SPRAGUE: Today is June 25, 2019, and I'm with Donna Kleinmaus who served in theWomen's Army Corps [WAC] from July 31, 1968, to January 1970, during the Vietnam War. This interview is being conducted at the American Legion Post Thirty-Six, 712 Park Avenue, West Bend, Wisconsin. The interviewer is Luke Sprague, and this interview is being recorded for the Wisconsin Veterans Oral History Program--I'm sorry, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. And we're going to go ahead and get started here with Donna. So Donna, where were you born?
KLEINMAUS: I was actually born in Ramsey County, St. Paul, Minnesota.
SPRAGUE: And can you tell me a little bit about how you grew up and00:01:00where you grew up?
KLEINMAUS: I grew up in Nebraska. I had a father who was a veteran, and I didnot understand that fully until after I joined the service, myself. It was a poor, farming family that we lived in. There were seven of us siblings. I have a twin brother, and we were the oldest. My dad passed away in a tragic Caterpillar accident when my brother and I were ten years old. And we ranged from ten all the way down to a year-and-a-half, my youngest brother was. So my mother raised us by herself all those years. And we had a good life. I mean, the church family was a big, important part of our lives at that time. And then, friends that we made throughout the years. I had a good high school life, I believe. 00:02:00And during high school I saw Uncle Sam pointing at me. "I want you," [laughs] so I either wanted to be a hairdresser or I was going to join the Army, Woman's [Women's] Army Corps .
SPRAGUE: Donna, what can you tell me about--you said in your interview requestform you grew up in Nebraska. What was that like?
KLEINMAUS: That was the only thing I really knew. I liked Nebraska. Everybodydoes not like Nebraska, because they travel the freeway all the way across the state, but it was a quiet little town where I lived for the latter part of my years anyways. We lived in a bunch of other little towns growing up while my dad was living, looking for work mostly, it seemed like was the issue there. And there again, I don't know the gist of everything. Too young to ask 00:03:00the questions that I should have asked, you know, and now my mother is gone too, so I can't even ask her those questions. But we did live on a farm all of our lives, and then when we moved into a friend the last six years that I was in Nebraska, we lived on a little farm, had a little five-acre farm, and we still had our cattle and we had pigs and chickens, and so I liked the farm life. I would have liked to have lived on the farm now, even, but my husband is a city boy, so that did not happen.
SPRAGUE: Anything in particular you remember about your schools in Nebraska, orexperiences you had that you'd like to share?
KLEINMAUS: I did not like school. [Laughter] And it took me my junior00:04:00year in high school to decide that I needed to buckle down and start working if I was ever going to graduate. And I actually did not graduate with my class that I started high school with, but I took night courses, I took summer courses, and went back one more semester, and I got my diploma then. So my classmates considered me as the class of '67 yet, so I was tickled to be included in the requests for the reunions as a 1967 classmate.
SPRAGUE: What informed your decision to join? What was the process going throughin your head?
KLEINMAUS: Well, I think maybe the final issue was that I did have a Vietnampen pal that I was writing to. And I also was actually dating a fella 00:05:00who had joined the services in the Air Force. I told a little bit about wanting to be a hairdresser, so when I did graduate, I did go to cosmetology, hairdressing school, and I was fine because I love to fix hair, but I did not want to put the whole body process together, knowing all the bones and muscles in the whole body just to fix hair and do manicures and pedicures. I understand that we are all connected and if you're going to be standing on your feet, you need to know what muscles are hurting and whatnot, but after I started not doing so well, because I was still young, I still didn't like studying, so 00:06:00I decided I would quit school and then go ahead and join the Army, the Women's Army Corps.
SPRAGUE: What can you tell me about the pen pal that you had?
KLEINMAUS: Boy, I haven't thought about him for a long time. In fact, just thelast couple years I remembered, "Oh yeah, I did have a pen pal." I did meet him, and we went on a couple of dates and I actually went to his sister's wedding just shortly after he had gotten out of the service. His family was in Lincoln, Nebraska. And that was at the time actually that I was living with my grandmother in Lincoln, going to cosmetology school. So he was a tall fella, blond, blue eyes, as I recall. And it just did not work out, I don't remember the whys about it all, but I enjoyed the few dates that I did have 00:07:00with him and enjoyed the wedding that I went to, met his family. But that was it.
SPRAGUE: Okay, you mentioned a pen pal and maybe somebody else or were they oneand the same?
KLEINMAUS: Yeah, it was just--until my husband came along, yes.
SPRAGUE: Okay, just curious. Thank you. So your first training station was?
KLEINMAUS: Fort McClellan, Alabama.
SPRAGUE: And what can you tell me about Fort McClellan, Alabama?
KLEINMAUS: Well, my first really stint away from home, of course. I had somefreedom, but then I didn't have any freedom. You know how it is in basic training. Basic training was my first acquaintance with our African-Americans. We just did not have any in Nebraska. I can remember a few times some 00:08:00passing through at a gas station, where there's a real Quik Mart that we could stop for pop or soda or chips or whatever, once in a while, but never actually met them. And I have to say that the gals that were African-American in my platoon, they were a riot. I really enjoyed getting to know them. And I actually enjoyed everybody in my class. As someone who went to beauty school, I had asked my mom to send me a bunch of tools along, because everybody saw my hair done nicely and they wanted me to do their hair. So in spare times, I would be busy doing hair while I was there in basic training. We had--I loved marching and I was really the best, because they had march offs, and I would 00:09:00always win except for the very last time that counted.
All of a sudden, I messed up because I was not thinking about what I wassupposed to have been doing. And PT, physical training, I was excellent. I was an outdoors gal growing up, and so I aced the physical training tests. I could not stay in the gas chambers, because the masks were too big for my face. I could never stay in long enough. I don't know if I would ever be--if I would have died in a gas chamber if I ever end up [laughs] in a gas chamber. I don't know.
SPRAGUE: What can you tell me about this Lovemark device? I don't understandwhat that is. Could you explain it?
KLEINMAUS: A Lovemark?00:10:00
SPRAGUE: You were talking about--I think it was regarding hair preparation, yousaid you had a machine with you that other people didn't have, or a device that you brought down with you?
