Interview With Marjorie Carpentier

From the interview with Marjorie Carpentier  of Port Townsend conducted by Carter Huth at the Fort Worden History Center on April 15, 2004.  Ms. Carpentier is the daughter of L.P. Vane who served in the Coast Artillery in the early years of the last century at Fort Casey.  She grew up in Coupeville and  visited Fort Worden frequently as a child.  During World War II, she joined the Womens Army Corps and was a member of the Second Signal Corps Service Battalion. Here she discusses her work and life in that period:

“I joined the Army in March of 1943 and left in January 1946.  We were not allowed to talk about our work, but now it has been 58 years, so I think I can.  My unit was stationed at Two Rock Ranch in Petaluma, California.  That base is now headquarters for the Coast Guard. We were intercepting Japanese radio code.  We didn’t decipher it, we copied the code.  We had a katakana (Japanese syllabary)  so that we could type the messages.  It was quite interesting.  We received a Presidential Unit Citation from Franklin D. Roosevelt.  We did worry about the war a lot.  The war correspondents used to call on the short wave radio to give their reports to the particular papers or magazines that they worked for.  We could pick up their conversations on short wave.  We’d listen to their eye witness accounts of what was going on in the war zones.  It was really scary at times.  The Battle of the Bulge was an awful time.

When the war ended, I went back to Seattle and started taking classes for Western Union just to keep in contact with communications, which I did love. While I was still in school there in 1947, I talked to an Air Force recruiter.  Somehow they mixed up my MOS  (Military Occupational Specialty Code), and since I couldn’t talk about what we did in wartime, they thought it was for being a German interpreter.  They enlisted me and sent me to Wright-Patterson Air Base in Dayton, Ohio  to be an interpreter for captured German documents.  So, I was a clerk-typist along with some very highly paid civilians until I eventually got back into communications.  My rank was Staff Sergeant.  My roommate was a weather forecaster.  She talked about this really nice young officer, Joseph Carpentier, whom she wanted me to meet.  I didn’t realize that I already had met him some time before.  I had bought a car and it got stuck in the mud behind our women’s barracks.  Two young officers had come along and had helped push my car out of the mud so that I could go to work on the swing shift.  When we were introduced, he remembered me but I didn’t remember him but I did remember them pushing my car.  We were married in October 1948, just before he was sent to the Berlin Air Lift.”

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