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Interview with Anne Huckaba [12/09/2003]

Bart Chambers:

Today is December 9th, 2003 and this interview will be conducted with Anne Huckaba. Mrs. Huckaba was born on and currently lives at [redacted address]. This interview will take place at Lausanne Collegiate School, present at the interview are Bar Chambers, interviewer, Sameer Vaddodi as a camera person, and Marianne Leung as an accompanying adult. Uh, Mrs. Huckaba, what branch of service did you serve in?

Anne Huckaba:

In the Unites States Marine Corp.

Bart Chambers:

What date were you, well, did you enlist or?

Anne Huckaba:

I enlisted, yes, uh-huh, in March of 1943.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, why did you pick the Marine Corp?

Anne Huckaba:

Well, that's a good question. There are many reasons. I think probably the primary reason was that the Commandant of the Marine Corp said that we would not be an auxiliary, uh we would not have a name like Waves or Wax or Spars, that we would be Marines and be would called Marines and I liked that idea.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, so uh did you have any outside influence that got you to join the marines any family members?

Anne Huckaba:

No, no, nothing but my very own decision.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, did you have any brothers or sisters also join the marine core?

Anne Huckaba:

No.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, do you recall your first day of service?

Anne Huckaba:

The very first day, in boot camp uh, I'm afraid I do (laughs). That's the thing you just don't forget. It was, pretty different, it was - people like to use the term cultural shock and it was. When you go into boot camp, it's quite different from anything that I had ever experienced before.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, where there separate camps, separating genders?

Anne Huckaba:

Oh, yes. Um, I went to Hunter College in New York. That's where the Waves and Marines uh, took boot camp at the very beginning. The organizations and there were no men there. It was strictly women, and uh, the first four or five classes are training groups for the women took place there with the Waves at Hunter College, only women?

Bart Chambers:

Uh, who were the Waves exactly?

Anne Huckaba:

Now the Waves are the girls that were in the Navy, they're Navy Waves.

Bart Chambers:

So what did what was your job, what job were you given after boot camp?

Anne Huckaba:

Uh, I went into training for control tower operator. I was based at a small air field at Edenton (sp?), North Carolina, and they trained us right on the base to be air traffic control tower operators.

Bart Chambers:

Did you join, did you join the military because you felt strongly about the American force of Nazis?

Anne Huckaba:

Oh yes. It was all part of that, sure.

Bart Chambers:

So how was it like being a being a woman in in a man's army?

Anne Huckaba:

About like being a woman in a business organization. And being in a school where there where men. I had been in college and there were men there. It was coed, and not too different. We went to work every morning, just like we would in a business or on a college campus going to school whatever. Not that different.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, Uh, what did you do, what was your job? What was uh, what was the day to day routine?

Anne Huckaba:

Uh, day to day, we worked shifts because the people the pilots that were in training flew from early morning until sometimes late at night, and we'd go get up, have breakfast in the morning if we were on the morning shift, and we'd go to work at noon time. We would alternate in taking lunch hour. And we uh worked in two parts at the control tower. One was called the control center where people would file their flight plans and so forth and we took care of reporting the flights in and out. The other part was actually in the control tower itself. And that was controlling the traffic around the airfield, the planes taking off and landing. It had to be a controlled situation of course we did this by radio contacts with the pilots.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, what were the pilots like?

Anne Huckaba:

Well, they were all, they were alright. They were kids too, you know, 20 to 23, 4, 5 years old, and they were very business like. This was, it was serious. Uh, they were in training. Their lives were on the line in having to be aware in what they were doing and taking care of everything that they should in operating the planes and flying.

Bart Chambers:

Now you served in the pacific theater. What did you-

Anne Huckaba:

No, no, no. No marines served in the women served in the Pacific theater.

Bart Chambers:

No, uh, uh. Uh, let me see here, do you have any memorable experiences that you like to share?

Anne Huckaba:

Uh, probably the tension that went with getting the planes in, and as far as work is concerned, getting the planes and getting them off without accident and I remember accidents that did happened. We never had anything particularly serious. In fact, our entire unit got commendations for safety, and that went in our, what is called our bluejackets. That was our records, and nothing particularly memorable except when I was based at Eagle Mountain Lake Texas. One night the whole sky in the west lit up, and everybody wondered what that was, and it turned out to be the test of the first atom bomb that was exploded. And of course we were all agog at the fact that the atom had been split. Course, that's no news to you people now, but it was quite an exciting thing to have happened at that time. 'Course it was not too late, too long after that that the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, so what exactly where your thoughts about the bomb being dropped?

Anne Huckaba:

Well, it brought an end to a very bloody situation and one that was going to get much much worse. And it saved the lives of 100s of 1000s of people. Not only our own military personnel over there, many of whom were Marines, but also it saved the lives of many Japanese people in spite of the fact that an awful lot of them were killed. The civilians, but they were set to fight to the finish and it was, we estimated there would be or it was estimated there would be at least 500,000 of our military that would lose their lives in that. And of course, we were elated that it happened. All of us in the Marine Corp. at that time where I was based.

