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Interview with Adelaide Hawkins [7/29/2003]

Barbara Matusow:

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003, and this is the beginning of an interview with Adelaide Hawkins at her home at The Jefferson, 900 North Taylor Street, Arlington, Virginia. Mrs. Hawkins is 89 years old, having been born on March 6th, 1914. My name is Barbara Matuso and I'll be the interviewer. Mrs. Hawkins is an acquaintance of my aunt, Catherine Corrin (ph), who lives in the same apartment complex. Mrs. Hawkins, could you tell us in what capacity you served as a civilian during World War II, and what was your title?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, my title was chief of the MC, message center for O.S.S. And that was chief until we got a captain who outranked me and he got to be the chief. I shouldn't really be saying that; that sounds silly. Anyway, he was a lawyer from New York and he came down here after we'd gotten started. And we hired mostly younger people, and we'd also had a contingent of soldiers.

Barbara Matusow:

Before we go any further, though -- so you were the chief of the message center, right?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes.

Barbara Matusow:

And then you became the deputy, this man's deputy?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right. I should --

Barbara Matusow:

Of the O.S.S., which is the Office of Strategic Services?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right. That's right.

Barbara Matusow:

And tell us just, first of all, though, what was the Office of Strategic Services and what was the message center?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Okay. The interview -- when I was interviewed for the book that was written, I had a little foreword that said things had been mounting and that the troubles had been looking bad and --

Barbara Matusow:

War was coming.

Adelaide Hawkins:

-- war was coming. And Roosevelt knew that and so did a lot of other people, I guess. But they, he, Roosevelt chose General William Donovan, who was known as quite a fighter during World War I, and he told him to start up an intelligence agency, I guess. In any case, that's what happened. That's what got it started.

Barbara Matusow:

So the O.S.S. was really the forerunner of the C.I.A, then?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Right, right. Didn't become C.I.A. until after the war.

Barbara Matusow:

And so, now, what was the message center?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, it's where all the messages came in and were distributed within the agency or where they were -- messages that were outgoing were handed into the message center and we sent them out.

Barbara Matusow:

Now, you were yourself a cryptographer, right?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. I studied the courses for the Signal Corps officers for cryptography and cryptanalysis, and it was on the basis of my having done this home study that I was asked if I wanted a job. And I didn't know what it was till I even got there. But I decided that that would be a good thing to do.

Barbara Matusow:

So how did they describe this job to you? What did they say you'd be doing?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Recruiting; training and recruiting young people to work in the message center who would do the actual handling of the traffic and the radio work and the teletype work and the things like that.

Barbara Matusow:

So did they, the people who worked there, have to be cryptographers as well?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. It would have been nice if they were, but we trained them when they came in.

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, but you trained them to be cryptographers?

Adelaide Hawkins:

To be cryptographers, right. Right.

Barbara Matusow:

So messages came in that had to be decoded and messages went out that had to be coded, is that the idea?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right, except we used the term "cipher" instead of "code."

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, "cipher." So how do you use that in a sentence, "cipher"?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, to encipher a message or decipher a message means to make it, hopefully, unintelligible to anyone else.

Barbara Matusow:

Where did you work and when did you work, what work there?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, let's see. I was in the message center the whole time during the war. Incidentally --

Barbara Matusow:

World War II.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Right. To go back a little further, before it became O.S.S. it was called the Coordinator of Information. And this, we were supposed to gather all the information together and then send it out. But then in --

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, in other words, there were individual intelligence centers in the government so they created this one central one?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, not really. Because we weren't combined with anybody else at all. We all had our own individual message centers and whatever went with them. I'm trying to think of what I was going to say there. In any case, in 1942, early '42, there was some rearrangement of the Coordinator of Information, the original agency. Part of it was taken out, what became the Office of War Information, and was sent -- that was under Robert Sherwood, the playwright. He was the chief. And they all moved to New York. So what was left was us, and we become then the O.S.S. Theirs was more a public thing. I mean, they had to tell people what was going on and so on. And what else was I going to back up for?

Barbara Matusow:

Well, so that was the O.S.S., then?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes.