KLEINMAUS: Just haircutting scissors and hairdressing tools, combs, and I hadsome hair product, I'm sure. And if they wanted their hair cut, I had to have scissors and shaving stuff, and then the hairspray to help keep their hair in place.
SPRAGUE: So what were your instructors like?
KLEINMAUS: I loved my platoon instructor. She was a peach. And the captain, thelieutenant, I don't remember a whole lot about them excepting that when we first entered, of course, we had to do the interview with them, and I don't 00:11:00remember anything else except that we did a lot of training in how to do this proper salute. But halfway through my basic training, my platoon sergeant went on vacation. So then we had another one coming for that week. She was not--none of us liked her. She barked orders. And she came through the barracks in the middle of the night and if there was something that was not in place, we were all woken up and we had to take care of it. And I happened to be on the end aisle, right? And I don't know if the men had, but it was called God's Aisle, but you were not supposed to be in there, only if you were doing the buffing. And my turn actually came to buff one time--and this is getting off 00:12:00the subject a little of where I was going before, but because I was littlest one there, I had issues with that buffer. I had never had to use the big buffer before. And so everybody was watching me and just getting a big hoot out of it, because that buffer was taking me, I was not controlling the buffer. [Laughs] I did learn how to, however, and that's because I used to milk cows by hand and I'm sure the strength in my arms is what kept me [inaudible].
But getting back to the sergeant, came back, somebody had left an ironing boardup at the end of the hall there, and there were drawers there, also, and that is probably why. And so I was woken up asking why that ironing board was there, and I said, "I don't know," and she says, "Well, get up and take care of it." So I had to get up and take care of it. And this is embarrassing, but 00:13:00[laughs] I was not in my pajamas like we were supposed to be, just my underwear. And so then I got yelled out for that, not being properly dressed. Because you never know what's going to happen in the middle of the night. Well, I found out so. And I wore my pajamas from then on. [Laughter] and I made sure that the ironing board was never left up again, also.
SPRAGUE: Did you make any friends that you remember?
KLEINMAUS: I had several friends. And of course when we graduated basictraining, the big thing is, you know, we're going to write constantly, and we're going to keep in touch and in ten years, we're going to have a reunion. Well, nobody had addresses and nobody--at least not with me. But I had a 00:14:00couple of close friends, and one of them actually went out to Fort Dix with me, and then we went back to Fort Benjamin Harrison for the finance training and met up with a third one, so we all three ended up there at Benjamin Harrison, again, for the finance training. And ended up out at Fort Ord for our basic training.
SPRAGUE: So tell me, what was the transition like from Fort McClellan, Alabama,to Fort Dix, and how did you get there?
KLEINMAUS: Okay, the Army flew us every place that we went. There were a lotof--first getting down to Fort McClellan, even, the first time when I was waiting in the induction center, and there's a whole story there that I should probably tell you. 00:15:00
SPRAGUE: And that's okay, you can tell us that story. So, going back andstepping back to your induction to Fort McClellan, Alabama. Go ahead and give us some background on that story, please.
KLEINMAUS: Okay. I was flown from Lincoln to Omaha, I believe. That was my firstairplane flight. I stayed in a hotel and that was my first-ever hotel stay. And I don't remember why then I went from Omaha to Des Moines, where I was actually going to be inducted in, if there was more testing or what going on, like I said, I do not remember, but got into Des Moines and got settled at the hotel there, and then I'll explain[??] a little while before I had to get to the induction center. That was my first, also, taxi ride. And I thought, 00:16:00"Oh, yikes," the taxi drivers in all the areas were crazy drivers. But I got to the induction center there in Des Moines, they went through the weighing in and all of that they needed to be doing. At that time, I suppose it was nine o'clock, I don't remember the time exactly, but I was ninety-eight pounds, at five foot two. I had to be a hundred pounds at five foot two. So they said, "Well, we have to feed you." And I'd had breakfast already, but they said, "You have to eat."
So they fed me. I had another big breakfast, I had snacks all morning long.Right around 11:30 or so, they weighed me again. I gained maybe a couple of ounces and that was it. So all day long, big lunch, and cookies, and 00:17:00everything. And I was not used to eating like that, at all. They fed me and they fed me, and they fed me. And they said I was not supposed to even go to the bathroom, because they wanted all that stuff to stay in. Whether I actually did or not, I don't remember. [Laughs] But finally at--because I need to be sworn in by five o'clock, five minutes to five, they weighed me again. Well, I was still short of the hundred pounds. So they says, "Just scrunch down a little bit and we'll get your height a little bit less than the five foot two," and so that's what happened. And by that time, I was feeling so uncomfortable, and I knew I was going to be sick. And I was not a person who ever got sick. I didn't do vomiting. But I knew that I had to get rid of all that. And so, the bathroom was too far away, so I filled up the wastebasket with a whole lot of vomit and stuff.
But I was--and they swore me in then, before five o'clock, and then I00:18:00was on my flight the next morning to Chicago. My flight came in from Des Moines at one end of the airport and I had just a matter of minutes to get to the other end to catch the flight to Atlanta. But I made it. And I don't remember how much of a layover, I think I had a little bit of a layover in Atlanta before the plane took us then, and there were several--actually that whole fight I think was just new inductees coming in to Fort Benjamin Harrison. And at that time, Fort Benjamin Harrison was the only place that Women's Army Corps was.
SPRAGUE: So let's step back a little bit. So we'll go from your experience atFort McClellan. Let's wrap up Fort McClellan and then we'll go ahead and move forward in time. So, are there any other experiences, maybe 00:19:00experiences, things you did at Fort McClellan, at basic, for fun?
KLEINMAUS: I like music, and so at the club, and what did we call the clubs? Idon't remember what we called them. But anyways, I would go, and they usually would have live music and down there, there was a bunch of Mexicans that were always playing their music. And I enjoyed listening to the music. I probably did reading, because I was an avid reader, also. And just hung out with our friends. There was one funny incident that happened whenever we had our shots. There was always a gal in front of me who told the nurses that they don't like 00:20:00shots, and the nurses always said, "Well, don't look." And at that time, they were using the guns. And they say, "Well, don't look at your arm while you're getting the shot," and every time she would look at the arm, and she fainted, every time. And so that was just kind of a funny little incident.
