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Interview with Susan E. Wudy [8/19/2007]

Beverly J. Brown:

Today is the 19th of August 2007. I am Beverly Brown, interviewing Sue Wudy for the Veteran's History Project. Sue, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to join the Army?

Susan E. Wudy:

Alright. I was born on July 3rd 1946 in Quimby, Iowa. My father was a Lutheran Pastor there. We lived there for about two years, no, about 4 years. Then we moved to Ontonagon, Michigan. I was there until about the middle of 4th grade. Then we moved to San Joes, Illinois; and that is just north of Springfield about 30 minutes.

Beverly J. Brown:

How do you spell that?

Susan E. Wudy:

S-A-N J-O-S-E, and they will tell you the first day you're in town, we do not pronounce this San Jose, it is San Jose [like Joes], Illinois. We were there, I graduated 8th grade there; and then in 1960, that year we moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I went to Milwaukee Lutheran High School. I graduated in '64. Then I went to Concordia Teacher's College in River Forest, Illinois; which is just outside of Chicago maybe ten minutes or so. And then the Christmas of my sophomore year, I had a little discussion with my father, which became rather heated. And the upshot of it was that I said well, I'm going to join the Army then. And he said well then you do that from the house. And I said OK. So the next day, which was Monday, the day after Christmas, I went down and enlisted in the Army. And even though I say that it, it just appeared, I had never really concentrated on this, but when I thought about it years later I thought, when I was in high school, because of the high school I went to, it was really an academic high school and they required that twice a year, once a year, you had to attend two different career day programs. And since I always knew I wanted to be a teacher I decided that I wanted to go to something that would be different. So one year I would take the Army and the police force and the next year I would take the Air Force and the fire department. Now at this time, of course we're talking 1960 through 1964-you did not have women in those positions-maybe in some of the smaller towns in the countryside but not in the big cities like Milwaukee and such. So I had gone to those and I remember saying when I got ready to graduate from high school, Dad says well don't you think we should apply to more teacher colleges than just River Forest. And I had said no I want to go to River Forest. And he said well what happens if you can't get in. I was a C-average student. I was never that brilliant but I was taking things like Latin, which never did well for me, and the higher math and the higher sciences. I said well I guess if that doesn't work Dad, then 1'11 go in the Army and l' lliet them pay for my education when I get out. That's just one of those conversations that you remember years later, and you never think about it because I got accepted to college. And so basically when he said where are you going to go, I said well if I can't afford to go back to school, I'll just go in the Army. It was just one of those things that came out of my mouth. And so I did. I went back and finished off the quarter, because Concordia was on a quarter system and then I enlisted. The female recruiter that I had to go through at that time tried to talk me out of enlisting and going back and finishing the third quarter and then coming in through OCS, because I would have had two years. And also the Air Force recruiter was there trying to talk me into going into the Air Force instead of the Army, because my scores were so high on the tests that they had given me, all the scores that had come out. So that's how I joined the Army.

Beverly J. Brown:

Why didn't you pick the Air Force?

Susan E. Wudy:

I tended to be a little hard headed sometimes, maybe that's the terminology. It was just one of those things, I had decided I was going to go in the Army so I went to the Army. I did think about it. I mean I did think about it and I thought no. The Army can give me what I specifically want. I'd had six years of college. I still had no actual training that I could go out and get a decent job. I could work as a clerk at a fast food place or maybe a clerk at a grocery store or something, department store; but no real job that I could do that had some advancement. And the Army had assured me that I would be sent to steno school. And so I had decided that that was what I wanted to do. I was going to learn to be a stenographer because that would open up many places. And the Air Force really didn't have anything that they could guarantee me-well, maybe Personnel; Personnel was just not specific enough as far as I was concerned. It was not something I could take and walk into a job, because I was not planning a career. So that's why I did not .....

Beverly J. Brown:

Now what year was this that you enlisted?

Susan E. Wudy:

1966.

Beverly J. Brown:

Where did you go to Basic Training?

Susan E. Wudy:

I went to Basic Training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. That's where I was introduced to Dr. Pepper and where I was introduced to having to wear red lipstick; because we were required, in Basic Training, to wear red lipstick. One of the things at that point in time, they were trying very hard to, for women to realize, not for women so much, but for the world at large to realize that women were women; and they were soldiers. They were not women trying to be men who were soldiers. And also they were trying to get away from the stigma that a woman who went into the military either was a lesbian or a prostitute. So we were not allowed to go off of the base unless we had a skirt on; so of course we all wore shorts underneath our skirts; and I'm sure they all knew that we did that. And I was not a drinker, I was nineteen years old; and even to this day 1'm not much of a drinker; but any of the places that you could go in Anniston, being in the South and in Alabama, women were not allowed to walk up to the bar and order a drink; so you had to, even if you were going to get a soda, you had to have somebody in the bar go up and get you a soda. So it was rather interesting.

Beverly J. Brown:

What kind of physical training did you have?

Susan E. Wudy:

Actually not much. Well, we had the regular PT that you go out and do, everyday you'd have an hour of calisthenics and things like that. A lot of our education was based in the classroom. We were issued fatigues and boots because we were to do I believe it was a three day pack out into the woods. We learned the silent signals because during the three day trek you were not allowed to speak so everything had to be done with the hand signals. We learned all that. Two days before we were supposed to do this, it poured and it poured for four days and so we never went. We never went on our toUT. So we never learned all that stuff. We learned how to do drill of course. And some of our group got really good at it. I enjoyed drill a lot, I really did; and you know, even myself, I know which is right and left, but it is amazing that when they start counting out that, yelling out that right left how many times; so everybody's standing there with a stone in their left hand until you actually get the routines down. But it was a lot of fun. We never went to the firing range. I never fired a weapon. And at that time that was one of the things that they were trying to ... firing a weapon was just not high on the ... wearing red lipstick was high but not firing a weapon.

Beverly J. Brown:

How long was Basic Training?