Barbara Matusow:

Okay. Now, oh, yes. I was asking you when you worked there and where actually you did that work.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah. Well, "when" was -- I started work on the 3rd of June -- the 3rd of December 1941, which was four days before Pearl Harbor. And the address was 1430 -- wait a minute, I've got it -- that's 2430 "E" Street. And then we had buildings that had belonged --

Barbara Matusow:

Here in Washington?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Here in Washington. We had buildings that had belonged to the Health Department. And they had done -- as a matter of fact, a couple of their animals visited us.

Barbara Matusow:

You told about that in that chapter that you told about your war career.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, yes.

Barbara Matusow:

What kind of animals were they? Tell us a little bit about that.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, I don't know them, really, except the ones that managed to escape the attic, where most of them were held. We had a -- I had a contact with a white rat that was up on a -- you know, way up there, and so I left very quietly and got somebody to come and take care of him. I looked at that description too, and I think it was Don's phrase, they were --

Barbara Matusow:

Your son Don?

Adelaide Hawkins:

My son Don who gave the right phrase there, that they were no longer welcome to live in that building because we were there now. But in any case, it's -- this I didn't see but I was told it was one of the folklore stories. One of my students came in one morning on Saturday to do some work. And he went home again and called me and said, "I'm not coming back till you get rid of the monkeys." I said, "What monkeys?" He said, "Well, I was having a drink at the water fountain and one came and jumped on my shoulder." But we didn't explain that very much, because I think he had been imbibing and maybe exaggerated. Might have been a mouse or something like that. Might not have been anything.

Barbara Matusow:

Who knows?

Adelaide Hawkins:

But anyway, they supposedly in the attic had these animals that they tested for various things.

Barbara Matusow:

Now did you, when you were working there, did you actually do cryptography or did you just train others?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, I did some too, but -- and I trained them.

Barbara Matusow:

Ciphering, sorry.

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right. My title was cryptanalyst, and that means breaking, quote, enemy, unquote, things. But my work that I did was cryptography, which is not quite as advanced, shall we say, as that. However, before I was hired, I had been doing the extension courses on cryptanalysis, which means breaking some guy's messages and recovering whatever you had to do from that. So we worked in that business, actually. That's part of N.S.

Adelaide Hawkins:

and Arlington Hall and the other guys like that.

Barbara Matusow:

Breaking the codes?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Breaking.

Barbara Matusow:

You were in charge of breaking codes?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. No, just taking care of our own equipment, our own material.

Barbara Matusow:

Now, did it take a certain type of intelligence, do you think? I mean, you also had to assess potential hires, didn't you, as to whether or not they could learn this type of thing?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. And I had a few sort of standardized tests, I guess you might say. But I was always interested if they said that they did crossword puzzles, played chess, played bridge. As a matter of fact, Alfred Sheinwold, who was a really important bridge player and had a column in the newspaper, he was one of our people.

Barbara Matusow:

Alfred? Albert Sheinwold?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Alfred. Sheinwold, uh-huh.

Barbara Matusow:

So he was a noted bridge player?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. Also, the boys tell me, a good poker player too.

Barbara Matusow:

Probably, probably.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Right.

Barbara Matusow:

So you personally, what made you think that -- well, I know that your husband was studying cryptography. Did you know right away that was something you'd be good at?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No, I didn't. I just thought it looked interesting. And we had just moved over -- I didn't start studying until we moved over in this area and I didn't have my usual bridge group or anything like that, so I started working on it. And finally I said, "I'd like to do this." So he asked permission. And as it turned out, Colonel Friedman was a man who wrote up these books on this subject, but he was also Ed's boss way up in the Signal Corps. In fact, I don't know that he was a chief signal officer, but he was certainly well known in all the areas. And he and his wife were both cryptographers and they -- or cryptanalysts. And they had worked for -- I don't want to say "a strange man," but somebody whose interest was in things like this, and it got them interested. And then suddenly they were in charge of -- I don't want to say that either. I don't want to denigrate their jobs, because they were world famous, really. As a matter of fact, when we were -- when I was in London, they were over there doing some more research. And they had written a book called Shakespearean Ciphers Examined. And I have an autographed copy, which I'm very pleased about and I don't let anybody borrow it, either, keep it wrapped up. But she was also as famous as he. And she was the one who worked on the Coast Guard messages. They broke messages from the rum runners. Because I said, well, who did --

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, the rum runners in the '20s?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. And she was in charge of that group. And I said earlier, "Well, whose messages did you have to work on?" She said, "Oh, quite a few." But I learned later they did a great deal of work on the rum runners, like, you know, determining the rendezvous and, you know, all that good stuff.

