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Transcript of [self-interview] Marie Brand Voltzke, World War II, WAVES

Marie Brand Voltzke:

My name is Marie Brand Voltzke. I am recording this information at 11673 N. Cortez, Turlock, CA, 95380. My birth date is 10/29/18, present age 83. As Marie M. Brand, Service Number 550-37-93, I served in World War II in the WAVES, a branch of the U.S. Navy.

I entered as an Apprentice Seaman and was discharged as a Chief Specialist

On enlistment I was sent to the U.S. Naval Training Station at Oklahoma Aamp;M College, Stillwater, OK.

After boot training to the Naval Communication Annex on Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues in Washington, D.C., listed on my discharge as RSNYD, Washington, D.C. and USNB, Washington, D.C., I remained there until discharged on 10/31/45.

I enlisted at Clarksburg, WV. My home address was Box 23, Hepzibah, WV.

My family has always been very patriotic. Both of my brothers were in the Navy, so I enlisted in the Waves.

B. BOOT SCHOOL

I entered active duty 02/12/43 and took the train to Stillwater, OK. Even in February, Stillwater was hot, dry, windy, and dusty. Upon arrival we found the hillside covered with luggage. After sorting and finding our own, we lined up for assignment. I was billeted in Cordell Hall, later moved to Willard Hall at the college.

Our training consisted of clerical subjects but we also had to study and be questioned on the "Blue Jackets' Manual," learning the authority and discipline required in the Navy.

Our quarters werd conducted as if it were a ship. We requested permission to go ashore when leaving the premises, and to come aboard upon return. Rules of discipline and the line of authority were strict in adherence. We stood four-hour watches on night duty. Tunnels ran from our building to the next. We patrolled with flashlight, listening and looking for unusual sights or sounds. I dreaded the trips but more so if time remained to sit at the desk. We were cautioned that sailors caught asleep on watch were subject to being shot.

Captain's inspection of living quarters was very strict. White gloves swiped across the door brought on terror. Bunks were made to specification, all gear invisible. Demerits were given for infractions and a prescribed number required discipline.

The day we were issued our uniforms, we were given our clothing allowance in cash. Moving down the line, we paid for each item, with no cash remaining at the end. We never questioned the procedure. The raincoat issued to me was two sizes too large. Upon request for a smaller size, I was told to move on. Fortunately, at drill inspection by a male commanding officer, he stopped and wrote a note to the supply office to give me a raincoat that fit my size. I could have kissed him but a salute and thank you were in order.

We drilled rain or shine. When it rained, we marched around and around in the livestock pens. The animals were gone but their former presence remained. We sang while we marched. A copy of our renditions is enclosed. We were allowed to chew gum when drilling. On hot, windy days, th^ gum became gritty.

We were lined up and suffered a multitude of required shots, and were told by the presiding petty officer there were no facilities for fainting, as sick bay was at another location.

The food was very good. We did our own laundry, sharing the tubs (no machines), washboards, irons, etc. This posed a problem at times. With shared line drying, we were on an honor system.

Our training was a crash course as we were needed in Washington, D.C. We left boot school with a rating of third class petty officer. We took the required tests, including questions from the dreaded "Blue Jackets' Manual." Would we ever need to know a battleship's speed is 20 knots?

We were busy, busy, engrossed in study. I don't remember attending any entertainment. I enjoyed walking into Stillwater and attending the Presbyterian Church on Sunday, however.

Boot school was an experience! Navy time, a huge ship, ship's language, all created my greatest dilemma - "Will I be where I am due and on time?" I learned the necessity of strict discipline and authority, cautioned it could mean the difference between life and death.

C. DUTY ASSIGNMENT AND BARRACKS LIFE

Arriving in Washington, D.C., we were assigned to the Naval Communication Annex at Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues. At that time there were no barracks at this location. We were housed in temporary quarters at West Potomac Park in D.C. We took the city bus at the Lincoln Memorial to get to the Annex. Before reporting for work detail, we were given a few days leave.

