Interviewer: Michael J. Thomas
Subject: Claire Anderson (grandmother, former WAVE)
was born in
-Well, at the time I thought I had the good life. That was the time before we had TV and all the electronics. We spent most of the time outside and when we came home it was game time outside. Girls learned to sew and cook and do all the things girls don’t do now. But it was wonderful in the Depression as they call it. Now that you look back you think about how good we really had it.
you know that’s something else. During
the ‘30’s we didn’t really think that much of it, because, I mean, that was
over across the sea. We were here in
as a matter of fact, three of the boys I graduated with in high school were
among the first three to go. I don’t
remember their names but I know they were [anxious], everybody was anxious at
that particular time to be called up.
They thought that was sort of a special way to get in the service. As I say, at that time when the draft came,
it was so new and I don’t think a lot of the boys just graduating from high
school, knew what they were going to do with their life. They thought This is wonderful, we’ll go in the Army, we’ll go in the service. As I say, when they started the draft we knew
what had happened in
was attending a birthday party in
-When I look back, I think how now we look at all the people protesting, protesting the war, protesting everything. At that time everybody wanted to get involved. I mean, my brother, who at that time was only ten years old, he and his friends were going house to house, they were collecting aluminum foil, they were collecting pots and pans and people were joining up for the, what they called the Shore Patrol, that would patrol the streets making sure everybody had their window shades drawn so there’d be no light going out into the ocean. You know, afraid of maybe attacks by subs or foreign ships. I mean everybody was in it, everybody was volunteering. The club that I worked with, what they called the AWVS, the American Women Volunteer Service and then a lot of the girls would volunteer to go up to the USO and serve food to the soldiers and what have you but everybody was involved. To me that was…. It’s just… The boys that didn’t get in were frustrated, they wanted to get in. There weren’t too many that were what they called 4-F, who didn’t qualify because of some physical disability. I think just about all of my friends either joined up in the service and very few of the girls actually went into military but they were all doing volunteer work.
-I decided to join in 1942. I don’t know, I just thought it’d be a wonderful opportunity to go in, I mean I…at that time I was just like a lot of the guys I guess, I thought I wanted to do something. Of course, with recruiters they have a way of making you feel that whatever you contribute is going to help in the long run. So I guess I was naïve but I still feel that joining was one of the best decisions I ever made.
-I honestly can’t tell you why. I just liked the Navy. Several of the boys that I knew from high school had joined the Navy and I don’t know I just…that was it, I just made the decision that that’s what I wanted to do.
went to the
you knew about the war in
assigned to Naval Headquarters in
-I was a
Yeoman. I did…well, I took dictation and
I did a lot of typing. The ones I did
then were supposedly confidential and it still is. There were things that we had to get all
kinds of messages out. As I say, now all
you’d have to do would be to get on your computer, get on your laptop, but it
was so different then. Instead of having
all of the information on the computer or a disk, we had rooms that had what
they called jackets. They were paper,
thick paper envelopes that had everybody’s record. And in
-Uh, not really. We knew that it wasn’t…I would say we knew a lot that was going on, but we didn’t really put it on the typewriters and when we were given dictation, it was primarily to family members, it was, um, well, I don’t know how to put it…there were special requirements for different services…or not services, the parts of the navy certain supply and different officers would get the request, they’d investigate, they’d dictate their reply and the yeomen, or in other words secretaries, would type it out and everything had to have four or five copies so that the original went out and one was filed in the office that it came from, others were filed in the Navy Bureau. Everything was, as I say, very, very paper [static]…paper [static]…Paper in the military during World War II, I don’t know how we ever would’ve gotten our communications ‘cause everything like supplies had to be requested with an order form plus so many copies and then it would go down the chain of command and then if you wanted to leave you had to apply for weekend leave or a pass and then you had to have the original and copies. As I say, now they don’t do that anymore, but that was part of my job.
was very fortunate because where I worked we worked almost on a straight…like
we had to report at seven o’clock in the morning and the main reason for that,
the unit that I was attached to we made up the WAVES parade unit and as the
parade unit we represented all of the, um…oh, when they would have a parade for
like, um…oh, I can’t think of his name.
It’ll come to me. [I think she was
thinking of Nimitz-MT] All the officers and the dignitaries would have a
kind of a parade or celebration. They
would ask the WAVES and the WAC’s and the different military parade units to
march. So we had to go in early for our
practice. And then we had breakfast from
and then from to four, five, or
six everyday; that’s how long you worked.