Barbara Matusow:

I didn't know they used code.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, yeah. Maybe it wasn't tremendously -- no code book or anything like that, but enough so that Mrs. Friedman was able to break it out and get there ahead of them, I guess, or maybe dump the contents or I don't know what she did.

Barbara Matusow:

What were the Friedmans' first names?

Adelaide Hawkins:

He was William F. and she's Elizebeth Smith Friedman. And they're quite well known as the forerunners of the Arlington Hall group and all their cryptanalytic work. We worked with them but not on the same materials that they had. They helped us a lot.

Barbara Matusow:

So just to back up a little bit, let's go back a little bit further into your background. Tell me about, you know, where you came from, the kind of family and how you got married and how you got into this, to be a cryptanalyst at what I gather was a pretty young age. What were you, about 23 or 24?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. I would guess when I started work I was 27.

Barbara Matusow:

Twenty-seven. So let's go back and talk about your background a little bit.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Okay. I was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. And it's a steel town and my dad worked at Wheeling Steel; he was a machinist. And I had one brother. And we lived in Wheeling and went to the Catholic schools there. And I graduated in 1931 from high school and was married the next year and immediately had three children in four years.

Barbara Matusow:

Wow.

Adelaide Hawkins:

So I was kind of busy doing things like that until we moved over here to the Washington area and my son had been -- I mean my husband had been offered the job based on the fact that he had done these cryptanalytic studies as a reserve officer. And then evidently when the war was looming and they decided to gather people together, they offered him a job in the War Department. So we all moved over here and lived in Silver Spring.

Barbara Matusow:

So how did his job in cryptology -- how did you get interested in it, then?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, he was doing extension courses at home. And I don't know, I guess I helped him some, but anyway I worked along with him and I thought, gee, this looks like fun. More fun than those crossword puzzles anyway. So I did enroll in the thing and I guess I got fairly good grades, anyway, because I had a phone call from them saying, "Would you be interested in working?" And as I said or as Don said in my write-up, my mother-in-law came to live with us and I thought this is a great opportunity. So I did.

Barbara Matusow:

You mean to get out of the house?

Adelaide Hawkins:

To get out of the house, right. Right.

Barbara Matusow:

So you had three children at the time?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Right.

Barbara Matusow:

How old were they then?

Adelaide Hawkins:

We moved over here -- Don was four, Eddie was six and Sheila was seven. Pretty close together. Anyway, we got along pretty well. But when a chance came to go to work and earn some money -- which was a big thing, because things had been pretty dreary for us moneywise for a few years before that. So this was a big opportunity.

Barbara Matusow:

Now, at the time you mentioned that Mrs. Friedman was a cryptographer. Were there other women besides you and her?

Adelaide Hawkins:

All the people who worked at N.S.

Adelaide Hawkins:

or what is now N.S.

Barbara Matusow:

So there were a lot of women in cryptology?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yes.

Barbara Matusow:

I see. Because I guess that was just the opportunity the war afforded, there weren't that many men around, enough men, I suppose?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, I suppose that's how it is. And they were hired -- I don't know what they were told when they were hired, but this is the job that they actually did. And so they learned on the job. And they had these extension courses and other courses in-house. They were down on Constitution Avenue in the munitions building at that time.

Barbara Matusow:

Where they gave the courses?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Where they gave the courses.

Barbara Matusow:

And did you work with a lot of men at the same time?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. Most of the guys, and I say "guys" because I guess we had only about three girls in as many as, oh, 15, 20 and so on, and they kept changing because the guys came in and were trained and sent out to the field. So they didn't stay around here very long. The girls were a little longer-lived, I suppose you'd say.

Barbara Matusow:

How was the atmosphere? I mean, was there any discrimination on the job or did everybody accept everybody else? Was there good camaraderie?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes, there was. We all got along fine and we used to have great parties and other activities like that. But nobody was any better or worse than anybody else. So it was really good.

Barbara Matusow:

And you, as a supervisor, you didn't feel that people were challenging you on that basis?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. Never felt that way at all. And I guess maybe I thought -- didn't even think about any challenges or anything because I'd never worked before. Nobody had -- I'd never been in that position to know what might have happened or didn't happen or what.

