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|Oral history interview with Beatrice Quandt Griffin by Brad Larson for the Oshkosh World War II project. She discusses her experiences on the homefront. A transcript is on a computer file in the archives.
Interview with Bea Griffin
October 9th, 2001
BL: Are you ready to start Bea? Well, this is Brad Larson, I'm sitting in my office with Bea Griffin and we're going to talk a little bit about what you did during World War II. The way I like to start this Bea is if you would just tell me where you were living at the time of Pearl Harbor and your date of birth.
BG: September 7th 1917, and I was livin' in Waukegan Illinois.
BL: Now most of the people I've talked to can remember exactly what they were doing on December 7th, do you remember?
BG: Sunday morning, yes, I remember. I heard it on the radio and of course my dad, being an old Navy man, well, uh, he was all shook up. I was getting ready to go out someplace, I don't remember, it was on a Sunday, and I always went to the dance on Sunday at the Hall. So, I was just getting up and getting ready to go out.
BL: What was the reaction in your family?
BG: Well as I said with my dad being a Navy man, why he…. At the time I didn't think too much of it, being young and busy doing things.
BL: What about your dad, do you remember what your dad thought?
BG: Well, he started saying, 'Oh, man I wish I could go back in the Navy,' you know, he wanted to go over there and help but he had retired from the Navy. He was Lieutenant Commander at that Great Lakes Navel Base, that's where we were livin at Waukegan and I had a brother that was just ripe for drafting too, so my mother, he was her favorite, I was my dad's favorite. That's been a long time ago and my memory isn't working too good but I'll do my best.
BL: That's ok. If you have one recollection of Pearl Harbor, what is that one thing that you can recall?
BG: Being a young and flighty girl I thought 'oh dear, all the guys from the Great Lakes are going to have to go to the…(laughing)…Pearl Harbor. So I guess that's all I can recall.
BL: Was there very much thought at that time of women enlisting in the military?
BG: Uh, no, there was a few WAVES at Great Lakes and all, and one of my friends went in and I thought well, there's going to be a shortage of dancing partners so, I might as well join too. You know how it is when you're like twenty years old. Shouldn't be too far for you but it's quite a ways for me. So, anyway I went to Chicago to enlist, and had physicals and everything and I was sent to boot camp in North Carolina.
BL: How did you pick the Marines?
BG: Much to my father's…. I don't know, because my friend had joined the Marines, she was one of the first ones, and it got so there was a shortage of dates and dancing partners and everybody was going, so. I never regretted it, I felt that we did some good, you know. The men didn't like it because they had to go overseas and when they came back from overseas, a bunch of us was coming from North Carolina, no…. Where did I say I took…? Down in Oklahoma and then we went to Los Angeles and we were standing in the station and the guys come in and they said "Oh my God, the Marines have got Women, Dogs and Blacks," or no… "Women, Blacks, and Dog." We came after the dogs anyhow and um, cuz that meant they had to go back over, see. So they weren't too happy to see us.
BL: Do you think that that was uncommon or was that a common feeling among….
BG: Well, uh, they should have been used…Because the Army had the WACS and the Navy had the Waves and the Marine was supposed to be the elite ones, you know, they didn't want women in it. It got so they appreciated us.
BL: Well, what about the…soldiers and airmen aside but what about the average civilians?
BG: I don't think most even knew who we were, cuz we didn't get a lot of…. You know, like when the WAVES and the WACS started, everybody was joining up and everything, but the Marines didn't get too much publicity. The women Marines but uh, we didn't go in for publicity anyhow, so.
BL: Why did most of the women go in?
BG: Some of them had family in the Marines, some of them had friends, you know, women Marines who had joined before. I don't know, I never asked em' much.
BL: What was the date of your enlistment, did you say?
BG: Oh dear, I got it someplace at home. It was uh…In the spring, wasn't it?
BL: Of what year?
BG: '43, I got out in '47. I was in almost four years. I think it was '43 or '44. I could call you with those dates. I didn't think to bring em'.
BL: Sure. I gave a form to your son and you can fill it out as you sit down and maybe you think of some of these things. But here's a question for you, you took basic training in North Carolina, when you went in did you know what you were going to do? Did you have a sense?
BG: No, cuz they give you a test and they put you where you… You know, like the typist and stuff. I couldn't do anything, I worked in a factory and I worked in several different places and the dime store and things like that, so. The only thing I was good at was tools, working around the house and doin' things that were with tools, so they put me in the aviation field.
BL: And what did you do there, what was your job?
