Korean War Legacy Project

Voelia Thompson

Bio

Voelia Jeanne Thompson was born in 1926 in Duncan, Oklahoma. After graduating from Oklahoma A & M, she went to work for a newspaper in Texas. The yearning to travel led her to apply for a Women in the Air Force (WAF) commission. After working at bases in Oklahoma, Illinois, and Hawaii, Voelia Thompson was stationed in Japan and served as a Top Secret Control Officer.  During this time, she delivered top secret documents. In 1961, she left her commission and had a family.

Video Clips

Japan

Voelia Thompson discusses her journey to Japan and becoming a Top Secret Control Office. This job with the Fifth Air Force involved top secret clearances in a windowless guarded office in Tokyo.

Tags: Home front

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CGRz3I4f9Q&start=388&end=466

Women in the Military

Voelia Jeanne Thompson describes what is was like to be a woman in the service in her era. She particularly remembers difficulties with bathroom facilities. She also comments that women could not carry weapons at the time which required her to have an armed guard when she delivered top secret documents.

Tags: Living conditions,Women

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CGRz3I4f9Q&start=515&end=644

Video Transcript

my name is a Voelia Jean Thompson I like
00:05
to be to go over the name of G i was
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born in 1926 in Duncan Oklahoma and my
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father was a World War 1 Navy veteran
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and my mother was a country school
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teacher I went to public schools and
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Duncan and then I received my bachelor’s
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degree from Oklahoma A&M; which is the
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oklahoma state university in Stillwater
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Oklahoma and I had a degree and majored
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in journalism and minored in business
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and I worked for a first job was for the
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shamrock Texas a newspaper and then I
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was working for the Kilgore news-herald
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and Kilgore Texas in 51 when I applied
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for a reserve Commission in the air
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force and I’d like to think that the
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reason I did that was the the society
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editor lanell gunjur had gotten her
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degree from the University of Texas and
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we saw one afternoon this young wife
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lieutenant came into the office to get
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free publicity for the recruiting
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program for the for the Air Force she
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was a recruiter she had on this nice
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pretty blue uniform of a second
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lieutenant bar on top and and we just
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saw well gee whiz will apply for a
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commission to and travel and do all the
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traveling and so so we did apply and we
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got the really got noticed that we were
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accepted in November of 51 as a second
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lieutenant and then we got orders to
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report to Lackland Air Force Base in San
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Antonio on the 4th februari 1942 Liddell
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was from East Texas and I was from
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Oklahoma we met in Dallas to celebrate
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our last
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is civilians before going into the
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officer training program but in a way we
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the officer of training program was two
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months and we honor assignment and
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linnaeus first assignment was Ellington
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Air Force Base in Houston not far from
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her birthplace and I was assigned to
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indian air force base in Oklahoma not
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far from my birthplace but but we went
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back to the newspaper and talked to all
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of our fellow co-workers and the
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publisher whom we had told that we were
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quitting because we wanted to travel and
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he joked with as I said yes you’re
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you’re really traveling because we were
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not far from where we’ve been but that
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did not last long and then I was at at
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any about two months in public relations
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officer and then ever since a good
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fellow Air Force Base then I was
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assigned as an accurate could fill air
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force base was in San Angelo Texas and I
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recall my first job was to one of our
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listed airman I was having some mental
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problems and she was going go to the
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hospital in San Antonio air evac and the
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commanding officer Lieutenant Elliott
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told me to inventory earth or clothing
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and everything and so I did and I went
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with her to the to the airport and met
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the flight nurse onboarding and get her
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to sign over these things and I had her
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her watching her high school class ring
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I wanted the nurse to sign over it I
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remember she said lieutenant she won’t
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need these where she’s going because she
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was going into a psychoactive rehab and
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everything but that kind of impressed
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man but anyway and at two months
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lieutenant Elliott was reassigned and I
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became
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commanding officer at age 26 with a
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hundred and forty or fifty enlisted
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women under my command so that was quite
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a challenge for me and that that job
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lasted for two or three years at that
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time I I did a lot of temporary duty
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work because any action involving an
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enlisted Airmen would would require a
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female officer to be on board like owner
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the promotion board or the evaluation
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boards they don’t always want a woman
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officer there so so I did a lot of that
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and in that squadron get a lot of
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marching everybody liked to see women
