A Wild Night at the Red Cross Worker Station

A Wild Night at the Red Cross Worker Station April 22, 2013

Last week I offered you a special glimpse inside the covers of VOICES OF THE PACIFIC, the new oral history project from New York Times bestselling author Adam Makos and me. Today is a bonus story that’s only available off my coauthor Adam Makos’s website, http://www.valorstudios.com/


Katharine Singeris the sister of Marine Sid Phillips. She was featured in Ken Burns’ project The War and provides the home front perspective.

Katharine Singer and Sid Phillips


I met Katharine a few years back and interviewed her extensively for VOICES. Listen to Katharine tell a great story about working in a Red Cross canteen in Mobile, Alabama, during the war years:


There was no shortage of things for girls to do for the war effort if they made any effort at all.


Down near the railroad station was a Red Cross canteen, and my friend Polly Barnett and I would take the bus down on Saturday evenings to work there. At the canteen we served donuts, sandwiches, and hot coffee to the troops as they came through Mobile on the trains. The Red Cross provided the basic foods but we fixed it all and served the boys.


The canteen was in a rough area of the city. Whenever we first arrived, members of the Shore Patrol would wait for us to walk us the three blocks from the train station down to the canteen because there were beer joints all along there—places where sailors hung out—and the Red Cross didn’t feel it was safe for us to walk through there alone.


The system worked like this: We got word whenever a troop-train was coming, and we’d pile food on trays, head outside, and walk along under the train’s windows, holding the trays above our heads. The soldiers and sailors and marines would reach out of the windows and take the food off the trays. They’d call out to us and talk to us and all.


Well, one night three of us went down there all prepared to serve this troop train. When we got there, we got the food and walked outside to the train. But instead of the boys reaching out of the windows and all, we heard this loud whoop and yelling. All the boys starting pouring off the train, running straight after us! It scared us absolutely to death.


I threw my sandwiches in the air and started running as fast as I could. My friend with the donuts did the same thing. But my friend Polly was carrying the coffee and couldn’t get rid of it as quickly. So I don’t know how many Marines surrounded her and began to kiss her. When she finally got away, and we all ran into the canteen, we closed and locked the door and hid under the counter. I have never been so frightened in my life.


We found out afterward that they were Marines that had been taken off Iwo Jima by ship and brought into New Orleans. We were the first American girls they had seen in a year, and they were determined. So it was a wild night, it really was.


Finally the Shore Patrol, the MPs, and their own officers got all the soldiers back on the train, and the train pulled out.


But we didn’t come out of the canteen for the rest of the night.




By Adam Makos with Marcus Brotherton

Now available.

Ask for it at a bookstore near you, or order your copy HERE.



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