Mom, the War Years

In going through old family photos recently, I found a a profile about my late mother that looks like it appeared in the late 1940s in perhaps the McAllen Monitor or Mission Times, both papers from far South Texas, where my mother (and I also) grew up. Here’s this look at the family history:

She Talks Army, Navy Lingo

Shirley Lissner admits she isn’t bi-lingual. But she can converse in the languages of two services — the Army and Navy.

For Shirley, now with the Mission Citrus Growers Union, is a veteran of both branches — an experience few men and far fewer women can lay claim to.

Firs she joined the WAACS. After that service was incorporated into the Regular Army, she resigned, then enlisted in the Navy’s WAVES a year latger.

Shirley, a native of San Antonio, came here with her family in 1926. Previously they’d lived in Gonzales, “but I still can’t speak Spanish,”s she complained.

Joining the WAACS, says Shirley, seemed an interesting thing to do back in 1942, so she signed up and was sent to Nacogdoches, Texas, for basic training.

“Later, at Camp Polk, La., I got mixed up with a company going overseas,” Shirley laughed, “and when I found out where we were going i got out in a hurry. You had a choice then.”

The Brooklyn Port of Embarkation was Shirley’s next base. She worked there as a cryptograph operating, encoding and decoding messages.

“Forget everything you know; they told me when I left there,” Shirley commented. “I can’t tell you much about my work because I did just that — forgot it.”

Eight months after arriving in Brooklyn,or in 1943, the WACS went into the Regular Army, so Shirley left them. “I’d been through the first sergeants school at Des Moines but they discharged me as a Pfc anyway,” quipped Shirley.

During the Next year Shirley worked at Moore Field as a teletype operator. Then — “it was the uniform, I guess,” Shirley said — she enlisted in the WAVES in October, 1944.

Now quite experienced in communications, she was assigned to the Navy’s communications office in Washington, D.C.

“Our office was down the hall from the then Secretary of the Navy, [James] Forrestal,” Shirley remembered. “I was there six months before I started saluting him; I didn’t know who he was.”

Discharged in March, 1946, Shirley fared better in rank with her second service, having been made a T 3/C.”And I liked navy blue better than O.D., too,” she commented.

Shirley worked in San Antonio a year before returning here, where she’s a secretary with the Mission Citrus Growers Union.

She isn’t entertaining any ideas just now about any more enlistments. But . . . if another war comes . . ┬áthere’s always the Air Force, Shirley’s thoughts might be as she speculatively scans the sky!


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