Barbara Matusow:

How much secrecy did you work under? I mean, was the whole unit top secret? Could you even tell people what you were doing?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No, we didn't tell people what we were doing. Most of us, I guess, said we were clerks or something like that to immediately cause their interest to drop. And we had to do our own training. So that when we hired people, some of the ones who turned out to be really good became instructors for the ones who were not quite as good. So it was all sort of coming up from the ranks, you might say. And of course when they went out to the field, a lot of the fellows were radio operators and they were the communications man at that station. And it could be almost anywhere. We had some stations that were big ones, like Washington and London. We had some that were just two men. So that it varied quite a bit. And I've forgotten what else you had asked me.

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, I was asking about the secrecy. Was that hard on you to sort of keep it to yourself what you were doing?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. We were all, I'm sure, all feeling that we were special and we were going to hold that secret, whatever happened. And I don't know that anybody ever tried -- a lot of people didn't even say that they worked with O.S.S. And if they did say that they worked there, they said they were clerks and that was all. They never made any indications of communications or anything of that sort.

Barbara Matusow:

Right. As you said, people immediately lost interest?

Adelaide Hawkins:

"Oh, is that so?"

Barbara Matusow:

Now, you actually -- your education, you really only went as far as high school, right?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right.

Barbara Matusow:

And your husband was a graduate of Harvard, did you say?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No, he was not a graduate. He attended University of Pittsburgh. But he didn't -- I guess after about two or three years he didn't finish. Well, we were both so young when we were married. I was 19 and he was 21. And so we didn't get educated.

Barbara Matusow:

Now, how did you manage with the -- oh, first of all, there you were, working at the O.S.S. Where was your husband at the time? Describe the family situation a little more fully.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Okay. He was sent to Australia in -- right after the war -- well, I guess about in January or February of '42. So he was in Wheeling, and then we moved over here. He was here. And then when the war started he was a reserve officer. So he was called to duty. Actually he was called before he came over to Washington and that's why he was called here. And he went to Australia and from there to New Guinea and various other places around so that he was not ever back in the United States again until -- except on occasional visits. But he always had to go back to somewhere else to work.

Barbara Matusow:

So how did this affect family life, the kids and so forth?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, the kids didn't know him too well and I guess they figured we're okay, you're okay, I guess. It was to his disadvantage that he wasn't able to be there with them, because they sort of forgot about him in between times. And then here would come back this guy and say, "I'm your father." So I guess it might have felt strange for them. I've never asked Don -- well, I've never asked how he really did feel about it.

Barbara Matusow:

Well, he was the youngest. So he probably knew him the least well, I suppose.

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right. That's right, because he was only four when his dad left. I shouldn't denigrate him that way. He'd come back every now and awhile. But I have a feeling that his assignments were his choice.

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, you think he liked being away, actually.

Adelaide Hawkins:

I think so.

Barbara Matusow:

Now, are you allowed to talk at this stage of the game? Are you allowed to talk about the messages that you and others at the message center received and sent out?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, if there was any intelligence content, no, we weren't allowed to.

Barbara Matusow:

But now, today? Today can you talk about those messages?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, I guess I could if I stopped to think about what they were. They were primarily businesslike messages on how to operate things and so on. But we also had messages from our agents in the field. So there were two different kinds of traffic. There was headquarters to headquarters, and then there was field traffic to headquarters and back. And that's why we had radio operators who were also code clerks and did a number of jobs, because if there are only two men in the field station, somebody's got to do the work.

Barbara Matusow:

Yeah, right. Right. Can you remember any messages that you had to send out that were particularly dramatic?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No.

Barbara Matusow:

No?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. For one thing, things had other names. In other words, we didn't use real names. Everyone had a pseudonym of some sort, although I don't know whether that's anything that should be bandied about. But in any case I can't really think of anything like that.

Barbara Matusow:

Did you have machines that helped to --

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah. Later on. In the beginning we used just pencils and papers.

Barbara Matusow:

Really?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah. And then later we had other equipment. And for some stations, like communicating with London, we'd use a Teletype machine with modifications so that someone else couldn't read them.