Susan E. Wudy:

Basic Training was eight weeks. We went for eight weeks. I think it's down to four now, isn't it? Anyway, it was eight weeks. And it wasn't a bad time to be going to Alabama, March and April; that was probably the best time in the world to be going to Alabama. But we did have one gal who on one of our drills, somehow ended up over a fire ant hill and we had to take her in and she was still in the hospital when we left; they are real nasty, they are real, real nasty.

Beverly J. Brown:

Did you have a big graduation ceremony?

Susan E. Wudy:

You know I don't really remember. I know we had a ceremony; we all marched in front and did your eyes right in front of Colonel Hoisington, I remember, she was the ... no wait a minute, Captain Hoisington, I think she was a Captain. I would have to look up in my book because I don't remember. I've got a picture of her giving me an award. I graduated kind of at the top of the class. I was an acting jack for the last three weeks. They had wanted me to be an acting jack, that's an acting sergeant. It was always somebody who was pulled out of the platoon but I was one pound over weight. And so they would sit and watch me eat. I would have unannounced examinations of my lockers to make sure I wasn't hiding candy. When I came out of the PX they went through my bags to make sure I didn't have any candy. But there was no way that I could drop that weight, that pound. It just would not drop. There was one other gal, two years older than I was. We were the two oldest gals in the unit. I was 19 and she was 22. And finally one day the sergeant, Sergeant Cooley said get on the scales. I'm going to measure your height. And they discovered that my height in the book was listed as 5'4" and I was actually 5'5 ~". So I immediately went underneath the requirement for the weight and then became an acting jack for the last three weeks of the training. And it was fun because the gal that was acting jack at the first three weeks~ she and I were real close anyway~ so it was like we both did it together anyway. We were always able to work with each other.

Beverly J. Brown:

Did your parents come to graduation?

Susan E. Wudy:

No. My parents ... my Dad like I said was a Lutheran pastor ... I was the oldest of five kids they were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I was in Alabama. There was no way the kids were all in school. .. and the money just wasn't there.

Beverly J. Brown:

What did they think about you being in the Army by now?

Susan E. Wudy:

Well, my mother never was happy about it. My father ... in fact at that time I had to have my parents sign a consent because you had to be over 21 in order to enlist in the military if you were a female. If you were a male you could enlist yourself after you turned 18; for a female, you had to be 21. My mother was not going to sign the paper work. I remember my Dad saying to her we don't want to loose our daughter and she's made up her mind. You know what she's like when she makes up her mind. So just sign it and things will be much better. And so she finally, over much grumbling, did go ahead and sign. And that was very interesting because my mother was not ... she was always strong, I don't know if that's the proper term I would want to use, but you did not walk over her; but she didn't come on as being over dominant and strong. And I had never ever seen her become so adamant about something. She did not want to sign that paper work for me to go into the Army. But I played the piano twice while I was in Basic Training for the chapel services and then when I actually got stationed in California I was playing for them every Sunday and I think that more than anything else is the fact that she realized that I learned something that I could use; that I was enjoying it; that I liked California; and they got a little letter from the pastor, no the Chaplain; isn't it funny the words you forget; from the Chaplain telling them how he appreciated my being able to play and how so many other gals in my barracks were coming to me for assistance and different things. And so then by that time then she decided that OK, she's OK; she's doing OK. But she was real worried because that was just something so foreign to her that that would never have occurred to her that one of her daughters would even think of doing something like that.

Beverly J. Brown:

Where did you go after graduation?

Susan E. Wudy:

I went to Fort Ben Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana and learned stenography. It was a four month course. I graduated as an E2 from Basic. I was supposed to make E3 two months later. Well, the class I was in was four months long. So I was told that I would not get my E3 until I actually graduated from the school four months later. So I said OK. My father had told me before I left ... these are these funny things that you always have to laugh at ... you've got to learn to control your mouth Susan. Do not get snotty with those people. He said it will make it very difficult for you so you just accept what they say and wait until you've got at least a year in and then you can start doing your own mind; but you have got to not do that. I said OK Dad. So I just said OK fine. So I went ahead ... the requirement was 90 words a minute in order to graduate and by the end of the second month I was already past the 90 words a minute. That is to type 60 words a minute in order to ... and this was on an electric typewriter. They were using Selectrics at that time. You had to type 90 words a minute ... or 60 words a minute to type and I had already accomplished that. So I just kept on going and I was now by the end of my third month I was up to 120 words a minute ... in shorthand ... we used the Gregg System ... but the other thing to remember is that in the military you have a lot of acronyms. So you already got automatic things like United State Air Force is just USAF. You don't have to worry about even the shorthand for the word. And there are certain things like Dear Sir, you know that every letter is going to start Dear Sir, so it's just DS and you're on your way. So it was easier to get more words per minute than probably in the civilian setting. So anyway I continued on and I graduated at the top of the class at the end of my four months. One of the gals that had been a very good friend of mine, we became very good friends, went AWOL two weeks before because she wanted to go see her folks. She already had the words per minute and all that and she decided she was going to go see her folks and that was that. She took off. And there was one other gal in the class and the rest were guys; and apparently I was the first female to have graduated absolutely at the top. Prior to that there had been gals who had gotten the shorthand and the typing but when it came to the other studies-English and how to write a sentence-their scores would bring them down. So the guys who ... almost every guy in there had college. See because that was one of the positions that they looked for college grads because they needed somebody who could write a sentence and knew how to punctuate and all the rest of that. So anyway there was a position in D. c. that opened up ... there was like two or three weeks left ... but they needed it filled right away. My instructor was an E6. He wanted me in that position so bad he could taste it because he knew that would get him his 7. He was real close to his 7 anyway but he knew that if he could put a female that he had trained in that position that would be really good for him. The school refused to let me go. They said no, we can't do that. But J had already gone way past. .. J think I was up to 135 words per minute by this time as far as the shorthand went. And I think my typing was like 120 or something ... I mean not 120 ... either 96 or 100 words a minute ... it was an odd figure like 101 or something. Anyway, so he was just frustrated beyond belief. And I had asked that if they would assign me in either Indiana or Illinois ... J forget what the third place was that I asked for. But anyway I asked for something in the mid-west. And so comes graduation time, I graduated as an E2. My girlfriend who went AWOL graduated as an E3. Needless to say I wasn't happy about this. They sent me to Oakland, California; which I in my wildest dreams had not asked to go across country. They sent me to a place where there was no position for a steno. My instructor was just furious. He couldn't believe that they would have done that. Well what can I say. There was one steno position and it was civilian. And it was the civilian for the Commander for the post itself. So when I got to Oakland, California ... the other gal that was in my class also went to Oakland ... I don't remember where Betty went, that's the one who went AWOL ... but this other gal and J were sent to Oakland. When we got to Oakland, I went to Personnel and they were interviewing me and they discovered that I had almost two full years of college; and they looked at the scores that I had gotten from both Basic and AIT, they said we need somebody in Personnel. We're going to keep you in Personnel. I said OK. So I ended up replacing the gal that was in charge of morning reports, which is how you maintain location of everybody on base. You have to know where every person on that base is on your morning report. She was being reassigned. It was an E5 slot. I was only an E2. They put me in that slot. He said we don't care what your rank is; from what we have sitting here you're going to fill this out just dandy. So I said OK. When we went to see the First Sergeant. .. or the CO ... the fITst thing she said to us before we had any words out of our mouths was ... it is a requirement that you be here for six months before we even look at any kind of promotion. So I just bit my tongue and said OK fine ... here's another six months, I wonder if I will ever make PFC. Then I finally got promoted to PFC. What it turned out was, I finished the six month period and I got my promotion ... I had five clerks that I was in charge of. .. one of them was an E6, they were all males except for the female at the WAC Detachment, that was a female. The E6 was in charge of the returning reassignment area and the other ... no there must have been six ... two were E4 ' s and one was an E3 and the WAC was an E3 ... so there were six. And the first thing I did as I walked down to the E6 ... I said Sergeant Moore I have no idea what a morning report is. I said I'm going to ask you if you see me doing something wrong, tell me. Do not feel that because I'm in this position that I know anything because I know nothing. So he was so helpful ... he helped me ... we got through the first two months with no problem and then after that then I had picked up enough that I knew what was going on. So then about three months after I made E3, one of the guys in Personnel was going through my record and he looks and he says why did it take you so long to make E3? So I proceeded to tell him. And he said you're eligible for E4 already except you don't have the time in grade for E3. He said I'm going to go ahead and submit it anyway. So they went ahead and submitted it and the CO called me in and said why didn't you tell me that? And I said you were very specific about we were not even supposed to think about a promotion for six months. She said I'm sorry Sue, I really had no idea. I was a year and three months in before I made E3, which I should have had a the end of four months. So that was kind of funny. So I made E4 real fast. And then I made E5. And at this point now I'm deciding that I really do want to go to Vietnam.

