War on Their Minds
  Pauline Clinton
Age in 1941: 36

Interview Team: Susannah Bechtel and Marisa Falone

Q: Where were you born and raised?

Miss Clinton: I was born in Boston, in Roxbury, Massachusetts

Q: To what extent were you aware of the happenings in Japan, Italy, and Germany during the 30's?

Miss Clinton: Well, now let's see. Germany, that was before the war was in full force over there. It was 1940, wasn't it? I was like every other, I went to work, it didn't affect me at the time. But I sure learned in 1935 that there was something going on. I was interested and I was thinking about what I would do, if I had the opportunity. Before I ever opened my mouth I thought, "if we ever had another was, I'll join. I'll go and be whatever they have. Just a stenographer, or a secretary."

Q: What was your role? What did you end up doing?

Miss Clinton: I ended up being a secretary for a Lieutenant Colonel. That was out in the camp where I was stationed. I joined the service, went to the army, in other words.

Q: Where were you stationed?

Miss Clinton: At camp Ritchie, Maryland. That's where the President had a summer seclusion, a secluded place where he used to go every weekend or whenever he could get away from Washington.

Q: Camp David?

Miss Clinton: Yes, we were close to camp David, not too close. We were up in that area. It was nice, it was in the country. We were very close to Pennsylvania, and Maryland, of course, where we were.

Q: So, Pearl Harbor in 1941, what do you remember?

Miss Clinton: I remember I was working in Washington at that time and I was interested in what was going on. I had something in my mind for quite a while if we had a war I was going to become interested and maybe work in the war department or for that area. So, I joined the service. I enjoyed it up there. I went around first with the claims officer, and went quite a few places. If there was somebody that had passed away or had killed himself, the claims officer always made a report, so I went with him.

Q: That must have been a tough job.

Miss Clinton: It was a tough job. So I rode around there for a while.

Q: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, what was your opinion of the American declaration of war? Did you agree with the course of action that the government took?

Miss Clinton: Oh yes, yes I did. I thought it was the proper thing to do.

Q: Did your feelings change during the war or after the war? Or did you still believe that that was the right thing to do?

Miss Clinton: No, I still think that was the right thing to do. Germany was a little but too aggressive, and Hitler was a very sad case, as far as that goes. He was very aggressive and nobody wanted him as a leader. So I was glad to be able to do something to help.

Q: How did you get assigned your job being a secretary?

Miss Clinton: Well, at first I didn't. I was in the record section in the camp, Camp Ritchie. Then they found that I could take dictation and type, do their letters, type whatever they dictated. So that was how I was able to go with the claims officer at first.

Q: So you were taught those skills, such as dictation?

Miss Clinton: Well I went to school.

Q: And then you just knew from schooling?

Miss Clinton: Yes, I was taking dictation, not all the time, but I did some of that work. I typed some of the letters, which was very interesting at the time.

Q: What about your faith? Not only your religion, but your faith in the country as well. How did that impart what you felt about the war?

Miss Clinton: I thought we were doing the right thing. I thought Hitler was a man that should be shown he wasn't doing what was right for his people or the world. I thought that he should be taken down. I was in favor of what they did for the war, trying to stop them. And they did.

Q: Did you ever leave the United States during the war? Go overseas?

Miss Clinton: No, not at the time. I was just stationed in Camp Ritchie. At the time I was living in Washington, before I went into the service. Weekends I would go down and see my roommates, girls that I had lived with. One of them was there and the other one was in Texas, so I had somewhere to go in Washington. Just for the weekend. I would go down on Saturday morning, noontime, and then come back on Sunday.

Q: Did you hate the Japanese or the Germans? Did you have any personal spite?

Miss Clinton: Well I didn't think what they were doing was the right thing to do. I didn't agree with what they thought, why they went off first. They're the ones that started the war, I thought. So I agreed that we should teach them a lesson.

Q: You said that you generally agreed with what the government was doing. What were your opinions on the internment of the Japanese Americans and the dropping of the atomic bomb?

Miss Clinton: Well, that was a surprise, I mean that was a shock. I had not thought much about the atomic bomb. I didnít know exactly what it would do, but I think they did the right thing. I found out that they did the right thing.

Q: And in terms of the Japanese Americans, do you think that was a justified and necessary step to protect our country?

Miss Clinton: Well, I donít know, I donít remember. I didn't believe that the Japanese should do what they did. They wanted to go to war, Iím sure. They wanted to be aggressive, and they never should have. I didn't think they should have gone to war with us. This country was such a strong country, and I think we showed them too.

Q: What is your most memorable experience of the war?

Miss Clinton: Well, I think going to the different places with the claims officer. I went to some of the places I never knew we had, like George Washington University, that was the university in Washington. They had a place up in Maryland. You had to have a pass to get in, so it was, as we used to call it, a, "hush-hush camp." You had to tell them who you were and what you did and where you worked, you know, give all the statistics. You couldn't get in there without some of that. It was a good thing, nobody could get in there that didn't have a reason to be there. So we were pretty certain that the people who had to do business were the ones that belonged and could be there.

Q: So you said that you were with your roommates. You said that you would hang out with them during the war and go visit them. To this day have you maintained any of those friendships?

Miss Clinton: The girl that I first lived with in Washington is still in Washington. She is about my age, a little younger, a year younger I think...her sister just passed away last year. Her sister was a nurse.