Barbara Matusow:

So it would be a specially constructed Teletype machine that could accommodate code?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. It was a plain old telegraph machine, but we had enciphered the message before we gave it to be sent out.

Barbara Matusow:

I see. I see.

Adelaide Hawkins:

So whatever it was in the beginning, it was no longer. That sort of thing.

Barbara Matusow:

Were there any, really, geniuses? You know, have you been to see that movie, A Brilliant Mind, about John Nash?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No, I haven't. I'd like to.

Barbara Matusow:

A mathematician who was working on codes. And of course he was extremely brilliant and ultimately had a nervous breakdown. But were there any brilliant people that you worked with that if something was really tough, that that's who they gave it to?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No, except for the Friedmans, when they gave me examples of what they had done and so on. And I can't think of any one person. For one thing, we didn't talk much about the content of the messages. As far as we were concerned, we were handling it and that was it.

Barbara Matusow:

Although you folks did encrypt the messages that you sent out.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. Oh, yes, they all had to be done that way. But we weren't privy to any background in those things, whatever they were. And quite often things were, how shall we say, obfuscated? You know, you didn't -- that doesn't sound good for anything to go in any kind of language, it seems to me.

Barbara Matusow:

"Obfuscated"?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No, just my saying that that was so. We were handed messages; we enciphered them; we'd send them out. And sometimes when we enciphered them, they weren't quite clear to us what we were saying, used roundabout terms or something like that.

Barbara Matusow:

Right. Right. And then you had to put them in code too?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah.

Barbara Matusow:

How, for example, if you took a sentence -- just take a sentence here: "Tell me about your background." How would you go about encoding something like that?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, well, it depends upon what method you were using. If you had what we called a pencil-and-paper system, you'd sit down and write the whole thing according to prearranged key words and things of that sort.

Barbara Matusow:

What would be prearranged key words?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, this would be something that only the guy who was going to receive the message and us at headquarters had. There wasn't anybody else who had the same key words, same method of encipherment.

Barbara Matusow:

Were there many different keys and methods?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, each of the men who went to the field had his own personal method of communicating with us.

Barbara Matusow:

Really?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes.

Barbara Matusow:

So was there a book somewhere that had it all written down?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. We had individual files for each person and had to make some kind of records of it, yes.

Barbara Matusow:

So you had to -- and who guarded those files?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, we did. And we had pretty strict security, as a matter of fact. And we had what we call burn bags, where you tear up your paper and put it in a bag.

Barbara Matusow:

Right. Were there armed guards?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Headquarters. The headquarters station had those. People in the field, it depended on their own activities and what they had arranged ahead of time. But after the war I moved from actual message center work to communication security.

Barbara Matusow:

I see.

Adelaide Hawkins:

So that part of that job, then, was to visit the various stations and see where they kept their equipment and where they kept their -- did they have a burn bag and who was on duty and who had access to the room and stuff like that.

Barbara Matusow:

So you had to assess whether or not they were really using all possible means to secure the information?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right. The physical security.

Barbara Matusow:

You know, in your chapter of this wonderful book -- jeez, I forgot the title. It's a wonderful book.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Women --

Barbara Matusow:

Women on the Home Front?

Adelaide Hawkins:

I just happen to have a copy.

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, good, good, good. Women on the Home Front, right?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes.

Barbara Matusow:

You talked about the fact that you worked for Bill Donovan, who was, I think, known as Wild Bill Donovan, who was the founder of the O.S.S., the Office of Strategic Services. What was he like?

Adelaide Hawkins:

He was delightful. He was a really nice man. I think I mentioned in the chapter he came down one Saturday morning. In the beginning we were in the basement of the building called the admin building and his office was right upstairs. So he came down one Saturday morning -- I guess there was no one else around to send with it -- to give us a message to send out. And he said, "It's awfully warm in here." And I said, "I know. The windows are closed and they've gone away without working on the air conditioning and I don't know what we can do." So he left after a few minutes, handing the message and going on, and a little while later a foot came through the window. We were in the basement. So the windows were about ground level upstairs. So he kicked a hole in the window.

Barbara Matusow:

That's how he settled it, huh?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Right over my desk. And a good thing I wasn't sitting there at that time. But that's how he settled it, yes.

Barbara Matusow:

So you got a little breeze after that?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right. And we had winter coats on. Because this, I think, was in December somewhere, January or something like that.