Beverly J. Brown:

What year is this?

Susan E. Wudy:

This is 1968, end of '68. I had been stationed in Oakland the entire time and in '68 I decided I was going to request to go to Vietnam. So I put in my request and when it came back they agreed to it but I had to extend for one year because I was due to get out in Feb of '69. So I extended for a year, from '69 to '70. So then in 1969 in February I shipped for Vietnam. I had not told my parents that I was doing this. They knew that I was getting close to discharge. Dad kept saying have you made up your mind. I said no I really haven't made up my mind what I'm going to do. But I will let you guys know but I know for sure that I'm going to be back. If I don't take leave and come home ... because during the time I had been in California the only time I had gotten leave was when my younger sister was diagnosed with cancer. This was the end of '67. Because every time I had set up to go on leave something would happen and I was in a position of authority of sorts and so they would say oh we can't let you go. Do you mind waiting, we'll let you go at another time and then something else would come up ... an IG inspection would come up or something else ... and then all of a sudden here was this situation back in Milwaukee over Christmas. So I told them ... but I'm definitely .. .if I decide to reenlist ... and I don't know ... I really haven't made up my mind yet. .. you know I'm really enjoying this but I really don't know what I want to do yet. But I said I'll either be coming home on leave or I'll be coming home. But I'll just have to make up my mind and I'll let you know. So when my orders came back ... I had told them that I'd be home and about when I'd be home ... so I thought I'm not going to mention anything. I got home. I drove my vehicle back across the country. Mom was on the telephone when I came in the back door ... they didn't know exactly when I was coming in. I walked in and I said hey is anybody home. Mom said is that you. I said yes and she burst out crying. My mother is not that emotional an individual and it's not like I was gone that long. I hugged her and said how're you doing? And she said fine. I said where's everybody at? Of course by this time my brother was at college and my sister was at her first year of nursing school. I have to go through that in my head to remember. So Laureen was the only one who was home. Dad was over at church. She said Dad's over at church, in a meeting but he said if you came over that he wants to see you right away. I said OK so I went to the Center and I kind of knocked on the door and he pokes his head out and sees me and I knew something was up at that point because his eyes ... he is just shining. He goes oh you're back. He said how long are you going to be here before you leave for Vietnam? My mouth just dropped ... I said how did you find that out? I had had a gentleman, a young fellow that I was dating, who had gone to Vietnam and right about the same time my sister died, which was Easter. He had sent me a letter ... I guess there had been some real serious problems right then and he was afraid that he wasn't going to come back. So he had decided that he didn't want me to wait. He isn't telling me that he just writes me this letter and then he called me and said we're breaking up ... and I'm going fine ... whatever. So Dad had seen this letter. He had come home apparently two days after I left to go on leave and they had told him that I was leaving for Vietnam. So he writes to me at the house. My father gets the letter ... he sees the name in the comer and thinks she doesn't need this guy to be hassling her so he opens the letter ... and he's just going to write back and say don't bother her, and this and that ... a protective father. First words out of the letter are I can't believe you're going to Vietnam. So they knew all along. So that explained Mother's sudden outburst of tears and Dad's shining eyes because he thought it was exciting ... because my brother was obviously not going into the military and so this was something that he was excited about ... so I said oh goodness. That's how that went. And I left for Vietnam in '69. I came in at Long ... I came in just out of Long Bien at the airbase there. Isn't that funny that the name is just out of my head? It will come to me eventually I imagine. But anyway ... we landed ... l was the only female on the plane ... nobody knew where I was supposed to be going because my orders were not specific ... other than that I was supposed to be in Saigon ... that was all that I knew. So they put me on a bus ... this is my first experience on a bus that's got. .. that's totally got bars around the windows ... everything so that they can't throw grenades into them and things. I get on the bus and I leave and I got down to Saigon and I heard that they got strafed like probably fifteen minutes after I left. They got attacked. I was assigned to be the steno for General Bautz.

