Korean War Legacy Project

Ethel Julia Archibald


Ethel Archibald, wanting to do something worthwhile with her life, enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps in 1943. After World War II ended, she left the service but reenlisted in 1948. In 1949, she shipped out to Japan and began working in logistics behind the line because of her desire to be more involved in the Korean War effort. During the day, she worked in logistics, and after work, she assisted at the hospital receiving wounded soldiers from Korea. Throughout her twenty-four-year career in the military, she served in many positions, including time as a criminal investigator along with undercover work at Walter Reed hospital. She later spent time working at the Pentagon as well as serving in France.

Video Clips

Role in the Korean War Effort and Taking Care of Patients

Ethel Archibald describes requesting a logistics role while stationed in Japan as a way of helping in the war effort. She expresses that her job was filling orders for supplies needed in Korea which included materials from toilet paper to engines for ships. She explains how materials such as weapons and ammo were loaded on a barge to be taken to a ship that would eventually deliver the needed materials to the soldiers in Korea. After working during the day, she recalls helping in the hospital as injured soldiers were arriving from Korea. She remembers how the hospital was full of injured soldiers. She shares her job was to triage their care, identifying soldiers who could be saved if they had immediate help.

Tags: Pride,Women

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Incident During Rest and Relaxation Leave

Ethel Archibald recalls a memorable experience while on leave with a colleague. She shares they were intercepted by Japanese soldiers who kept them under guard at a hotel for almost the entire week of their leave. She reflects on the fear she felt amid the situation and recalls sleeping with a camera tripod under her pillow just incase. The remembers how they were eventually released by the Japanese soldiers, and she admits she did not tell anyone about the incident because she did not want the incident publicized.

Tags: Fear,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),Weapons,Women

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Joining the Women's Auxiliary Army Corp

Ethel Archibald describes joining the Women's Auxiliary Army Corp during World War II as well as where she served during World War II and the Korean War. She explains her desire to serve just like two of her brothers who had volunteered for service. She recalls how her first days of service made her feel like she was doing something worthwhile.

Tags: Basic training,Home front,Pride,Prior knowledge of Korea

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


I:          Today’s date:     October 26, 2005.  Interviewee:  Ethel Archibald.  Birthday:  January 6, 1915.  Current address:  Warren Guest House, Warren, Arkansas 71671.  Place of Interview:  Warren Guest House.  Interviewer:  Rob Reed.



Videographer:  Chris North.  What branch of service did you serve in?

E:        When I first went in in 1943, it was WAAC, Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps which was not a part of the Army at that time.

I:          Um, what wars were you part of?
E:        World War II.  I was at Camp Robinson, Arkansas with a hospital unit.



Where in Korean War, I was in Japan in Logistics behind the line.

I:          Uh, were you drafted, or did you enlist?
E:        Pardon?
I:          Were you drafted, or did you enlist?

E:        We went in in ’43, you didn’t enlist.  You just went in indefinite.  Then after the War was over, we had to gain enough points to get out if we wanted to,



which I elected to get out.

I:          Where were you living at the time?

E:        Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

I:          Why did they have you all join?  Why did you join?

E:        Excuse me.  You’re gonna have to sit closer to me or something.  I’m not able to understand you at that distance. I’m sorry.

I:          That’s fine.

E:        We can even move that thing or pull your chair closer.



I:          Why did you join?
E:        I had two brothers in the Service.  Both of them volunteered, both of them overseas.  I was one of three girls and the only one eligible to go into the Service.  And I decided I would go in.  I enlisted in Pine Bluff, was interviewed in Little Rock and then sent to Fort Edmunds, Mass. for training.

I:          Do you recall your first days in the Service?
E:        Oh yeah.



I:          Uh, what did it feel like?
E:        Well, I don’t know.  It’s a kind of feeling that you were in another world.  You were no longer part of civilian life.  I was with a battalion of women who were saying as far as you could see, you could see women.  And it was just a feeling about doing something worthwhile that I was training for.  And that’s what I wanted to do.



I:          Uh, what was your training experience like?
E:        Well, when we were at the training center, uh, we were chosen when we took a test.  Whatever test you came out best in is what they put you in.  And because I knew what a screwdriver and a sledgehammer and stuff was used for, they put me in the motor pool.

