Interview with Veronica Mackey Hulick conducted by the NCR Archive at the Montgomery County Historical Society, during the 2001 reunion.
Veronica Mackey Hulick inteviewed by Curt Dalton
Oct. 20, 2001
CD: Your name is Veronica and what does the M stand for?
CD: Mackey, M-A-C-K-E-Y, Hollick . . .
CD: Sorry, H-U-C-
CD: H-U-L-I-C-K . . . getting tired. Okay. Tell me about yourself.
VH: Do you want to know about during World War II or my big odyssey after World War II?
CD: Mostly World War II first and then we can get into what happened afterwards. Just kind of start chronological if you can.
VH: Yes. Well, I signed up in January of 1943 because I had just turned 20 years old. In order for women to go into the Navy, they had to be 20. Now the men I understand were younger. But we had to be 20. So I was 20 in January of ’43, the war had been on a year, and I was called the first of March and I went to Hunter College in New York and we had six weeks of boot training and then I remember marching a lot. We were taught how to march. And then we went to classes where we were supposed to learn ship identity. And later on this made me laugh. I never saw a ship the whole time I was in. But it was part of the Navy course to learn about ships. And then you learned Navy rags and learned I guess the protocol . . . what you were supposed to do and then all the pitfalls along the way. There was the Captain’s mast and disciplinary action if you didn’t do what you were supposed to do. So I thought when I got to New York that I would have a great time. All my friends I told to come and meet me in New York thinking that I was going to be every evening allowed to go out on the town. Well, when I got there I found out we were quarantined for the six weeks. We were in bed every night at 5 o’clock and we were up in the morning at 5. And they had taken over the dormitories in the Navy and they put the Navy bunks in and so . . . I remember the first time I got in bed and I was absolutely hysterified. I thought it was so funny that my conception of what was going to be going on was so off base. So we woke up and March was bitter cold in the Bronx. Hunter College was located in the Bronx. Bitter cold. And we’d had to march like a mile and a half in that cold to the mess hall which was down at the college. And that’s also where we took classes. So between learning to march and all the walking back and forth to the classes and to the gym – we had to take exercise classes – but anyway, finally we got a 24-hour pass. We got out on Saturday and we had to be back Sunday, and I thought, “Oh, this is my night out on the town.” And instead, my mother came on the train from Wilmington, Delaware, and came up and met me. [VH laughs.} It was Easter time, I remember then, and we went down to Fifth Avenue and bought her a new hat and when she got home she walked in the door and my father started laughing and she never wore the hat again. But anyway, then we had a big parade and then we were all sent to . . . a lot of my group went to Washington, D.C. And that’s where there were no barracks there. The barracks had not been built. And I was billeted in the Fairfax Hotel. It has a little history now. That’s where Al Gore’s mother and father lived. His father was a Senator and Al lived in that hotel most of his life, as a young man until he got married, I guess. But anyway, it was a lovely hotel and was down from Embassy Row. I’d just leave there in the morning on the bus and go up to the annex. Then we . . . according to Sue, we were taking all these tests and then I was sent into the Teletype room one day. Did you hear me tell the story about the fellow . . . well, what happened, I think after the tests we had to be on duty and they had to do something with us, like to make us think we were doing something . . . to keep us busy . . . so I went into this . . . was sent to this room and I was met by this Chief Petty Officer. A real old salt. He had the hash marks on. And he had a room full of teletype machines and he took me over and sat me down by . . . rolled a chair over and sat me down beside this sailor and he said, “Show her this machine.” Well, he had me all shook up. I didn’t know a thing about a Teletype and this thing was buzzing and ribbon comin’ out and I turned and looked at this sailor and he was the handsomest guy I ever laid two eyes on. Didn’t you hear me tell the story this morning where he said, “You women are coming in here and now we men have to go to sea.” He said, “You know, I like it here in Washington. I’ve been having a good time and now you’re here and they’re going to put me on a ship and send me out to see and I could get killed.” Well, by this time I’m ready to burst into tears and he leaned over to me and said, “You know what I’m going to do?” He said, “When they ship me out, you’re going in my duffel bag and you’re going with me.” [VH laughs.} And I had never . . . so then I knew he was pulling my leg, so to speak. I thought, “Oh, isn’t he adorable.” A couple days later I’m on my way to Dayton, Ohio. And then, according to Sue, there was a contingent here and then we were the 50 they needed and we were the . .. so that two week period they were giving us a test and selecting the 50 that came out because we had to speed up wiring the wheels because of the winter weather coming in to Sugar Camp. The cabins were not heated up. So we came and we worked the swing shift and we worked six days and no day off, then we’d swing six days and no day off, swing again and at the end of the third when you get two days off . . . but you didn’t get a Saturday and Sunday except after about three months you might hit a Saturday and Sunday and you had to be on duty. But Dayton was a wonderful town. The people were so kind to us and they were told that we were here training and training or going to school or something, whatever they were told, but they were so wonderful to us. And it seemed like that summer went very, very fast. And the next thing I went on duty one morning, I was going to the 8 o’clock shift and there was a railroad track . . . wasn’t there a railroad track?
