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Interview with Elsie Perch [November 14, 2003]

Andrew Fisher:

Mrs. Perch, let's begin with where you were born, went to school, and we'll move then through your service and we'll do this chronologically.

Elsie Perch:

I was born in Indiana on the 15th of June 1920, in Carroll County, Indiana, that's near Delphi. I went to school primarily at Lafontaine, Indiana, graduated in 1937, and then I went into nursing school in Toledo, Ohio, and graduated in 1940. I went back to Indiana to work and was at the Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana, at the time that the war began. Since I had two younger brothers, who I knew would be in the war, I decided that I should volunteer, and I joined the Red Cross and was signed up on December 7, 1942. I was sent immediately to Nichols General Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, which was a new hospital and we set it up from the bare wards. In March we were sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky to the 105th Station Hospital which was forming there. Then we went to Camp Shanks in New York and got on the -- took the train -- took the ferry over to Staten Island where we got on the EDMUND B. ALEXANDER, which was docked at Pier 13. This ship was built in 1904 at Belfast, Ireland, and it was called the HALIFAX. It was sold to the Germans and used in World War I and they named it the FATHERLAND. It was captured by the United States and President Wilson came home from Europe on it. The ship had been recently remodeled and this was the first voyage after that remodeling. We left in a convoy of about thirty ships and on May 11th, 10th or May 8th -- the tenth night out at 3 a.m., there was a terrific explosion and we were sure we had been hit by a submarine. The guard knocked on our door and said get dressed, put on your life jackets, and stay in your room until further notice. Eventually, we learned that the explosion was one of the engines of the ship. They had been pushing it to keep up the speed of the convoy and one of the engines had exploded. The next morning, when we looked out, instead of the thirty ships around us there were two destroyers and the rest had gone on. Two days later we arrived at Marseille -- I am sorry -- three days later we arrived at Gibraltar for repairs and while we were there we got a message that the convoy had arrived safely with the exception of one ship. What happened to that ship, what happened to that ship? We suddenly realized that we were that ship. On the 11th -- on the 12th we arrived at Mers-el-Kebir, North Africa about four o'clock in the afternoon. On the ship we had two meals a day, but they were very adequate and always we had access to the PX. We were in a stateroom, which probably, originally was meant for two; there were six of us. We had two triple bunks, and it was fine. We also had a porthole that we could look out during the day, but the enlisted men had -- they were assigned three to one bunk, so it was occupied twenty-four hours a day. They spent eight hours sleeping, eight hours working and eight hours on deck, so we had it pretty good. We ate our last meal on the 12th at one o'clock. At four p.m. we arrived at Mers-el-Kebir. We did not leave the ship until one o'clock [am]. Everybody else had gone first before we got off. And we rode about fifteen miles east of Oran in open trucks and we arrived by 4 a.m. at our destination and somebody led us with a flashlight to our tent, which was a large tent that held forty people on the stony hillside and we had an overcoat and a blanket with us and we slept on the stony hillside. We had been given C-rations for three days and the C-rations were like beans and stew, and there was two cans for each meal. But there was nothing to heat it with, so it had to be eaten cold. And it was just a few days before our unit's mess hall was set up about a mile a way, but if we walked, or if we rode in the truck that mile, you looked like you hadn't had a bath for weeks or months because it was so dusty. Of course we had C-rations, but they were at least warm. The showers were set up. It was an open shower with just a canvas wall around it and they had posted a timetable when different people could take showers. Well, somehow the Air Force found out -- discovered -- when the nurses were to take showers and they started flying over, so they changed the process and notified us at the last minute if we could take a shower, but you could imagine forty women at a time taking showers. But because of the dust, a lot of us were getting ill, and about June 1st, I reported in ill. I rode the twenty miles to Oran sitting up in an ambulance and I arrived with a temperature of 104.4. I was there about four days and then went back to camp