I was sad that we didn't get to do our bivouac, because you only had one weekendslated for that. And we were in the mountains and we had a big, big thunderstorm, rain, lots of rain and stuff like that. And because of the clay and all that, the tents wouldn't stay up. So, they cancelled our bivouac, so I never had a bivouac experience. Never had a chance to use my--what are they called, MR30s? I don't remember what they were called, but we did 00:21:00march up out there and then we had to turn around and march back. I think we got as far as getting our cots set up in the tents, but we had to cancel that, then. Graduation was kind of a big thing, but there are no individual pictures for us which is sad, because I know that now everybody has individual pictures. My husband had individual pictures.
SPRAGUE: So just out of curiosity, so you're within the Women's Army Corps. Whatwere the buildings, and the facilities like versus the other barracks, the men's barracks?
KLEINMAUS: I think that we were probably set up pretty much the same00:22:00as the men. I would have to count the number of gals in the pictures that we have there, but I'm guessing that we had between twenty-five and thirty platoon members in each platoon. And I think there were probably five platoons per company, in fact I think that I remember A, B, C, D, E Platoons. And then I think that each training session there were four full companies. And I could be wrong about that, but it was a big area. We did go into town one time, I can remember. But I don't remember what we did, probably we picked up some supplies. Spent a lot of time going to the PX because that was where our 00:23:00supplies were, but to get off base, we went. And I only went once, I think some of the others probably went more often.
SPRAGUE: What were the relationships like between the male units and the female units?
KLEINMAUS: The only time that we could ever get together would be if we were tomeet at the club. And I don't recall having anybody special stand out for me. I think some of the girls probably did, but.
SPRAGUE: How about treatment by other male units on post just professionally?
KLEINMAUS: Again, I don't think we had any contact, other than the off timesthat we had.
SPRAGUE: Good to know. Okay, moving on from Fort McClellan to your next dutystation. Tell me about your next, where you were stationed. 00:24:00
KLEINMAUS: I was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and that was in October.Changing of the leaves, I can remember writing back to my mother and telling her how beautiful it was with the colors out there. I had, like I said, one of my friends came out with me. Mary is her name. And we did classes during the day, fun times at night. I got to do some bowling out there. There was a bowling alley on the base there. And had a male friend that we were just friends. I can remember there was one gal, and I believe--I don't know how comfortable you are with this, but she was lesbian. I did not know it at the time, but 00:25:00she was very jealous of me and any boyfriends that I would have and worrying about me. She never did anything you know that would--that actually stated that she was, but after I thought about it and years past, I know that if I would have been ripe, that it would have been probably a ripe, you know, relationship.
But she was concerned about all--actually, I don't know if she was--at thatspace, it was in a big, big dorm room, and I don't know how many people, but we all had our own individual spaces that we had the little dividers that we had that kept us, a little bit of privacy, more so than our basic 00:26:00training quarters. But she was protective of all the women there, I think, but it seemed like it was me that she would always come to and want to make sure that I was okay. And one night, this friend took me--I think we were in Connecticut, actually, and I was looking for shoes. So it was late when we got back, and she was waiting at the door, waiting for me to make sure I was okay. "Yes, I'm okay," and "Did he do anything?" I said, "No, he didn't do anything." And everything was fine. So that's a month there, and that was when we got the orders then to go to finance training.
SPRAGUE: So what was your impression of Fort Dix?
KLEINMAUS: It was a small enough base that I think that we could walk wherever.The building that we did our classes in was--like I said, everything 00:27:00was in walking distance. It was a clean post.
SPRAGUE: So at Fort Dix, that was your--explain to me what training that was alittle more, please.
KLEINMAUS: Okay, that was office training, secretarial training. And at thatpoint when I was in there I don't know if they knew exactly where they were going to be placing us, or not. So typing, and--basically typing, I think. And there might have been some additional I mean, through basic training 00:28:00we had our classes during the day, was learning the history of the Army and the Women's Army Corps, and there might have still been some of that going on. I do remember sitting in the classrooms at Fort Dix. They were like an office setup and I believe it was probably just typing and whatever office training is.
SPRAGUE: What do you remember about the rank structure within the WAC?
KLEINMAUS: The WAC structure was the same as the male in the Army. We start outpure, raw [??]. Yeah. And then I believe after we graduated from basic training, then we got our first stripe. And while we were in onto our finance 00:29:00training; I think that's when we got the rocker under it there. What is that called, even?
SPRAGUE: Chevron and a rocker, yeah.
KLEINMAUS: Yeah. So we had the private first class. And then you would either goon from the sergeant stripes, or the specialist fourth, for the same. And since I was in finance, I was in specialty training, so we went on to the specialists ranking. And then you worked your way on up.
SPRAGUE: So you were at Fort Dix about how long?
KLEINMAUS: For about a month.
SPRAGUE: For about a month. And did you say what you did for fun while you were there?
KLEINMAUS: Bowling was the big thing, yeah.
SPRAGUE: Did you make any friends when you were there?
KLEINMAUS: I probably did, but there again, Mary was the one who came00:30:00with me that we did--I do seem to remember that when we did bowling that there were three or four of us, probably but I do not remember. No pictures, of course. I didn't have a camera. Didn't have the phones that we have now. And I think back then, I really wished that I had a camera that I could have, you know, because I liked taking pictures. I like remembering and remembering who they are. I do have signatures on the backs of my pictures, but that doesn't help.
SPRAGUE: So you were both in basic training and at Fort Dix with Mary. Did youhave any further interactions with her in your following training?
SPRAGUE: Stayed with you in the rest of your career, maybe?
KLEINMAUS: Yes. Yes.
SPRAGUE: We'll follow up with that. So while you're at Fort Dix, did00:31:00you have a choice as to what training you were going to do next or was it--
KLEINMAUS: No, we were just the same as, I think, the men basically. We weregiven our orders. We had the orders come down. And I don't remember how long originally, if it was just for a month that I was going to be there for the, they called it the AIT [Advanced Individual Training], or what, but I can remember having plans to do something the next day that I had the orders that I was leaving for Fort Benjamin Harrison, for finance training, then.