Barbara Matusow:

You might say he was a man of action.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah, definitely that.

Barbara Matusow:

What else can you tell us about Donovan?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, he had such a lovely smile and seemed to really care for even the little people, you know. "Why, you young people can't work like this. We'll see about that."

Barbara Matusow:

You mean when it was so stuffy in there?

Adelaide Hawkins:

When it was so stuffy, yeah. But I really don't -- I guess that's the only really personal encounter I had with him.

Barbara Matusow:

How was he viewed by other people?

Adelaide Hawkins:

I think everybody loved him, really did, particularly all of his -- he brought a lot of the law firm from New York down to be in the O.S.S.

Barbara Matusow:

Why? He was with a law firm in New York?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, it was his firm. And I guess when they said, "Go set this up" -- I guess he started about in the middle of '41, about in June or July. But he brought various members down with him, including, you know, associates and whatever.

Barbara Matusow:

You know, there was a tradition, of course, of very well-educated, well-born people in the British civil service. Did Donovan try to emulate that? Did you have lots of people from Ivy League schools and that kind of thing?

Adelaide Hawkins:

You mean, working at the -- oh, yes, yes. There were a lot of them. Not so many in communications where I was, although we did have Colonel Lowman, who was some official in C.B.S., and there were a lot of well-known people, some Mellons and some Scaifes and some Roosevelts and just a lot of people with good names.

Barbara Matusow:

In the O.S.S.?

Adelaide Hawkins:

In the O.S.S., yes.

Barbara Matusow:

That's interesting. Were there any other sort of memorable characters you worked with?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, they all were.

Barbara Matusow:

I'll bet. Did it attract offbeat people?

Adelaide Hawkins:

We didn't get them too many in our place. And in fact I don't know who saw them before we did, but every once in a while somebody would show, they'd call and say, "I want you to give the test to so and so," and we did. And they were people who were not notable, I mean not particularly well known or anything of that sort, but there was one who was a pianist, a concert pianist, and there was one who -- his father had -- I've forgotten what his father did. Well, anyway, there were a lot of people who turned out you didn't know in the beginning that they were like that but there they happened to mention something about it.

Barbara Matusow:

What about the man who was a great musician that used to lead the group singing?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh. Well, we had practically the whole choir of the Dartmouth College at one time. Not really, but one young man was hired before I came in, actually. He was hired as communications. And he told the guys in the Dartmouth Glee Club, to which he had belonged and help run, that this is a pretty good deal down there, go and see Mrs. Hawkins. No, I don't know that they used my name, but in any case we had a lot of guys who were good singers and really did have fun. And our boss who was -- came down from New York, the lawyer from New York, he didn't have a voice at all but he'd sit down on the floor with the others and sing boom, boom, boom, boom. He was being bass voice, I guess. It was fun. His family was, I guess, well-known lawyers in New York.

Barbara Matusow:

It sounds like there was almost a family feeling in that message center.

Adelaide Hawkins:

I think there was, yes. We all sort of felt that way. I think we all did. They didn't seem to resent my being a woman or anything like that. By that time we had other girls in there too.

Barbara Matusow:

Sure. Sure. How long was the workday? What was the typical workday like?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, supposed to be from 8:00 to 5:00. And it usually was, with an hour out at lunchtime. We more or less, I guess, stayed together for lunches and dinners and things like that rather than mixing with the others. As a matter of fact, nobody knew exactly what anybody else was doing anyway, and you weren't supposed to tell them. So if you had your own group of people you could talk among yourselves, whereas if you had strangers or people from other sections you would tend to keep quiet.

Barbara Matusow:

Right. I can see that. What about after work hours? I mean, your husband was away. I guess it was just you stayed mainly with the children and your in-laws?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Mostly that, yes. And there were other girls, ladies, that I made friends with and so on. And the only, I guess the only other activity was the office parties, when we sang. I guess that was our whole activity.

Barbara Matusow:

Your social life?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Social life, right.

Barbara Matusow:

Right. Did you keep a diary in those days?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No.

Barbara Matusow:

Do you have any photographs from those days?

Adelaide Hawkins:

I probably do have somewhere, but I haven't any idea where they are right now.