Then on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, its just like a typical job
today, you had the weekends off. And I
tried to get back to
-[Laughter] Well, at that time it was like Jimmy Dorsey and Betty Goodman and Glenn Miller and all of the old bands. There were very few…there was nothing compared to rock’n’roll or any of that. And the movies, were musicals, primarily musicals, Westerns, and then when they started to have the war movies, they began coming out in 1943, ’44 and they were versions of, like “Tora, Tora, Tora” and all of the jungle movies about the Japanese in their battles and…I don’t know how to put this, Michael, cause as I say there weren’t too many war movies coming out, but they did begin to come out toward the end of the war. As I say, we didn’t have the choices that you have today. Music was all big band music.
learned a lot through my job, but you would go to the movies and they would
have, well here in
-Well, you know this is something that most of us did not know until after the war was over. That there were actually German submarines right off the coast and that is why, even though we weren’t made aware of it, that is why any building-hotels, homes-anyone that had their windows facing the ocean, and even at night all of the street lights, they had to have their shades pulled and on the boardwalk the big globes were painted black with the side that faced the ocean and it was just a slit, facing the West, that would allow light through. I mean, anybody caught with their shade up or any kind of light, they were subject to arrest at that time, but there were…we found out that there were patches of tar floating up on the beach, there were pieces of what we now know were merchant marine boats that were torpedoed and there’s a very interesting book put out showing how many actually were shot, the submarines, how many were actually destroyed off the coast and we never knew that until after the war.
-No. As a matter of fact, it was amazing because they said everybody was so willing, they had…oh, I can’t think of the name of the people that volunteered to go through their neighborhood and be sure that every light was out that faced the ocean or even if they thought something might reflect or shine off of something metallic, they would ask you to turn your light off. I don’t ever remember anybody complaining about a sacrifice. We couldn’t get sugar and you couldn’t get gas, [because] it was rationed. People didn’t complain, they really didn’t complain and as I say, I never heard of anybody that felt they were having requests made that were unrealistic. They just thought, “We don’t want any problems, we’re going to cooperate.”
were given the story that this man, of course we didn’t know about the years
prior to his starting on
-No, next door to us we had a family named Bressler who were very, very German, I mean, the mother spoke German, the father was fluent in German. And, they were some of the first people to volunteer to do anything they could here. They wanted no association with it and it was just the same with a lot of the Japanese. I went to school with two Japanese girls and one Japanese boy and it was sad, but they were sent to California because of the fact that they were Japanese, which I thought was sort of cruel because they were Japanese-Americans but, as I say, we hated the Japanese and we hated the Germans in that area, um, time, because we heard all of the bad things and of course I guess that’s all there was with Hitler, just bad. Everybody wanted him to go.
-No, as I
say, once Hitler was gone, once the war was over, I mean, you heard different
[things], just as in
-At the time, we thought the Russians were the good guys, I mean, the Russians were fighting on their front to protect their country and they seemed to be working with the Allies and of course the news and things later on with Stalin, you had a different opinion. All we knew were the boys in the news that we did get were the German soldiers and the Russian soldiers were doing nothing but getting frozen to death trying to protect the country. I don’t know, as I say, I always thought the Russians, during World War II were on our side.
-That was a
very, very sad day. The funeral
-No, the WAVE parade was part of the funeral procession and it was very, very quiet, you could hear the horses, you could hear that, you could hear people crying and it was, as I say, it was a very, very sad day. But all of the military units were represented.
-Oh, well, that was really the end and, as I say, at the time I think a lot of people were very upset hearing of how it ended with the dropping of the bomb. But, as…I mean as horrible as it was eventually everybody knew that had that bomb not dropped there would have been many, many more American boys killed so, it was just a way to get the war over and as I say, the celebration…that meant it was over and almost the same type of celebrations took place. As I say, you cannot imagine the screams, the noise, the excitement. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever see again.
got married when I was in the service and I left in, oh lets see when I exactly
did leave here…I left the service on
was looking at my discharge and I laughed because at the bottom it says
“mustering out pay” and it was paid on
-Well, Michael, I don’t know, I really don’t realize what I’ve said to you, but I’ll tell you, I honestly and truly think it was such an honor to be in the uniform and I was so proud of that uniform and, as I say, I just…I can’t imagine anybody that served in World War II or the Korean War or any of the wars we’ve had since, I can’t imagine anybody having more pride in what they did, than I did while serving in the WAVES.