Partial Transcript: Morgan: I was in Japan for three years, and then I came back to the States and I was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina.
Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Morgan describes her second assignment at Shaw Air Force Base (South Carolina). She discusses the racial tension in the area around Shaw Air Force Base.
WINKLER: This is an interview with Carolyn Morgan, who served during thePersian Gulf War. This interview is being conducted at the Department of Veteran Affairs at the following address: 30 West Mifflin Street, Madison, Wisconsin, on the following date: November 2nd, 2011. The interviewer is Rachel Winkler. So, Carolyn, tell me a little bit about yourself.
MORGAN: Um, I actually am from Madison. My dad was in the Air Force, so I wasborn in Japan when he was on active duty. And, um, we moved to Madison in, uh, in the late '60s, and we were stationed at Truax Field. We actually lived at Truax Field, where the MATC [Madison Area Technical College] parking lot is now. We lived in a trailer there. And, um, so, I went to high school in Madison, elementary, grade school, all of that here in Madison. And then I decided I 00:01:00wanted to join the military. So I wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps. As a kid, I always said I wanted to go back to Japan. I wanted my first dorm to be there. And it happened. I joined the military. I was stationed at Misawa, Japan. And, um, my daughter was born. First baby of the new year, in 1998.
WINKLER: So, uh, where in Japan were you born, then?
MORGAN: I was born in Tokyo, Johnson Air Base.
WINKLER: What year was that?
WINKLER: So, uh, do you remember growing up in Japan at all?
MORGAN: No. I was, um, one years old when we left, came back to the States.
WINKLER: All right. So, when you're back here, um, what was it like being here,with the army, er, with an Air Force dad?
MORGAN: Um, I just remember all the trailers. Out at Truax Field, the bigbuildings, you know the SAGE [Semi-Automatic Ground Environment] building is still out there, um, I remember going to the doctor on Wright Street. Um, MATC 00:02:00wasn't there, East Towne [mall] wasn't built, West Towne [mall] wasn't built, it was mainly farm land all around here. Only place you could go shopping was downtown here, at Gimbel's and Manchester's, and, um, Rennebaum's, and so we used to come downtown with my mom and dad shopping all the time. Um, Madison's changed a lot since we moved here in the late '60s.
WINKLER: Um, so, your dad was in the Air Force. You followed and went Air Forceyourself, too?
MORGAN: Yes I did.
WINKLER: Did you enlist right out of high school?
MORGAN: One year after high school I enlisted into the Air National Guardin 1980. One of the first black females to enlist with the 115th Fighter Wing. And then in '85 I went active duty.
WINKLER: Were your parents surprised at all by your decision?
MORGAN: My dad didn't want me to go, and neither did my mom, because I didn't00:03:00have a college degree. Of course, when my dad was in the military, um, racial tensions were really high. So he did a lot of fighting for minorities when he was in the military. And he wanted all four of us girls to go to college, get our degree, and then if we wanted to enlist, enlist as an officer. I was not--I didn't want to go to school [laughs].
WINKLER: Twelve years is plenty [laughs].
MORGAN: Weekly [laughs].
WINKLER: I hear you there. Uh, what about your mom?
MORGAN: My mom, she followed my dad until we got here to Madison. And, um, allof a sudden, she decided she wanted to work, and she also didn't want to move anymore, because my sister, above me age range, started exhibiting um, anxiety, and, from all the moving, going to different schools and everything. So she wanted all of us to grow up somewhere without all the moving. So she wanted my 00:04:00dad to get out, and he did.
WINKLER: What about you, was she against you going into [the military]?
MORGAN: My mom has been so supportive in every single thing that any of usgirls have done. Best mom in the world, she, you know, she never discouraged us from doing anything. She always encouraged us to do what we wanted to do. Learn from your mistakes. Yep. But the only thing that I'll say is two things, my mom wanted that when she would discipline us, she had this way of disciplining us that we would turn around and go, "oh, thank you for disciplining me, we love you so much"! [Laughs]. You know, she had that way, and then the other was that she always said, "be nice to anybody and everybody who is ever in your life," because you never know when they may end up in your life again. They could be that doctor over you on an emergency room table, where you're dying, they look down and go, "ooh, I remember her, she was really mean to me when I was in high school", you know? They might let you die. So my mom said, "always be nice to anybody and everybody". 00:05:00
WINKLER: Did you take that philosophy with you to the military?