Beverly J. Brown:

How do you spell that?

Susan E. Wudy:

B _ A _ U _ T _ Z. Edward Bautz. He was in charge of J3. A J organization means that you have joint command. All of the services are all together. He was in charge of operations; that was the 3 portion of it ... for the entire command. I was his secretary. I believe he had twelve sections. Each of those sections was run by a Colonel ... anything that came out of those sections if it wasn't right it went back to the section to do. It was by far the most boring job I've ever had in my entire life. I think because I didn't do anything. I basically just answered the telephone. He had an aide who was very interested in making lieutenant coloneL .. we're going to skip this. Anyway he was always very alert to when an officer came in, he'd be right there and he'd take them coffee. And I just thought fine, I'm not working for any kind of promotion so we'll just let it go. We also had another Major that was there and then there were five or six enlisted fellows that were there, then myself in this particular office. There were two really funny things that happened while I was there in that first year. And the first one was, I had gotten my hair cut before I left Oakland and I asked the gal to make it short because it's probably going to be a year before I get it cut again. I didn't know that there was going to be all sorts of little hair dressers there. I mean Saigon was just as cosmopolitan as any other town in the United States. And she did. And it looked really cute. And then I washed it and I realized there was not a thing I could do ... l don't know how she even got the curler in there to begin with. And I'm not one to take care of my hair anyway. I just want to brush it out and let it go. So I had gone down and bought a wig the day before I left for Vietnam. It was the same color as my hair, very nice ... it came out very nicely. But I remember just after General Bautz arrived, maybe a week ... every morning he'd go downstairs into the bunker and the Generals would all get together there and they would meet and they would decide what was going on and things like this. And we were sitting up there and Major Champain was telling a really funny joke and I threw my head back and I didn't realize that my wig had come off. And none of the guys had seen me in short hair. I mean they all thought that was my hair. And all of a sudden I hear this roar from behind ... first I see Major Champain's eyes get real big and then I hear this roar from behind me and I thought oh no and I tum around and it had fallen directly at his feet ... at General Bautz's feet. And he just thought was the funniest thing that he had ever seen. And so he picked up the wig and he handed it back to me and he said does this belong to you? I said I think it does sir. So I went and I put it back on and we went on from there. At that point I knew that this was a person that had a sense of humor but was also dedicated to his job, just by the way he had come in. He had gone right to work. There was no going around and shaking hands ... I mean, he just went right to work. And then shortly thereafter he called me into his office and he said I would like to request, and you don't have to do this, but I would like to request that you continue to wear your greens ... which was the Army summer uniform for women. It was a blouse and a skirt.

Beverly J. Brown:

Instead of what?

Susan E. Wudy:

Fatigues. He said I know this may sound sexist but ... he said when all these officers come in here from the field and they see a gal and a nice looking gal with a skirt on it just makes them feel better. He said we won't make it short. We'll make if regulation length and everything but he said it will do a lot for the morale. And he said I would really appreciate it. And I thought to myself later on after I'd said sure no problem ... this is no big deal to me ... that he kind of really took a big risk in asking me to do that. But I think probably the events of the wig ... I think at that point he realized that I was not ... that I had a little more common sense than some people tend to have ... so that he could ask me that and I wouldn't become all insulted ... and I would realize that it was going to be a working situation. And I really did, I really enjoyed working with him from the time I was there. I typed the original draw down that occurred in 1969 ... December , 69. Black Horse ... we sent a Black Horse Division home. They were planning to de-escalate. They sent me to Hawaii to learn how to learn how to use the MTST.

Beverly J. Brown:

And what's that?

Susan E. Wudy:

That was computer that stood about four feet high and about two feet wide and it had seven inch reels on either side. It was connected to the Selectric typewriter. And what you did is ... your original paper work ... you typed it in and it would type onto the seven inch reel. Then you would print out. .. now if you didn't make any mistakes that was fine ... youjust them your hard copy. But if you made mistakes you could go back and correct them. It was labor intensive to say the least and it used a good deal of paper too. Then the next day ... what I would do is I came in at six 0' clock at night and went down into the bunker and worked until six o'clock the next morning. Then I would take what I had worked and give it to General Bautz. Then he would take it into the meeting of the officers and they would tear it apart and then I would come in at six o'clock ... and this lasted for about a week. It took me about a week to do this ... twelve hours a night. So then when you get ready to make your corrections ... you've got your paper in the typewriter ... you connect the two reels and you watch it ... you watch the paper and when it gets to the point where you need to make your first correction, you stop the reels ... you disconnect the old one .. , you type in the new stuff on the second reel. Then when you have everything typed in to where you can start running it back and forth, then you stop that second reel ... you run the fust reel until it hits clear of the area you have just put on the second reel. Then you connect it up again and then it feeds back and forth.

Beverly J. Brown:

Wow!

Susan E. Wudy:

Yeah, wow is right. If it got to the point where there was ... I mean it actually was the officers themselves ... tried to make sure it was not going to be ... we weren't going to make a change for "the". If that was a change, we just kind of noted it but I was to wait till the very last draft and then make those little minor changes as I went through there. So it was labor intensive ... I'll tell you what. So they sent me to Hawaii because nobody knew how to use this machine; nobody knew how to service this machine. There was nobody in Vietnam who could service this machine. So they sent me to Hawaii. They couldn't get me a flight out ... so I ended up in Hawaii ... because then they couldn't get me a flight back. It was a four day class, mornings only. I was in Hawaii for seven days ... because they couldn't get me out ... they couldn't get me back. So when I landed on the Air Base, there was an airman there ... I said there's no sense in my getting to a hotel ... they didn't have anywhere to place me ... so he had a friend who had an apartment and he wasn't there ... he was going to be gone for three weeks ... so I stayed in that apartment END OF SIDE A START OF SIDE B

Susan E. Wudy:

So I got a chance to see all of Hawaii while I was there because he took me around to everything and then I went back. The other rather humorous thing that happened while I was in Vietnam was every day at noon ... I worked seven days a week. .. but I had a choice ... I could take half a day off or I could work every day and take two hours off at noon. And because of the position ... operations ... I just thought it might be better for me to be there in case something carne up ... and just take the two hours at noon. So General Bautz would always have his driver take me to the BEQ and then I go and I'd put on a swimsuit and I'd go up on the top floor and I would just sit there because the monsoons came around that time and I ... it was just wonderful to be in those rains, they were so cleansing. Then I would get the bus back to the post.