SPRAGUE: Okay. And when you left Fort Dix, how did you travel to Fort Ben Harrison?
KLEINMAUS: We travelled by plane, again. I don't remember anything00:32:00about that flight. On the flight from Fort McClellan to Fort Dix, there was a general that was sitting right behind me and Mary and we were sitting three across, and I don't remember who the third person was. But I can remember that we put our seats back and spilled his drink all over him. [Laughs] And he was going to Fort Dix also. [Laughs] But he said, "No worries," and actually, actually I think that he gave us a ride from the airport to the fort in his vehicle now that I think about it. And I don't know if it's because that we spilled his drink all over him or what the deal was, but yeah.
SPRAGUE: And that was at Fort--
KLEINMAUS: That was on our way to Fort Dix.
SPRAGUE: So leaving Fort Dix, going to Fort Ben Harrison, what were your firstimpressions of Fort Benjamin Harrison? 00:33:00
KLEINMAUS: Well, it was starting to get cold. Of course, it was the fall, goinginto the winter season. I guess it would have been kind of an older base or fort. And everything was set up properly. The chapel was in the middle of the base and the--I don't remember where the PX was there. Our eating was not set up like normal post eating areas. And then there was the big building 00:34:00that all the training was going on in, and I don't know for sure what all training was going on there besides the finance.
SPRAGUE: Can you tell me about were there separate facilities for the women andwhat were they like?
KLEINMAUS: Yes, all through the training the women were separate. Let me think,now. I believe, probably, and I do not actually remember what they were, but I would presume that they were set up like Fort Dix, where there would have been a big overall room, yet we had our dividers that gave us our private space. Yeah, my goodness, I don't remember.
SPRAGUE: So, within those dividers for your private space, was it00:35:00just women within that one barracks, or were there also men within that same barracks?
KLEINMAUS: No, just women were in the barracks, yes.
SPRAGUE: Could you go through a typical day in terms of your finance training,how did that go?
KLEINMAUS: Okay, we had--and I presume that we had to be up for breakfast stillat that time, and I think throughout the training so far, we did have to be up and have breakfast. And we have a morning routine, you know how us girls are, we have to get ourselves ready. And went to breakfast and by nine o'clock, I'm sure, it could have been eight o'clock, we had to be in our training room. And the day was full of different classes for our finance training. And I 00:36:00wish I had all that information. I kept that stuff for a while at my grandmother's house and then she had a flood, and I lost all of that stuff. So I would have loved to have gone to it, just to look through it from time to time. But all day, I'm sure we broke for lunch, and then we're back maybe by one o'clock until 4:30, five o'clock, and then we had supper, and then our time was free. And there again, I'm sure we spent our time at the club, or just hanging out in our rooms.
SPRAGUE: How did you communicate with your family during that time?
KLEINMAUS: Usually just writing. Once in a while, I suppose I called my mother,but letter-writing was very popular at that time, yet. [Laughs] 00:37:00
SPRAGUE: When you were doing your training, were there men in the same classroomor where they separate classrooms as well? How did that work?
KLEINMAUS: For our finance training, there were only two of us in that class,two of us women. The rest of them were men, which makes me wonder--I don't remember my third friend, Shirley, being there. So maybe she wasn't there yet. Maybe it was when we went to Fort Ord is where she ended up being.
SPRAGUE: How did you feel about the ratio of men to women at Fort Ben Harrison?
KLEINMAUS: It was fun. You got a lot of attention. [Laughs]
SPRAGUE: Were there different assignments within finance in terms of your MOS[Military Occupational Specialties] and your specialty that people 00:38:00would be assigned to?
KLEINMAUS: It ended up that way if we were actually training during that time.And that was almost a two month period. If we were actually training for different ones, I don't remember if there was any differentials there. Once I got out to Fort Ord, I did start out paying the vouchers of all the new inductees that came in.
SPRAGUE: Okay, so things wrap up at Fort Ben Harrison. Tell me about thesequence of events from leaving Fort Ben Harrison to being stationed at Fort Ord.
KLEINMAUS: We did have the graduation ceremony and there was no big00:39:00thing. I think we probably just got our diplomas, or our certificates for that also. And that was right around Christmas, so I had leave time. And I don't remember how long, but it seems like it was longer than a week, because it was through New Year's, after New Year's that I had to report into Fort Ord. So I went home to spend that time with my family in Nebraska. And I presume at that time I had lots of running around to do to meet up with all my friends, and family of course. And just, you know. I then went to--my brother was going to school in Wyoming, so I drove with him out to Wyoming, and he took me 00:40:00then from his school to Denver. I got on the plane in Denver and flew to San Francisco. I don't remember too much about that flight, except that I really realized I didn't like flying by myself. [Laughs] I don't remember if there were anybody else. There must have been other people there on that flight that were going to Fort Ord, because we were met by buses then and were driven, then, down to Fort Ord in January.
SPRAGUE: And that would have been January of?
SPRAGUE: And so, what in terms of--what was a normal day like at Fort Ord andyour duties there?
KLEINMAUS: Okay. There again, because was a farm girl, I was always00:41:00hungry and always made sure I was up in time for breakfast. There again, probably office hours were eight o'clock. I can remember probably had some training because it seems like I was in a main finance office, and then some of us were sent off to a little scuttlebutt office where the inductees were paid from. And everything was by hand. We had to write out all these pay vouchers by hand. And you had the old mimeograph machines that you had to run them off then, too. So figure Fort Ord, how many inductees come? Thousands. And I do not remember how many, but there were probably ten, fifteen of us in that office. That's all we were doing, was filling out by hand these pay vouchers. And we had to have the addresses right, we had to make sure that the allotments 00:42:00were being sent out properly. But I can remember the man who was in charge, he was a civilian. I don't remember his name, but he took us underneath his wings and took care of the people who were underneath him.
And I can remember him talking to a base in New York one day, and it's raininglike crazy there in California. And the person that he was talking to asked how the weather was and he says, "Well, it's just beautiful sunshine, like California's supposed to be." And I says, "How can you say that? It is raining cats and dogs out here." But that was just because I was so honest, and as far as I was concerned, he was lying about the weather, you know. And then the days ran eight to 4:30, five o'clock there again, I would imagine. 00:43:00
SPRAGUE: So you're doing pay administration. How did that work with the mencoming in? How did that work?