CD: Uh huh.
VH: There was a railroad track there and this big thing was on a flatbed car and it had a gray shroud over it. And I remember I looked and said, “I wonder what that is?” So I go in and when I went in that day I was told . . . that was the day I was told that I was going back to Washington. So got back to Washington and the barracks had been built. So the Bombe operators were in certain barracks. I think there were 600 of us so maybe four barracks. There were 50 girls on the first floor and 50 on the second. There were a hundred in each barracks. So there must have been six barracks where these women were billeted when we got back there. And so then we were taken across the street from the barracks and that’s when they had issued us a card with our picture and a number and this card had just the number but it would have like a “C” which meant that was your building. Once you were on the grounds, and you had to wear them at all times, and that was . . . if you ever God help you got caught in another building that didn’t have that letter . . . so you hit the first guard, a Marine, and you showed him and he’d tell you to go through and you’d just walked like from here to that chair and there’s another guard with a gun at the next gate and he checked you. So then when you got to your building, there was a sailor on duty and he had a desk and you had to stop at his desk and show him and he checked the building and the picture. So you went past three guards to get into the building. So we get in the building and they said . . . well, before that is when they had taken us into the chapel and told us that what went on at this station was top secret and “Just don’t think because you’re women you’ll get any special consideration. If you talk about what goes on here, you will be shot.” And you could have heard a pin drop in that chapel because we were expecting the chaplain to say a prayer and instead he gets in the pulpit and he leans over and says, “You talk about what’s going on here, you’ll be shot.” So we went into the building and they said, “We’re going to teach you to run this machine.” So we went over . . . and I saw this big . . . and I kind of made the connection with the thing I’d seen on the . . . it was like the same size and at this point the Wave officer said, “Now these are the wheels.” And I looked at that and thought, “I thought I left all you wheels in Dayton, Ohio.” [VH laughs.] So they showed us how to take the graph, set the wheels. It had a clip, and then you turn it to whatever the setting said, and then you got to that setting, you clip it in and go to the next one. There were about 32 and then you (??? right above those switches) and the picture had the switch and would tell you what numbers. Then after you had 32 wheels, 32 switches, then you would check it again. And then you push the button and away it would go. And it would run. We called them the run . . . you know, we were doing a run. And we had a setup. The graph was the setup, and when we pushed the button that was the run, and when the machine stopped and the lights were flashing and it printed out, I called it a strike. Sue calls it a hit, but I think it was in England where they called it a hit. Cause I did that show with the code breakers. It was an English production and the two men had come from Bletchley Park, you know the producer and the director, and they said they called it a hit. But I vividly remember calling it a strike because the Wave officer said you get a strike. And as soon as it stops printing, you tear it off and that’s when you run to the end of the room and knock on this door and the hand came out and took it away and you never saw it again. And you went back and they gave you another setup and you went through the process again. And we did that for eight-hour shifts and again we . . . that was the time frame . . . so it ended up like five days off a month. Every three months before . . . like I’d wait three months and get a Saturday and Sunday and I’d get on the train and go home to Wilmington, Delaware, because that wasn’t far and see my family. But then I started having such a good time, I hardly . . . when I got a Saturday and Sunday I would stay in Washington because we were having such a . . . we made a lot of friends and there was a lot to do and a lot going on. See, we were into dancing. The big band era and there were dances all over. But there was no air-conditioning. It was just . . . and when we worked . . .as I recall, I think we had some fans but the summers in Washington, D.C., were the most oppressive ever. The humidity was unbelievable. But we were young, so we could . . . But I remember one time I had to take a platoon out for inspection. The commanding officer, the officer Command Peabody . . . I had to line all the girls up and walk behind her with pad and pencil and she’d check whose shoes weren’t shined properly. And it was such a hot day and I looked and the girls were falling over. And I was ready to go myself. And so somebody gave me salt tablets. Did I tell you this? And I threw up and I’ve never taken a salt tablet since. But I know what they were supposed to do but anyway, it was pretty rough. And of course the winters were very cold. But we were here . . . after Dayton, we were in Washington two and a half years and then I came off duty. The war in Europe was over. We were still running the machines, you know. That was in April. And this is May, June, July, August. The war in Japan was over in August. And so anyway it was . . . where’d I lose my train of thought? I was leading up to something. Let me think a minute.
