Larry Ordner: I guess if you weren't a nurse in the Army or in some other branch, you were probably a clerk doing clerical work?
Wilma Hugunin: Oh, all administrative. Now, there were some girls later that worked on a flight line.1 You know, they hauled those, oh, those things that you put behind airplanes. I forgot what you call them, but they would do some work like that. But mostly we were all administrative. That's what we were there for was to relieve the men to do the other work.
Larry Ordner: And you knew that going in?
Wilma Hugunin: Oh, absolutely. That's what we were there for was to do the paperwork.
Larry Ordner: Were most of the female assignments stateside?
Wilma Hugunin: Well, no. I can't tell you exactly. I don't have those figures exactly how many women were sent to Europe, but a lot.
Larry Ordner: Really?
Wilma Hugunin: We were the first ones to go. And then later they were some that went to South Pacific. But the first of us went to Europe. I just saw that figure here just yesterday. Talking about the place where I was in England. On the 23rd of May, now this is '44, '44, yeah, the arrival of the first detachment of women's corps to the Depo. And let's see here, it says we came in on that night and the next day we were on duty. And I remember that very well. We got in that night and the next day I was in the bombsight department.
Larry Ordner: That's amazing.
Wilma Hugunin: Under lock and key. The bombsight department was secret. And we had a guard all day long out there. We had to sign in, sign out.
Larry Ordner: And this was immediately after basic?
Wilma Hugunin: No. This - I am talking about when I got to England.
Larry Ordner: Okay. Let's talk now when basic was over.
Wilma Hugunin: Went to administration school.
Larry Ordner: And was that on like administrative -
Wilma Hugunin: At Denton, at Denton.
Larry Ordner: Okay. And how long roughly was that period?
Wilma Hugunin: That was eight weeks, yeah.
Larry Ordner: And that was a good primer on administrative, clerical, and everything?
Wilma Hugunin: Oh, that was - you learned everything that there is to do from - from the squad level or the company level on down, you know, the morning reports, the sick reports, everything. Because you didn't know if you were going to be assigned to a cadre2 in a small company or whether you are going to go out and work, say, over here to work with the bombsight people. We didn't know at that point what we were going to do. But we were being trained for every piece of paperwork that had to be handled.
Larry Ordner: What was chain of command like? How did your superior officers -
Wilma Hugunin: They were just like we. They were all learning. Most of the girls - I could have gone to OCS3 if I wanted to. I didn't want to. I mean, they would take you without a college education if you had it up here. And, you know, and I had no problem with any of this paperwork. But I didn't want to go. I wanted to go where the action was. And I didn't want to run a little company. You know what I am saying?
Larry Ordner: Yeah. So how could you be sure that you'd go where the action was?
Wilma Hugunin: Well, because that's what I studied for. And that's what I asked to be assigned to. I wanted to be at an air field when we got out of basic training. And they asked you what you wanted to do, if you had a choice. And I said yes, I want to go to an air field.
Larry Ordner: So was this lure of flight, wasn't there?
Wilma Hugunin: When I was a little girl, we'd hear an airplane, we'd run outside and look at it. You know, it is hard for you to imagine.
Larry Ordner: Well, I can picture that.
Wilma Hugunin: Because there weren't a lot of airplanes flying around, but we'd hear one and we'd go outside and look at it. But yes, I wanted to go to an active air field. And that's what I asked for. And one of the girls I became very friendly with, we shared a room down in Texas, and she wanted to go, too. And she said, I don't have a chance in hell. I am a school teacher, and they are not going to send me there. And they didn't. And they sent her over to a base, I can't remember the name of it, but it was there in Texas, a base where they had GIs who could not read and write. Now, you may find this difficult to understand, but there were many GIs that couldn't read and write. Did you know that?
Larry Ordner: I can - I am not surprised to hear that.
Wilma Hugunin: And she was sent there because she was the teacher to teach those boys. One time we had a dance down there, a company party. You know, they would always invite another man from another field or whatever. And they invited all these men. They told us, you know, now you have to be careful because they are not quite right, okay. They can't read and they can't write. And they are very limited, very limited. But be nice to them. So we had a little party, and, you know, we had food and we danced. And they went back to their base and we went to ours. But I am saying that there were a lot of men like that. It surprised me. I had no idea that there were that many illiterates in this country, but there were a lot. And she was sent there. And I was sent to Buckingham Field in Florida, which is where I wanted to go. And that's where we trained the gunners.
Larry Ordner: That's got to be very exciting.
Wilma Hugunin: Oh, God. I was out of my mind.
Larry Ordner: Did you feel like you just arrived?
Wilma Hugunin: Oh, I just loved it. You know, the flies play in the air with them all of the time. But this was a huge training school for gunners. Now, these were for enlisted men, gunners for the B-17, the B-24, and the fighter pilot, 49s and the 51s. Now, they only got six weeks training. Now, you imagine these young boys, they are all 20, 21, 22, 23, just like I am. We are all the same age. They went to this gunner school for six weeks and they learned how to shoot out of the airplanes. And then they went overseas. And they were assigned to 17s or 24s or whatever. That's all the training they had. We lost a few out there in the swamp, you know. I can remember we had crashes out in the swamp.
Larry Ordner: But the training was quite dangerous, wasn't it?
Wilma Hugunin: Well, terrible. See, what they did is, they had these long targets. They were - I don't know what they are made of, canvas or something, but they were long like a sleeve that was attached to the back of an airplane. And that target was pulled. And the boys in the other airplane that were going to be shooting at it had colored bullets, you know, the colored things. And they'd shoot it and they'd know who got what score. But that's the way they were trained. They - it was very dangerous. We lost a few boys out there in that swamp, you know.
Larry Ordner: What would you say, Wilma, to future generations of Americans 20 years from now?
Wilma Hugunin: Do the honor of country, what I have always said. If you keep that in your heart and in your brain, I think you will turn out all right as a person. Now, what happens around you, sometimes you have no control over. But you can learn to deal with it if you have got these other things.
Larry Ordner: Wilma, this has been a wonderful time. I have enjoyed it immensely.