I was a senior student nurse on duty, December 7, 1941, at St. Joseph's Hospital, in Keokuk, Iowa. We were serving trays for the Sunday evening meal. I was dashing in and out of rooms when I heard on the radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. The announcer sounded very excited and confident that war would be imminent. Chills ran up my spine as I thought of my two oldest brothers - plus cousins and friends - being of draft age. I wondered about the boys who had enlisted for a year and had expected to be home soon. Their enlistment would probably be extended. I thought of the song, "I'll Be Back in a Year, Little Darling."
The next morning we heard the news, "F.D.R. declares War!" It was official. We had entered the Second World War!
Soon we were issued war ration books. Sacrifices must be made at home to take care of the military. Gasoline, tires, shoes, sugar, coffee, cigarettes and butter were rationed. We could not buy nylon hose. Ladies wore "painted" hose or cotton "service weight" stockings. Nearly everyone had a victory garden planted in every small area available. We were urged to buy War Bonds. My oldest brother was inducted in February 1942.
After my graduation, I was on special duty with a young Coast Guard serviceman who had become very ill while stationed at the Keokuk Dam. I earned $10 a day for 20-hour duty. This was a lot of money at that time. The servicemen were paid only $25 a month. My dad worked for $3 a day. When my patient was transferred to the U.S. Marine Hospital in St. Louis, I was asked to go as a nurse escort on the train. I was given a tour of the hospital and a job offer. I loved it! We had nice accommodations with a good salary. The patients were servicemen in the Coast Guard, Navy and Merchant Marines.
However, in less than a year, I was transferred from the U.s. Public Health Service to Immigration and Naturalization Service and was sent to an Alien Internment Camp in Crystal City, Texas. I had no choice. Uncle Sam gave the orders. The camp was for families living in the United States without citizenship, whose country we were at war with. Japanese families lived on one side of the camp. German families on the other. They each had their own little house. Many planted small gardens and flower beds. They were given work inside the camp. Many worked in the hospital. The camp was surrounded by a high fence with guard stations at each corner. Mounted patrol guards rode horseback around the fence. The nurse quarters was a barracks outside the big gate. We carried an ID card to show each time we went in or out of the camp.
In the meantime, I had a brother in New Guinea and another in North Africa. I became dissatisfied, but did tough it out several months before I joined the Army. My parents were under so much stress and concern for my brothers, and they didn't want me to join.
I took my basic training at Camp Carson, Colorado. We had a tough drill sergeant with many hash marks on his sleeve. We were on the drill field at sunup, dressed in fatigues, ready to do push ups, march right, left, about face, etc. His delight was telling us how sloppy we were! Then it was "double time" to the mess hall and classroom. Our new shoes killed our feet! We learned how to wear a gas mask and then were tested in a gas chamber. We took a 10-mile hike up the mountain with an ambulance following. Flag etiquette and other military regulations were taught in the class-room. After basic I was sent to the hospital in Fort Riley, Kansas.
On V. J. Day, August 14, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered, I had four brothers, a brother-in-law, my husband-to-be and myself in service. The good news was everyone would soon be coming home! I was married while still in the service.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.
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