I:          Do you remember your instructors?

E:        No.  Not 1943.

I:          Uh, how did you get through your training?

E:        I did real well.



In fact, um, just before we went over from WAAC to WAC, we were given a choice to relieve the service.  I didn’t want that.  But I was having trouble with uh, breaking my ankle on rocks because Fort Devins is noted for its rocks.  A young lieutenant in the army wanted to operate on my feet.  And he said he could adjust the arches in my feet by



cutting the meter in the back of my ankle.  It didn’t make sense to me.  I went to the commanding officer, and immediately she said no.  Don’t do that.  We’re going over to Army.  Take that.  Get out and go to your own doctor and have him treat your feet.  And there’s no way they can every build an arch in your foot.  And he said I’d either get out or he would have him court martialed because we were not a part of the Army.



So, I got out.  And I stayed out\, I think, about nine months, uh.  During that time, I went to an orthopedic doctor, had braces made for my feet and everything, re-enlisted there and came back.

I:          Uh, where exactly did you go while you were in the Service, what places?

E:        Well, from Fort Devins, I came back to, I re-enlisted.  I had to go to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for reassignment.  From there, I went back to Camp Robson by request



cause my mother was my dependent.  Went back to Camp Robson.  I think I stayed there, uh, until the War was over.  And then we got our point system. I got out and stayed out, let’s see, I got out in ’45.  I stayed out until ’48.  During that time, I drove a school bus, worked in a library and drove a book mobile.



After I was back in service in October of ’48, I went to Fort Lee, Virginia for reassignment.  After they pushed us around a while, I was sent to Fort Devins, uh, I mean to Fort George Mead, uh, stayed there, and they sent me back to Fort Lee, Virginia to Quartermaster School. I left there and came back to Fort Lee and was on orders to Japan in July ‘49.  I went to Japan.



I was over there a little over three years.  I was with Pictorial services to begin with, and then it was a slow system of promotions.  Those of us who were seeing it asked if we could take another assignment, and they let us go to Personnel.  And I wanted to be more a part, during this time, the Korean situation had broken out.  I wanted to be more a part of it. So, I asked for Logistics.



And then the second team made a report which was Logistics behind the line.

I:          Um, what was your job assignment?

E:        At Logistics?
I:          Yes.

E:        Forward Units, 8th Army Specialist which I was part of would send back their requisitions to us of what material they needed, anywhere from toilet paper to uh, marine engines for ships.



And we would fill these requisitions out and ship it to them.  If they wanted ammo, weapons and things like that, we had to put them on a barge, send it out in break water and then load it on the ship to Korea because it couldn’t be loaded within the city, at the regular port which was in Yokohama.

I:          Um, did you ever see any combat?

E:        No.  I saw the returning men and helped take care of them.  We worked our regular jobs during the day.


And then we’d go to the 155th Station Hospital at night and Tokyo General and help with the men coming in.   And they were, the hospitals were so loaded that they had the men on litters just lined up on the hallways.  And we were told to find those that needed help, that we thought would live if they had help right away because we were limited on our doctors.  We didn’t know too much about the medical field.



But we still had to be used.  And we would get these men into the operating room or wherever they needed to go as soon as possible to try to save as many men as we could.  But many of them I know were overlooked because of the lack of people to take care of them.

I:          Uh, did you ever have any memorable experiences?
E:        Such as?

I:          Anything at all, just um, any jokes you played with friends uh, anything, anything at all?



E:        Well, I think one outstanding thing I had in Japan uh, we would take leave time anytime we could get it.  But I had a week coming to me.  And the barrack sergeant and I decided we’d go up in the mountains to a Japanese hotel which we were authorized to use if we wanted to.  And we went up there, we went up, and I had a jeep.



So, we went up in my jeep, right straight up the mountainside.  And we pulled up into the town, and two soldiers stepped out to stop us, Japanese.  They had red bands on their arms, and we immediately knew that we were in red territory.  And there was no reason for red territory over there.  They pushed us into the back seat, what would be a back seat, jeep, and they got in the front and took off with us.  We had no idea what they were gonna do



because we didn’t speak Japanese, and they didn’t speak English.   But we showed them our paperwork, and they could read the name of the hotel where we were going.  So, they took us there.  Well, when we got through talking to the people, they decided to hold us there under guard, and we were limited to what we could do, and they had a guard on us all the time.  I remember the one that guarded us at night, he had fingernails with like claws.  I had a camera with a tripod to it.