Bart Chambers:

So you thought the bomb was justified?

Anne Huckaba:

Oh, of course, it had to be. Of course it was justified. Uh the lives that were saved, just like own brother had spent time in the army. He was in North Africa and Italy and then when the E-day came, then he was on his way to the Pacific, and would have gone right into it there without ever have time at home between. And then I had many friends that were on their way after having served months and years in the European theater, and of course we had no idea what would have happened to them, but then when the bomb was chopped, or the two bombs that were dropped, then the ship that my brother was on turned around. It was in the gulf ready to go through the Panama canal, and they came back to Charleston, and from there they were mustered out of service.

Bart Chambers:

Try to go into another thing here. Did you receive any medals or citations while you were in the service?

Anne Huckaba:

No, we had the women Marines were fairly well protected. We had little occasion to receive any kind medals like that. Now, we did get a commendation or citation for our safety in the control tower, and I was thrilled to death that we got that, but of course there no ribbon or anything like that or medal that went along with it. It was simply a letter that went into our bluejackets.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, so did you stay in touch with your family while you were outside?

Anne Huckaba:

Did I stay in touch with my family?

Bart Chambers:

Yes

Anne Huckaba:

Oh yes, yes. We wrote back and forth all the time, yes. And then an occasional telephone call. It was very difficult to make a long distance call then. The line were so swamped with people and uh, it would be a rare thing to get a long distance telephone call, but by letters, yes.

Bart Chambers:

While you were in the service, what what was the food like?

Anne Huckaba:

Very good. Very good. Um, it was not exactly like what we might have had at home, but it was good. I had no particular complaint about it ever. Of course, there were things that were in short supply and we understood that, and there was no particular griping about it. We just knew that's what the situation was.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, was there ever a lack of supplies. Did you ever have to sacrifice some of your own supplies to the to the men overseas or were you able to--

Anne Huckaba:

I don't... I really don't know. All those logistics were taken care of elsewhere. I was never aware of any shortage of food. Um, sometimes eggs might not be exactly the freshest things that we, we used powdered eggs a lot. Then of course we kidded about those powdered eggs sort of turning green in the pan, you know, while we were waiting to be served, but maybe eggs. We always had milk. There was no particular shortage, and no occasion for us to feel that we were deprived of food or that we were sacrificing food for anybody overseas.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, well did you feel plenty of stress and pressure about doing your job?

Anne Huckaba:

Uh, yes. There was always pressure. When these pilots you have to remember were students, and we were always aware of that (sneezes), excuse me. And they were subject to making errors just like any student would learning a new mechanical device, particularly the last six months I was in, I was at a base where they were training for night fighters, to be night fighters. And uh these were planes that were typically used on on air aircraft carriers. And they came in at a fast pace and they took off at a fast pace. And then another things that was involved at that, during the latter part of the war was the fact that tires became so short in such short supply. And many times the planes the tires would blow out, uh, when the planes took off. They went on their training mission wherever they went and they fulfilled whatever they were supposed to do. But then the stress came when they came back in and we knew they had a tire blown out, and uh these kids, these boys, they really worked at getting those planes in with a blown out tire. And oftentimes, they would come in as slowly as they could, and land on one wheel. Now these were two wheeled planes, you know, and single engine most of the time on these, and then as they would wait until the very last second to set down the other wheel, and to let the tail wheel come down. And it was, it was a little nerve racking, and we always had what we called the crash cruise standing by for these planes in case they didn't make it, you know. But uh, these men were good. They, uh they knew what they had to do, and they uh talked themselves down with somebody else you know. And then there were other things. A lot of time the electrical system would go out on the planes, and they would come in with no lights. That meant they couldn't, didn't have an altimeter. They couldn't read their gauges on the instrument panel. And usually another plane would fly beside them and count down with the altimeter you know, tell them how far they were off the ground, and one with no lights would uh, follow the one flying alongside, and they talked back and forth to let him know exactly where he was and to when to go on and let down, and then uh, of course there again, we always had the crash crew standing by in case they did have an accident. But they they were good with each other. They worked together, the pilots did. They were very conscious of this tense critical situation, and they did very well, wonderful.

Bart Chambers:

How did people entertain themselves on the base?

Anne Huckaba:

How did they--

Bart Chambers:

Entertain themselves?

Anne Huckaba:

Oh, well uh, we always had movies, and uh, on some of the bases, they had bowling, and uh, then a lot of people played cards, played bridge, and a lot of the women did hand work. You'd be surprised how many the women did need work at night. You know, you can't go out every night if you've got to get up early the next morning. Uh, a lot of them knitted, some crocheted. They did things. You know, we were women after all. And uh, but we liked to go into town and have dinner when we could, and read. We read a lot, and we'd meet at the PX at night a lot of times, and meet with a group, and just have little parties there. You know, just a bunch of the guys and the gals getting together and just like you kids do.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, did you ever get any leave time when you were in the service?

