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Interview with Helen Horvath [2/28/2007]

Sandy Sparkman:

This is Sandy Sparkman, the date is 2-28-07, I am interviewing WWII Veteran Helen Horvath, American Legion Post 404. We are at [address and phone number redacted].

Sandy Sparkman:

Where were you born Helen?

Helen Horvath:

St Louis, MO.

Sandy Sparkman:

What is your date of birth?

Helen Horvath:

[Birth date redacted].

Sandy Sparkman:

What branch of the service did you serve in?

Helen Horvath:

Army (WAAC) (WAC.)

Sandy Sparkman:

You served during WWII.

Helen Horvath:

Right.

Sandy Sparkman:

What unit were you with?

Helen Horvath:

You know I couldn't tell you.

Sandy Sparkman:

What was your highest rank?

Helen Horvath:

Tech 4.

Sandy Sparkman:

What are your dates of service?

Helen Horvath:

I enlisted the day after my 21st birthday , January 16, 1943 and I got out of the service January 1946.

Sandy Sparkman:

Where did you serve?

Helen Horvath:

Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia.

Sandy Sparkman:

Were you a prisoner of war?

Helen Horvath:

No.

Sandy Sparkman:

Did you serve in combat?

Helen Horvath:

No.

Sandy Sparkman:

Did you receive any medals?

Helen Horvath:

WWII, Good Conduct, Gosh whatever they gave to just anybody.

Sandy Sparkman:

Do you have any photographs?

Helen Horvath:

I couldn't find my pictures.

Sandy Sparkman:

Are a member of any other organizations i.e. AARP?

Helen Horvath:

No.

Sandy Sparkman:

Tell us what it was like when you joined the Army?

Helen Horvath:

I was intrigued by the military, the Army, before my friends we were at Scott and knew a lot of airmen, I just wanted to enlist into the military. I tried to enlist prior to my 21st birthday but the recruiter wouldn't even talk to me. So I went the Saturday after my birthday I didn't take a day off from work. He had to stop and figure out to make sure I was 21. My father had told me if you go you don't need to come home. But I joined anyway. I had two brothers that were in, one in the Navy the Sea Bees actually, and one in the Army. I don't remember when my older brother left but the younger one left for overseas while I was in Basic Training.

Sandy Sparkman:

You said your dad told you not to come home was he objecting to women going into service?

Helen Horvath:

Well we were labeled tramps, we were prostitutes.

Sandy Sparkman:

That didn't change from the time I went in.

Helen Horvath:

No but I hope it has changed now.

Sandy Sparkman:

How did your mother feel about your enlisting?

Helen Horvath:

She never expressed anything.

Sandy Sparkman:

What about your two brothers who were in the service?

Helen Horvath:

They never expressed any opposition.

Sandy Sparkman:

What was it like when you went in? We had a list.

Helen Horvath:

We didn't have any list. When we got to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, they took our civies, and gave us all our clothes.

Sandy Sparkman:

How long was your Basic Training?

Helen Horvath:

I think it was six weeks

Sandy Sparkman:

Did you attend a technical school?

Helen Horvath:

No

Sandy Sparkman:

How were you received?

Helen Horvath:

Very Well, actually the men had prepared dinner for us. I guess we spent two days on the train and the men had prepared dinner for us and I remember it was ham with raisin sauce which is southern I think. CAN WE GO BACK A LITTLE BIT? When I was taking the physical I can't remember if it was at JB or in St Louis, I was in line for some part of the physical and I fainted it was the only time in my life that I had fainted. I hit a window and cut my chin so they had to take me to the hospital to sew up my chin and I'm thinking oh God I'm out, before I'm ever in I'm out. They wanted to know how often I’d ever fainted and all this, I passed the physical.

Sandy Sparkman:

What type of job did you have?

Helen Horvath:

I was a file clerk. All these papers kept coming like from Omaha and I didn't know what that was all about then the invasion took place then I knew what that was all about.

Sandy Sparkman:

Let's back up and talk about Basic Training, several have shared some neat experiences in basic training.

Helen Horvath:

I had one, I saluted somebody and she handed me a dollar. That was the custom the first person you saluted after you got your second lieutenant bars gave you a dollar. So I was the lucky one.

