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Mary Robinson

Interview with Mary Robinson

During the Second World War, nearly 12 million Americans served in uniform. The following are excerpts from the account of Mary Robinson, a New Jersey native who served in the Women's Army Corps. (W.A.C.). Ms. Robinson was interviewed in October 1994 by Professors Kurt Piehler and Bruce Chadwick of Rutgers University, Oral History Archives. After reading these excerpts, answer the questions that follow.


Mary Robinson on America preparing for war:


KP: You were in college and mentioned New York on the eve of World War Two?


MR: Yes. After I graduated I went to work for the War Manpower Commission after the war got underway.


BC: Where?


MR: I worked in the Dover office of the War Manpower Commission, trying to switch people from ...non-war jobs into war production. I was there for about a year and a half and in December of '43, I enlisted and left. I went in the army.


Mary Robinson on joining the service:


MR: I guess the one thing that I want to say leading up to this business of going in the army was that the specter of Hitler had hung over us all during the years I was in high school and college. It was a terrible thing, progressing inch by inch across Europe from the early 30's. I believed actually, in contrast with my brother, that we really had to do

something about him.


KP: You were really an interventionist?


MR: I was an interventionist.


KP: What led you to be an interventionist?


MR: Well, here was this terrible man gobbling up, you know, or threatening to gobble up centuries of progress toward enlightenment, both east and west. Also my mother was really a great anglophile, and had spent a good bit of time in England in her vacations and so forth...


Mary Robinson on her service in the Pacific:


MR: We went out on the S.S. America. We landed in Australia. What's the capital of Australia?


KP: Canberra?


MR: Sydney. In Sydney harbor. We were the first detachment of W.A.C.s to arrive in the area. So they put on a big ball for us in the town hall....After some waiting around and one kind of temporary assignment, I was assigned to the information and education section.


BC: In Australia?


MR: In the headquarters of the services and supply, one down from GHQ. And I spent the rest of my army career in that unit. When I came into that unit, the officer in charge was a school superintendent from Illinois. He was a very talented guy with a lot of pizzazz... The program very largely consisted of...running off-duty education programs in the Pacific very largely directed at the black port units, the loaders and unloaders, who shipped things... Where we carried on a literacy training program that sometimes had as many as 80,000 or 90,000 people going to school every night. Amazing. Really was. Then we got them up into the secondary school curriculum so that a lot of them, when they came home had GEDs and went take advantage of the G.I. Bill.