BG: Well, after we went through all this training, we took uh, let's see…. I thought about it last night while I was lying in bed, thinking of all these things. I took, uh…. Well they split it up, you know, the engine and the prop and that was a lot of fun. A lot of disc in a prop and we had a platform built in front of the plane and it was a long platform and we had to take the prop off one at a time and put it down and when we put it back together we worked from the front to the back. In different places we took different things. We had motor and we had changing the tires. You should have seen us ladies, we all only weighed about one hundred and twenty pounds and trying to get those tires off of the rim, it took about three of us with a crowbar trying to get it off
The wheels were so big, you know the tires, we could walk through the holes almost. Well, anyway they had different stages you know, so I went through three or four basics before we were sent out to…. We'd stay in Los Angeles, I mean we used to go to Los Angeles. El Toro, yeah, El Toro.
BL: Do you remember what kind of aircraft it was?
BG: Mostly Corsairs and LST's, I think that's what they were LST's, I can't remember all these things.
BL: Well I think you're doing a darn good job. That was a long time ago.
BL: So I think you're doing a great job.
BG: Yeah, my son is fifty-three and I got married in '47 so it's been fifty some years.
BL: At the time you were doing that, did you think that you were doing an important job?
BG: Yes! That's what we were there for to do an important job but the boys seemed to think we were there for their pleasure. They didn't like us doing the jobs that they should be doing.
BL: It sounds like it was hard work
BG: Yeah, it was and not only that but you were so confined you could only go so many places and uh, but we did see quite a bit. We had to take training on you know, gas things and we had to take training with dogs and do all the things the men had to do in training and they didn't like to think that women could do that here. So we had a lot of things against us at the very beginning but later on they got used to us.
BL: Do you think you knew that going in that you might have obstacles to overcome?
BG: Oh yes, because they had just started the Marines and I could see living close to Great Lakes but people thought, you know, men especially. None of us were used to that kind of livin' you know; we had to be in bed in so much…. Make your bed and everything and be able to bounce a quarter off the bed, so none of us were used to that. We had a lot of problems everywhere, with the public, with the Marines and with us getting used to it. They weeded out the ones who weren't suitable. There was only one girl in our bunch that didn't make it. But after we got used to it then everybody got used to us.
BL: What was the hardest thing to get used to among all of that? What was the hardest?
BG: Well, I think walking down the street and not having someone make a remark about you, that was the hardest thing. Here you thought you were doing something for your country and everybody seemed to think you were just a bunch of women who just went in to be around the men. Course, I imagine there was some like that but they soon got rid of anybody who wasn't in there to do a job. And we really had the same training the men did; you know field training, except shooting.
BL: You know right now because of the attack on September 11th, patriotism is very high. What do you remember about patriotism in the Second World War?
BG: Well, I think it was high at the beginning but toward the end people were kind of used to it. So it kind of eased off. By the time I got out in '47 they were letting people out, you know, discharging them.
BL: Do you remember any problems between the men in the military and the people at home working in the war factories, earning a lot of money?
BG: No, I don't think so because we all had a chance to work if we wanted to work, I mean fifty dollars a month was what we got and, well, some of us like me, I was working in the factories when I joined, so.
BL: What were you doing?
BG: I was working at John Manville in uh…I can't think of the word for the…. Where they made the, uh…. Clutch facings and I was an inspector of that and I had to take measurements of the slit that they made in the break linings, and I was working there when I joined. One of my friends who was the boss of the office where I was working, she joined, after I did or before I did. She joined the WAKS and I said to the girl who was living with us, a friend, she joined so I did too. My father was proud as punch although he was mad that I joined the Marines and not the Navy. Other than that they were…. I was always his pet anyhow.
BL: Now the WAKS were Army what was the name for the Marines?
BG: Just WR. We were Marines.
BL: Just WR, hmm.
BG: Mhhmm, we didn't have fancy names, I don't know why. Any thing else?
BL: Well sure, I have just a couple of more questions here. After you finished your training, what happened then? Were you assigned to a base?
BL: Where was the base?
BL: Oh that was in California? Did you stay there for the duration of the war?
BG: Ah, yeah. I was the final inspection on the line. After they got through with it, I went through the final inspection to make sure all the holes are patched and things were greased and that's when the men couldn't get back into the tails of the planes very good, you know, the size. So that's where we came in handy. I'd final inspect it and I had to go through and make sure that everything was molded down and so forth and then I'd tell the pilots that they could go up and a couple of them said "Well you're going up with us to prove it!" and I do not like to fly. So we flew all over the ocean and so when they came back they said, "How was it?" and I'd say "Oh fine." I wouldn't tell them I was scared to death. I still don't like to fly. But anyway, then they said, "Job well done!" so we felt like we had really helped somehow or another. The officers were really nice, they would give me a ride down to San Diego when they were going down because my Grandmother and my Aunt and Uncle lived down there. I would go down there for the weekend.