KLEINMAUS: We did not see the men, because it was a small office. We did thework and it was sent, then, over to the main office, where the main office took it and of course the officers were the ones who got the pay vouchers, and from time to time, some of us actually were asked to come, and on payday, we had to be up, and the main office had an upstairs loft area where all the men came in from out of the different areas of the base there, and they were given the money a and then we were there to guard them, make sure they were not 00:44:00stealing from their men. And that was another eye-opener for me. I says, "How in the world can these officers be stealing money from their men?" But I guess it happened a lot. And that's why--I don't know how for sure how many of us, but surely Mary and I were asked several times to come and be there, early in the morning to make sure that there was no pocketing of the funds that was going out to the men in the fields there.
SPRAGUE: So how would have that have happened if they had hypothetically done that?
KLEINMAUS: I don't know. I do not know.
SPRAGUE: So, Vietnam's going on. What is that like in terms of numbers, in termsof what's going on, on Fort Ord, itself?
KLEINMAUS: Until I actually met Johnny, my husband, I was still off00:45:00in my own little world, now I know what was going on. And actually three of my other friends that I met out there planned on going, starting the paperwork, and if women were going to go without orders, we would have to do paperwork, special paperwork for that. And we talked about it for several weeks and finally, on this one Friday night, we decided, "Okay, on Monday morning, we'll go early, get up earlier, and go to the office building and get the paperwork, and start working on the paperwork, in filling it out to go." And it just so happened to be that was the weekend I met my husband. And I went back Monday morning, and says, "Well, girls, I'm not sure if I'm interested or not, but he sounds like he's interested, and I'll see. If it doesn't work out, well then, I will go ahead and fill out the paperwork." So I'm here to tell you, fifty 00:46:00years later, [laughs] I guess it has worked out.
SPRAGUE: Do you ever think about that decision and what might have been?
KLEINMAUS: I do. I do. Whereas I can probably think of my life without Johnny, Icannot think of my life without my children, nor my grandchildren that he gave me. I just love them to death and just can't think of anything. But I know that he would not have been in the picture because he was not interested in waiting around, I don't think. And that would be one reason why I left the service after only a year-and-a-half because he wanted to come back to Wisconsin. He was not going to stay out there.
SPRAGUE: So before we get to that, how did you meet your husband?
KLEINMAUS: It was actually a blind date. My girlfriend had a date with a fellowwho did not have a car, and so, Shirley was not going to go with him 00:47:00unless I could go, and so, he had a friend who was my date, my blind date, and he had a '67 Mercury Cougar. And he teases everybody to this day that I fell in love with the car, not him. [Laughs] And I say, "Yes, that is probably true." [Laughs]
SPRAGUE: So in 1968 and 1969, did any of the events off the Army posts everaffect what was going on, on the post and how did that--or not? Explain that to me.
KLEINMAUS: Well, they told the men to not wear their uniforms, which was kind ofsilly because out there in California, everybody always had long 00:48:00hair, practically. We weren't far from San Francisco. So, we spent some time up there. We went to a couple of ball games when the--I guess it was the Braves yet, were playing. And so he would always say, "I don't know why they would tell us that because everybody knew, anyways." They had to have stickers on their car saying they were from Fort Ord. And so whenever he went off base, he covered up the sticker with masking tape or duct tape or whatever. With our time together as a couple, we spent a lot of time down in Monterey, Carmel Beach, Pacific Grove--on the beach, just enjoying the sun, enjoying our company. And Monterey Bay was a big seal haven, so that was very much fun watching the 00:49:00seals there, all the time.
SPRAGUE: And what were the living conditions like at Fort Ord?
KLEINMAUS: Okay, when we first came in and there's always an induction periodfor everybody, I believe, at least for the enlisted, we had basic general quarters, too, yet we had our private space with the dividers up. And after a couple of weeks in there, then we were given our own private rooms in another area that was right around induction, where the women were. They were big barracks. I'm sure at one time that they were open spaces, but they went and made them private rooms, so we all had a private room. It was not a bad size, if I can remember correctly, probably eight by ten, ten by ten, 00:50:00maybe. So I mean, we had a dresser, we had some closet space, that's all we needed. A bed.
SPRAGUE: So what did you--in addition to seeing the seals on the beach, whatelse did you do for entertainment while you were there?
KLEINMAUS: We did swimming. Both like to swim. We went and saw some movies offbase, but usually we would see the movies that were on base at the theater, there. Now that was uncomfortable for me, because I was a blonde WAC at that time, and he liked the idea--my husband like the idea that he had something that the other guys didn't, so he wanted to parade me, so I would have to--he'd make me walk in. I'm not sure why I did that, because at that time, that 00:51:00was just selfish on his part, I thought. It was bad enough I was coming in with him. But they would think, "Oh, there's a WAC all by herself," you know, and so they'd come swarming around, well then, he'd come in and, "Sorry, no, this one is mine." [Laughs]
SPRAGUE: How did you communicate with your family back east?
KLEINMAUS: There again, it was the same, usually by letter. And I was prettyfaithful, I think in sending weekly letters, anyways. Maybe bi-weekly. I would pick up the phone and call, of course. I'd try to call for birthdays.
SPRAGUE: Did you have any experiences, stressful or traumatic experiences whileyou were there?
KLEINMAUS: No, I can't think of any. I enjoyed the people I was00:52:00working with, and I actually--when I got my E4 Stripes, I was sent to main headquarters, the main building, finance headquarters, and I was actually the secretary to the Secretary of the Finance Adjutant there, which was funny, because she did her shorthand, and it was word [??] shorthand, thank goodness. I had some regular shorthand, but it was word shorthand, where you leave out the vowels of the words, yet there's enough military stuff that I knew that I could go ahead and transcribe them to her.
SPRAGUE: Did you use a device?
SPRAGUE: Just long hand?
KLEINMAUS: Just long hand.00:53:00
SPRAGUE: And while you were at Fort Ord, you were with 6th Army Headquarters?
