Interview With Rosalie Kline

From the interview with Mrs. Rosalie Kline of Grants Pass, OR conducted by phone by Patience Rogge from the Fort Worden History Center on January 22, 2008.  Mrs. Kline was the daughter of Captain Miles A. Putnam, who was stationed at Fort Worden from 1940 to 1942 and became the post commander at Fort Flagler in 1942. She married Lieutenant George O. Kline at the Fort Worden Chapel on June 15, 1942.  Here she describes her activities during the early days of World War II:

“We did the things that women could do.  My mother and I joined the Women’s Motor Corps.  She could drive and I had learned to drive when I was 16, so I could drive a car.  At that time there was only one road off the Peninsula.  There were many women who couldn’t drive and there were children as well.  We learned how to change tires and change spark plugs and do minor repairs.  We had to take a first aid course.  We kept a little bag with our first aid supplies and a flashlight, some food, in the coat closet in the living room;  in case we were called we could just pick it up and help evacuate the women and children from the area.  You used your own car, but in case of an evacuation and every man on the Peninsula was mustered into the Army, you would be given a car to drive and get the women and children who couldn’t drive down from the Peninsula to somewhere safer.

In January 1942, I went to work for the Weather Bureau.  I had to take a course, pass a test to become an airway observer.  We took barometer readings and the wind speed, the dew point, the clouds, the ceiling, and so forth.  These observations were all sent by teletype to Boeing field in Seattle from the office in the Port Townsend Post Office.”

Next she describes one exciting evening:

“I was working the 4:00 to midnight shift. If there was a problem of some sort and they wanted to get your attention, a sort of bell on the teletype would sound to tell you to come and read your machine.  It said that the Japanese had bombed Dutch Harbor and we were to go into immediate blackout.  The windows in the Post Office were huge and I couldn’t handle the blackout curtains.  My boss had said if this should happen, just turn off the lights and wait it out.  That was what I did.  I turned the lights off and sat and waited until it was all clear and I could go on with my observations.”

When asked about stories of Japanese submarines entering the Strait of Juan De Fuca, she replies:

“I remember that the submarines had come into the Straits, I remember that they had shelled Victoria.  One evening when my mother and I had joined my father in the Officers Mess at Fort Flagler, he answered a phone call, then stepped back into the room and said, ‘Red Alert,’ and that meant there were Japanese submarines in the Straits.

Whether it was actually so or whether it was a false alarm, I don’t know.  I do know that at the beginning of things, even with the three forts on the Peninsula, it would have been fairly easy for the Japanese to have caused a lot of problems if they had come with a good sized fleet.  The three forts– Worden, Flagler and Casey– were all there was until you got down to Bremerton and Seattle.”

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