Q: Did you loose any friends or family during the war?

Miss Clinton: Yes, we did. My married sister had a young boy, he was about sixteen or seventeen, maybe eighteen. He was in the submarine service, and she lost him. They were in the Pacific, and that submarine was lost, so he was lost with it. One of the crew. And I think that was the only one that I remember.

Q: How did you view President Franklin Roosevelt's leadership during the war?

Miss Clinton: Did I think he was a good leader? I think so.

Q: What were your feelings when he died?

Miss Clinton: Oh, I thought that was too bad, you know? I mean I didn't see him personally, but he was on the radio and also on the television.

Q: The fireside chats, right?

Miss Clinton: Yes, the fireside chats. I listened to those, I can't tell you what they are now though. I donít have that retentive a memory. That was interesting, I listened all the time.

Q: Did you like that these fireside chats seemed to unify the country? We've only heard about them through text books. Its seems as though they were a defining thing in his Presidential career.

Miss Clinton: Yes. He used to go down to Georgia every year. He used to leave Washington and go down there for about a month or so. As I remember we used to leave Washington. I was up in the mountains there, up in the hills of Maryland.

Q: What did you think about President Truman?

Miss Clinton: Well I wasn't impressed too much at the time, I don't know why. After having the Roosevelt administration, I didn't know how Mr. Truman was going to be. He turned out to be a good president. Yes, he was a good president. I didn't have any special contact with these people, but I was there at the time.

Q: If you don't mind me asking, are you Jewish?

Miss Clinton: No I am not Jewish.

Q: You have talked a lot about how awful the things Hitler and the Nazis did. Will you talk a little bit about the atrocities that were committed against the Jews?

Miss Clinton: Oh well, I didn't think they were right in trying to do that. I think we were right in trying to stop them. His administration, he had the right to stop them too. They have the right to live here too, as well as we do. At the time I didn't have as much interest in what they thought; I was thinking about myself, and when was this going to be over?

Q: What do you think about today's younger Americans? Do you think we are a lot different than your generation, or similar?

Miss Clinton: We were different than you folks today. You're more aggressive I think, aren't you? I'm just kidding, I'm just kidding. I think we are about the same. We go to school, we do our homework, we have dancing, have sports at school, and we go to different places. We're interested in seeing what's going on in this country. And I think we were too. Especially if you work in Washington, that covers the whole country. I didn't work for the Defense Department, but I did work for the Interior Department. You get to know the different states and the different cities and towns that are in that state because you are writing letters to them or typing letters or reading letters about them. You get to know more about the country when your down in Washington.

Q: What do you think about the role of women in war? How did you see that?

Miss Clinton: Well at the time I think women had never been doing the work that we did. I myself was up in Maryland, camp Ritchie. I didn't go over seas or anything like that, but I did go to army administration school in Texas, Alpine Texas. And that was very close to Mexico, of course there wasn't anything going on down there, there wasn't any war down there, but that was close enough at the time. Then I went up to camp Ritchie after army administration school.

Q: What kind of stuff did you learn, that they taught you at the school?

Miss Clinton: How to write a letter they way they did in the service. It was a little different then the one you would write to someone in this country. They had a set up, and a different way of writing to them. It was interesting, and it kept you busy. I enjoyed it, I really did. I learned a lot just being there.

Q: How long were you at school for?

Miss Clinton: About four months at that administration school.

Q: In terms of women working during the war, clearly there were a lot more job opportunities for women during the war, but afterwards did women go back to the traditional role of the house wife?

Miss Clinton: Many of them stayed right on, down in Washington. Some of them went back to their homes because there wasnít anything else to do, and they were discharged from the service. If there wasn't any job opportunities they went back to where they came from.

Q: Did you have any other memories of being a secretary during the war?

Miss Clinton: Well I met some very nice people, and worked for some very nice people. The work was interesting, and you saw some different people from what you would meet on the streets of Washington, or the buildings working there. That I enjoyed. It was good to meet people that were in the service and find out what they were like. It was good to meet people in the service, and find out what they were like. I found them very interesting, and good to work for. I worked for the Lieutenent Colonel, when he got out of the service they made him a Colonel. It was nice. You met people from all over the country, and some from out of the country. Some came from England, and France; all over. They came to find out what was going on, and go into the foreign service or wherever they had to go.

Q: What was it like after the war had ended and all of the men came home?

Miss Clinton: Well it was a different place. Gradually a lot of the boys that were in the service and that were stationed in Washington went back to there homes or wherever they were stationed before. It became a regular city again.

Q: At the end of the war did you anticipate any future wars, or did you think the conflict was settled?

Miss Clinton: Well I thought it was, I was hopeful it would be. You're never sure though are you? Now, I was surprised when that airplane went into the Pentagon, I never thought they would go over there. I guess they couldn't get it to the White House. It was well protected. Well the building that I worked in was the Interior Department, and they had the general land office and some more of the type work. It wasn't anything like work for the War Department.

Q: If you had to tell kids in our generation what the lessons are, or the things that you took away from the war, what would you say they were?

Miss Clinton: Well, what I took away from the war is that we shouldn't have any more war. We should be able to satisfy people from other countries, although they don't like us, so that they don't want what we have because they can't have it. They're a little bit jealous of us here because we have much more then they do.


Miss Clinton remembers a family wartime loss (Quicktime)