And I put that tripod under my pillow.  I thought if he attacks one of us, at least I’ll fight as long as I can.  But we stayed there then almost our entire week under guard until they finally got in touch with the Army to find that we were legally in that part of the country.  They release us.  And we went back into the company, and we agreed that we would not tell them what happened because we didn’t want it publicized.



And uh, so we never did tell them what really happened to us up there.  We weren’t AWOL.  We were still covered with leave time.  I think that’s one of the most outstanding things that happened to me while I was there.

I:          Uh, were you ever awarded any medals or uh, citations?
E:        Oh yeah.

I:          Uh, how did you get them?
E:        Well, during World War II, we were given several different medals um.  Somewhere I wrote those down.



I believe they’re on another piece of paper that I sent to you.  We were awarded several different types of ribbons and medals for wartime service and for, the hospital unit that I was assigned to was receiving the returning soldiers and processing them.  Then of course, we all, back then, I think it was six months that you spent, if you spent six months and you get uh, the uh, the conduct medal.



After that, I think it turned out to be a year or something.  After, that was during World War II.  In Japan, I got the Occupation of Japan medal.  I got the Korean Service medal because I was Logistics behind the line, um.  I went to France, and I got the German medal there.  I don’t know, they’re listed.



I’m sorry.  I can’t remember, but I have nine.  And I have the Initial Man badge because I was with the Missile program at one time.  I don’t know whether they call it a sharpshooter or what.  But it was 45, I was expert with 45, Army 45.
I:          Uh, how did you stay in touch with your family?

E:        Just by letters.

I:          By letters?  Uh, what was the food like?

E:        It was all dried.



Everything was dried.  We got [INAUDIBLE] very seldom.  Now, this is speaking of overseas.  We seldom ever received fresh foods until they started doing hydroponic stuff.  And then sometimes we were looking at, our mess hall accommodated over 3,000 people.  So, it was, you didn’t get special anything.  You ate what was on the line.  And that’s where, too, I learned to eat



what was put in front of me and shut your mouth.
I:          Uh, did you always have plenty of supplies?

E:        As far as we were concerned, we had plenty of supplies.  But the fellas up front didn’t.  We couldn’t get the supplies to them fast enough.
I:          Did you ever feel any pressure or stress?
E:        Oh yes.  When you’ve worked all day, and then they walk in and say you’re gonna to the hospital to work till midnight, uh, it’s something that we had no idea what we were doing.



That was stressful, looking at all those men, some of them shot all to pieces and uh, when the Korean War first started out, the Koreans did not have weapons.  They had bamboo sticks.  And you sharpen a bamboo stick, the other side of the last joint on it and ran that through a man, you don’t pull it back.  So, the field hospitals would saw it off next to his body and send him on in to the 155th


Station Hospital and Tokyo General.  Then it was up to the doctors there to try to save him.  And that was something to see.
I:          Was there ever anything special that you did for good luck?
E:        Anything special what?
I:          For good luck, that you did for good luck like keep a bracelet or any type of charm, anything uh, maybe a superstition?

E:        Not that I know of.



I:          Uh, how did people entertain themselves?
E:        As troops?
I:          Yes.

E:        Well, weekends, when the men began to come back into Japan, now you’re speaking of my time in Japan.

I:          Yes, ma’am.

E:        Um, when they began to come back, on five nights, well, they take three days R & R, most from Okinawa and different places around.  We had special hotels set up



To entertain them.  They would call the white company and ask us to send a group of women out, that they had so many men coming in.  We would go up, we’d take a weekend plus a three-day pass.  This way we got the first group part of the time and part of the second group.  So, there was always a variety of people.  And we would entertain them, dance with them.  We always had a good band, and we’d dance with them and eat with them and boat ride with them, the things that they wanted to do.