CD: You think it was still running after the war was over?
VH: Oh, I know what I was leading up to . . . to tell you what happened to me on V-J night when we were still . . . the war was over in April, but we were still working, running the machines. And then when the war was over in Japan in August, I came off duty this one morning – I worked midnight till 8 – and I got back to the barracks and the girls all said they dropped that second atomic bomb and the war is over and Truman is going to come out on the lawn at the White House and tell us that the war’s over. We all got on the bus and went downtown and went to the White House and we were sitting there. Well, then we went to lunch and everybody’s ________ because the word was out. Well, he never did come out on the lawn so I went back up to the Nebraska and Massachusetts and went to the mess hall and I thought, “If I have to go on duty at midnight, I’ve got to get a little rest.” So I came back from the mess hall, walked in the barracks and they said, “Truman just announced that the war . . . ” You have never seen . . . it was like ants leaving an anthill . . . people leaving those barracks and going downtown and the traffic was stopped on the main street. They were up on the buses and horns were honking. And I was down there with all my group, a lot of the Bombe operators. Well, I ran into a friend that I’d gone to high school with and he knew that I was supposed to be back on duty and he commandeered a Jeep from some Marines or Army men and he got me into this Jeep and he took me back to Nebraska Avenue and I said, “The war is over, I’m not going to work.” And he said, “Oh, you better be there or you’ll get in trouble.” So he took me back and I went into the Bombe room and there wasn’t a sole there. So they said, “Come with me,” and they took me back to that damn teletype room again [VH laughs] and then I realized that I didn’t really have to because everybody got a blanket pardon and I sat there trying to stay awake and this Teletype machine was . . . and so I said to the chief, “What is going on? Why am I here? I should be out with the bunch celebrating. And he leaned over and he says, “We have to find Hitler.” Well, of course, he was pulling my leg. [VH laughs.] I was this very dumb, naive that they all liked to see my reactions, I guess. He says, “We have to find Hitler.” So anyway, after that . . . that was in August and I didn’t get out until November . . . so we were going across the street on duty in different places but we weren’t running the Bombes anymore. That came, sort of came to a screeching halt. But when I was mustering out, we had to take a physical and when that was all over and they gave us our pay and our money to get home, and the last thing . . . I had to go in this room with a Naval Officer and put my hand on the Bible. Didn’t you know that?
CD: Huh, uh. Why?
VH: That was the very last thing before you left the Navy. You walked in this room and he put the Bible in, and you put your hand on it and I had to repeat after him that I swore I would never tell of my activities during World War II. Like you know the consequences. If you talk, you’ll get shot. We went home and we never talked. Don’t you think that’s remarkable. That 600 women went home, got on with their lives, and never said a word.
CD: Yeah. Can’t say that about the men. I mean, on this project you can, but so many secrets I’ve been told that . . .
VH: But the men used to say, “Oh, woman can’t keep a secret. Woman are dumb and . . .” But anyway, we showed them, so to speak.
CD: That’s right.
VH: But then, like I said, we went home and women married and changed their name so when the oath was lifted . . . by that time in 1977, people that we’d known . . . the officers and admirals, they were all retired. So these people that were on duty now, they didn’t know anything about the project so nobody bothered to get it touch with us and say, “Hey, your oath is lifted.” So, and I think I told you about when I was perusing the Washington Post, the book section, and I saw this book by a man named Stevenson. It was in England and he was telling all about Bletchley Park and he was telling everything that we had done. And so I wrote a letter to the Navy and that’s when they wrote back and said they’d never . . . the Navy had never heard of me. Well, they had lost the records in the St. Louis fire. And in the second paragraph they said, “We don’t care what publications you are reading, but whatever oath you took, it still holds.” Well now I realize that whoever read that letter of mine and sent it back, he didn’t really know anything . . . he didn’t even bother looking into it. And I had said I wanted to be able to tell my children. He said in the last paragraph, “Well, you can tell your children that they can be very proud of your contribution. Period.” Well, that was ’72, so I just never talked about it again. ’75 is when another book came out. I think it was the Enigma. I’m not sure. But I read that and then I knew that the secret was out. So I called the Navy and they said, yes President Carter had declassified a lot of World War II material. So I figured now I’ve got to get the word to the gals. So I was in touch with McCloud, the one . . . and Betty . . . never lost touch with Betty . . . then so about seven. I always think about that ad . . . seven people tell seven more people tell seven . . . I thought the word would be out. I lived outside in Alexander, Virginia, outside of Washington . . . you’re tired, are you ready to fold?
CD: Nope, I’m fine.