Checking in for duty, we were given a battery of tests. We sat in pews, no desks or student chairs, in the small chapel located on the Naval Base at the Annex. According to our aptitude, we were assigned to our work section. We were sworn to secrecy, given ID badges to wear at all times on duty, and advised we could be shot if we disclosed our section or the nature of our work. Marine guards checked us in and out. In the meantime, I heard from home that a naval officer had been to my hometown, checking with neighbors, friends, teachers, and employer regarding my character.

Upon completion of the first three barracks across the Street from the Annex, I moved to WAVE Quarters D, barracks #3. We no longer had to stand watch. We had a Master of Arms at the front desk. We were responsible for our cubicle being in order, but there were maids who did the cleaning.

I survived the erection of 30 additional barracks. The construction shack was beside our barracks. The WAVE in the enclosed photo is in regulation rain gear. I don't remember her name. She said she was sending a copy to friends at home, telling them the shack was our "outhouse". Many girls had and kept a sense of humor. All was not fun, however, and heartache was not relegated to men only. There were "Dear Jane" as well as "Dear John" letters.

We worked three shifts and everyone in the barracks was not on the same shift. Combating the noise of construction and other deck noises, I resorted to ear plugs. Other than when I had my babies, I continue to wear them.

With 33 barracks and 4,000 WAVES, we became the largest WAVE quarters in the world.

The barracks were divided into cubicles, with an open front, and the sides did not reach the ceiling. Four girls to a cubicle, a double bunk on each side, with a double clothes locker at the end of each bunk. Each girl had one drawer and space to hang uniforms. Two shared an open desk, one chair and mirror, attached to the locker. Remarkably, the arrangement was adequate.

To compensate for having the lower bunk, I permitted my bunk mate to hang her weekly washed hose by hangers from the springs of her bunk. Passersbyrshook their heads in disbelief. We shared the laundry facilities and community showers. There was a lounge upstairs in each barracks. We could listen to the radio, no TV as yet, play board games, write letters, etc. Snacks were allowed.

Rita, from the Bronx, patiently taught me to knit. I learned to roll my hair in pin curls, and was told to wear a girdle. Oh, they were all helpful, teaching me not to "catch a streetcar" and many other proper phrases that corrected a West Virginia "hillbilly". I made many dear friends and continue to correspond with them at Christmas.

Prior to completion of the mess hall, we were granted a food allowance. Skimp, save and splurge at a popular restaurant with music, became a pattern. Later, upon completion of the mess haU, we found the food to be excellent. Officers from the Navy Department and other dignitaries often dined with us.

One great calamity we faced was contracting "trench mouth". When so unfortunate, we were on our honor to sit at a condemned table. There was never an epidemic, but the tendency for it to return was great. I suffered such twice after discharge.

An administration building, recreational hall with a bowling alley and swimming pool, a snack bar, and a ship's store were added to the complex. We could walk through Rock Creek Park to Silver Springs, MD, a neat little town with a shopping center.

D. WORK ASSIGNMENT

My first work assignment was to a room where we sat around a large table and added numbers. We were told what to do but not why or the ultimate results. Our work was logged in on a time clock by a carrier. It was taken out the same way. All scrap paper went into "burn bags". A detailed record was kept on the bags. A misplaced or mismarked bag was a serious infraction.

The job was ffer from exciting. Another room in our building was dubbed "the little chit house". Intermittently, a WAVE was sent to this room. If her performance was not satisfactory, she returned. I dreaded the day I was sent. Fortunately, I was allowed to remain. In the beginning there was only one other WAVE and our officer, Lt. Theriault. The section grew to an additional officer, more WAVES, two sailors, and two civilian workers, a man and wife. The number on all shifts was the same, but the combination varied. The work procedure was the same, but I assumed more difficult. Work that met a certain pattern went in one basket, otherwise into another basket.