MORGAN: I did, and I take it with me now.
WINKLER: That's good. How about your sisters, what did they think of you?
MORGAN: Um, I think my sisters, they just, they're, they all three went tocollege, and, but they knew I was different. And, they were worried about me, but they supported me.
WINKLER: Where, where are you in the order?
MORGAN: I'm the third. So there's two above me and one below me.
WINKLER: Did your extended family have any opinions about--
MORGAN: Nothing at all. No. And, and, it, everybody was just very supportive ofeverything that all of us girls did.
WINKLER: So, um, when you, when you decided to go in, what were you doingbetween high school and your decision to go in?
MORGAN: Um, not a whole lot. Not a whole lot of good things, either. I was lost.I knew I wasn't a good student, um, and I knew I needed to do something, because 00:06:00my mom and dad that we needed either to work, or we needed an education. And, so, I wanted to get out of Madison, because I wasn't doing well here. I was working four jobs at once. Um, my first boyfriend and I were getting back together, breaking up, getting back together, breaking up, so I wanted to move away from him, actually. And so I joined the active duty to get away from him. And I ended up marrying him. [Laughs].
MORGAN: Yeah, right [laughs]. We ended up divorcing, too.
WINKLER: [Laughs] That's not quite as funny.
MORGAN: But I have two beautiful children.
WINKLER: That's good. [Inaudible] So were you excited when youenlisted? How did you feel about it?
MORGAN: Well, when I first enlisted into the Air Guard, I thought I was goingactive duty. When I got down to basic training and everything else, talking to 00:07:00everybody, all the girls down there, you know they were talking about how they're going to their next duty station and everything else, and I was told, "you're going back home". And I was like, Really? Because I guess I didn't understand the difference between the Guard and the active duty. I, I just didn't. Um, so I was excited, but yet I was very scared. I went ahead and did the the Guard thing because they wouldn't let you switch over to active duty. I came back, didn't do very well again because it wasn't full time, and, um, tried to go back to school, working many jobs again, and then in '85 decided to go active duty. So when I decided to go active duty, went down and saw the recruiter, in '85, '84 or '85, and I, I guess the numbers weren't that good then, because he ended up putting me back in as a raw recruit, as if I had never been in before. So I ended up going to basic training again, at Lackland Air Force Base, so I actually, um, wear the oak leaf cluster on my graduation 00:08:00ribbon, for basic training for Air Force, because I went through twice.
WINKLER: [Laughs]. Where'd you go the first time?
MORGAN: Lackland Air Force Base, Texas [laughs]. Same place.
WINKLER: [Laughs]. So where were you put the second time?
MORGAN: Um, the second time, I went through basic training just as if I was araw recruit again, and then I was stationed in Misawa [Japan]. I went in as a, um, a cook. And, um, I got my first duty station, which was Japan. And it was in Misawa.
WINKLER: Were you happy about that?
MORGAN: Oh, I was so happy about that. I really was.
WINKLER: Well that's good. Um, so, I don't know. Was, was boot camp better thefirst or second time?
MORGAN: Oh, girl, please [laughs]. Well, the first time, you know, I wentthrough and, um, I was recruited into drum-bugle. So, um, I was pulled out of my 00:09:00flight, and um, I was put in a, co-ed flight with drum-bugle. So, we got to wear our blues the first time, we didn't do the, a lot of the things that they did, details and stuff like that. We went to football games and played, we did parades, um, so, basic training the first time for me, okay, it was easy, because I was in drum and bugle, playing the contrabass, um, and I sat first chair, so I was the first female that they had that played contrabass. Cause it's like a tuba, and so the guys hated me, because one, I was a girl, and two, I was black. And I beat all of them out in playing the tuba, er, the contrabass. So they did not like me.
WINKLER: Did you, did you get any repercussions for that? For being female or black?
