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World War II Veteran: Mary Adams
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I went to church one Sunday and they had pamphlets, little leaflets in there about the Army. So I picked one up and thought I'll just write to them and see what they will send me, see what its all about. Instead they came out and talked to me and talked me into going into service. And that's how I started.
How old were you?
19 at the time. So I joined right away and went to Des Moines, Iowa, Fort Des Moines to take basic training. And we went over there in the back end of a pickup truck, I don't know what you call it. But anyway all it had was, it was in December, it made me think of an old, well anyway it was open with a tarp over the top of it and it was colder than heck and that was the worst ride I ever had in my life trying to stay warm in that.
How many of you were in there?
Oh about 16 I think of us.
Yes it was all women. So we had our 6 weeks of basic training there, and that was rough. A lot of it was drilling. And being on guard duty at night in the winter time. There were big snow banks and the like and we had to wear these old overcoats at that time we had heavy overcoats and big 4-buckle overshoes to wear, and that was quite a thing.
How long were you in WAC?
I was in 2 years and 22 days.
And what did you do during those 2 years and 22 days?
After basic was transferred to Camp Edwards, Massachusetts that was on Cape Cod between Buzzards Bay and Falmouth. And I worked in the office at Headquarters and we made up the orders for the men going overseas, typed the orders. And then, oh after about a year of it I went to the mimeograph machine and made orders up there. That was really a case because the mimeograph machine, the electricity on it, we had to put some Christmas icicles on it to try and keep it from the papers flying off but every now and then they would and the orders would fly all over the room. And that was quite a job and I stayed there then until I got out of service. But it was very interesting and the state of Massachusetts was very good to us and they gave us big boats, cruiser boats that we could go out on the water and Christmas parties you know all kinds of things like that, they were really nice. I had orders once to go overseas. Boston was our headquarters, and they called in, or my boss rather, he was a Major. He told them no. He was good because he had gone to the main Army College, West Point. So they sort of listened to him and he said no more of my people go overseas. So I didn't get to go.
Were you relieved? Or did you want to go?
I wanted to go because my girlfriend went and she got to go to a lot of countries. So then after that I stayed there until, well I had gotten married in the service and I had orders that I could get out of service when he got back. So at that time he stayed in service and I got to travel going different places with him, we were in Japan, Newfoundland, Canada. The Korean War started at that time while we were over there. So we got to see a lot of the Military life for 20 years after that. And my brother was in the Vietnam War, and I had a brother-in-law that was killed in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. So we live a part of the Military all that time. And after that we just came back to the states and traveled around until he retired. Then I settled down. I came here to Shenandoah because my brother-in-law wanted me to help him with his work, his store and I've stayed here ever since. We adopted a daughter in Newfoundland.
What was the reaction like, when at 19 when you said you wanted to join the WAC? From your family, from your friends at home?
Oh they were surprised, they didn't know I had been thinking about it. But it was ok because another girl where I worked had gone to the Navy, so between the two of us they thought it was alright. Because my dad couldn't go and I had all older sisters so I was the first one to actually go into service because my brother was younger than me. They were all happy about it, never heard a word of complaint. And beyond that I'm still here in Shenandoah working, not working I'm volunteering a lot, keep myself busy.
Did you get close to the men who were going and women who were going overseas as they went through?
Oh yes they were around. And that was a bivouac area and when I got there, there was about 100,000 men waiting to do their bivouac duty, to go overseas. And later it became a hospital and the men came back. And we had German SS prisoners came in the one ship, that came back. And we had them there afterwards. And they didn't want to go back to Europe because they thought they'd have to go to Russia. They'd try everything to try to escape and they'd go out on the trains and they'd hide and if they could get out they'd hide in the buildings. So it got scary every once in awhile. But they were nice, they were our mess hall help. You couldn't believe they were the enemy from the way they would talk to us.
Tell me more about a time when it got scary.
You mean when the Germans...we'll they had just reported...we lived in barracks, a lot of us in the one barracks. We were scared because they were building new barracks for the women and they keep going through the streets with their trucks and everything and we didn't know we had to stay inside waiting and finally it was all clear, they found them down in the basement of the barracks.
So the Germans were hiding in the basement of your barracks?
Yes they just didn't want to go back. They were afraid that they'd have to go to Russia and be their prisoners. They didn't want any part of that. We had one group at our chapel that came and sang Christmas Eve Mass and it was the most beautiful music and singing I think I've ever heard. I think that's always stayed with me. You know, you just couldn't believe that those men would come over and sing.
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