and discovered everything was packed up. All my -- all I had was what I had on my back. A friend loaned me a blanket and both of us were rather cold that night because nights were cold, the days very hot. And they were moving the nurses to another area and we were moved to a barley field near the beach with five in a tent and the tent had a wood floor and electric light. It was right on the beach and that was wonderful, because the Mediterranean water was so nice. I'd never seen a beach that was better. We did have salt water showers in a French chateau and of course that was indoors so the air force couldn't fly over and see us. On July 9th, we had a five-day, four-night train ride and there were six of us in a compartment. At night, two of us slept on the benches, one sat up at the end and then they would change positions later. One was -- slept on the floor between the benches and one slept in the hallway with a white towel under their head. We were given K-rations at this time, which are better than C, but they are dry. One time, we were stopped on the track, and another supply train stopped on the next track and the guards on the train asked us if we wanted anything. Well, the nurses asked for toilet paper and cereal and they just handed it over, all we wanted. We saw camel caravans as we moved through many smoky tunnels. On the 12th we waited all day at one point for an engine because what they did, they took the train into town and they would take the engine from that train and put it on one that had been waiting and then we had to wait until the next train would come in so that we could get their engine to proceed. We arrived at Bone on the 13th and slept on the ground near their French cemetery at Ain Mokra, and there we set up the hospital. I worked in the surgery at that time and on the 20th of August a forest fire started. I am saying forest fire, the trees were all hand planted, but the fire started burning everything in its way. There were nine fires between where Bone and Ain Mokra were, which is where they buried the oxygen tanks because they didn't want them exploding, and we made Vaseline dressings, expecting a number of burned people. Fortunately, we didn't need to use them and they stopped the fire short of the hospital. On September the 3rd one of our nurses was killed in a traffic accident. She reluctantly went on a double date with another nurse and with two British officers. Well, they're used to driving on the left side of the road instead of the right, and they had a few drinks. I guess they didn't know which side they were driving on and they had an accident and she was killed. On the 8th of September Italy surrendered and everybody was happy, at about that time we were moving again and we had another train ride of four days and three nights and this time they gave us powder for bed bugs for the plush seats that were in the compartments. None of us knew how to use bed bug powder, so we put it on the benches and that just drove them out at night. So the nights were miserable. On the 10th we arrived at Ferryville, near Bizerte, and there they kept taking a few nurses here and a few nurses there, sending them on detached service, and the reason was they decided to set our hospital up as a rehab hospital. I worked for a short time in the dental office there and finally on the October 19th I was sent on detached service to the 33rd General Hospital near Karuba. On the 5th of November I turned my 6 o'clock report in, in the evening, and received a note that Dan Perch had arrived and would see me that night. Well, I was ecstatic and he had -- I had met Dan five years before when I was a student nurse. We had kept in contact for all this time. He had arrived as a replacement in a bomber squadron in Morocco and when he first met his commander he asked him for time off to try to locate me and the commander was a little bit stumped as to what to do and he finally said, "Well, how long have you known her?" And Dan said, "Five years." His commander said, "You won't be flying for ten days; you can have five days." So he managed to hitch an airplane ride, flew twelve hundred miles to Bizerte, Tunisia and with some difficulty located me just across the road from where he had landed at the Karuban Naval Base. So he had -- he stayed there four days at the hospital and we had a great time. A month later he came back for another two days and we decided to try to get married there and we started the process, which ended about seven months later, after he was back in the States and I was over in Italy. On the 23rd of February some of us were assigned to Anzio beachhead in Italy. There were four evacuation hospitals and a field hospital and I was assigned to the 33rd Field Hospital. These were all clustered together very close.