VH: Well, anyway this woman in my neighborhood was in the Navy and she was a reporter for Navy Times. And someone mentioned, you know, what I had done and the oath. So she called and said, “Can I interview you?” And I said, “Oh, by all means. I’m trying to get all the word out that I can.” So she came over and everything and she wrote an article for the Navy Times and sent it to me. So I sent that to my hometown newspaper. I was in Virginia, but I sent it to Wilmington, Delaware, and I thought, oh boy now some newspapers will pick this up and they will be really interested. Nothing! Nothing ever happened, so I’m ready to . . . I was happy about the Navy Times thing, at least, and the one in my newspaper. So I get a call from . . . turns out the Navy gave my name to this Jerry somebody, I’ve forgetten his name, at the National Security Agency. Now they had the Bombe; the only one Bombe that was left was out at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland. And so he called me and I never met him, but we talked on the phone and he told me they were getting it ready, that it was going in the Smithsonian, and I remember I hadn’t met him. I moved to Florida in ’87, so I had many conversations with him before ’87, and then I was divorced, see, and so I had to leave town. And so, I’m down in Florida and my friend Polly Sims, another Wave from Milwaukee is in Stuart, Florida, like a half hour away and we see one another all the time and talk about the old times in the Navy, so anyway I was going up to Virginia to see my children and I said, “Polly, come along with me for a visit and we’ll go to the Smithsonian and we’ll see if the old Bombe is in there.” So she thought that would be a great idea so we left Washington and then one morning we went down to the Smithsonian Institute and we talked to this lady at the desk and said we were interested in seeing the computers. She said, “That exhibit is not going to be opening up for a year.” But she said . . . I said, “Well, maybe the computer’s here in the building in the basement or something.” She said, “As a matter of fact, there is a meeting going on right now over in this wing.” So Polly and I meandered over. This woman met us at the door and said, “You can’t come in here. We have a big meeting going on.” And we said, “Well, we ran the Bombe during World War II and we’re looking for it. And we were wondering if we could go see it. Like if it’s in the basement.” And she said, “Oh, no, that’s at Fort Meade.” And she said, “And the exhibit won’t be for another year.” So we just visited with her a little bit and then she said, “But come back at 4 o’clock. There’ll be some other people from NSA – National Security Agency – they’re more knowledgeable about what’s going on and you can talk to them.” No, that’s it. She didn’t know where the Bombe was so she said to come back at 4 and maybe they could tell us. So at that point we thought it might still be in the basement or someplace. So we went to lunch and I’ll never forget. We walked back into the Smithsonian and here comes this gal we had talked to and she is coming 90 miles an hour across that lobby and saying, “Oh, oh, I’m so glad you came back.” She said Jerry somebody, this was the guy I had talked to some years before. She said, “He’s been looking for you, Mackey, for six years.” [VH laughs.] So anyway, I connected up with him and he came the next day and picked Polly and I up in Virginia with another man and they drove us to Fort Meade.
CD: Oh, wow.
VH: And all the way out there – it was like an hour’s drive – they were interviewing us. And this is when Polly told the story about how we came off duty at 8 o’clock in the morning, just exhausted, want to get back in the barracks and go to bed, but what happens – here comes a bright-eyed, bushy tailed ensign in to give us another lecture on security and finally he’s droning on and one of the girls in the back yelled, “Oh, go blow it out your flutter valve.” Well, these two men who were interviewing us [VH laughs], they were just breaking up. And Polly said the ensign said, “Who said that? Who said that?” And all those girls from that shift, nobody said a word. Nobody pointed a finger. So, but anyway, she had them rolling. She was telling them all the funny stories. So then they had my address where I lived in Florida. I get back to Florida and the next thing I know, I get the call from England. And this is the Nova show, The Code Breakers. And it was an English production and David Kahn had written a book all about Bletchley. And this story was about how the United States was brought into it, you know because of extra rotor wheels being thrown in. So they asked . . . they had me meet . . . they flew me up from Florida to Washington, went to the Smithsonian, filmed two and a half hours and went back home, waited two and a half years and then I got three minutes. All I was able to tell them was how they said to us, “You talk about what goes on here, you will be shot.” [VH laughs.] So that was one thing included in the show. So, anyway, that show came on and then I got a call from the National Security Agency that the exhibit – Information Age Exhibit – was opening up and they said there would be a big reception – formal. So Polly and I came up from Florida, stayed with my son, and he was kinda between marriages and he had a nice townhouse and we stayed there and he drove us all around. So he took us into the Smithsonian. The first one I saw was Bernard Shaw from CNN, then all the dignitaries were there, people who were on from the Hill – Capital Hill who were on intelligent committees. Waiters were walking around with champagne and everybody in their formal gowns. So I went to see the . . . in the mean . . . oh, the Navy had given me some pictures. So when I got the pictures from the Navy, I turned them over to the National Security Agency. So