tv Oral Histories Susan Rothmann West Point Interview CSPAN April 3, 2018 6:35pm-7:37pm EDT
time on cspan2. in 1979 c-span was created by a public service by america's cable television companies. today we bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> next, susan rothmann talks about her experiences as a u.s. army spouse, including how she dealt with anti-war sentiment while her husband fought in vietnam. she also talks about taking care of families following the 1985 gander tragedy when 248 american soldiers, most of them from the same division, died in a plane crash in gander, newfoundland.
this hour-long interview comes from the west point center for oral history. >> good afternoon. this is the 24th of february, 2016, and i'm here in the west point center for oral history with mrs. susan rothmann. welcome, ma'am. how are you? >> fine. thank you. >> please spell your last name for your transcriber. >> r-o-t-h-m-a-n-n. susan, s-u-s-a-n. >> thanks very much. tell me a little bit about yourself, where you were born, where you grew up and what your life was like when you were a child. >> i grew up, i was born in the state of new jersey, grew up in new jersey. part of the time down at the jersey shore and then montclare, new jersey is where i went to high school.
>> what did your folks do? >> my father was a salesman, okay, for ranggold beer. my mother during world war ii was a legal secretary in new york city but once she started having children, then she was a stay at home mom. >> okay. and tell me a little, how did you meet your husband? >> i met harry on a blind date by a mutual friend who was engaged to one of harry's classmates. >> okay. and so did you start dating him when he was still a cadet? >> yes. >> okay. what was that like? >> well, i didn't really know very much about the military. you know? my father was in world war ii but i was born after the war. so, it was a unique experience
because i -- you know, i'd never been to west point. i mean, it was beautiful. the cadets in their uniforms, everybody who i met, you know, a lot of harry's friends were already engaged, had been dating for a while. we did not meet until his first year in september of his first year so a lot of them had been dating for two or three years but they were all very friendly and welcoming. and it was a unique experience. and we got married at west point, too. >> okay. >> in the catholic chapel. >> wow. so when you were dating and then did you come up for football games? >> yes. >> okay. and did you get to see him play? >> well, i saw him -- yes. i did. yes. >> how was that? >> that was fun. when i met -- when i first met harry, talking about i met him down at the field, down by the water. okay? he played 150-pound football.
and my friend was with me and so i met harry while he was practicing and she's pointing to all these guys and she's going, there he is. i said to her, well, they all look the same. and, you know, when i met harry he came up, of course, took off his helmet and there he was with the black underneath his eyes all sweaty and everything and that is when i saw him for the first time. >> what did you think? >> i was just -- you know, i just thought, okay. he told me later that all the guys in the, you know, that were talking saying, harry, she's a dog. you don't want to date her. giving him a hard time. >> sure. >> and -- but obviously we went -- i stayed the whole weekend and from there we were together until we got married. >> that's nice. so then did they play baseball in the spring? >> but harry did not play. >> okay. >> baseball in his first year. >> okay.
and you came up for all the dances and -- >> i don't -- no. >> okay. and when you got married in the catholic church, how was that? >> oh, that was -- it was beautiful because the chapel is just -- you know, small. it's -- it was wonderful because all his relatives lived in -- you know, harry's from white plains, new york. me being from jersey so everybody could be here. nobody had to travel far away. >> okay. >> so that made it really nice. >> do you remember who officiated? >> no, i do not. >> okay. the reason i ask is we interviewed monsignor mccormick a little bit ago and he would have been there during that time. after graduation, after your wedding, when was your wedding? >> june 10th, 1967. >> your first assignment was germany, right? >> no. >> okay. >> we went to ft. benning,
georgia, for our first assignment where harry went through iobc. >> sure. >> ranger and airborne school. >> okay. >> did you live on post at time or off post? >> no. i lived off post and a lot of the wives left when their husbands went to ranger school. i stayed because i worked at the local hospital and some of the other wives did, too. and i moved in with another classmate's wife. we got an apartment together. and she substitute taught. and so i just stayed there while harry was away in ranger school and then when we came back, we did the airborne training. >> what did you think of ft. benning? >> very hot. okay? very humid. lots of cockroaches. was not used to that. >> sure. >> okay? coming from where i came from.
so, the post itself was fine but you got to remember that was basically my first post ever. >> right. >> so, that was -- that was an experience. and back in those days when you went to the commissary you could not wear shorts. you could not wear pants. okay? you had to have a dress on or a skirt. >> wow. that's a little unusual. >> that was back in 1967. it was still sort of -- i don't know, formal. still sort of old school a little bit. yeah. so that was hard to get used to when it was so hot. >> right. right. and what are some of your other recollections of ft. benning? >> i mean, since we lived off post and, you know, when harry was away in ranger school, you know, i worked.