MORGAN: Um, I think the only thing was that, uh, you know the ribbing, um, it00:10:00just, it was, it wasn't that bad. Um, I would say more over because it was drum and bugle, and it was different for us. It, it was more fun. It was more fun and it was laid back. Yeah.
WINKLER: For those who don't know, can you explain drum and bugle?
MORGAN: Um, drum-bugle would be the band, the Air Force band, but they called itdrum and bugle. Instead of playing band instruments, we played drum corps instruments, so instead of the tuba, we had the, um, the contrabass. Instead of the flutes and stuff, we had the sousaphones and, it was all drum, drum corps, um, equipment instead. Yeah. So it was, we played for graduations, at all the graduations, um, we played anything that they needed music for, we were there. 00:11:00
WINKLER: All right. So then the second time through--
MORGAN: That was hell [laughs]. And the reason was, is because when I got there,I really thought I'd only be there for two weeks. You know, because my recruiter told me two weeks, get your issue of new uniforms, your name in the computer, and then you'll be gone. I don't think so. I went in as a raw recruit, yes they gave me a chance to take the, um, test early, to see if I could graduate early. It was me and another female that was in the Army. We marched over, we took our exam, we both missed it by, like, one point. Yeah, so we ended up doing our six weeks at basic training all over again. And then when we got back, they made us dorm chief and assistant dorm chief. And if you could imagine, the two of us were in our mid- to late twenties, and everybody else was like, eighteen, nineteen. So there was a lot of fighting, a lot of stupid stuff going on. Girls sneaking out of the barracks to meet boys, and stuff like that. Somebody got 00:12:00caught, and so who do they call? The dorm chief and the assistant dorm chief, and they want to know why our flight was falling apart, you know? But it wasn't us, it was the other girls, you know? You can't control what the other girls are doing. And, so, um, that's what we told the first sergeant. We can't control what they're doing, but yet they try to tell you that you should be controlling what they're doing, because they should be listening to us. [Laughs].
WINKLER: [Laughs]. So, uh, when stuff like that would happen, did you do anydisciplinary stuff, or was it the higher-ups that did that?
MORGAN: It was the higher-ups that did it, you know, but at the same time,whoever is on top in basic training, they always want to pull you down, because they don't want you to think that you're any better than they are. And so they're always trying to get you in trouble for something. Because you're, you're the one in charge, right? It's, I think it's no different than when the teacher leaves the classrooms and leaves somebody in charge, and everybody wants to get that person in trouble, right? 00:13:00
WINKLER: Do you have any, like, stories, memories of that?
MORGAN: Um, basic training, not really. I, we went to church a lot, you know?That was a refuge for everybody, was to go to church. I mean, we met boys and stuff out at the, um, Chaparral [fitness center] and did dancing and stuff like that, but, we didn't really have stories that we got into. Yeah.
WINKLER: No shenanigans or anything?
MORGAN: No, we really, I, you know, and it's amazing that nothing like thathappened when I was there.
WINKLER: Did you make any friends?
MORGAN: I made, uh, one friend. I don't keep in contact with her anymore, but,um, I remember her name was Lynne LaPlante??[sp]. And, um, she did come to Wisconsin and visit and we took a Blackhawk to Milwaukee and got coffee one day. When I was in the guard, that was fun. I'm back in the early '80s, um, 00:14:00every weekend we're going somewhere on orders. California, Hawaii, Florida, that was back when they would give us dummy orders because planes were flying somewhere, and if they had seats, they would let you fly along, and, so, yeah, we went to Hawaii, we played on the softball team, did a lot of traveling. So, the, the military has changed a lot, the Guard has changed a lot. There's not as much money as there used to be, that you can do all that traveling, and nonsense that we used to do. The rules are a lot more strict.
WINKLER: [Laughs]. Are you still in?
MORGAN: No, I'm not. I got out in '97.
WINKLER: Right, so, uh, your first duty station was in Japan, you said?
MORGAN: Yes, it was.
WINKLER: Um, so, tell me about Japan.