KLEINMAUS: Sixth Army Headquarters.
SPRAGUE: Do you remember what company by chance within that headquarters, or itwas just the headquarters?
KLEINMAUS: Yeah, it was just the headquarters. I just had the 6th Army patch, I know.
SPRAGUE: Did you work for the same person when you started out? You said youworked for a civilian and then later on when you went up to the headquarters, was that the same person?
KLEINMAUS: No, that was actually a different person. Another gentleman, anothercivilian. And he too, took care, made sure that the employees--now, there were civilian employees there also, but he made sure that the military were taking care of. And he made sure that we had donuts--and that's where I started my coffee drinking. [Laughs] And he actually invited several of us 00:54:00military for Thanksgiving when we were out there for Thanksgiving, to his home for Thanksgiving. And he did that all the time. And I thought, "Well, how cool was that? To not be able to be home with your family, yet to be with family."
SPRAGUE: Do you think your experience was different somehow working for acivilian while in the military as opposed to working for someone who was maybe not Department of Army civilian, but in the rank structure?
KLEINMAUS: Maybe somewhat, because very possibly, the civilian would be a littlebit more lenient if you messed up. Although, of course, the finance adjutant was the big boss, and he had to report to him. But I don't know, I did 00:55:00not have any issues with him, either. And in fact, when I went into interview with him to get my E5 rank, he was so very kind and wondered why I was not interested. And I said, well, I knew at that time that I was not going to be staying in longer than the year-and-a-half because my husband--and he was my husband at that time--was wanting to leave that area.
SPRAGUE: So wrapping it up, anything else at Fort Ord? Any other experiencesyou'd like to share?
KLEINMAUS: No, except and I suppose I was about ready to swear off men ingeneral before he came along, because all the guys were married and 00:56:00thought that they could hide it from you. And I found that. And after that first blind date, I did go to his--he was in C Deck, and so I went to that finance area and I knew the gal that was working back there, otherwise I probably could not have found out, but I went to check to see if he had any allotments that he was sending home to a wife. [Laughs] So, well, I said, I guess that's okay [laughs].
SPRAGUE: Now, when you were checking in 1969 or 1968, how would you be able tocheck for those allotments? What system did you use?
KLEINMAUS: Well, you would have to go to the finance office because they werethe ones that were filling out the paperwork and making sure then 00:57:00those allotments--I actually had some sent back to my mom, because she bought the supplies that I used for my beauty supply list, and she says, "I'm not going to pay for it," so I says, "Well, I'm not going to pay for it directly either," because I was not getting paid enough to pay it directly, so I sent--it probably wasn't very much, maybe fifteen dollars or twenty dollars that was sent back out of each paycheck, and those paychecks were not very big. And I don't remember how much they were even by the time I got out, with an E4 salary. It wasn't over a hundred dollars, I don't think.
SPRAGUE: So the Army pay system at this time, how did it work? Was it all onpaper? Was it computerized?
KLEINMAUS: It was all on paper.
SPRAGUE: All on paper. And was it cash payments? Direct deposit? What was it?How did that--
KLEINMAUS: It must have been cash payments, so that is probably why00:58:00that if you wanted something to go home, you had to get that allotment put through.
SPRAGUE: Okay, so the decision to leave the military. Tell me more about thatand how that worked with your husband.
KLEINMAUS: I guess I did not know for sure when we first got married. It took acouple of months for us to actually get married, because we went and we were going to--August first was going to be our wedding date, but we went to a little county fair on that Friday night, and the little money that we had that we were going to use get married, we went and wasted it trying to win a TV by 00:59:00throwing darts at a balloon. Well, that did not work out so good [laughs] so we had to wait for the next month, which was September fourth, that was the first weekend that we got paid on Friday, so I think it was Saturday. No, it wasn't. It was on a Thursday, because I had to work CQ [charge of quarters] duty that night, and our big story is that he was always AWOL [absent without official leave] on a lot of our dates. He really wasn't, he had all the bases covered, but technically he was AWOL. But as long as he had people covering for him, he was okay.
SPRAGUE: Could you tell me, to the listeners, what CQ duty is?
KLEINMAUS: That was where we were clerk for the day, or clerk for the night, andI think it was--I don't remember, I guess it was a twenty-four-hour period, or a twelve-hour-period that we had to work. But I had to go in. We got 01:00:00married in the morning, so it must have been, I think it was a twenty-four-hour period. I had to be in to work at twelve o'clock that day, that noon time, so we had a time set up in the morning to go to the justice of the peace in Pacific Grove, which was right on the beach there. So we went out and spent some time on the beach and then went up at ten o'clock, and said I dos to the judge, and his secretary was our witness, and I happened to have my own friendship ring that I was wearing that we used for my wedding band before we got our wedding band sets. And I'm sorry, what was the question?
SPRAGUE: So yeah, sorry to interrupt you in your train of thought. In01:01:00your decision you talk about your husband wanting to return to Wisconsin. Tell me more about that and how you felt about that and your decision to, well, be married and then return.
KLEINMAUS: I probably did know, shortly thereafter that--and maybe even beforethen, that he was going to get out and he was going to leave. Maybe I thought that he would stay in for a while anyways, afterwards, but no, he wanted to get out completely. And I understood that, of course. So I'm sure, shortly thereafter my decision was to be with my husband and not to be separated. As it was, I had three months before I had my year and a half to get my honorable discharge in, so he got out and at the end of August the thirtieth, 01:02:00or the twenty-ninth, or the thirty-first, and I took leave at that time also. And so we drove all the way across the country to meet, first, my mom and let her know, because nobody knew that we were married. It was a complete surprise. Although my mom tells me that--she says, "I knew you were married because no daughter of mine was going to drive halfway across the country with a man that she's not married to." [Laughs] Oh, bless her heart. Little did she know. [Laughter] I probably would have.
SPRAGUE: How was that, coming home? What was that like?