when they put the Bombe in there, they took these pictures and used them for big murals behind the Bombe. Murals on the wall. So the funny one was Sue Eskey when she came visiting in Washington and she and her friend went to the Smithsonian and she rounded this little bend at the exhibit and there was the Bombe and she said she could hardly speak. Her heart was racing. And she was recovering and she looked up on the wall, and here was her picture. She . . . of the two pictures that they used in the grouping, there was Sue in the picture. And uh . . . [VH laughs], she couldn’t believe her picture’s on the wall in the Smithsonian. But anyway it stayed there for a year in the exhibit and then they just moved . . . my friend’s son, he’s into computers and he said that this museum now in Fort Meade . . . Fort Meade you know is not allowed to just go out and buy property. Well, there was this old motel right off the grounds of the NSA and they wanted it but they had to . . . they said they’d found some spies had stayed there in the past . . .so the hotel . . . motel . . . went out of business, so they didn’t want anybody making another motel so they got permission to buy it and in order to buy it they made a cryptological museum. So that’s how that came into being. So my two sons took me out there a couple summers ago and it’s very . . . it’s cryptology from the Civil War on through and the Bombe you know was like in the middle. It’s all encased behind glass. I mean I couldn’t walk up to it and touch the wheels and they never got it running. They thought they were going to have it running for the Smithsonian exhibit but they never did. And now it’s out in that museum and it’s not running out there either. So anyway, my sons took me and there was a man and he had a group – tourists – and they . . . so I joined the group, following them around and they got to the Bombe and he just kind of sloughed it off. Had nothing or little to say. Well, that really ticked me off. So I got home to Florida and I wrote a letter to the museum. And I told them that I just thought they should tell more of our contribution. It’s like this story has been under wraps. It’s like Debbie telling us that it seems like Dayton all of a sudden woke up. We were here in ’95 and there was not this excitement or interest. And that was the way it seemed with me at the museum. So I wrote this letter to this gal. Well, she called me up and it was Jennifer Fox . . . Wilcox . . . that wrote . . . did you see what she wrote . . . and she did a very good job. Well, she picked my brain. I gave her Sue’s name but she had also gotten Sue’s name from something that had been published. But anyway, that’s how come Sue and I are quoted in the book. She talked to both of us. And then she sent me the booklet and I loaned it to someone and I didn’t get it back in time for this reunion. But when I got here, it was in the packet so I’m happy that everybody . . . because it’s a very nice history. But anyway, I went to see the movie Saving Private Ryan and I was so happy that finally they were having a movie about World War II. Because my grandchildren, they just don’t study history and they know nothing about it. So I was real excited about the movie. And after that, Brokaw on his programs used to have a little segment about the greatest generation and he’d have somebody on. And then he wrote the book The Greatest Generation, and I think he was overwhelmed. He never . . . it hit that best sellers list and it was in the top ten for a year and a half. And he wasn’t going to write anymore but then he started getting all the stories in the mail. He got 100,000 stories and letters from people after the first book, and I was one of the 100,000. And I wrote it in February, the letter, and here in September is when he sends the UPS or Fed Ex for me to sign a release to use my story and I couldn’t even remember what I had written. Of course I signed the release and then later I talked to people in his office and they said he was making the cut of the 100,000 what was going to go into the book. She said, “I’ll let you know if you make the cut.” And she called me back and she said, “Your story made the cut.” And she said, “What got him was when you said how you wept for the women who passed away.” And I always get emotional and I never told anyone, but anyhow Brokaw was crying on his . . . how you feel . . . and I called his office to let him know we were going to be here and they said they’d give me his secretary. And they gave me her voice mail and then that night I heard she had anthrax.
CD: Oh, poor thing.
VH: Isn’t that awful. I thought he’d come . . . send a crew maybe and do a little story for us. I thought it was worth a try and I knew the women in his office and I called and I said I want to speak to him and they said you want his secretary, so they rang her and then her voice mail came on and she said, “I won’t be in the office until tomorrow and just please leave a voice mail.” I just told her who I was and I was in the book and that was in the morning. And that night . . . the morning I called, it was that night he came on about she was exposed. He’s upset because the letter had his name on it.
VH: And he didn’t open it, she did.
CD: Right. She probably did, most of the time.
VH: And they never gave her name. And you said it was O’Connor?
CD: No, I don’t know what her last name was. Somebody else might have said that.
VH: Oh, I thought you said Erin O’Connor. Oh, okay. Then you don’t . . .I don’t think they have given out her name. Because when they said we’re going to give you his secretary, they didn’t say her name but I was assuming . . . I talked to three women in his office during the book thing and so I was assuming it would have been one of them.
CD: I’m sure it would. How is she?
VH: Well, I think she got the kind that is treatable. I hope.
