Interview with Shirley Adams Terry, April 27, 2017
Project: Kentucky Honor Flight Veterans Oral History Project
Interview SummaryShirley Adams Terry talks about societal attitudes about women joining the military at the time she joined (late 1950s-early 1960s). Terry talks about convincing her parents to allow her to enlist in the army. She talks about traveling to Morehead and then to Ashland, taking exams, and her eagerness to go to boot camp. Terry talks about the strict discipline enforced at basic training, including perfectly straightening napkins when on Kitchen Police (KP) duty. She talks about adjusting to military discipline and the physical punishment dealt out by the drill sergeants. She talks about other recruits crying at night, and tells a story about learning who to salute. Terry describes the barracks at basic training, where the recruits kept their clothes, and the rules for keeping their uniforms neat. She talks about the expectations for cleaning their barracks and making their beds and the punishments they received for not passing inspections. Terry talks about the other recruits she met during basic training, including their reasons for joining the military, where they came from, and their ages. She talks about how many of the recruits were discharged during basic training.
Terry describes in detail the uniforms the recruits were issued, the difficulty of keeping them neat and the punishments they would receive if they failed. Terry talks about the focus on hygiene and femininity in the Women's Army Corps and discusses the recruits who, for various reasons, did not comply with these standards. Terry talks about her distaste for KP duty (Kitchen Police) and latrine duty. She talks about the type of food served at basic training, her level of physical fitness at the time, and what was available for purchase at the PX (post exchange). Terry talks about receiving immunizations in preparation for going overseas and tells the story of her mother denying her permission to go. She talks about the free dental service she received, the embarrassment of examinations by male doctors, and the lack of privacy in the communal showers. She mentions a recruit who was discharged for being a lesbian. Terry talks about the types of physical training the recruits did, including maneuvers and hikes. She tells a story about a lizard crawling in her sleeping bag. She talks about their weapons training and her qualification as a sharpshooter. Terry talks about the integration of the military, which interviewer Jeff Suchanek mentions occurred before the wider integration of society in the United States. She talks about becoming friends with an African American recruit nicknamed "Hats" during basic training. Terry tells a story from her military life after basic training about a friend who snuck out with a male soldier, married in Mexico (which was not in the U.S.), and then became pregnant before he shipped out overseas. She tells a story about an attempt by a female superior officer to pressure her into some type of relationship or sexual activity, and how she handled the situation. Terry talks about the friendships she formed with other recruits and soldiers later in her military career. She talks about the women she kept in touch with over the years. She says there was no time for recreation during basic training. Terry describes the drill instructors at basic training and their strict discipline. She talks about learning to march in formation and the difficulty caused by allowing the tallest recruits to lead the marches. Terry talks about the classes the recruits were required to attend during basic training. Terry talks about writing letters home and receiving mail while at basic training. She talks about her memories of boot camp and how she felt on graduation day.
Interview LC SubjectWomen veterans Women--Employment. Women and the military--United States Women soldiers United States. Army--Women Basic training (Military education) United States. Army--Military life Fort McClellan (Ala.) United States. Army. Women's Army Corps. Clothing and dress. Military hygiene.
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Interview UsageInterviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Terry, Shirley Adams Interview by Jeffrey Suchanek. 27 Apr. 2017. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Terry, S.A. (2017, April 27). Interview by J. Suchanek. Kentucky Honor Flight Veterans Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Terry, Shirley Adams, interview by Jeffrey Suchanek. April 27, 2017, Kentucky Honor Flight Veterans Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7mkk94bc9p