Barbara Matusow:

Right. Maybe we could get some copies made, you know, later on, if you have a chance to look them up. You don't need to do that today.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Don has divided up -- we had big boxes of pictures. He has divided them up -- mine, Mulherin, which is me; Hawkins, different branches, cousins and everything. So we may have some things that have been segregated like that or separated from the others and I'll see if I can find any.

Barbara Matusow:

Okay. You know, you say in your chapter -- and if you don't want to talk about this, you let me know -- but you mentioned that you and your husband got divorced. Do you feel that your work had to do with it, or just . . .

Adelaide Hawkins:

No. I think our work did it. I mean, he was involved in his work and he'd been away for so long, and really we lost a family feeling, you might say.

Barbara Matusow:

So it was 1947?

Adelaide Hawkins:

'47, yeah. And I didn't -- I mean, I didn't object when he said, "I'd like to have a divorce" or "Would you like to have a divorce?" or whatever. I think I thought this was a good way out.

Barbara Matusow:

Now, at the time the O.S.S. was -- you worked with the O.S.S. until when, until what year?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, it changed its names a couple of times. At first it was Coordinator of Information, then O.S.S., and then S.S.U.

Barbara Matusow:

What was S.S.U.?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Strategic Services Unit. And that was right after the O.S.S.

Barbara Matusow:

And you were in that Strategic Services Unit?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes. And then there was C.I.G.

Barbara Matusow:

What was that?

Adelaide Hawkins:

I've got to stop to think of what it is.

Barbara Matusow:

Center? Central? Intelligence?

Adelaide Hawkins:

It sounds like it. I have to go back in my mind again.

Barbara Matusow:

Okay. I think it might be in your chapter. And after C.I.G.?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Then it become the C.I.A.

Barbara Matusow:

And you stayed through all of those, those iterations?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right.

Barbara Matusow:

And then did you go over to the C.I.A.?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No -- yeah. I mean, we were all sort of absorbed -- not all. Some of us were absorbed in all those different places. And then I was at the C.I.A. till -- let's see -- 1974, I guess. That's when I retired.

Barbara Matusow:

1974. So from 1947 --

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes.

Barbara Matusow:

1947? '47 through 1974?

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's right.

Barbara Matusow:

And tell us what you did -- we can go over that later, make sure I have it right. Tell us what you did in the C.I.A.

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's where I was at the message center.

Barbara Matusow:

No, C.I.A. After the war.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, I moved to communications security then.

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, that's right. And that's when you went around and --

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's when I went around, yes. And during that time also I had a two-year stay in London. A real hardship course.

Barbara Matusow:

You liked it, huh?

Adelaide Hawkins:

I did. And could take the whole family, mother and dad and Eddie and Don. They all came. Don did two years in architecture school in London. Eddie went to the University of London but decided he'd like G.W. better.

Barbara Matusow:

So he went home.

Adelaide Hawkins:

So he went home. My daughter was married then, so she only got over for a visit with us. And then mother and dad. And they loved it too. Dad would go down and talk to the ladies at the laundromat. We didn't have any laundromats in the house. So he'd take them down every morning. He had a whole group. And he used to tell them about baseball and things like that, and all these elderly ladies hanging on his every word. I think they had a club and met at a certain time to do that sort of thing. But mother enjoyed it too. We used to go to the Columbia Club, which is the American clubhouse, you might say. Mother got to be a fanatic about bingo. Not a fanatic. She'd kill me for saying that.

Barbara Matusow:

Yeah, she liked it.

Adelaide Hawkins:

She liked to go down there and play.

Barbara Matusow:

So, now, when you were in the C.I.A. you were away a lot, you know, inspecting these different communications stations. And so your parents continued to look after the kids?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah. Until -- well, Dad died in 1948, I guess. And my mother lived to be 103 years old.

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, my word.

Adelaide Hawkins:

She just died in 1993.

Barbara Matusow:

How about that?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Isn't that something?

Barbara Matusow:

Isn't that amazing? That's terrific. You've got good genes.

Adelaide Hawkins:

I hope so. I'd like to have some of her mental genes. She would have been a great businesswoman if she had had a chance. Nobody in the family ever bought a house without Mother seeing it first. That's among her ten siblings.

Barbara Matusow:

Wow. And they're from West Virginia, right?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes.

Barbara Matusow:

Mother and father both were from West Virginia?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yes.