Andrew Fisher:

We should say at this point that the Anzio beachhead was an invasion by American troops to cut off the Germans and to shorten the war in Italy.

Elsie Perch:

That 's right.

Andrew Fisher:

And so there were many casualties there in Anzio, and that was the reason you went there?

Elsie Perch:

Yes, six nurses had been killed there and they needed replacements. We -- the beachhead was established late in January.

Andrew Fisher:

When did you go?

Elsie Perch:

Well, we got our orders in February, but we had quite a difficult time getting up there. We flew to Naples and we tried to -- we boarded...Well in Naples we had quite an experience too. We stayed at a place; it was almost like a cave, where they had thermal baths originally, but the walls on the stone were just covered with moss. It wasn't a very healthy place to be. So then they did transfer us to sleep in one of the hospitals until we got to our assignment. But we made three trips to Anzio before we were able to land. The first night started out and it was very rough and by morning we ended back at our starting point. The next night it was too rough to even try and the next day -- we'd always start in the evening, to arrive near the morning, and it was too rough again, so we returned. The third trip up we were able to get off the LST [Landing Ship, Tanks], which we were able to get onto the LST from the British hospital ship called SAINT ANDREW. So we arrived the 3rd of March and this was quite a process. They had a truce with the Germans that they could move patients between ten and two during the day, in the bay. So the transfer had to take place out in the bay and the British soldiers used a hand pulley to lift the patient up from the LST and in a stretcher to the ship. They put one nurse at each end of the box of the stretcher and let us down to the LST, out over the water down to the LST, and this continued until the transfer was complete. The LST took us into the shore and we were rushed onto trucks that were waiting, our baggage was thrown in very hurriedly on the truck and no matter where the nurses were going, we all went on the same truck and we couldn't imagine -- we couldn't understand why they were rushing so, until they explained this truce between ten and two. We got about two blocks away and the shells started coming in and it was exactly two o'clock. So they took us to our hospital and three of us were assigned to the 33rd Field and the first thing the people insisted on doing was digging a foxhole for us, then putting our tent up, over the three foxholes. They put the cots in the foxhole and they told us to sleep with our helmet on and I'll tell you, the two are not compatible [laughing] at all. It rained the first night and the water began to collect in the foxhole and the dirt began to go plop, plop, plop into the water and I began to wonder what on earth I got myself into. Well, then I happened to think, well the men are out in the foxholes, and they don't have tents, so I guess I had it pretty good. So the next day, they dug a trench around the tents so it would drain the rain away from us instead of running in. So, we were working on the wards then.

Andrew Fisher:

Now you were handling the wounded from the--

Elsie Perch:

From the --

Andrew Fisher:

From the combat with the --

Elsie Perch:

Right. And we worked twelve-hour shifts. Eight to eight and for a few nights we slept and worked in the same clothes. Dinner was at 4:30. Everyone -- all the officers went to dinner at the same time, but the food was -- we were hungry the whole time we were on Anzio. The food was short; they were short on bread. They were short on different things. The patients came first, enlisted men second, and the officers, third. If we had bread, which often we didn't, at breakfast time, they usually would give us two slices and we would save one for bedtime, because we were always hungry [Crying]. Let's see, I asked some of the soldiers how they spent their time in the foxholes, and they said they smoked cigarettes, they ate candy or chewed gum but always they prayed [crying]. I had a group of six tents with the capacity of forty each. Sometimes they would only have two or three tents filled but other times they would fill up. They would transfer most of the patients back to Naples for care. Unless they were seriously wounded, they usually were not cared for surgically on Anzio.

Andrew Fisher:

You were an interim hospital, a field hospital.

Elsie Perch:

Yes. We were acting as an evac hospital, since we were stationary at that time.

Andrew Fisher:

So when someone was wounded, they came to your hospital?

Elsie Perch:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Or was there a hospital before you? Aid station or how did that work?

Elsie Perch:

Not during the early months. There was nothing in between because they could not advance.

Andrew Fisher:

Oh, I see.

Elsie Perch:

At this time, spring.

Andrew Fisher:

So when someone was wounded, they came to you and if you could care for them, then maybe they went back to active duty and if you couldn't, then they went to Naples; is that how it worked?

Elsie Perch:

There may have been a few that went back to active duty; but most of them waited for this transport back to Naples.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Elsie Perch:

If they were serious, then we did have a surgery there and had what they called a shock ward if they were hemorrhaging or unconscious.