In all my time in the service, Lt. Theriault was my favorite officer. On a midnight shift, I took work to him that did not follow the usual pattern. He became excited, and the commanding officer, who was off duty, was called in.

In a few days I was called to go to the Naval Department to receive a commendation. At that time I was a second class petty officer. My reward was that the time between second class and first class petty officer was waived. However, I was required to take the regular first class exam. On 02/19/441 received a memo from Lt. (j.g.) Pond, an officer from administration at the barracks, congratulating me of my promotion to Sp. Q first class, stating I was the first in the entire Annex. Our classification in the meantime had been changed to a new rating of Specialist

Consequently, I became the first Chief Sp. Q on the station. My friends bought my chiefs hat, emblem and patches. All awaited to take my picture the next morning as I exited the barracks.

Arriving at work a few days later, both civilian workers were gone. We were never told the reason. I often wondered if they were spies.

To this day, I've never been enlightened as to what I accomplished or the results of our work in the Pacific Theater. I've never been notified of a reunion or if our work has been declassified.

I received the ribbon of good conduct, the ribbon for serving in the Pacific Theater of War, and the ribbon bar for meritorious conduct of the United States Naval Communications Intelligence Organization.

E. FREE TIME AND ENTERTAINMENT

Work continued to be routine. Being stationed in D.C. gave many exciting outlets that compensated. Day shift permitted time in the evening to attend the Washington Post's Starlight Concerts at Meridian Park, the most memorable being the Von Trapp Family Singers, who had fled Austria to evade Hitler's onslaught. Later, the movie, The Sound of Music" was, indeed, special to me. I saw Lott Goslar, my first ballet. I attended stage plays, Navy, Army, and Marine band concerts. I am so grateful for the exposure to many forms of art. All of this entertainment was free for service personnel.

Afternoon shift permitted free mornings to visit and sit in on discussions in Congress, attending and witnessing military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. I attended the parade when General Eisenhower came home after VE Day, visited the art museum and the national monuments; my favorite was the Lincoln Memorial.

Scuttlebutt was rampant when President Roosevelt died - "the casket was too small for his body," "he wasn't dead, he was in hiding," etc.

I visited many of the churches, including the impressive Washington Cathedral, and felt state pride the Sundays West Virginia was acknowledged.

After being informed of the Service Men's and Women's Mission by Glen Wagner of the Pocket Testament League, I started attending there on a regular basis. Chief Gunner's Mate, James Downing, and his wife, Morena, were a unique Bible teaching team. They were the anchor for many, providing counseling and encouragement. I became acquainted with the Navigators' program and learned many scripture verses. Tim later became head of the Navigators and served many years in that position.

Jack Wirtzen was head of "Youth for Christ". He sponsored boat paddle rides to Mount Vernon for young people and service personnel. We sang choruses and hymns, and had special music from Christian artists. Jack would have a short evangelistic Bible sermon. When he gave the invitation for salvation, I helped watch for responders and provided them with Christian material.

Afternoon shift also provided morning time for bike riding with friends around the Tidal Basin, especially when the cherry blossoms were at their peak. My best friend and I made many canoe trips on the Potomac.

Coming off midnight shift, I had 72 glorious hours for exploration. All I needed was a signed permit to leave a forty-mile radius of Washington, D.C. My friends and I took a tour of New York City, staying at the Taft Hotel. Guy Lombardo was playing in the dining room. He came to our table and sang "Irish Blue Eyes" to me, a great moment! For many years I watched his band on New Year's Eve, reliving memories. Visiting the Luray Caverns in Virginia, we stayed at the Mimslyn Hotel, my first stay at a luxury hotel, listed as one of distinction, with marigolds in the finger bowls, no less. At Virginia Beach I saw and swam in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Philadelphia, Baltimore - my goal, any prominent place I could reach within limits. Two undisclosed surprise trips sponsored for us by the WAVE Quarters D afforded visiting the Annapolis Naval Academy and the Battleship Wisconsin.