MORGAN: Oh, I loved it because it was, all of the lights, everything there is so00:15:00bright, even their dump trucks have lights on them at night, they're painted purple, and pink, and red, and green. You drive on the other side of the road. The food is so good. We lived ten minutes away from the ocean, twenty minutes away from the mountains. I learned how to ski at Ape Mountain, um, my experience there, was, um, I was married at the time, so, a bunch of us went skiing to Ape Mountain. I had never skied before, and so I started out on the bunny hill. In Japan, people start their children out very young, um, in everything, it seems like. Cause the kids were, like, one years old, and they're skiing, you know? So here I am, I'm on the bunny hill, and finally I felt a little better, that I could go down, so I got on a bigger hill, and I tucked my poles underneath, and I screamed all the way down the hill, so if you can imagine, people jumping out of my way, kids jumping out of my way, and I'm 00:16:00screaming all the way down the hill. That's how I learned to ski in, in Japan, Ape, Ape Mountain. Yeah. So, we would go to the Pachinko parlors, um, the gambling. Um, at night, they had, during the summer, in spring and fall, they had the carts of people selling food, where you could go walking around downtown. Fourth of July was wonderful there. The biggest and best fireworks you could ever see, coming out of the water, on the ships, just gorgeous, just gorgeous. We used to go to the ocean, and um, the Japanese used these glass balls as their, in their fishing nets, as buoys. And so, we used to go to the ocean and we would find them washed up on the shore. One time my husband and I went to the wrong beach. So we were gathering them up, and some Japanese guy came up running after us with a stick. "[Inaudible] you can't take 00:17:00those!" And we ran, got in the car, and took off. I guess it's because the ones that were there were purple, and those were for royalty. So I guess we were in the wrong place, getting one we weren't supposed to get.
Um, I had friends that visited while I was over there from college, and, um, oneof them is almost seven feet tall. And so, we went up into the mountains to where people didn't usually see Americans. And he was taller than the cars, he was as tall as some of the houses, and people, the children were just laughing at him and pointing. They couldn't believe it. But there was one night my husband and I were driving in the mountains, and, you know, you stop because people are always walking across the street and whatnot. And, um, this guy was standing on the side of the road with a bunch of kids and his dog, so I stopped. And he motioned me to go, and I said, No, no, you go, and we sat there for 00:18:00a few minutes and finally I went and, all of a sudden I feel boom! and was like, oh no. I ran over his dog, cause the dog went. So I'm getting out of the car, and I'm, I didn't know how to speak much Japanese at all except for, you know, "I'm sorry" and, and, you know, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." So, I didn't know what to--he looked like he was going to cry, the kids looked like they were going to cry, so I gave him 2,000 yen or something like that. So then, when I got back to base and we were telling people about it, they were laughing at us because they were saying, yeah the guy probably took the dog back, cooked it up for the whole family, and bought sake with the money that you gave them. You know, so, I mean, at least after that I felt a little better, I mean, I just felt awful running over some guy's dog up in the mountains, that they probably never see Americans ever-ever. Yeah. So it was, it was very interesting, but, um, when I was 00:19:00stationed over there, the newest thing was dependent husbands, and that's something that I had, my husband had never been in the military, didn't know anything about the military. And I ended up, we ended up hanging around with five other families who had dependent husbands as well. So, there's all these dependent husbands with wives that are in the military. Those guys got into a lot of trouble, a lot of trouble. Let's just say they got into a lot of trouble. Yeah, so, um, to where my husband actually ended up being barred from Japan for five years. There was a, dependent husbands, I don't think they knew what they were supposed to be doing there, you know? They weren't cleaning house, they weren't cooking, they weren't taking care of children, they were out partying and getting drunk. Yeah.
MORGAN: Oh yeah. Big time. [Laughs]. That's all I'm going to say.
WINKLER: [Laughs]. Okay. Okay, I won't make you tell about that. So, um, yousaid you were a cook when you were in? 00:20:00
MORGAN: Yes I was.
WINKLER: So, what, what does that entail? What do you do?
