men’s Violent is not a very good place to work.

TS:

So where did you go after that—after the VA?

BM:

I went to—I called my mother to come and get me and she did--

[conversation redacted]

[recording paused]

BM:

So everything works out for the best.

TS:

Yeah, everything does. I’m going to have to have some of your friends come and visit me. [laughter] You’ve got a revolving door.

BM:

Lots of activity in and out.

TS:

You sure do. That’s great. After the VA, what was it that you went to do?

BM:

I worked in—I went back to Muhlenberg Hospital and signed up with the nurses’ registry—the private duty nursing.

TS:

I see.

BM:

And then I was fortunate, I worked for the Stevens family. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. They had a lot of textile mills in the south. Very well-to-do family for years and years, very well-to-do. So I was one of their private nurses.

TS:

Very nice.

BM:

Yeah. It was real nice. They had a little son, John, and I took care of John. And one day the maid told me—she said, “He went outdoors deliberately in the cold weather to catch a cold, so that Miss Nichols would come and take care of him.” [laughter] The little rascal!

TS:

Well, I know just from talking to you earlier that the end of World War II was not the end of your military service. Tell us about what happened after that.

BM:

Well let’s see, I don’t know I— after it sort of disseminated, after that nothing really happened.

TS:

What about the Korean War?

BM:

What?

TS:

The Korean War.

BM:

Oh well, that happened about a year or two later. And they were putting advertisements in the papers and over TV that they needed the nurses to come back into service. So I signed up then for going back in to serve, and got an official notice to report to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on such and such a date. So I took a train, got down there, and at the train station I waited to find transportation out to Fort— to where I could sign in for my hospital work. And it worked out very well.

TS:

And why did it work out very well? What happened there?

BM:

Oh, not too long after that I met my husband to be. That was the best part of all. He was an army dentist, and I was an army nurse. And we just— we just had a real good time. He was a nice fellow.  He was really great.

TS:

And you stayed in the Army Nurses Corps then until when?

BM:

Until I got pregnant and then I—they—you get forced out. They were not accepting nurses at that time to stay in if you were pregnant—out you went.

TS:

Would you have liked to have stayed in? Would you have liked to have stayed in?

BM:

I— Well, yes and no. Sometimes they would separate the husbands and wives, and that became a rather painful experience. So, I was just as glad to get out at that time.

TS:

How long were you in the second time?

BM:

Oh gosh, it must have been about a year and a half—maybe two years at the most.

TS:

Did you—

BM:

It was a short.

TS:

Shorter time? So how long were you in the first time?

BM:

First time was two years.

TS:

Two years, okay.

BM:

And then the second time was about another two years.

TS:

Yeah. But you didn’t go to Korea in the second one?

BM:

All told it would be about four years.

TS:

Very nice. So you retired as—you finished as a captain right?

BM:

Yeah

TS:

Did your husband stay in the service?

BM:

Oh yes.  And we had a good time. We enjoyed— I enjoy traveling. And he got some wonderful assignments.

TS:

Did you have a favorite that he was at? Was there a favorite place?

BM:

Oh, I loved Salzburg, Austria. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t miss it. Because it’s steeped in history and there’s a lot to see and do in Salzburg. It’s fun to walk the little narrow streets and they’ve got little baker’s shops, and make sure you don’t miss a one. [laughs]

TS:

Get all the bakery shops. So did your husband then retire from—

BM:

He stayed in ‘til he retired. Let’s see, my daughter was getting ready to go to the University of Austin, Texas [University of Texas at Austin] and he had orders to ship out to—oh somewhere on the East Coast, Maryland or somewhere. And he said he was sorry, but he had to turn it down, because he didn’t want to leave his daughter in Texas. It worked out for the best.

TS:

Very good. Now since you are one of the few women, really, who served in World War II, do you have anything that you feel about your service as being a pioneer for other women that are in the service today?

BM:

Well, I think most nurses have a pioneering spirit. [laughs] I think they’re well qualified. I think it’s a wonderful way to travel and it’s a wonderful way to serve your country. So many good things about it. I have no regrets, in fact, I’m very appreciative of all the service that I’ve been able to have. It’s great. It’s—

TS:

Would you recommend it to a young woman today?

BM:

I certainly would. I think it would be the backbone of their experiences, their entire lives.

TS:

There you go. And what do you think about—so today, you know, you have women who are pilots.

BM:

That’s right. In fact, my good friend Louise Brown was a pilot back—way back in those days when we were young kids.

TS:

During World War II, yeah?

BM:

Yeah.

TS:

Was she a WASP [Women Airforce Service Pilot] in the service?

BM:

No, no. She—her parents were wealthy, you might say, and they could afford to let her have flight training. And she took flight training, and I saw a picture of her beside her airplane dressed in her flying clothes. And she’s a cute little girl. [laughter]

TS:

So you don’t have any problem with the girls flying the planes today?

BM:

Oh no, I think they’re just as qualified as any man.

TS:

Is that right, yeah?

BM:

Yeah!

TS:

Is there anything you think that they can’t do in the military today?

BM:

They get as good training as anybody and they should use it. Of course, I think we have to fight a little harder, but keep trying—keep going.

TS:

So you have any advice for them?

BM:

My advice is, “Don’t let them say no to you!” [laughter]

TS:

That’s good advice, Nicki. Well, we’ve talked for quite a while. Is there anything you want to add about your World War II or the Korean War experience that you haven’t talked about?

BM:

I just enjoyed it thoroughly and I think that any young woman today would find it very beneficial in her life to give it a try. It’s a wonderful experience, and I’m glad I didn’t miss any of it. I’m just real pleased that my heavenly father saw fit to protect me and let me do his will.

TS:

Very good—very nice, Nicki.

BM:

Yeah. He’s a wonderful heavenly father, and I just love him dearly.

TS:

Well, thank you so much for this interview. I really enjoyed spending time with you.

BM:

I’m sorry?

TS:

Thank you for the interview Nicki. I appreciate it

BM:

Oh, thank you for coming and for being so patient with my sputtering.

TS:

Oh, you didn’t sputter at all. Here, I’m going to go ahead and turn this off.

[End of Interview]