KLEINMAUS: We took three or four days; I don't remember how long it was. Leftearly in the morning--well after he got his discharge papers, sometime in the afternoon, I believe, and so then we left there and drove down. I had 01:03:00a home girlfriend that was living south of Fort Ord a ways, and so I think we stopped there at least to say hi and probably for him to change his clothes and all. And then we drove until two or three o'clock that afternoon and decided to go ahead and stop for the night. And that's what we did then the whole trip. We didn't really do any sightseeing, except when we went to Las Vegas, we stopped at, what is it, Grand Hoover Dam? Is that what is there? Just to say we'd been down the Strip. We went down the Las Vegas Strip, just to say that we did. And I took some pictures, of course. And then we stopped in Hutchinson, 01:04:00Kansas, and met my little sister who was going to school there and introduced her to him, did not tell her yet that we were married, because we wanted our parents to know first.
So I called her after I talked to my mom and let her know that we were married.And she was upset that I did not tell her before then. Called the rest of the family while I was with my mom to let them know then that I was married. Then we travelled on up to Milwaukee, and came into Milwaukee early, early morning. And Johnny stopped at a hill as we were coming into Milwaukee, and it was a hazy morning and all I could hear, or all I could see and smell was the 01:05:00brewery and the haze there. And that was my first impression of Milwaukee. And he kept telling me how beautiful Milwaukee was, and then we drove right down through there. And he thinks that it was the slaughtering houses down there, too, and I say, "That was not a slaughterhouse," because I'd grown up on a farm, I know what a slaughterhouse smells like. So, I was not impressed with my first smell or my first see, but once we got back to where his folks were--they're not too far from the airport--and it was beautiful. Parts of Milwaukee is beautiful, Wisconsin is beautiful, and I do love the scenery that we have here, in Wisconsin.
SPRAGUE: Other than Milwaukee what was your impression of returning to civilianlife? What was that like?
KLEINMAUS: Well, I think that because I was not the gung-ho WAC like01:06:00some of them were, I was still in party mode, enjoying everything. I joined because of the fun, travel, and adventure, and I feel that's the way it was. I had no issues. I had no issues while I was in, I had no issues once I got out. I suppose getting used to married life was the worst part of it. [Laughs]
SPRAGUE: So what does it mean for you to serve as a woman? What do you think itmeans to you?
KLEINMAUS: Boy, that's hard to say because what women are doing now is sodifferent than what we did. I mean, we were the ones who replaced the 01:07:00men who went overseas. I took somebody's place at Fort Ord in the finance office because somebody was sent to Vietnam or elsewhere. And I feel honored that I had the chance to do it. Like I said, I joined even though I did not even fully understand while I was in what I was doing, probably, just because I was still on travel and adventure mode. But like I said, I think that the women who stayed in, and made a career of it, I am so proud of them that they did that, and wherever they served, they served for their country, just as I did 01:08:00for the short time that I was in. If I had not met him, my husband, I would have--I'd for sure stayed in for at least the three years, and I think going in, I was not necessarily thinking of meeting a husband, so I think that if no one would have come along, I would have probably made a career of it, depending on what came up. Who knows?
SPRAGUE: So how do you think your experience is informed or different thansomeone's whose spouse is not a veteran? Because I understand your husband is a veteran.
SPRAGUE: How has that affected your perspective?
KLEINMAUS: Well, being a veteran, or having served, I think that we have alittle bit more insight about what the person in service is going 01:09:00through, like through the basic training. You hear all sorts of tales even in basic training about men not being able to handle the basic training. And it was rigorous for the women who were not--what's the word? I had--I can't think of the word that I want to use. I had stability in my life. I can't think of the word, but we have kids who are troubled kids growing up that join the service, those kids are going to have a harder time than anybody who had the stability, even though my growing up life was a one adult household, she had 01:10:00made sure that we had some rules that we adhered to and listened to. And I think that's what helped me to be able to--and I think that I did excel in my basic training. I think that I excelled probably in the rest of the time that I was in. I did everything to the best of my ability, and I worked at doing a good job at it.
SPRAGUE: So you would--that's how you would characterize how being in themilitary changed your life, is that a good summary? How do you think being in the military changed your life?
KLEINMAUS: I think that it helped format it to keep me--being married01:11:00to a Vietnam veteran with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] has not been the easiest thing. And being retired for ten years [laughs; inaudible] been a lot harder [laughs] but anybody who has seen what they see in war, it takes a person with a lot of character. And I think that I had that character, and had that stamina, and fortitude. And I don't want to leave God out of the picture, trust in God is definitely--that's what kept me in this marriage, because if I had not had Him, I would have been gone a long time ago. So I'm thankful that we both have a relationship with God, that we can fall back on.
SPRAGUE: Is there anything you'd like to talk about in terms of your01:12:00husband's experience and PTSD or anything like that that you'd like to cover or not?
KLEINMAUS: Well, I don't understand, yet, the extent of it. And I will never--ifI've not been there, I won't understand it. But that is why we both are so involved in--we work with the student veterans here at the college, because they don't talk to their families. Johnny did not talk to his family. And before he started getting involved in some of the youth programs through the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars], nobody--he worked with three other men who were in Vietnam for thirty-seven years, and it was maybe twenty-seven of those years, 01:13:00nobody knew they were even veterans, let along Vietnam veterans. But getting asked to do an interview with a niece, his niece on his side of the family, he did not talk about his military experience, he just talked about making choices, which is important also. I mean, he made a choice that he was not going to get involved in drugs, and whatnot. And his group that he was with in Vietnam made sure that everybody was clean. Of course, there was still that going on at that time.
SPRAGUE: Tell me a little bit more about your involvement with these veterans'organizations and that movement and bringing that in with your husband.
KLEINMAUS: Vietnam veterans came back, with the knowledge that--and01:14:00they found this out sadly through experience, that they are going to be there for any other war heroes that were going to be coming home from future wars. They were not going to let Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq veterans come back without knowing that there was some place that they can come to and listen to their talk if they want to talk about their experiences. And so, we've been involved, basically, in the VFW and the American Legion for the last ten years, and probably more, because he just gave up commander of the VFW, and he was commander for ten years, so maybe twelve or thirteen years, we've been involved in both groups. I, as an auxiliary member, only, because I'm only an 01:15:00era [??] member of the era veteran. So, that is why I joined the American Legion. I probably would have joined the American Legion way back then, but he had no interest in, because he tried when he first got out to join a VFW post in Milwaukee, and they said, "Why? You didn't win a war. Why should you join?" And most of the Vietnam veterans will tell you that that's what they got when they tried to join the different posts.