Beverly J. Brown:

Where did you live?

Susan E. Wudy:

Medford BEQ. It was a converted hotel. They had men on the first two floors and women on the top two floors. Because women were not allowed to have a weapon and therefore the men on the first two floors were our only protection against anything.

Beverly J. Brown:

Were there a lot of women there?

Susan E. Wudy:

No. There were not a lot of women there. J think ... J would say maybe twenty ... twenty women. Now I'm talking military. Now downtown there were civilian women that worked for msp AL and some of the government organizations that were over there that were non-military. But we lived in the BEQ. I worked in MACV Headquarters and along one side of MAC V Headquarters was where the AR VN had their post. We were right across the street. The Medford was right across the street from them. So it was all really quite close. Third Field Hospital. .. that was the huge hospital in Saigon ... that's where everybody went when they brought them in from the field and they were about two blocks down from where I lived. That's where we ate because we did not have ... the BOQ' s, bachelor officer's quarters, basically had restaurants in them ... but the BEQ's did not. .. the bachelor's enlisted quarters. So this was probably four to five months into my tour ... one day General Bautz needed to go to a meeting downtown and I hadn't thought about it until he came back ... when he walked into the office he looked at me and said you are a bad influence and starts laughing and walks into his office. So I'm thinking what did I do here? And then he comes back out and said you have one real embarrassed MP out there. It took me a half a second ... every time I would leave for lunch ... after about a week of having seen me in his car ... every time ... same time ... every day ... go out. .. the MP started doffing his hat whenever he saw that particular vehicle come through. They knew which general it was. And he would always doffhis hat to me. And it just so happened that General Bautz went through at the same time that I'd gone through. He said it was so funny ... the MP doffs his hat and all of a sudden he realizes that that's not a female. He tried to get it back on ... dropped his hat ... tried to do his salute and got his salute in. I said you didn't stop did you. He said no ... J thought it was just too funny for words, but he said he did salute me on the way back. I said 1'11 bet he did. Those are some of the things that happened that made life more bearable ... because war is hell ... there's no two ways about that. Even in Saigon you never knew for sure ... l mean I saw a couple of buildings blown up. One time I saw probably an eight year old walk into a building ... and I knew before ... just with all the stuff on him that if he made it in the door ... and they caught him but not soon enough and the building went up and a number of people got killed that were in the building. You could not ride side saddle. They used to ride side saddle on the back of their motorcycles. The man would be in front and the woman would be on the back riding side saddle. They made them stop doing that because when you ride ... both of you looking straight ahead ... it's too easy to lob a grenade. But when you're sitting side saddle, if you go to lob a grenade, it's very easy to throw the whole bike off .. , and it was easier to make sure you could see hands and stuff. So there were some of things that were required that made living in Saigon very interesting. But it's like ... I've talked to a number of people and it was just ... Saigon was just as safe as anywhere else in the country except for a couple of spots. I mean, in other words, it means it wasn't safe. Even though it wasn't considered a combat zone ... a combat section ... you were still not that safe being there ... it was very easy ... and there was ... the term I want to use ... there's money out if you bring in the head of an American male ... but there was also the same for a female. If you killed a female you were also given some money ... not much compared to what they gave you for being a male. I was there for a year and did go to Bangkok on R and R and I just loved Bangkok. I went up to Long Bien ... no I went up to Da Nang twice ... took briefings, the quarterly briefings up in Da Nang. The very first time I went ... I walked into the bathrooms ... the bathrooms in Vietnam were basically holes in the ground ... then you stood over the hole and that's OK I suppose .. .1' m not that shy but. . .1 walk into this one and Ijust I'd used some of them in Saigon ... but I walked into this one and it was so filthy I thought there's no way I'm going to drop my drawers and try and do anything in here because the bottom of my fatigues are going to get messed up. So I walked back out. .. they had sent the Marine general's aide ... had been sent over there with me ... he was supposed to stand outside and not let anyone come in while I was in there doing my business. So I come out and he said are you done and I said no and I start walking off. He said wait, where are you going? I said I'm going to go behind that bush over there. I said it's got to be cleaner than what's in there. I said I have no problem doing it. He said oh no, you can't do that. He said it's too risky because even though this is more or less a protected area, they set up little traps and bombs and things. He said we can't control everybody. We don't always know who the enemy is ... because everybody looks the same. He says come on ... he says I'll take you to another bathroom. I said Ok. But now I'm feeling real bad about this because I've always felt that when you take on a position then you take on the goods and the bads that go with it. I don't like being treated differently than a guy would be treated. So I'm starting to feel real bad about this. He says don't worry about it ... don't worry about it. .. come on ... and he takes me ... I said where are we going? He puts me on a helicopter and he said we're going back to the general's hooch. I said oh come on here ... this is not necessary ... and he says no, no this is not a problem ... I told the General and he said it's not a problem. So on the trip over, the helicopter pilot ... I swear he could not have been more than ten feet over the river ... I mean he was just ... doing all kinds of fancy things he shouldn't have been doing. And of course having ridden a motorcycle to a point ... I just loved being in a helicopter with the doors open and the air blowing through ... so on the trip back ... I had gotten off, went to the bathroom and gotten back on and on the trip back, it was really a very mild trip back .. .I said what we aren't going to have any calisthenics. He said no, I told him it wasn't your idea to do this so now ... he figured you were just some kind of prima dona so he was just going to really show you what. It was interesting. And then I did do the train. I did one briefing in the train. So those were things ... the briefings and doing the draw down documents were for me the most exciting parts of my tour because I got to do something I got to do something I thought was really important.