Captain Byers was in charge of this one hotel where I went.  And he had a regulation.  He says the women are on one floor, men on the other floor.  The contacts you make will be on the dance floor.  If the men want to run around at night, they’ll go to the village.  They will not go up where the women were or down where the men were.  He was, he ran it right, which we appreciated.



I:          What did you do when you were on leave?
E:        When I was on leave?  Well, I only took two leaves while I was over there.  One, I served under guard, and the second one I was Mickey Modo’s Pearl farm when the Korean situation broke out.  And I didn’t get to finish my leave time.  They called us back in.  See, we were 8th Arny.  We were in a compound of Quonset huts.  The women were in one compound, the men in another compound.



And we went to the mess hall the morning after they were shipped out.  And no men.  Now, they actually shipped out at night without us knowing about it, big trucks and everything.  We still didn’t know about it.  When we went to the mess hall and found out we didn’t have no men around us, it was scary because we knew we were in red territory.  So, then they, of course, made it closer on us of walking guard on the bamboo fences that we were enclosed in.



And they actually put Japanese people that worked for the government on guard.  But they still threw firebombs in on us in American places.  And you just got used to it, of being able to see somebody stay awake long enough to throw them out.  Well, no one was ever hurt that I know of.  The only time we were ever hurt was when we were in a typhoon.

I:          What did you think of the officers and the fellow women that were around you?

E:        Well, I always was lucky.



I always had the best, I think.  They did what they were supposed to do.  They were good people.  When we were overseas, they didn’t, we were different overseas than we are in the States, um.  They more or less um, socialized with you to a great extent, treated you like a human being instead of a soldier.  And they got to depend on some of us for different things.  And my commanding officer, [INAUDIBLE] depended on me



fully and completely before she would her first sergeant.  She said I know if I leave the company at night that you’re gonna see that everything’s alright cause it’s a battalion.  And usually I’d get the women off, we had a WAAC club within the compound.  The back entrance opened into the compound.  We didn’t have to go outside.  And I worked in the club a lot to maintain it, to make sure that no one was injured, the women weren’t mistreated or anything.



Those that got out of hand, I took them back through the back of the club and put them out the back door.  And I had someone take them to their hut.

I:          Uh, did you keep a personal diary of any type?
E:        No, other than just copy of my orders, pictures of schools I attended, um, things like that.  Personal, no.  I didn’t do that.  Maybe I should have.



I think the one thing I’ve got going for me is a pretty good memory. Now General Vaughn with the Women’s Memorial has tried to get me to write a book because I can still remember the little things that a lot of old timers can’t remember any more.  In fact, we don’t have too many left that was in the WAAC.  We had to be 21 when we went in there.  And that was 1943.  So, there’s not too many left.



I:          Do you recall the day your service ended?  Do you recall the day that you got out, that we were done with your service?
E:        Oh yeah.

I:          Uh, where were you?

E:        I was at Fort Bliss, Texas.  I had the um, inspection team that travel throughout Texas and New Mexico.  We were what we called High Logistics.  We activated and deactivated [INAUDIBLE] units, audited their books,


checked their units, checked all, everything they had to make sure of what was going on.  We had over 400 books that we had to audit within a year, scattered throughout two states.  I was fortunate enough to um, get the men to take the out of state things, and they would hitch rides from Bliss Air Force base.  And during the time I was there, I was, on spare time, when I’d get the team working, I would go back to the educational center



And teach the Supply course to make sure that these people were aware of what we were looking for.  We filed directly under a one-star general at Fort Bliss.  We were higher than the IG teams.

I:          Did you make any close friends while in the Service?
E:        Oh yeah.  They’re all dead now but two.  I got one, there was two in every course.  And one’s in her late 90’s, and the other’s in her late 80’s.



That’s the only ones that I have any contact with.

I:          Uh, did you ever join any types of veterans’ organization of any type?  Uh, did you ever join the American Legion or anything like that?
E:        The American Legion.  But I dropped out because they had no activity here.  I’m a lifetime member of VFW and DAV and the WAAC Association.

I:          Um, what did you go on to do as a career after your service ended?



E:        My service ended in ’71.  And I decided that I would go to school.  Well first, when they first gave me my six-months transition, I just took six months and went to the Educational Center and taught.   After I got out of that, I went to school, and I was oh, I guess a couple of months through school, and a friend of mine approached me to come work with him with [INAUDIBLE] Chalet, one of the biggest [INAUDIBLE] companies down in Texas.