Andrew Fisher:

So you got them right off the battlefield?

Elsie Perch:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Can I ask now?

Elsie Perch:

Sure.

Andrew Fisher:

How did you deal with what had to be some horrible wounds, some terrible pain?

Elsie Perch:

Well, most of the wounds -- they weren't clean wounds, like straight wounds that you might expect ordinarily. The shrapnel was very sharp and it had many layers and points on it and it made nasty wounds. It wasn't long -- on March 28th during the night, we had a shelling of the hospital area that killed five patients and wounded eighteen.

Andrew Fisher:

Do you believe these were deliberate shellings of the hospital?

Elsie Perch:

They had to be, because the white area and the red cross on the tent were certainly very visible. And we were in an area, just beyond us was a gorge, and across from that the Germans were "dug in the hillside" and they could see every movement that we made and if we would go to eat at the mess hall, I mean a number of people congregating, or if we were going to church, and they would see a number, they would start shelling.

Andrew Fisher:

That doesn't seem to fit in with what you said earlier though about this truce from ten to two.

Elsie Perch:

Well, that was in the bay, but you get away from there and --

Andrew Fisher:

Oh, I see. That was away from the front?

Elsie Perch:

Well, not very far, because Anzio itself was only eighteen miles long and nine miles wide at the greatest distance each way. Most of the -- I mean besides this activity, most of the other activity was at night.

Andrew Fisher:

So you came under shellfire often?

Elsie Perch:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

That has to be frightening for a person who can't defend themselves.

Elsie Perch:

Well, our commanding officer had told us, and we had frequent air raids at night and he told us, he said when they start, unless you absolutely have to move around, I want you to sit in a corner on the ground and stay there until it's over. And you would sit there, holding your knees, shaking, but not aware of being afraid [Laughing].

Andrew Fisher:

You had a piece of shrapnel that you showed me before. Where did you get that?

Elsie Perch:

Well, I woke up one morning and the light was coming in our tent and I couldn't figure it out and I got up, walked to the center, and I found this piece of shrapnel which is about two and a half inches long sticking in the ground. It had come through the top of our tent. And by that time, after the second killing of patients, they had dug down all our tents four feet deep. They made internal walls of sandbags and our cot was between the sandbag and the dirt. We had -- at the top we had maybe about six inches of air space, the height of two of the small sandbags. Then they put over that a two-inch thick board and sandbags on top of that. So I had come out of from where my cot was and discovered this piece of shrapnel which was very wicked looking.

Andrew Fisher:

That would certainly make an ugly wound.

Elsie Perch:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

From the look of it --

Elsie Perch:

Especially with the force that it would come in.

Andrew Fisher:

Yes.

Elsie Perch:

So all the tents were dug down that deep, and the surgery had a wooden frame, and the sides were sandbagged, and the roof was solid wood, and then there were sandbags put on it, and then the tent was put up over that so they could work in a place that was a little bit safer. They divided the officers into three groups and they divided the mess tent into three areas so that if any one was hit it would minimize the number that might be hit at one time. We were told not to go outside our tent without our helmet on. So we lived and worked in dugouts and often it was wet and muddy because it was spring and it rained quite a bit, and as I said before, we worked eight-hour shifts and one day I was working from 8:00 to 5:00 and I was notified to go to early dinner because a nurse was sick and I would have to be back to work eight to eight. On Good Friday, on April the 7th we had a shelling, and air raids, and at that time we got in, in the six tents that I had at night, those were all filled with patients. So that was 240 patients and then I had extra patients in the chaplain's tent and for every forty patients, I had one corpsman and I constantly made rounds. That's when the push started towards Rome -- and in making rounds, I would check the soldier's tag, which was a tag about four or five inches, saying whether they had tetanus anti-toxin or anything of that sort. I was looking for patients that were unconscious, that were bleeding and if I found any they were immediately sent to the shock ward. I would check the patients for tetanus anti-toxin, I would ask them about pain. The men were just wonderful. Often times they'd say oh, nurse, "don't bother about me; just take care of somebody that's worse." This -- then of course, then as soon as possible, they would transfer these patients back to Naples and some of them had to wait three days before being transferred. If I found a patient in pain, I gave him morphine; if they needed the tetanus anti-toxin, I just gave them that. We had standing orders and so we didn't have to get an order from the doctor to go ahead and do this. On the 1st of May we had our first -- since we arrived on the beachhead. So that was a first in over two months and again on the 2nd of May we had an air raid and the lights went out. It continued for over an hour and as I said before the colonel made rounds to check on the personnel and nurses. Every night he made rounds. The first time I was working at night and had an air raid it happened that a young soldier, who was not seriously injured and had been in another tent, came to visit me as I was making out the report. And we didn't have Xerox or things like that. You had to handcopy the register every night. The air raid started and next thing I knew, I was down on the floor, facedown, and after it was over I said I don't know how I got down so quickly. And he said "well, I do. I pushed you." [Laughing] And this happened to be an eighteen-year-old patient that I had before in North Africa. Apparently, he knew that I was there and had asked. One of the patients was in a full body cast and he immediately rolled over the edge of the cot on to the floor. I don't know how he did it but that was the way that things went. Later in May we had a May dance. It wasn't all work, and this is after the front had started to make some headway, and they put the names of all the nurses from all the hospitals in a helmet and drew one out, and she was the May Queen, and it happened to be one of our 105th nurses who was there. At that time I was introduced to a general and I don't remember his name and he immediately told me what unit I was from -- that I was from the 105th, that I was 23 years old, and that I was the youngest nurse on the beachhead. Now I can't verify the last, but the others were true.

Andrew Fisher:

Let's take just a second here. I am not quite clear on the romance that was taking place long distance. Your future husband came to Africa and found you eventually and then you applied to be married. But now you were in Anzio, you got married between Africa and Anzio?

Elsie Perch:

No.

Andrew Fisher:

Oh, you're not married yet. This is still to be explained.

Elsie Perch:

No, and the 33rd Field was finally sent -- was divided into the three platoons to act as a field hospital, to follow the front line and one platoon would be in the back of the line, and two were further back and as the front line moved, the rear platoon would keep up with the other platoon in the line and that was the way they processed them.

Andrew Fisher:

So you were just -- your unit was just back behind the battlefront?

Elsie Perch:

Yes. Rome was taken on the 4th of June and Rome was not destroyed; it was once said that they avoided destruction.

Andrew Fisher:

And they captured the city?

Elsie Perch:

Yes. I was in Rome on the 7th of June, three days after it was taken, because our platoon was moving. When the platoon moved you had a little bit of free time and Italians were so happy in the streets and they had big huge signs across the street, welcome to the Americans, welcome to the liberators. I might say that when we got patients in, that each cot had three blankets and we had one blanket to sleep on, one folded for a pillow, and one to cover with. And when a patient left, you shook them out and got it ready for the next patient. We didn't have sheets or anything like that. Our capacity in a platoon was thirty patients. One day we lost six of our thirty patients and I was pretty depressed, but our commanding officer said if we weren't here not a single one would have lived [Crying] to get back to the evacuation hospital. And then many of our patients had gas gangrene. I heard other doctors say that we didn't have much of that in World War II and all I can say is, they weren't near the front.

Andrew Fisher:

You mean from gas attacks?

Elsie Perch:

No, gas gangrene in the wound because of being exposed for some time before they were picked up.

Andrew Fisher:

Oh, I see.

Elsie Perch:

We followed the front lines until about the end of June. We got orders to return to the 105th Station as the -- apparently the other hospitals could take care of them by that time.

Andrew Fisher:

Now you were above Rome?

Elsie Perch:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And you were starting to get into the pylons of Italy?