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marching in those days and I would leave
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them in so that I was in that job until
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56 1956 1958 I’m to to the recruiting
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group 3505 recruiting group at Chanute
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Air Force Base Illinois and my job was
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the wife recurrent procurement officer
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for for the officers and then there was
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other one other wife lieutenant who
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worked on their recruiting of the
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enlisted people and my job actually was
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we had 13 states in the Midwest I would
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fly in and cover those states recruiting
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college women graduates encouraging them
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to apply for for commissions in the Air
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Force and then incidentally that’s where
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I met my husband was at Chanute Air
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Force Base Illinois and then in early
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nineteen fifty-nine I received orders to
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report to to the Pacific Air Force in
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Hawaii
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headquarters there and so I believe it
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was a march of 59 I reported there and
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then I was further assigned to your code
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Air Force Base Japan and when I got to
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your cold air force she placed the pad I
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was assigned as the top secret control
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officer to the Fifth Air Force
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electronic intelligence sitter and we
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later moved from your Kota over to fuchi
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air base which is outside of Tokyo and
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that was the headquarters of the Fifth
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Air Force and I recall our building was
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we had no windows as you can imagine
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very highly classified no windows and
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had guards and and everything and it was
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very challenging job I at first I had to
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get all these clearances because the
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secret clearances top-secret control
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clearances and it was there in Japan
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that I developed what they call a Tokyo
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asthma from the hibachis the smoke in
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the air and in the lib RIA also formed a
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protein because there was more cremation
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of bodies in Japan at that time and and
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in the building where I worked was no
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windows and and that was smoke people
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that was the thing to do in those days
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was smoking so in order to they would I
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could not be released to come back to
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the states so I resigned my commission
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their effective 30 june nineteen sixty
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one and that ended my career as a air
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force officer what was it like to be a
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woman in the service at that time well
08:40
it’s lovely different from what it is
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now because there were so many women had
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not been accepted very long in the
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military as you’ll recall and
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and it was a we had to prove ourselves
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in many ways I will say this to as this
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building it fits you we had the two
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bathrooms and one bathroom was for the
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officers one bathroom was for the
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enlisted and that left no bathroom for
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me so when I needed to use the bathroom
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i would have to walk about two blocks
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down to the officer’s club the closest
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place so that’s where I would go to to
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go to the bathroom and then later we had
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a civilian spot authorized AGS four or
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five and a woman came to work and their
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civil service required that they have
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bathroom privileges so at that time our
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Colonel authorized one of those
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bathrooms for women and the other the
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officers and enlisted both used the
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bathroom I think that’s basically how
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different things were in those days and
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in these days and I might say to that
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serving is a top sir control officer I
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would have to take top secret documents
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to touch Clara Air Base and women were
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not permitted to carry a weapon at that
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time and i would have a staff sergeant
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assigned to me as a guard who had a
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weapon but that was very touching to be
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carrying top suited control officers and
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unable to carry a weapon at that time
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but now then we have women in battle are
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there any friends that you remember from
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your time of service oh yes I remember
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all I still am in contact with with Jane
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Craig Anderson she was a clerk typist
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and at after 35 45th left squadron a
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good fellow and
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at that time speaking of how different
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was for women in the service when women
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wanted to get married they had to have
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counseling from the commanding officer
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and jayne had met her husband andy and
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was wanting to get married so we had to
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counseling and everything and they
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married and somehow we kept in touch
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with each other and she has been to see
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me twice and had brought and eve with
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her each time and the see each time says
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remember looked at you didn’t think this