Sandy Sparkman:

How long were you at Newport News?

Helen Horvath:

I think I went from Newport News to Norfolk, and then back to Newport News to the hospital, where I spent more time, as a nurses aid. We were the port of deportation and we were sending the men over seas, we had a lot of prisoners of war, Italians, were there in the camp.

Sandy Sparkman:

How long were you in?

Helen Horvath:

Two years

Sandy Sparkman:

During that time did you have any bad experiences where you questioned if you had made the right decision?

Helen Horvath:

No, I don't remember anything like that. Cause I was a smoker at that time. I was sitting up in bed smoking and I was reported for smoking in bed and I got 3 days suspension for that. I had one unpleasant thing and I have never told anybody this, I asked to go overseas, you had to apply to go overseas. I was being interviewed and I complained about my boss. I said he never lets me finish a job he always changes. Well you don't complain so I remember him looking at me with a sad face and I keep thinking I bet that’s kept me from going over seas. I was possibly going to get to go, I was being interviewed and it also kept me from getting any stripes for a long long time. That's why the general doesn't complain now about not getting enough men, cause you don't complain.

Sandy Sparkman:

So you think you weren't promoted because of that then?

Helen Horvath:

Oh yes, Oh I wish my records had not burned, I didn't try to get them soon enough, I bet that was in my records. I can't reconstruct that.

Sandy Sparkman:

What is the one memorable thing that stands out that you would want to share with your family?

Helen Horvath:

Since we were not only a port of debarkation we were also a port of importation. The wounded were coming into the base and onto other hospitals. It was Christmas, I made friends with a nurse and I made stockings so she got permission to get some wine. I gave each of the patients a stocking and we served them wine for their luncheon. It was just a great Christmas; it’s really the only one I remember. A couple of the guys who were patients asked me to go the PX with them to buy someone a gift and my nurse told me they are buying it for you. So I went and picked out something I liked and then they gave it to me. That was the neatest Christmas. I think about those guys so I often, I bought a compact and I still got that compact. These 60 some years later.

Sandy Sparkman:

Do you have any moments that touched your heart that brings any fond memories?

Helen Horvath:

NO, I was engaged with a sailor at one time. We left the camp in an ambulance and came back in that way we AWOL for a while but we didn't get caught. At Norfolk that had signs that said no dogs or sailors allowed.

Sandy Sparkman:

Do you remember where you were when the war ended?

Helen Horvath:

I was in the hospital one time, I'm not sure if it was Europe or Japan, I remember I was patient but I don't remember why. Before I left I bought a diary and was going to keep a diary and I think I kept it for about a week or so. When my mother was ill I was going through letters because she saved letters from my brothers and myself. I'm thinking I don't remember that things I told her, but I threw them away.

Sandy Sparkman:

When the war ended were you ready to go home, did you want to stay in what was your thoughts?

Helen Horvath:

Well they were disbanding and told us to go home, I had enough points to go home so I went and I got home with the intention of going into nurses training. I was already registered when they made us a part of the Army. I debated whether to go back into nurses training or stay in the Army. I did go into nurses training. I thought I'll go through training and then go back in as a nurse.

Sandy Sparkman:

You said you had the GI Bill did you use that to pay for your training?

Helen Horvath:

Yes

Sandy Sparkman:

How long were you and your husband married?

Helen Horvath:

He died in 1992 from 1948 to 1992.

Sandy Sparkman:

St Louis University School of Nursing, did you go back in as a nurse?

Helen Horvath:

No, I met my husband and I never really worked as a nurse. Four of my classmates were veterans. One marine washed out and didn't finish. One was killed in an accident after work one night. I recently found out another died. I got married had six kids. Kay Moffit was Army, Barbara Jordan was Navy,

Sandy Sparkman:

Was there a point and time while you were in the service when you think I'm no longer a civilian?

Helen Horvath:

I don't remember, I told you my memory is very bad, I have one classmate from nursing training has such a good memory, sometimes I say Mary I don't I think I was there.

Sandy Sparkman:

Did you feel like you were treated any different than the men?

Helen Horvath:

I don't think so. This concludes the interview with Helen Horvath.

 
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