Elsie Perch:

Yes. I might tell an experience that happened later when I went -- had an opportunity to visit in Rome and this was after I had returned to the 105th Station. We saw Marlene Deitrich in person in a state show and I -- we also had seen Bob Hope and Frances Langford back in Africa and in Bone, in a stadium, where they performed, but anyway, we went to the hotel and we cleaned up and rested and we decided to get a coke at the PX. Now this was quite a process. We had to fill out a temporary card from the hotel desk and present this at the information desk at the PX, where it was signed and we were given a slip, which said one Coca-Cola. We took the slip upstairs, we gave it and four lira to the sergeant, who gave us a blue slip, and we gave the blue slip to the girl behind the counter for a bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola. It was delicious and well worth the effort, but I never thought that getting a coke could be that complicated. [Laughing]. It was late in June after I returned to the 105th Station and we finally received the okay to get married. Of course by this time my future husband had been back in the States six months and it would be another six or seven months before I would return to the States. At one point, another nurse and I had a couple of days in Florence on leave and we stayed at the hotel -- most of the buildings were not heated during the war and it was so cold that we took the rug up from the floor. It must have been about five by seven and we put it on top of our bed to keep warm at night [Laughing]. I might add that at one point, which was at Grossetta ,we moved in to what had been a tuberculosis hospital. Our quarters were upstairs and the patients were in between there and the ground. The men had tents outside and dam broke -- it was because of the rains. The whole place was flooded, so the enlisted men were brought in and put on top of the roof, but they lost a lot of clothes. The ground floor had water up to -- eventually up to the level of the piano keys and that was where the patients' clothing was stored and a lot of the food and things -- they had made a chain and passed up the food, as much as they could. At this time the current got too swift, then the colonel ordered everybody out.

Andrew Fisher:

This was in Florence?

Elsie Perch:

No, this was in Grossetta. They had made an earthen dam across one of the rivers and then, as the spring rains came, it washed the dam out and flooded the area.

Andrew Fisher:

And now sixty years later they still have that sort of problem there?

Elsie Perch:

Another experience along with the explosions, the fires, the flooding and the shelling and all that occurred, by the end of 1944, they decided that it would be a good thing if they started sending the nurses back, since it had been almost two years, and so we were asked to sign up our preference; if we wanted to come back on rotation or be reassigned, and I chose rotation. There were only three signed up in this group because many of them were afraid of being sent to the Pacific. They drew a name from each group and mine was drawn. And in January I returned to the States by ship, requested to go to New York City because Dan was at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. We landed at Boston and it was extremely cold and snowy. The Red Cross met us with pitchers of milk. That was the first milk we had since we had left. The milk was frozen, at least partly frozen in the pitchers, and I got sick on it. I drank so much milk all my life but I never expected to get sick with milk. Anyway, I took the train to New York and called Dan and we applied to get married there and were married on the 30th of [January] 1945. I was sent to Grove Park in North Carolina for the rest of my -- well, first we went home on a honeymoon. Little bit different from most people, but anyway, we were glad to do that and then sent to Grove Park Inn in North Carolina for rest and recreation and debriefing, then assigned to Tilton General Hospital at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Each of us -- Dan was at Floyd Bennett Field and I was at Fort Dix -- were an hour ride from Penn Station. He had every sixth day off and so I asked for that day and we would meet and then decide what we wanted to do for our day off. In a couple months later his squadron was sent to Puerto Rico. By that time I was pregnant and I was discharged on the 26th of July and sent home, and he was discharged after the end of the war in September, and he came home and then we settled in Rossford, which he was from.

Andrew Fisher:

And now it's fifty-eight years later.

Elsie Perch:

Almost fifty-nine.

Andrew Fisher:

And you proved that love conquers all [Laughing]. That is quite an amazing story. I wonder how a young girl from Carroll County coped with all of this? You lived a secluded life or protected life in Indiana.

Elsie Perch:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And suddenly you're in the middle of a war, you're treating unimaginable wounds, and seeing the tragedy of war. It must have been a real process of getting used to it.

Elsie Perch:

Well, you know you think it's bad, but I think what helps you, everyone is in the same boat. No one was getting preferential treatment. Well, you figure if they can take it then you, I can too.