CD: He doesn’t have it, does he?
VH: Who, Tom? Well, they’re all being tested. They do the nose swab to see if they inhaled it. Like if it’s around even, you just have to inhale it and then the guy – you see, I live in Florida and the guy died there – the man named Stevens. Well, when I got out of the service all we used to hear was there would never be another war like this one. It won’t be a conventional war because we’ll be taken over from within. Well, I immediately thought the Communists because the early 50s, remember we had the House on American Activities Committee and had the McCarthy Committee and they were chasing the Communists all over the country and J. Edgar Hoover got absolutely paranoid about Communists and we had 320,000 Communists in this country. You know, it wasn’t against the law to be a Communist. It was only against the law if you were going to be a Communist trying to overthrow this country. So then I read about five years ago there are only 20,000 Commies left in this country. Well, you know you’re not sure about that but you feel like well they’re not overwhelming in numbers. We don’t have to worry about them. But now I feel like we’ve been being infiltrated since the ’60s. I remember the early ’70s, the Muslims and Arabs would land in Kennedy Airport. They didn’t have to know any English. They only had to know how to say “political asylum” and you had to take them in. Like I live in Florida and if a Cuban makes it to the shore, they’re here. They’re citizens. The Haitians, they turn them around and send them back. But we have some kind of a law or deal with the Cubans that come in. So now there are 3,000,000 illegal Mexicans coming in and they want to make . . . you know, Clinton made them all in ’96 . . . he rounded up all the ones that were waiting for citizenship . . . you see, you used to have to study history, you had to take tests, and he just blanket, made them all citizens and the committee got them all registered and then they all voted for him. So now this time, they’re at it again. They want these 3,000,000 illegal Mexicans to be made citizens. Now Bush says no that’s not right, then he’s the one you know that’s probably going . . . they think that’s going to help lose the election for him the next time. But the night before the attack, Patrick Buchanan was on and he said, “We better start thinking about taking back our country.” Because where my son lives, there were so many Middle Eastern people that they are in the majority now. My son lives outside of Washington. And so I think they have been infiltrating for 40 some years. And when they come over, they do not associate with other Americans. They stick together. They live around their mosques. The women have the same costumes and they don’t assimilate into our society. And I think my grandson said – he lives in Hoboken, New Jersey – said the day of the attack he heard that at a mosque in Hoboken, New Jersey, where you could look right across the river at the Twin Towers – the Muslims were gathering on the roof before the first plane hit. And my other friend’s little girl – I mean her daughter – worked as a teacher in New York and half the Muslim children in her class stayed home that day. So, I’ll tell you, Curt, I don’t trust them. And I feel like they are going to be here and when they come, they go into business for themselves, you know. They have the grocery stores and the gas stations and they don’t work for anybody. And they’re doctors. Now my guy I like, Bill O’Reilly on TV, he had this professor in the University of Southern Florida and he was an Arab and he brought two over here – two from Afghanistan – and they had a big drive and they raised all kinds of money supposedly for the poor they said. But they were raising it for bin Ladin and his . . . and all the Muslims that were working, they all . . . and they only collected it from Muslims you know. And all the money . . . and they said the “good” Muslims here thought it was just for the poor but they went over . . . it was for the terrorists. And so he had this professor on his program and the guy admitted that he knew, that he found out they were terrorists afterwards. So the college suspended him. Well, do you know they came and gave O’Reilly fits because he exposed the fact that this guy hobnobbed with the terrorists and raised money for them and they said, “Oh, it wasn’t right that you let this professor get suspended.” And I’m thinking, “What is wrong with this country. You know somebody had better wake up.” Cause now when I see were going to be taken over from within, I think they’re all here, they’re all in place and their Bible says, “We are the infidels.” And they are supposed to kill the infidels the Jews and the Christians. And they are killing them now. That anthrax . . . although we haven’t lost any more than that one, have we?
CD: I don’t think so. I know there are two more cases of it.
VH: But see, the thing is we only have enough vaccine treatment for like two million and we’ve got 280,000,000 people in this country.
CD: Now they’re afraid smallpox might be next.