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marriage with the last but that’s
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interesting i still hear from her and
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then she has lost contact with most of
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the other women but and I’ve lost
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contact with the other wife recruiting
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officer and then shoot that’s sinead Air
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Force Base that was a long long time ago
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and what did you do after your time of
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service well I’ve was once again is so
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vagin and married I was married and I I
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listed up just a housewife for a while
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and then until I became I got pregnant
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and had a baby in 1965 and I became a
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mother in the home maker you might say
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and I never did work outside the home
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after after leaving the air force always
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did volunteer work do you have any
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stories that you remember or anything
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that stands out from your time observing
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in Japan yes I can remember very well
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that the Japanese people that work for
12:59
us Betty sod was our housekeeper and I
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remember buying a sewing machine for her
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that she wanted to give to her daughter
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too
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so if they could have a job and I
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remember another dressmaker who came to
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the house to to measure and bring her
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materials and everything and she had
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trained in in China she received her
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dressmaking I remember that and and that
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was memories of Japan and of course the
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Typhoon’s I remember a typhoon can see
13:53
now the big winds blowing and everything
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which is unusual for me being from
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Oklahoma I’d never seen something like
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that and of course the it was a Japan
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and those days was very different from
14:13
what it is now but it had improved from
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the time of the of World War two the
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people were still very poor I remember
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going to a Yokota of Kyoto and all of
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the big vacation spots mounted about I
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can’t remember the big mountain there
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now I remember we came there but uh the
14:45
roads were leave off duty jobs and times
14:50
that I remember I don’t remember that
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the details of the work experience much
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so you said oh I do remember this eleven
15:02
of working in this top secret control
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building the noncommissioned officer
15:10
that worked for me in the vault where we
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kept the documents was living in the
15:18
what we call the patties with the
15:20
Japanese woman and often wondered if if
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he would be captured or something out in
15:28
the pass
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is where he had knowledge of the access
15:32
to our top-secret control building but
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that never happened I also remember yes
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remember once when we were taking
15:42
documents to tactical to be sent back to
15:45
Washington DC and Eisenhower President
15:49
Eisenhower came over and there was a
15:51
demonstration and that’s very very
15:54
fearful when you see these hundreds of
15:57
people its first time I’ve been in a
16:00
demonstration or seen a demonstration
16:04
what really demonstrating again surprise
16:07
an hour and this was the Japanese people
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yes the Communists people function of
16:15
the Japanese I guess was what it was so
16:20
what did a typical day look like what
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were your duties oh it’s hard to explain
16:28
when your administrative officer you
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take care of all of the administration
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that’s going on and you take care of all
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the documents that are coming in and
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going out and administrative officers
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not being in in the service it’s
16:47
difficult to explain just what what the
16:51
job is what were some life lessons that
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you learned while serving in the
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military well I’ll tell you this this
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story it was a good fellow and what a
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new first sergeant was coming in and she
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had a little dog because she had lived
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in San Antonio where she lived off Mason
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can have the dog when I was interviewing
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her I was telling her how happy I was to
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have her in in our squadron and she used
17:24
to live in the in the area where the in
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the yardley room there or her quarters
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were and that the animals of course were
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not permitted on Air Force quarters
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living quarters and when she asked me
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about
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about forgotten his name now and i said
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if i don’t see Bootsie sergeant Gleason
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I won’t knows he’s here will I and I
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never did see the dog but I understand
17:57
but she did have the dog and in her
18:01
quarters with the dog never barked and
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he’d always disappeared when when I
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showed up and my clerk typist we talked
18:10
about this a lot and I asked her once I
18:13
said what was that dog looked like I
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because I never saw it in it was a red
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boxer she told me and she said that
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every afternoon when you’d leave so the
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dog would come out and as I say now that
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helped the morale very much of the
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squadron because they learn to loyalty
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to their first sergeant and they trusted
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her and they knew that she would help
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them in any way and they they felt it
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was so a secret that they had against
18:49
their the commanding officer and that’s
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kind of interesting anyway I gave a
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speech one time that I learned that that
18:59
sometimes you can look the other way but
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when I was tops to control officer you
19:05
couldn’t do that