Beverly J. Brown:

Did you have any contact with the local people?

Susan E. Wudy:

Yes I had a lot of contact. When I ... I actually ETS'd, got out of the Army, while I was in Saigon ... and went to work for the GS-12 who was in charge of entertainment. He had an office in Saigon. He was stationed out of Long Bien and there was a civilian position. He had an office in Saigon that was run by two talent agents who brought over the talent ... even though these two people were American born and bred, they were not quite capable of putting together a decent sentence and punctuation was a thing that none of them understood. So it was rather embarrassing to him some of the paperwork that came out of that office ... because everything was typed up by little Vietnamese girls. They typed exactly what they were given because they don't know any better. So he was looking for someone to run the office. I don't even remember how I heard about this ... but I thought that would be fun. I'd like to stay here and do that. It was a non-appropriated fund slot which is different from a GS slot ... a government service slot ... your promotions there's a lot of things you don't get with that particular slot. And I knew that but I wasn't looking at a government career. I was just wanting to stay in Vietnam for a little longer and I thought I'd go ahead and do this. I could have reenlisted to stay there but this came up and I thought it would be interesting. So I got to know a number of the little gals there plus I had been dating somebody while I was stationed... While I was working as a civilian we used to go to the Silver Stallion which was a bar in town and I got to know all the little gals in this bar who were tea girls ... we won't discuss those. But they were all really sweet. I would bring magazines from the States because they all wanted to see what the different clothes were. They would take these clothes home ... I mean they would take these magazines home and they would have the people who did their sewing just look at the magazine and they would sew them up. It was just the most amazing thing. When they would get their letters from their American boyfriends they would have me read them the letters ... because they wanted ... I read English and I was able to explain to them. So I got to be very, very friendly with a number of them. I stayed in touch with three or four of them until the fall of Saigon and after the fall of Saigon the letters that I sent came back, undeliverable. So I. .. when you're in a country like this, and it's a country of war, the people who live there do what they can to make a living ... to be able to feed themselves and their children. Vietnam has been ... there has been somebody it seems for years ... since the 1800's, late 1800's trying to take over Vietnam. So these people are use to doing what you can do to get money. And for many of the women who were not educated being a tea girl was the best way they could make the most amount of money in the least amount of time. I really enjoyed meeting these gals but I am sure that after America left and it fell to the North Vietnamese, these gals probably, even though they liked the Americans and they would have loved to come to America, they just kind of melted into the background and became ... because they didn't want to go into concentration camps ... reeducation camps.

Beverly J. Brown:

Did you speak the language?

Susan E. Wudy:

No I didn't speak the language. I tried I tried so hard to learn .. .! think there's maybe six words that I actually learned but the thing was everybody else ... they all spoke English. It was amazing everybody seemed to speak English in Saigon ... or if they didn't speak it they knew it or understood it enough. The only time they didn't understand it was when you wanted to buy something and they were charging you three times what it was worth ... but in their ... it was a way of life that they give you a price and you counter. So I learned this very early on and so I used to always do it. They used to always get such a tickle out of the fact that here was an American who was willing to bargain like they did. But I never learned ... but you know it was so different because the same words in the different dialects were spoken differently. In other words you'd take the word beautiful ... in each dialect it was a different word. So the North Vietnamese could not speak with the South Vietnamese because the dialects were so different. So it was real interesting.

Beverly J. Brown:

So how long did you stay with this civilian company?

Susan E. Wudy:

Four months ... and they decided to do another draw down.

Beverly J. Brown:

Now where was this?

Susan E. Wudy:

I'm still in Saigon.

Beverly J. Brown:

And what year?

Susan E. Wudy:

1970. This was four months later and they decided to do another draw down. The first thing they did was ... they dropped all the NAF slots ... and they said OK you're all going back to the States all the NAF. The GS-12 contacted me ... wanted me to come up to Long Bien because they had a position up there that he would have been able to put me in but I had missed my grandparent's fiftieth wedding anniversary which had been in February which had been just before lETS' d ... so I knew I wasn't going to make it back for that ... and I had been in Saigon for a year and a half and I had had basically total freedom, had my own motorcycle, kind of came and went as I wanted ... and going up to Long Bien would require that I would be behind barbed wire and not a whole lot offreedom ... and I just thought you know what. .. I think I'll just go back to the States ... I'lljust go back ... and the night before I left I had gone down to the Silver Stallion to party and I got back in probably around 3 0' clock ... taken out my contacts ... I was at a hotel that was a quarter block from the palace grounds. I couldn't have been asleep forty minutes and all of a sudden there was a rocket dropped in the comer of the palace grounds ... a quarter block from where I was sleeping. It knocked over the table. I couldn't find anything. All I could hear was Vietnamese could not hear any English ... I did not hear one English word ... I'm thinking OK the key ... I had found the key on the floor going around on my hands and knees .. , walked over put the key in the 10ck ... I thought I don't know what I'm going to do, I've got nothing to protect myself with but at least if that key drops out I know somebody is going to be coming into this room ... I'm not going to know who they are ... I don't know .. .I guess I'll get under the bed .. .I don't know what else I'll do ... I can't see squat because my contacts haven't been out long enough to really adjust to the glasses ... and I can't find my glasses anyway ... and I didn't want to tum on the light. So I just sat there on the bed until around five thirty in the morning. When it got light enough that I could see ... and by that time everything had kind of settled down ... and you could tell it was the general business of the day was going on. I thought well I've got to go out there sooner or later because I've got to go pick up a plane this morning. So I went ahead and opened up the door and that's when I found out that it had been a rocket that had just dropped and there weren't any troops or anything. I thought to myself. .. they used to always say if you're going to get it, it's generally just before or right after you get there or just before you leave ... because people become less ... they don't pay as much attention. So that was kind of interesting. So I came back to the States and I worked for three years, well not quite three years, almost three years, as a legal secretary for a gentleman who had been a JAG officer in Korea. When I went to work for him I told him ... I said you know I'ill not going to guarantee you how long I can stay but I'll guarantee you two years ... but I'm not sure that I don't want to go back into the military. I said I really enjoyed it. I got out because ... I wanted to see ... everybody kept telling me you're just too smart and you're too attractive and you're too this and you're too that to be in the Army ... to be a lifer. In a way I had to get out and prove to myself that I didn't need the Army ... but Ijust knew ... I enjoyed the traveling and I enjoyed being someplace else every couple of years. I liked the challenge of a new position ... and I just kind of knew that I was probably going to go back in. My mother really wanted me to go back to school and finish my two years of teacher's college and I really didn't want to. I did not want to go back to school for anything else.