VH: And you know, Curt, I live in Florida right across the island with the two stacks . . . the nuclear plant . . . and the Arabs were staying at an inn on that island and they think they were casing it. I don’t know whether they thought they were going to fly into that or what. I mean, they start blowing up nuclear plants . . . see during World War II, nobody ever came to this country. One submarine came to the west coast, lobbed something over and it fell in a picnic site. It did kill a family. Mother, father and two kids were out having a picnic. But that was all the damage that it did. And we were never invaded and no . . . feel what the British must have gone through with that every night blowing up . . . but this germ warfare thing is scary. So . . . But I want to tell you, my girl friend called me up and she said, “You know, Ronnie, our grandparents came here as immigrants. (Her’s were Italian; mine were Irish.) They get off the boat. Nobody handed them anything and you had to have a sponsor. Someone here to put you up, and put a roof over your head. And then you went to work. And they were not . . . the British didn’t allow the Irish to go . . . England didn’t allow the Irish to go school, so they came here and couldn’t read or write. And they had to take the menial jobs which is like the Mexicans take now, the migrant workers because they say other people won’t take those jobs.” But my grandparents, they worked. And then my parents came along and they had this terrible, terrible depression. And my parents lost their home and we had to move in with the grandfather. And then my generation, we had the war. So she was just furious. She said, “Ronnie, our parents were born here and we were born here. We are the Americans.” And I said, “Yes, and we built the country and we fought for it.” She said now all these people come in and we say we must let the Arabs in, let them in, all the bleeding heart liberals – how about one of the pilots. He had a loan, you know, $500 a month to learn how to fly the plane. You didn’t know that? They came over here and got student loans and so they used our money . . . they must really be laughing at us, you know . . . and they were taking welfare checks, student loan checks. Just burns me up. So I said somebody was asleep at the switch. They were not minding the store, Curt. And I’m telling everybody, be suspicious of any Muslim. And I’m not going to do any business with any Muslims. From now on, I’m just going to do my business with regular Americans. But it’s like Buchanan said, “If we don’t take the country back . . . ” Those 3 million illegals should be shipped back. You know, in the days of Al Capone, if you were caught and had criminal activity, you were deported back to your country or origin.
VH: Oh, yeah. You had to . . . if you were a criminal, they shipped you . . . unless it was murder, then they you know put you to death or something. But you were deported if you didn’t obey the laws and went back to your country of origin. So, but they will not do that. But I think now the young people are beginning to realize that maybe it was a mistake in letting all these people in. But see, the other problem are the white supremacists groups that are really turned off on the government. And they think you know, some are saying well maybe it’s not the terrorists – Muslims doing the anthrax. Maybe it’s the white supremacists groups. But you know, I don’t think they would do that. I really don’t think they would go and indiscriminately kill anybody. They would have a mission. Like the Ku Klux Klan had a mission to to and kill black people. So I’m virtually sure now that some of these Muslims got the stuff, they’re mailing it and they found some on American Airlines . . .
VH: . . . on its way to Vermont yesterday and they were interviewing the woman who was on the plane. So they spilled the powder there. It could be baking soda. It could be talcum powder, but it’s powder and it just . . . I think that when they get the hoax things, the talcum powder and stuff, I think that’s just pranksters and . . . but I think the anthrax is the real McCoy. Well, what else can I tell you? Have I told you everything?
CD: Did you meet anybody famous while you were here?
VH: Yes. No, when I was in Washington. My girl friend and I had to go downtown and we had to go on duty. So we hailed a cab. And in those days you always shared a cab. So I climbed in the cab and there was a naval officer in there. So I got on one end and she was in the middle and he was on the other end. And she started hitting and says, look, look. And it was the movie star Eddie Albert. You know Eddie Albert? He was on Green Acres with one of the Gabors. He was a really nice looking man and nice naval officer. And he started a conversation and he was just . . . you know, the movie stars then, they just . . . Jimmy Stewart, Clarke Gable. Clark Gabel was too old but he went in anyway. Jimmy Stewart, Eddie Albert. And, oh, I remember I went to Mass one Sunday and I was standing behind this Marine and I couldn’t get over his uniform, how it was so pressed and beaut . . . and it was a movie star, William som . . . I can’t think of his name now. But he was so handsome. And he had sorta reddish-blond hair . . . and, uh, William something . . . but he was so good looking. He went back and made some more movies. But they were the really true heroes as far as I was concerned.
CD: Well . . .
VH: I mean, they volunteered . . .
CD: Yeah . . .
VH: and they were ready to fight for their country.
CD: Well, didn’t Clarke Gable’s wife die during one of the pictures?
VH: Carol Lombard. They were selling bonds and she was going around the country and making appearances. People’d come and buy the bonds. And the plane crashed. It was really so sad. Because they were such a nice . . . they hadn’t been married that long and it was really a nice marriage so it was too bad.
CD: Well, did you ever talk to Joe Desch or . . .
VH: I never heard of Joe Desch until I heard from Debbie for this reunion in 1995.
CD: Well you weren’t in Dayton very long, were you?
VH: I came in May with Sue and then she said they said we left September 30. I recall being here through October because it was very cold. But I never . . . I know Van Meter very well and some of the Wave officers. But Joe Desch. I never heard of him till 1995 when I heard from Debbie. I liked her story where she said she just decided she had to find out what all this was about. And you know, he didn’t even talk to her.