SPRAGUE: They literally said, "You didn't win a war?"
KLEINMAUS: Yes, "You did not win a war, why do you want to be a member?" Well,they stopped communism. If that's not winning a war, I don't know what is. Yes, maybe they didn't because it was not declared a win.
SPRAGUE: So, in your working as an auxiliary, and with the post, what01:16:00are your thoughts on the--you mentioned the Honor Guard. What is that like?
KLEINMAUS: That is humbling to be able to be a part of the Honor Guard, becausewe are able to give respect, one last respect, show honor one last time to this veteran or military, whether he's a veteran yet, although I believe that once you're in service, you're a veteran, that this is something that we as a nation need to honor these men and women who served their country faithfully, many who gave their lives serving faithfully. I do not do the firing, because 01:17:00they all think the rifles are too heavy for me [laughs] and whether or not, I do have some rotator cuff issues, so it could very well be. So, I will either hold the flag or play the bugle. I don't play live, unfortunately, I wish I did, and maybe I could learn now, I don't know. I don't know if I have enough wind to do that. I did when I was younger. So I don't know if I still would or not. And then to see the family members come up and thank you for doing this for their veteran, for their family member, it's just--it's an honor to be able to do that. And that means we have between sixty-five and seventy-five funerals a year that we do, and we've been doing this for probably pretty close to ten years. 01:18:00
So that doesn't give us much time for a lot of other things, but we also domagic shows, my husband and I. We are involved in poll work. We're poll head[??] election officials. So whenever there are elections, we are busy there. We do a pinewood derby for the local--it's called the Threshold; they are a local community who are disabled people. Some are veterans there also, actually, that are coming for daycare. So we go and do a pinewood derby for them every year. And then, we try to do family time and spend time with the grandkids now, more. I have some grandkids out in Pennsylvania, which are way too far 01:19:00away. And I have three great-grandchildren out there, two living, one passed away when the granddaughter was eight months pregnant. And we have one great-grandson here that I get to see quite often. So, we are happy about that.
SPRAGUE: You mentioned on your intake form that you were on the executive board,or you are on the executive board of the American Legion. What's that like?
KLEINMAUS: Basically, they asked me if I wanted to run for office just a year ortwo after I came in, and I said, "I don't know anything about the American Legion to be any officer." So the commander who was asking me if I would, said, "Well then, why don't you become a board member and can learn, then, about the runnings of the post, and start out that way?" I said, "Yes, I can do 01:20:00that. I would like that." So, I am too busy in other things to be an officer, and my husband would not be a happy camper with me being an officer, because he thinks I'm busy enough as it is with that, and I try to pick my battles, as it were, and if that makes him happy, me not being an officer, then I will not be an officer.
Being a board member, I get to hear what all the other officers are doing,however, and I have been--I'm the kitchen commander, so I prepare the meals for our meetings, and make sure that we have meals for special events, either catered or sometimes I will do them. This year is American Legion 100th anniversary. Our post is also a hundred years old, so in March, we 01:21:00had a big special event that I planned, basically. I had some help, but I had the post decorated with some doughboy uniforms, and some authentic 1919 wedding dress, I think it was, with a hat that was probably from back in that time. And we have our post anniversary coming up for August twenty-fourth, and I am in charge of that, also. And so, I wanted to do an ice cream social, but it's kind of expanded to there again, I want to have things here on the property, like the big wheel bicycle, more doughboy uniforms and authentic dresswear for the women. I want to do taffy, saltwater taffy, have that. And I'm busy trying to find people who would donate that now. And that's where I'm headed after this interview, actually, to go and talk to some of these people. 01:22:00
An ice cream social, hopefully, with people donating their ice cream machines,so that we can actually make the ice cream. So far nobody has come forth, so we're going to have to find something real quick. But cotton candy, crackerjacks, all things that are 1919, end of World War I related is what I'm working at doing.
SPRAGUE: So, with regards to your service, and your service to this Post, do youthink there's anything that we've missed that you'd like to cover?
KLEINMAUS: No, except that I am probably--I've been busy with the auxiliary atthe state level, the VFW auxiliary at the state level with being national chairman for their scholarship program. And I am not that now, but 01:23:00that was a program that I dearly loved, excepting for the paperwork and the bulletins and deadlines for the bulletins that I had to do. But part of the program, one of the programs was patriotic art, which was just the auxiliary side. There was also the essay contests that both the auxiliary and the VFW worked together on. And my husband is still chairman of that, but that worked out good with us both being auxiliary and him chairman, so we could work together and plan events to get to the schools and give out the money awards to the second and third places. This year, I'm going to be the assistant conductress, which is no big thing, except that I do have to be at the meetings. But I don't have any paperwork to have to worry about, so I said, "I will do that, but I am done with anything that's going to--that I have to do 01:24:00the bulletins and whatnot." [Laughs]
SPRAGUE: Anything else?
KLEINMAUS: [Laughs] I can't think of anything else. That pretty much covers alot about what we're about.
SPRAGUE: Why did you agree to this interview, just out of curiosity?
KLEINMAUS: Well, I think Tiffany Koehler says I need to. Tiffany and I are goodfriends. I met her just a few years ago. She was running for, I don't remember what it was, something there in the Slinger area, senator or representative, and the Republican Party contacted me and let me know that she was going 01:25:00to be at--our church was holding a special drug program that she was going to be at, and I know several of the members of the Republican party, and they're members of our church, and they said that "You need to come to this and meet this Tiffany who's running. She's a veteran also." So, that's what I did. I met her and we hit it off great. We actually have a Christmas tea party at our church every year, and I've invited her the last couple of years, and she's enjoyed that, too. So that is why I said, "Okay, I'll go ahead." [Laughs]
SPRAGUE: Okay, so if you don't have anything else, thank you for your service.
KLEINMAUS: Thank you, sir, for yours.
SPRAGUE: And this will conclude the interview.
KLEINMAUS: Okay. Thank you very much.