On leave, I would take the train home, often standing from D.C. to Clarksburg, WV. I kept in close contact with family and friends as postage was "free". On a visit to North Carolina, home of my best friend, a visit to Duke University, which also included an organ recital, was special.

F. DISCHARGE

We were not permitted to keep a diary or journal. Collected programs, bulletins, post cards, photographs, Navy papers and magazines have helped jog my memory.

At the end of World War III was given the option of attending Officers' Training School, work as a Civil Service employee in Naval Communications, or being discharged on points. I was 27, wanted a family and children. Marriage was permitted in the WAVES but not pregnancy at that time, so I asked to be discharged.

Leaving was difficult. My birthday was two days before discharge. Friends took me to a French restaurant, the dining was formal, my last experience afforded by my New England prompters, who had become dear friends.

The separation unit was at a location other than the Annex, listed as USNPSU(WR), Washington, D.C. No WAVES being discharged were from the Annex. They were from the Norfolk Navy Yard. I was placed in charge of all the service records as I had the highest rating. At orientation, our rights and benefits as veterans were explained. A medical examination was in order so that any claims for injury could be verified. We were told we could continue our National Service Life Insurance if we so desired. Each WAVE had a private interview concerning our civilian and military experience. We were given a form to apply for employment or veterans' benefits.

We were permitted to wear our uniform home, provided we returned home within three months. It is unlawful to wear the uniform after arriving home except for ceremonies and special occasions. We could wear the uniform as a civilian if all Naval insignia and buttons were removed.

We were given $100 as mustering out pay plus travel expenses home. Upon separation, they took our ID badges. What a disappointment! I could no longer buy the items I had selected to purchase at the ship's store. We were given a discharge pin if honorably discharged, a discharge certificate, a certificate of satisfactory service if eligible, a notice of separation, a rating description, and a referral sheet.

My discharge date was 10/31/45. On 11/21/45 I received a letter of thanks for my service from James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy. On 04/27/46 I received the ribbon bar of the Navy Unit Commendation awarded by the U.S. Naval Communication Intelligence Organization for meritorious conduct. I was directed, because of the nature of the services performed by this unit, no publicity be given to the receipt of this award, signed Lt. Commander, Joe H. Floyd, Medals and Awards Section, Enlisted Performance Division. On 08/08/52 my beloved West Virginia gave state veterans a bonus of $300.

G. LIFE AFTER SERVICE

On 11/24/45 I married Edwin Voltzke. My first employment was as a procurement clerk for the Veterans Administration in Clarksburg, WV. I worked in the clerical field over 30 years, ten years in banking, and ten years for the Stanislaus County Welfare Department in the Adoption Division in California. My retirement benefits are from this agency.

During the war my husband had been deferred, as one of only three riveters in the Portsmouth Naval Yard who could drive rivets left-handed, and this was necessary in some locations on ship. In civilian life he became a building contractor.

After the war appliances were very limited as there was a great demand, and manufacturing had been diverted to the war effort. We were placed on many waiting lists. After two years of living with my parents, we were able to get a stove and refrigerator, and move into our home. No washing machine, however, and I was back to the washboard, diapers having been by that time added to the laundry detail.

We worked hard but had a good life. Time in the service made me realize an abundance of "things" was unnecessary. We both had learned "to do with" or "cope without". We were able to send both girls to college.

I had developed a love for travel. My husband and I visited every state in the union, including Alaska by motor home. We enjoyed Hawaii together. Due to ill health, he did not accompany me to Israel, Greece, or the British Isles.

We had been married 43 years when my husband died in 1987. Today most of my travel is by memory. Grand and great grandchildren are my delight. Church and Community Bible Study are an important part of my life.

My patriotism continues to be strong. I vote in every election and keep current with political and world affairs.

Although no public recognition for my work as a WAVE, I have a sense of being greatly rewarded with over 50 years of freedom, as a bonus - in my West Virginia vernacular, "I sure learned a lot about living!"

 
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