MORGAN: Um, well, actually I worked in the dining facility, you know, in the AirForce we call them dining facilities, not "chow halls," not "mess halls." And um, so, my, I did, um, I might bring in one of the articles that they wrote on me there, and also one of my daughter when she was born, I'll tell you about that. But, um, I worked in the dining facility as a cook, you know, making the eggs in the morning for breakfast, and, um, my best dish that I ever made was, we always had trouble getting rid of the liver, you know? Nobody wanted to eat the liver. So one day I decided I wanted to make it like my mom made it, because I loved my mom's liver. So I cooked it up with the liver, and onions, and the bacon and everything else, and that was the first time ever that they had sold out of liver. Yeah. So they ended up writing an article on it. Yeah.
WINKLER: Was it like, a, an Air Force article, or a newspaper article?
MORGAN: It was an Air Force newspaper article, yeah. Because over there we had00:21:00our own TV [television], um, the Force F, the Forced Entertainment Network, that's what we called it. F.E.N. F.E.N., the Forced Entertainment Network. That's what we called it. And, and then they have their own newspaper, you know, their own PAO [Public Affairs Office] people and everything else. Um, like I said, my daughter was the first born there, January 1st, 1988. I was pregnant, and I was in the dining facility, working in the back office doing paperwork and whatnot. I went into labor, I think, right around Christmas. Right around Christmas, yes.
WINKLER: Like, five days?
WINKLER: Oh my goodness.
MORGAN: Yes. And, um, so, I remember sitting in the office and I knew somethingwas going on, and I told my boss, I've got to go because I think I'm in labor. And he goes, "No, you need to sit there and write as much as you can, get as much work done as you can before you leave us and we have to get somebody else to do this work." So I was there for a while, half a day, and one of the guys 00:22:00came back who had a gazillion kids, his wife, and he says, "she's got to go to the doctor right now." So he took me over to the doctor, um, I remember walking in the front door of the uh, um, hospital, and, um, I told them I was in labor, and the nurse said "no you're not." And I said, Yes I am. She goes, "you're still smiling." So what they did was, um, I believe they gave me sleeping pills and I went home. So I was home for four, five days, 'cause she didn't come until the first of January, at 2:08 in the afternoon. And that would be 12:08 here in the United States. So she was born at 12:08 in the morning, United States time. But she was still the first baby in the new year in Japan, and, um, I remember cleaning the house right before I had to go, and a friend of mine, we got in the 00:23:00car, and we lived off base, and she was going to drive right through the gate, because I was in labor, finally, for real, you know? [Laughs]. And, um, we had to stop at the gate, and the gate guard had to let us in and everything else, and went to the hospital, but I didn't have her until the next day. And it was a long, long neighbor--long labor. I remember all the nurses, the attendants, and the doctor were all male. All male. And I can remember, in labor, hard, hard, labor, and they're all watching the Rose Bowl game or something like that on TV, as I'm in labor. And the nurse was not, he was sitting reading the newspaper. And I remember getting really mad, and I said, I've decided I'm not having this baby, I'm getting up off this gurney and I'm going home. And I remember the nurse pulling his paper down and saying "Oh Carolyn, no you're not." [Laughs]. And he just put the paper back up. But all 00:24:00the other, you know, the doctor, my husband, the other nurses, are all watching the football game on TV as I'm in labor. But it was all males. So it was, it was tough.
WINKLER: Did they eventually give you their undivided attention?
MORGAN: Finally, when I was actually having the baby. Yeah. Even the other nurseput his paper down so he could help me out.
MORGAN: Yeah, so that's what I remember, having my daughter the first baby inthe new year. They did a, um, a nice article in the paper, and we're on TV, and, you know, of course they ask me, "so what is she going to be when she grows up"? You know me, I'm like, She's going to be a model. Oh my gosh, did I catch hell for that from everybody. "I would've said she's going to be president!" "I would say she's going to be this, but you had to say she's going to be a model!" So, oh yeah. People are very vocal in the military [Laughs].
WINKLER: That's okay.
WINKLER: Uh, so, how long were you in Japan, then?00:25:00
MORGAN: I was in Japan for three years. Um, and then I came back to the Statesand I was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina. And that was in '89. Now if you could imagine, still, in '89, at, um, Shaw Air Force Base, there was a lot of racial tensions going on. So there were places that we couldn't go. Number one I guess I should tell you I was married to a white man. Okay, so my husband was white, and, so, interracial couples had the choice at that time if they wanted to go to Sumter, South Carolina or not. We chose to go. But when we were there, we were told the places we just could not go. Back roads we couldn't go, um, places in town, you know, outside of Sumter we couldn't go, 00:26:00so, the racial tensions were still pretty heightened back then.