Anne Huckaba:

Oh sure. Yeah, we got regular leave. We would have, oh certain number of days and uh, I think I went home about three times while I was in the two and a half years that I was in. Also we would get long weekends and we would go to different towns around and enjoyed the facilities there, the museums and the theater and whatever else there was, and um um yeah, we had leave time and occasionally from the base at Edenton, North Carolina would get into New York every once in a while, get a train and go on up and we enjoyed that. Sure, we had time off.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, do you do you remember any particularly humorous or other type of funny event that occurred while you were in the service?

Anne Huckaba:

Oh, gracious. There were so many, there were many things. Uh, it would be hard to come up with any one incident, but we had fun. We made our fun. We had to. When you get a bunch of people that age, say 19 20 to 23 or four. They're gonna have fun, just like you would when you get a bunch of you together. Your gonna have fun. We did the same things. We had all sorts of things going. We, there was a small beach on one of our the base at Edenton, North Carolina. On pretty days, and when it was warm weather. Oh yeah, we went to that little beach, and then we'd go over onto the Atlantic, go to Atlantic Beach or go to Madio or one of those places. We'd get on the weekend, we'd go to the beach and do different things.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, was there any kind of practical jokes, you know people would pull on each other?

Anne Huckaba:

(Laughs) Oh yes, oh yes. Constantly but right at the moment I would have to think about that. I don't know of anything specific at the moment. One funny thing happened once. We had to keep our floors all the time. Of course, cleanliness was a very important thing. And we had inspections all the time. So I remember one night. I lived in a small barracks because were a sort of an overflow, and all of the people that worked at night and daytime shift work. They put us in this one little barracks. I think there were about 20 or 25 of us, something like that. And we were waxing the floor, and one of the girls was mumbling and grumbling about everything in the world, and nothing satisfied her but we were all working away, and all of the sudden, she slipped on the wax and just sprawled across the floor, and or course, considering the situation and the fact that she was doing all the griping and everything and she just sprawled out. We thought that was hilarious. I don't know why that came to mind right at the moment, but anyhow, we loved it (laughs).

Bart Chambers:

Uh, did you keep a diary while you were-?

Anne Huckaba:

No, uh, technically, we were not allowed to keep a diary because, well it was just one of the rules that extended to the people based in the states and the because the over seas people were not allowed to keep diaries or anything in case they were captured or fell into the wrong hands, so anybody would know what had been taking place. So, no I didn't keep a diary. We did have newspapers usually on the base. I know when I was at Edenton, we, Edenton was on an, Chowin County which was on the Aleumarar sound(???_, right on the eastern part of North Carolina. And the little paper that we had was the Chowin Leatherneck. And I kept most of those. I think I have most of them that were pubhshed during that time. And that's as much of a diary that we would have been allowed. And it was interesting.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, when did you leave, when did you leave the Marine Corp?

Anne Huckaba:

In October of '45, after V-J day, after the victory over Japan, and everybody was being mustered out as fast as they could, and I think mine was the tenth of October, 1945. I had to qualify, I had the points and everything necessary to get out, and of course I did immediately.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, do you recall the day your service ended?

Anne Huckaba:

Do I recall the.....I'm sorry? Uh, one second.

Bart Chambers:

Do you, so did you go back, did you go to school after you went to the Marines or once, or did you uh or do you you go to-

Anne Huckaba:

I was in college before I went in, and after I was mustered out, I took a secretarial course. And then from time to time, I did other things. I took accounting, and then I went to law school one year until my work prevented my going, and that was about the extent of it.

Bart Chambers:

Uh, was your education supported by the G.I. Bill, the G.I. bill?

Bart Chambers:

Did you make any friends in the while you were in the service that you still have today?

Anne Huckaba:

Uh, yes, but unfortunately most of the friends that I had in the service are now deceased. I have one friend here in Memphis that I got to know, that was in the Marine corp. In fact we think we were at Hunter College at boot camp at the same time. And, but we didn't know each other then, but we see each other about all the time. We meet socially here. We belong to different organizations, but other than that, no, I think sadly to say, they're gone.

Bart Chambers:

I'm sorry, do have, are you a member of a veterans organization or anything like that?

Anne Huckaba:

Um, there's a group that meet about once a month. They are -- this girl who was World War II, and then there are several girls who were served in the Marine Corp since. Uh, they went in, over some years after World War II, and we meet once a month. They're five or six, sometimes seven of us meet and I have a Wave friend, one of a friend who was in the Waves, and I see her very often. But as far as the organization is concerned, it's the women Marine association, and it's our chapter is rather informal, but we do enjoy getting together once a month. We have like a running question going on.

Bart Chambers:

What was your thought of the treatment of veterans from wars after like Vietnam?

 
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