BL: Well now, there's an interesting question. During the war there had to be some fun or leisure time activities that everybody participated in, do you remember any of those?
BG: Outside of dating and going to dances…(laughs)
BL: Give me an example, what would you do when you had off time? Where there USO dances or anything?
BG: Oh yeah they had dances in like, San Diego, where my Aunt and Uncle were and uh, they had that base out on the boat on the ocean there. They had dances down at San Diego and I used to go there because it was just two blocks away from my Aunt and Uncles and Grandmothers house and I'd kill two birds with one stone.
BL: Had they moved out there during the war or…
BG: No, he was a captain or a lieutenant or something and he retired out there and that's where he was stationed.
BL: Do you think things changed after the war in any way?
BG: Towards what?
BL: For example I'm thinking mainly toward women? Did people come to accept you more?
BG: Well I didn't see too much in the change until after I got out.
BL: What happened then?
BG: Well I mean, uh…They were kinda surprised a lot of them didn't even know we were in it, though we were Marines. "YOU were in the Marines?" Like that, you know.
BL: Kind of sarcastically
BG: Well, kinda snooty like, you know. I said, "Well I worked in a factory, do I get that kind of attitude cuz I worked in a factory?" They got so's they were used to us by then. Some of 'em never did get over that attitude, you know.
BL: I imagine that hurt, didn't it?
BG: Yeah! You thought you were helping them by going in, cuz they couldn't go in a lot of them, you know, older women and stuff…ah, we got used to it, so we didn't mind.
BL: And I see you've brought me some photographs here to look at.
BG: I'll show you the…Here's the planes we worked on.
BL: Ah, I can recognize the Corsair because of the gull wing.
BG: Uh huh and…. I had another one. I lost them for a while and I couldn't find them.
BL: Which one is you on here, Bea?
BL: Which one is you?
BG: The one in the middle. We were just goofing around, and this is Norman Oklahoma at the University, where we took some of out training. This is me.
BL: On the right?
BG: Uh huh, and these are my two buddies.
BG: Here's a bunch of us in our uniforms. (Drops something)
BL: I'll get it.
BG: That's my sister, she was in the WACS.
BL: You mentioned you had brothers in as well.
BG: My brother, yes. These are marching down the field. This was taken off base, this is my friend's well, it turned out to be her husband, trying to teach me how to shoot. (laughs) They gave us work in uniforms and they gave us bib overall things in the khaki, like, so they'd cover up over here, you know. Don't know why we had shirts that were a mile big on us, but ah…. A couple of the girls got brave and got in to the men's jeans. So then they issued us the jeans. I came across this, this was my dad and he was Lieutenant Commander and he was in charge of uh…Sub Tender. And this is I U A K or something like that, but anyway it was a long time ago.
BG: And that's in San Diego Harbor.
BL: Would you allow us to scan a couple of these, or copy them and then I'll just bring 'em up?
BG: Oh sure.
BL: Did you have a chance to see your brothers in Service?
BG: No, my brother was killed in the service, over in Germany.
BL: He was,…Hmm.
BG: And I didn't see him after he left the states.
BL: Was he in the Army or….
BG: He was in the Army and he was married, with one child and one on the way, so he never did see his daughter. My husband was in the Army in Germany and his brother was killed in England. They were billeted in a hotel and the hotel was bombed, and my husband was in China Burma and India in the Legionnaires. So we all went in, both of my boys, Rod was in Vietnam; my other one was in Korea, my younger son. My sister didn't go she was just in the states, she was in the Guards and she met her husband there and got married. My mother got a gold star.
BL: Tell me about gold stars.
BG: If you had a child, or a member of your family, the mothers got a gold star to put in the window. If there was anybody killed in action.
BL: Did you see very many of them in the course of the war, in peoples homes?
BG: Around the San Diego area I did because a lot of them were from there. We lived in Waukegan you know, and I wasn't home much to go around and see. My husband, he lost a brother, and I lost a brother but fortunately, I'm not a gold star mother, my boys came back. Mean as ever. Even a little bit meaner especially the one from Vietnam.
BL: Well is there any other particular memory you want to get on tape or anything that we should talk about that you can recall?
BG: I don't know, did I mention anything along the way?
BL: Well, Bea, that's pretty much all I have.
BG: Well that's pretty much all I've got too!
BL: Okay. This has been very enjoyable, thank you very much.
BG: Well, thank you. I'm glad to see we're getting' some publicity too.
BL: And thank you for your service during WWII. You may have not gotten the recognition before but we hope to bring you some now, sixty years later.
|Oral History Interview with Beatrice Quandt Griffin
-WORLD WAR II
-Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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