Beverly J. Brown:

Where was the job with the lawyer?

Susan E. Wudy:

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin ... I was in Milwaukee. I had gone back home to see the folks and I bought a new car and paid cash for it. I really had planned to go back to California but I paid cash for my car so that kind of put a stop on that. Went to work for Kelly Girl for six months ... loved it ... because Kelly Girl is a temporary employment agency ... and of course this was before ... now they have all sorts of benefits, medical insurance and you get vacation and you get all that kind of stuff when you worked for them, I think it's a year. I got real sick the last week in December ...

Beverly J. Brown:

What year is that?

Susan E. Wudy:

1970 ... I'm still in the 70's. I got real sick ... couldn't work ... had no insurance ... and so it really set me back ... took most everything I had in savings. I was living with my folks at the time. Dad was getting ready to take a call to Plymouth, Wisconsin which was about an hour north of Milwaukee. I did not want to go up there. I wanted to stay in Milwaukee so I thought I'm going to have to get myself a regular job that has some benefits to it because I'm going to have an apartment and I've got to just do something else. So that's when I went to work for Attorney Yonish ... and it was an interesting ... it was good to work for him because he was very methodical ... both of us having been in the military had a certain amount of stability there that we're used to doing this kind of thing. It was just a very comfortable position for me to hold. But then I decided I really did want to go back in ... and had actually ... I reenlisted on the same ... I took my oath on the same day that I had taken it when I originally went into the Anny, December the 26th ... which was just a hoot. Because of my extension ... that had changed my ... there had been a month or two added on or something like that. .. because had I been out for a full three years, I would have had to go back to Basic Training. Two weeks, I missed it by two weeks ... I got back in. But I did loose my rank. I came back as an E4 instead of an E6 because I had been an E6 when I got out the first time ... came back as an E4. The only position they would allow me ... because at that time they were not looking for people to reenlist. They were looking for new bodies. I really don't remember the reason why but. .. so recruiting was the only thing they were going to allow me to go into. I did not want to go into recruiting. I wanted to go overseas. I wanted to work in the diplomatic corps. I didn't care as a steno or mail clerk, I didn't care. I just wanted to work in the diplomatic corps overseas so I could have a chance to go and see all of the races over there ... all the Gran Prix's ... because they have them there ... and I figured if I just reenlist until I was there long enough to hit all the Gran Prix's. Well, I ended up like I said on recruiting duty in Milwaukee which really pissed me off. I did not want to stay in Milwaukee ... but that's what happened. So I ended up at the AFEES [Armed Forces Entrance and Examining Station] in the female position there ... the only female position there for the Army. So all the gals that came in went through me to get their testing done and to get their physicals done ... and I was the one that got them their assignments ... and determined when they would enlist ... then I'd send them back to their recruiters in their home towns. And I did that for about two years ... and then I went to ... I was the female recruiter for the Milwaukee District. They wanted a female recruiter and they asked me if I would do it ... I really didn't want to but there was some changes being made down at the AFEES and I thought what the heck. So I did and I did that for all together 4 years. And when I went. .. wanted to reenlist ... Recruiting Command informed me that there were only two things I could ... there was only one thing I could reenlist for and that was recruiting. I went wait a minute here ... I've spent four years ... I got my quotas every year. .. I want out of Recruiting Command. I loved recruiting. I loved being able to sit down with the gals to talk to them and I loved the Army but I hated Recruiting Command. There were some things there that just really irked me. One of them was that you could sit down with a guy and just almost give him the answers so he could get eleven percentile on his test and go in the Army. But you could not assist a female in any way shape or form to get a fifty nine percentile so she could enlist in the Army ... that was the biggest thing that just irked me no end. We had ... I remember when I was down at AFEES I had a gal come in from one of the counties up north ... she was valedictorian of her class. She had never been real, real good at testing but she kind of worked it. She took that test three times. All three times she got a fifty eight ... a fifty seven. She was two points under what she needed ... and they would not waive her to go into the military. I just thought that was the most outrageous thing. The rest of her testing where they give you forms and stuff and you have to see which ones look alike she did real well on all of those ... but on that math and English where they got that percentile from, the fifty nine percentile ... she just couldn't seem to do well enough to get that fifty nine. I thought to myself this is sad ... this someone who obviously wanted to come into the military and for no reason at all ... so I really wanted out of there. So right about that time ... totally separate from this ... I got a letter from the Department of the Army asking me if I wanted to apply to be a criminal investigator. Of course going back to my high school where twice out of those four years I had gone to police work ... I always thought that would be rather interesting to be involved in. I said well sure. The only thing I was leery about is ... I was going to be thirty July third ... and I got this request the end of May. I said what about the MP training ... that's usually a requirement to go into cm [Criminal Investigation Division]. They were trying to get women into cm because that was when they were trying to make everything equal. I had the time and the grade and the age and the experience and the education that they felt that they could give me ... they said well you'll get the training when you get to the base. I said OK. So I went back to Fort McClellan which is where the training was ... got to the gate ... the fellow says well where are you going and I said well my orders say I'm going to Fort McClellan and that's all my orders said. They did not say anything other than that. He said well then you probably need to go over to the MP Detachment. So he sent me over to the MP Detachment. Now I have a brand new pair of boots which I have never in my life wom ... one pair offatigues ... I am the senior, of course, by age thirty ... I am the senior person in this company. All these kids have just come out of Basic Training so they're all in shape to begin with. I haven't been in shape for years. So I start doing the running and by Friday my feet were so swollen and so blistered, but I had kept up. I managed to keep up but I was just hurting really bad. They got me some stuff to put on my feet ... I went to sick call and they gave me some stuff and I was in slippers and Saturday morning I get called into the CO's office. The First Sergeant says to me do you know you are AWOL? I went what! He said I just