Barbara Matusow:

And was your husband, was Mr. Hawkins?

Adelaide Hawkins:

He was born in Seattle and his family was out there. Although his father had been Indianapolis and his mother had been from Boston. But I don't know how they -- what they were doing out there in Seattle that caused him to be born anyway.

Barbara Matusow:

So you never remarried?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No.

Barbara Matusow:

Have you ever, did you ever, or at any time did you keep contact with some of your fellows from the message center?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, yes. I still hear from them every once in a while.

Barbara Matusow:

Oh, really? No kidding?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah. Not writing or anything like that, but one of the men who works here, who lives here, is working with a group of young men that I used to work with. They're all into computers and those things now, which was a gradual -- I mean, you picked up the computers at the office and then you moved along with it and got into all the other things. We took into consideration the computers doing a lot of our work. And as a matter of fact, I got to take a course at IBM. It was very funny. I think it's funny. My boss said, "Would you like to go to IBM and learn more about the computers?" And I said yes, so I did.

Barbara Matusow:

What year?

Adelaide Hawkins:

This was in -- I've got to think back now. I'll think of it in a minute. I'll tie it in with something else, then maybe I'll think. It was the very beginning, though. Because when we did get our computers, they were in a room that had to be kept freezing cold. We had a coat rack right outside the door to put on before we went in the room where the computers were. But they generated so much heat by themselves that then we had to have the air conditioning to do it because we worked with great big reels, the 12-inch and 20-inch reels. But anyway, this course I took, I went down to this building on 19th Street or somewhere around there, and the girl said, "Are you sure you've got the right course?" And I said, "Yes, I think so." And she said, "Well, all right." And she filled out the slip or whatever it was for. And I went in and there were 12 men and me. That's why she was asking was I sure. Probably she had told them "send a man" and here's this woman come in. Anyway, it was -- I've got a picture of that.

Barbara Matusow:

Well, I guess they want wartime stuff.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah.

Barbara Matusow:

Still, that would be fun.

Adelaide Hawkins:

That's after.

Barbara Matusow:

Do you think that you would have had such opportunities if it hadn't been for World War II?

Adelaide Hawkins:

No, I don't think I would have. For one thing, I wouldn't have known anything more than high school graduation subjects and so on, because I had no college there. But I don't think I would have gone without the war, no. I'd probably have ended up in West Virginia with all the others.

Barbara Matusow:

Yeah. Yeah. Do you ever feel nostalgic about those days?

Adelaide Hawkins:

About the war days?

Barbara Matusow:

Yeah. It was exciting, wasn't it?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah, it was. And it was, I hate to say it, but it was fun a lot of the time. And you made good friends. And, you know, a lot of them have lasted since then. But yes, it was a good time as far as I'm concerned. I told someone else, "I enjoyed the war."

Barbara Matusow:

That's wonderful.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Which doesn't seem quite fair.

Barbara Matusow:

But I guess there was -- was there a sense of moral purpose too?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah. We were fighting for our lives in this center. And yes, there was that. Aside from having fun.

Barbara Matusow:

Were there any romances going on in those days?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Oh, yeah. Lots of them. You'd sort of keep an eye on those two and send them in different parts of the office.

Barbara Matusow:

That was your job as supervisor to make sure it didn't get out of hand?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, you didn't tell anybody that, but you'd say, "Why don't you sit over there with what's-his-name." I'm sure a lot of that went on that we didn't even know about. But it just -- the little things in the office would sort of alert you to this is something, maybe, going on.

Barbara Matusow:

Did any case ever get serious?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Yeah. A couple people, various people got married. Two of my particular friends got married and they lived happily until Rick died of -- what did he -- I've forgotten, some kind of a cancer, I've forgotten what. But anyway, I'm sure there were other romances going on that were not apparent in the office, like after hours and so on.

Barbara Matusow:

But for the most part you were young, single people?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Mostly, yeah. There was one couple that lived there, both of them worked in the agency. But everybody else was either unmarried or married to someone not connected with the office.

Barbara Matusow:

So those were the days. You enjoyed the war, huh?

Adelaide Hawkins:

Well, I did. I don't really want that to be broadcast.

Barbara Matusow:

Okay. All right. Well, we should leave it right there, I guess.

Adelaide Hawkins:

Okay.

 
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