As Parts manager.  I took over there as Parts manager, and he fired the secretary and two or three other people and didn’t replace them.  He said I know you.  You can replace them.  And I couldn’t hold up under it.  I said I’m working seven days a week and at night and everything, and you’re got to help me now.    He wouldn’t do it.  And I said well, things are gonna get messed up, and you’re gonna cuss me.  And when you do, I’m leaving you.



I said I know you’re used to cussing people cause I knew him personally.  One Saturday morning, he came in and asked me how many air conditioners were in the warehouse.  I said I have no idea because you won’t listen to me.  I said every time a man draws an air conditioner to put on a unit, he doesn’t come through me for it, so I have no idea.  But I can go out in the warehouse and count them for you in just a few minutes.  And he started cussing me.  I walked over to the cash register, counted my money,



bagged it, took it up to the main office and handed it to his wife and said good day.

I:          Um, was your education uh, supported by the GI Bill?

E:        Yes.  I went to uh, drafting school under them.  And I went to um, woodwork and learned to make furniture.

I:          Uh, did your military experience, uh, did it influence your thinking of war and the military?



E:        Influenced what?
I:          Your, your thinking of the uh, of war and the military?  Did it affect the way you think about war in any way?
E:        I’m sorry, I don’t get just what you’re asking there.

I:          Uh, did in any way, did your mind change in any way about war?
E:        Oh yes, definitely.  And um, it just, when I first got out,



it bugged me when anybody would ask me a question, and then it seemed to go right over the top of their head.  I realized most civilians didn’t know what was going on around them, and there as no way to talk to them.  So, we were, most of us were confined with our conversations.  We had to hunt other people who had been in the Service to actually be able to tell a good conversation.  Until I could adjust myself to civilian life.

I:          Um, do you attend any type of reunions,



Military reunions in any way?
E:        Did I what?
I:          Did you attend any reunions with any, with the WAAC or anything like that?
E:        Yes.  I went, oh it’s been about five years ago, I went to Seattle to the Northwestern reunion.  And people there that I knew are all dead now.  Just bing, bing bing, bing, and they were gone.  My old company commander from Yokohama was one of them, [INAUDIBLE]



I:          Um, how did your service and experiences affect your life afterwards?
E:        Well, I would say I was a different person completely.  And I always suggest to any young person who is eligible for any branch of Service to go in service for at least three years to let it teach them there’s more to life than the street and parties.



They’re disciplined.  They will learn what it’s all about and have more respect for the military and for the wars that we were getting into all the time.  And I did a lot of recruiting on the side.

I:          Is there anything else that you would like to add that we haven’t covered?
E:        During the time I was in the Service, I covered a multitude of things naturally with 24 years.



I served as a First Sergeant.  I served as Supply Sergeant.  I served as a Drill Sergeant.  I spent four years as CID as a Criminal Investigator.  A year after that undercover work at Walter Reed. I worked in and out of the Pentagon a lot with CIA, um, which to me was a great experience there of traveling.  We went to uh,



I was called out of the field as one of 13 people.  I was the only woman in Criminal Investigator.  And so, I was naturally one of them called out.  We went back to the training center at Fort MacLellan, Alabama.  They said they were having so much trouble there.  The provost Marshall was complaining a lot.  They said we’ll send you back there under Dept. Army, not Post.  We went in, and they set aside one of the VOT’s, and no one but no one could be in there but us.



And then we started working.  We worked 10 days and nights.  And we cleaned up the post.  While we were at it, the uh, Major in charge asked me, he says now, from what you’ve seen, what are your suggestions to actually get this post operating right?  This is a big training center for women.  I said bodily lift out all your cadre and all your commanding officers



and executive officers and ship them different places.  Don’t let any two go anywhere together.  Bring in from the field all new personnel, all from different parts of the country that don’t know one another and set them in here and start over again.  And they did.  That was quite an accomplishment.

I:          Well, I thank you, Miss Ethel, for sharing your recolections with us today.  It’ll, it turned out real well.  We appreciate it.


E:        Alright.  Glad to help you.