WINKLER: And that all just for your own safety?
MORGAN: That was all for our own safety, and yeah, we went through briefingswhen we got there, um, as an interracial couple, they were telling us the things we could and couldn't do. Oh yeah. That was in '89.
WINKLER: That's, oh my gosh, that's crazy [laughs].
MORGAN: Yes, oh yes, mm-hmm.
WINKLER: Oh my goodness, Wow. So, how long were you in South Carolina, then?
MORGAN: Um, I was in South Carolina, um, until '92. Uh, the Gulf War, no, yeah,'92, the Gulf War kicked off in '90. And, um, my son was born February 2nd, 1990. And I remember putting him to bed after nursing him, and my son, er, my husband and my daughter were downstairs watching the invasion of Kuwait, and the president on TV saying that we were going to war. And I came down, I got the 00:27:00phone call, I needed to report to the flight line, and, um, that we needed to bring our A bags and without rocks, because during exercises to make weight on your back, you, you know, we weren't--we weren't at war, so why would we have this bag ready, with the eight white t-shirts, the underwear, the socks, and all the other uniforms and everything, so we fill them with rocks so they would make weight. And they said that you had to have them, they had to be packed, ready to go--for war. And we went down to the flight line, um, they said we're getting ready to be shipped overseas they got us all ready. I remember I called my husband and told him I'm not coming back home, 'cause we weren't coming back home. We were supposed to leave that night. We didn't leave that night. My 00:28:00husband sent the kids to the babysitter. I went home, spent my last night with him. Um, went back, and eight-and-a-half months later I saw my son and my daughter.
WINKLER: Oh my goodness.
MORGAN: Yeah. Um, they told us we'd be gone at first thirty days. Thirty daysturned into eight-and-a-half months. So I remember getting off the plane, well, we flew into the Azores, that was cool. Spain, um, and then we flew into the United Arab Emirates. We got off the plane--it was two o'clock in the morning--hot. I mean, you could, stifling hot, you could, you couldn't even breathe. Um, and we were told to stay on the flight line, um, because if we got into the sand we might be stung by scorpions, or we could get shot. One or the other. We ended up staying on the, um, old Russian base that was deserted. And we were staying in these hooches, they called them, like these little trailers. 00:29:00They left a lot of stuff behind, I'm telling you. They left a lot of stuff behind. Um, and uh, a lot of dogs. So there were wild dogs there, and there was nothing else. So we had to build the base from scratch. We got there August 10th, of 1990. And, um, there wasn't anything there except for those hooches. so we were sleeping wherever we could. Um, I remember my first initial job was handing out soda pops and water for people. I know, soda pops, because they didn't have bottles of water at the time. Um, we were handing out soda pops, so we were drinking a lot of soda. Um, and, they were building the base tent city down the hill, and I was working night shift, and at the command center. And so somebody's wife called or something, and my boss told me I needed to go 00:30:00down and deliver a message. Non-essential. I said I'd be more than happy to do that with an escort. I was told I was a service member just like he was, in the military, and I needed to do my job just as he had. I said, But I'm not going to walk around at night somewhere I don't know, where our security police are shooting dogs. Because if they were shooting the wild dogs if they saw them. So if I had been out there walking by myself, and they might have mistaken me for a wild dog, they might have shot me. Well he didn't like that. The next day I was moved down to the dining hall. No big deal, I don't care. You know, he, he wasn't going to ruin my happiness, or whatever I get there. So I ended up going back down and working in the chow hall. That's what they called it out there. It was an R&R [Rest and Recuperation] base in the United Arab Emirates. Um, in Abu Dhabi. I think I wanna stop. 00:31:00
WINKLER: Yeah. Okay.
MORGAN: I'm sorry.
WINKLER: Oh, Okay. That's quite alright.
[End of Interview]