got this across that they're looking for Susan E. Wudy, same social security number, and that' s AWOL from CID. I said now wait a minute they told me that I'd go through MP training before. Where is CID? He said they're on the other side of Fort McClellan. I said are you kidding me? Because the kid on the gate did not know where cm was. He had never heard ofCID. He was an MP but he hadn't been in that long. He never heard of cm. So all he knew to send me to was the MP Detachment which is where I went. I looked at him and said you have got to be kidding me. He said no, I am dead serious. He said might as well go on over there and find out what they want. I know you'll be packing up but just go over there now and let them know you're actually here and you can come back and get your stuff. I said OK. I went over there and I went into the Orderly Room and told the gal who I was. She said oh we've been looking for you. I said yes so I've found out. I said I've been over at the MP Detachment. She said you're kidding me. I said no. So she called the First Sergeant and said guess who's here? He was on base that morning so he came over and he introduced himself. I said the MP First Sergeant just told me to come over here and let you know 1'm here and then 1'm supposed to go back and get my stuff. He said OK, we'll go ahead and check you in right now then you can go back and get your stuff, then Monday you'll start class. But now by this time I'm already having problems. I'm already ... I don't have any basic knowledge of cm or MP other than running around. I still have yet to fire a weapon. I'm a little bit concerned. My feet are killing me. I went over and I got my stuff. .. and I started off. .. they had a test the end of that week which I blew big time because half of the stuff I'd never heard of because they covered it in the first week and I hadn't been there. So what happened ... I did get hold ofa .45 ... realized that I could fire marksman with a .45 so I wasn't really worried about that. So what happened is they said well what we're going to do is recycle you. I said no I will not be recycled. I said obviously I am not capable ... this something maybe I've gotten in over my head on. I said you wouldn't recycle a guy. He said oh yes we do it all the time. And there were actually four guys out of my class that they recycled into the upcoming class that was just getting ready to start. He said oh no we do it all the time ... believe me we're not doing this because you're a female. So I went ahead and I said OK. So I recycled in. Then I was getting high grades and all that. Then they gave me short barrel .38. I couldn't hit the broad side of a bam ... could not ... at all ... hit the broad side of a bam with that thing. And I had started after my feet healed up ... l thought I've got to run a mile ... that's a requirement because cm is part of the MP Corps. I knew I could pass the PT test but you also had to run a mile. It didn't matter if it took you six hours, you just had to run a continuous mile. So I started the first day I'd run a mile ... eh, the half mile ... the second day the half .. .let's start this again ... the fIfst Monday I ran a quarter of a mile. Tuesday I ran half a mile. Wednesday I ran three quarters of a mile. Thursday I got to three quarters of a mile and my leg collapsed. I thought oh this isn't good. I'll let my leg rest over the weekend and we'll do it next week ... started the same thing ... on that fourth day, I would get past that three quarter of mile mark, not very far either, and all of a sudden my leg would just go numb on me. So I started exercising ... doing different exercises that I thought would help build up this leg. The Gunny ... we had a Gunny that was doing the class ... the PT class ... it was really ... I had a girl in my class ... her boyfriend had a .38 magnum, which is not a normal weapon. He took me out to the dump and taught me how to fIfe that weapon. He was the one that noticed ... he said every time that you fIfe, your hands go up ... try and keep your hands stable. So I was trying to do this but it wouldn't matter ... every time ... so I started ... I figured out how to hit the target by putting the weapon down ... I figured out how far it would take to come up and hit ... and that's how ... so then when we realized that we took my regular weapon and I figured out how to do that ... and then I was able to pass the firing range. See I still don't know at this point that I have MS. And that was the thing with the .45 ... the .45 was so heavy that when I would fire it. .. it would automatically ... it would not allow my hands to come up ... because it was so heavy it kept it level .. , but once I got away from the .45 and went to the .38 ... it was a short barrel on top of it ... then there was no weight there to hold my hands steady. So it took about 2 Y2 years ... then a number of times into have my legs checked and there was never anything wrong with my legs. I managed to get through the mile. I basically walked it, instead of ran it. But it concerned me for a long time that that was a problem. When I got to em at Fort Sill, Oklahoma ... that was my station none of the guys there had never worked with a female, ever, in any position and so it was kind of an experience for them and it was for me. Once they realized that I wasn't expecting any special favors and that I was going to do exactly what they were going to do, it worked out really well. They did use me a couple of time on some cases because most of the fellows there that got themselves in trouble just figured I was a female and that it was easy to snow me. So they would tell me all kinds of things and from that I could pull out what the lies were the guys would go back at them and eventually we'd get them. So we were doing pretty good. Then the evidence custodian retired and they asked me if I would take over the evidence room. And again ... and I thought this was kind of sad in a way because ... Major Anderson said to me that what I am about to ask you is not because you are a female. I said what are you talking about? He said I would like you in the evidence room ... it' s all paperwork. .. but he said you know how important that chain of command is ... anything is wrong in there ... he said you're really the only person I can think of that knows paperwork well enough that I think you can do it. I said well of course ... but I thought to myself that it's kind of sad that we'd gotten to that point in the military that you're afraid to assign somebody that's competent to ajob because they may get upset because they think you're doing it because you're a male or a female or whatever. So shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with my MS ... on May the first of '78. On September 15th of that year I was retired out with MS with TRL which is temporary disability. Then about three years later they made it permanent because they had determined that yes I did have some form of MS ... they didn't know how bad it was going to be ... but they wouldn't let me ... and I was real upset because I had come back from the hospital, sold my house because I was on orders for Germany. I thought OK I didn't make all the races the first time now I'm going to get another chance so I'm going to go this direction ... so I never did go. I was retired out from Oklahoma. And we'll just stop at that.

Beverly J. Brown:

OK Sue, thank you very much for sharing your story with us.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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