Andrew Fisher:

When you came back did you continue your work as a nurse?

Elsie Perch:

Well, I had two children, two sons. I worked. I was asked to teach at [Robinwood Hospital School of Nursing] which is now Saint Luke's and I did that for a semester until we moved into Rossford and then I didn't have transportation, but I did that for one semester and then I went to a diabetic camp where I took my two boys one summer. I wasn't on call, I didn't intend to work, but occasionally someone would call me because they were short and couldn't get anyone. I worked in a nursing home at night for a while simply because there was no one available but then our youngest child -- we had three daughters then after the two boys -- and when she went into first grade I decided that I would see about working. I still didn't have transportation for weekends and I was told that if you worked part-time, you had to work one weekend or another. Our little daughter was having her tonsils out and I went back to her room and I said that's that and a short time later the nurse from the school came over and she said how would you like to teach? Because you could work part-time. So I worked Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, Friday, short hours. I was home by the time they were out of school and I did that for two years, then I decided I was pretty busy. I stayed home for two years and I was called by a nurse at Mercy Hospital; they needed an OB instructor. An obstetrics instructor. So I after the fourth call I finally decided to go in to talk to them and they said I could name my hours. It was pretty much up to me so I decided to go back and I was there for nineteen years before I retired. I might say that our two sons were in service. Our older son was in R.O.T.C. during college, went into the army, was in military intelligence, and he was in twenty years before he retired. The younger one was appointed to Annapolis. He served in Rickover's Nuclear Submarines, but resigned after nine years because he had absolutely no time -- but could even -- When he was on leave or when he was in town he was often called out because some crew member would be in difficulty and he would have to get up at 3 o'clock at night and go see about the thing. He is with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission now in Bethesda, Maryland. I have a couple grandsons in service right now. Our youngest daughter's oldest son was at Camp David for a year and a half and he just left. He got orders the 1st of October to leave the 1st of November. We thought for sure he'd be sent to Iraq, but he was sent Hawaii and of course, Dan was in Air Force also.

Andrew Fisher:

Well, this has been a wonderful story and you were well prepared to tell it and I appreciate the fact that you were willing to dredge up the these obviously emotional memories and I appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to do this.

Elsie Perch:

Well, thank you. It -- I never talked about it and nobody ever asked for years and years and I think that when I came home, I was so glad to be home, and my family was so glad to have me, and they have no knowledge of this because you wouldn't write where you were unless you were there at this time you were there three months, and we were hardly ever anywhere for three months at a time and mother kept writing where are you, where are you?

Andrew Fisher:

Well, you've obviously done your country a great service and you're doing a service here by doing a Veterans History Project.

Elsie Perch:

Thank you and I've enjoyed it.

Andrew Fisher:

Thank you.

Andrew Fisher:

This is a post-script to the very interesting story that Mrs. Perch has told us. We forgot to talk about the fact that your experiences in Italy have been recorded in a book. Why don't you tell us about that.

Elsie Perch:

A local author, whose mother happened to hear me talk a little bit at a home about service asked me if I minded if her daughter would interview me. She said she was writing a book and it's called, Short Stories from Days Gone By and the author is Katherine Anne Douglas and so she interviewed me twice. I asked to be allowed to look over the story she was writing before it was published. So, we got together two times and she included my chapter in this book. It's called Assignment Anzio, and so it primarily talks about my experiences on the Anzio beachhead.

Andrew Fisher:

Is this book currently available?

Elsie Perch:

Yes, it is.

Andrew Fisher:

It was written in 2000, by Katherine Anne Douglas and published by Promise Press. I take it if anyone wanted to read this, they could find it?

Elsie Perch:

It's available at book stores in Toledo. It has gotten around. I've heard from people in Florida who have it and in Indiana, so I know that --

Andrew Fisher:

19 pages to your Anzio.

Elsie Perch:

In fact, it's the longest chapter in the book.

Andrew Fisher:

If it's possible, we'll get a copy of this chapter in the Veterans History Project.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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