CD: No. No more than you would with your children.
VH: What year did he die? It was ’87, wasn’t it?
CD: Something like that.
VH: Well, the oath was lifted in ’77.
CD: Yeah, but I don’t know if he knew it either.
VH: Oh, you don’t think he knew that the . . . you see, this is what burns . . . the Navy should have contacted . . .see if any contact is with Mr. Desch, then he can contact the people at NCR and we could have gotten some publicity. Like I say, a lot of these women died and they were never able to tell what they . . . what their contribution was and I just think it’s . . .
CD: Sure. Well, I tried to interview some Waves in ’95 and three or four of them didn’t want to talk to me because they thought it might be a test, that the Government might be testing them and it still was a secret.
VH: Well, see, I would never hadn’t talked if I had called the Navy and they said, “Yes, you can tell everybody now because President Carter declassified.” And then Sue said she just got her government records but they deleted everything about Sugar Camp. But see what happened, they just weren’t going to keep the records then. So I’m going to send for mine and see what happens, see if that part is deleted. But when I left that day after taking the oath, they gave me a form and said present this form to future employers. And it said all that can be told of this woman’s activities during World War II are in this . . . written on this one page herein . . . and don’t ask her any more questions. And so then it went on with my . . . it said I was with a group and I showed manual dexterity with the work that I did and that I performed it well [VH laughs] and I was very well recommended. And, you know, it impressed the first employers that read it, you know. So I was home in Wilmington six months and I got a thing in the mail and it was a ribbon and a letter of commendation, and it said about your contribution . . . but it didn’t say what we did. It said, your contribution. And then the last sentence said, “No publicity in receipt of this award. So we’re getting the award, but I couldn’t tell anybody I got this award and I couldn’t . . .
CD: Were you allowed to wear it?
VH: Well, I was out of the Navy then. I didn’t use a uniform. So . . .
CD: Hmmm . . .
VH: So anyway, I sent away for the two medals. I had a couple . . .The American Theater [VH laughs] and what was the other medal? Something . . . but I got these two medals [VH laughs] and every 4th of July I used to pin them on whatever I was wearing that day. Just for my children. But uh . . .
CD: Did you ever tell your kids before that or before ’77?
VH: Never. Never. In ’77 when the Navy gave me the go ahead. And then see the Navy, they gave my name to the National Security Agency because they were trying to get the Bombe working to get it into the Smithsonian. So they thought, you know, I could fill them in. So that day they interviewed Polly and I on it at Fort Meade. Are you going to be at the Hospitality Room because I have pictures of Polly and I at the . . .
CD: I’ll go back up there when I take you back.
VH: I have pictures of that day when we were interviewed and . . . [VH laughs] I laugh at this Polly. We go into the National Security Agency and there’s a young girl there, the receptionist, and she’s like twenty years old and Polly said – the guys had gone off somewhere. They had to get us clearance to get in. We’re standing at the desk. Here’s the Bombe sitting there in the lobby. [VH laughs] Polly said to this girl, “Over here we’re going to be interviewed about this machine,” she said. “We ran this during World War II.” And the girl [VH laughs] looked at the machine that she probably thought came out of some cave how many hundreds of years old and she said, “You ran that machine?” [VH laughs]
CD: Oh, gee. That makes you feel old, doesn’t it?
VH: Well, one time Polly and I went back up to the annex and all the barracks were gone and beautiful homes were there. But the communications annex was still there. So we went to the guard at the gate and said we just wanted to walk around, that we were stationed here during World War II. He said well, we’d have to get permission from the Navy Department to get in. And so he said, “I heard there were some women here during World War II and Polly said yeah, there were barracks across the street and she said we lived in the barracks. Polly said, “It was probably before you were born.” He said, “Well, when was it?” And she said, “1943.” He said, “That’s right. That was before I was born.” Polly said to me, “Let’s get out of here.” [VH and CD laugh.] It was so funny.
CD: Yeah, these people are coming here telling me they’ve been married 53 years, 58 years and I’m saying that was 10-15 years before I was born.
VH: That’s right. Now, you know Curt, it’s such a different world now that I think about what kind of world it’s going to be for my children and grandchildren and – because I feel like those Muslims are going to get after us because we have helped Israel since 1948. We made them a state, we gave them . . . you know, we give them $3 billion a year and I read in Reader’s Digest they take the $3 billion, invest it back in this country and made $10 billion. So, you know, and they’re smart people and, you see, they’re the only state where there like a democratic society – they live like we do – and the Muslims can’t handle that. So, I’m just worried about what’s going to happen.
CD: Well, thank you. Thank you, Ronnie.
VH: Well, it was fun.
CD: I really appreciate that.