you know, columbus, georgia, was fine. okay? it was fine. >> okay. >> i had no complaints. >> now, when he was going through airborne school, did you get a chance to go out and watch the tower week and that sort of thing? >> not that i remember. >> okay. and so -- >> but i was still working then so i can't -- but not that i remember. >> yes, ma'am. and then, germany came after that, right? >> yes. >> what was it like packing up to go over to germany and what were you thinking to go so far away? >> well, we didn't have a lot to pack because, you know, we got married in june so mostly it was just our wedding gifts when you think -- we had no furniture or anything. when we got there, i mean, i had never been out of the united states. okay? so that -- you know, going to
europe was like a big deal. my only thing was i had never, ever had left my family. i mean, so to put it when i first got there, it was -- that was hard. i was a little homesick but the only thing was is we had quite a few of harry's classmates that were stationed with us there and, you know, we got together a lot. that's one thing being an army wife is the camaraderie of the other wives. you become like a family because everybody like you is away from home. and so, and harry was gone a lot. so we did a lot together but i mean, not traveling or things. i mean, just getting together and doing, you know, things because basically we didn't have enough money to go traveling. >> sure. what was it like interacting with the german citizens? >> really didn't interact a lot with the german citizens. we would walk downtown sometimes
and, you know, they would say hi and they would be friendly but i didn't speak any german. i had my little german dictionary book. but they were friendly. you know? they would come to you and say, oh, american, american. you know? but they were fine. but i really didn't interact a lot with the german people. >> and so you said you didn't really have enough money to travel. who stands out in your mind as some of the best friends from that time? >> pam and george styles who are -- who were there. you know? classmate of harry's who i knew before we went over there. okay? they got married the day before we did and harry was in their wedding and then george was in our wedding the next day. jack and eileen kelly. okay?
we became very close friends with them. barbara -- joe and barbara terry. that's all i can really think of that, you know, that i would see all the time. >> right. now, when you were over there, did the battalion have any formal events or anything like that, battalion balls? >> yes. >> and what was that like? >> very formal. like, i said, back in those days, i mean, we got there at the end of december of '67. it was '68. when you went to a formal, you -- you know, were in your formal gown but you wore the long formal gloves. >> oh, wow. >> yeah, yeah. i mean, those were expected. okay? you know, wearing the long gloves.
and if the wives, if officers' wives had a luncheon, usually once a month, you had to wear short gloves and a hat was required. >> wow. >> so, my friend eileen kelly and i, to save money we went out and shopped and we bought a brown hat and a black hat. brown gloves and black gloves and we would interchange every month. one month i wear brown, one month she would wear black. neither one of us were glove fans or hat fans, okay? that's what we did. >> uh-huh. and so your first child was born in germany, correct? >> yes, yes. >> when? >> in october of '68. >> okay. >> yes. >> and what was that experience like giving birth in a german hospital, i assume? was it on base? >> it was at that time all of us in mintz the weizbaden hospital that we had our babies.
>> okay. >> okay? that was a heck of an experience because my baby was almost a month late. >> oh, wow. >> in those days they didn't do the ultrasounds or after a week or two, induce you. okay? and harry was supposed to have been on maneuvers but after about ten days they said, you need to come out, back out to the field. so harry went back out into the field but they told harry that when your wife goes into labor, she knows who to call and we'll get the helicopter and get you there at the hospital. well, when i went into labor, okay, and friends took me to the hospital and my son scott was born at 10:00 a.m. and harry got there at noon. >> oh, wow.
>> so i had my first baby all by myself. >> in a foreign country. >> in a foreign country. in a hospital. yeah. with nobody there. >> wow. was your friend able to stay with you? >> no. >> okay. >> no. back in those days, you know, nobody was allowed, you know, even the husbands back there like -- okay? wouldn't even have been -- they could have been in the labor room but not the delivery room. very strict rules. >> yeah. wow. >> and usually back then you didn't have a private room. you -- when you went into labor, it was like rowhouses. just of beds. there could be four, five, six of us all in labor. >> wow. that's a little bit different, isn't it? >> yeah. definitely. >> okay. and when did you all return from germany? >> we returned in february of '69.
>> okay. >> scott was four months old. >> okay. >> okay? >> that must have been something traveling. >> he was a good baby. it wasn't bad coming back to the states with him at all, actually. airplane and everything. >> okay. so when you returned from germany, you knew that your husband was going to deploy to vietnam. where did you live? did you -- >> i went back to montclair, new jersey. my mother started to look for an apartment for me. you know, in our hometown. and every place she went as soon as they found out that i would be living there with a baby they said, no, they didn't want a single woman and a baby living in the apartments. >> wow. >> and my mother would say to her, but her husband is in the military, going over to vietnam. she's not single. she's married with a child. and they wouldn't give her the apartment.
my mother was very outraged. so finally my mother found -- my mother was working and a lady found out that my mom was looking for an apartment and she owned a three family home. you know? in the first floor was a family, second floor and the third floor and the third floor was available and my mother went and saw it and that's where i lived on this -- in this third floor apartment. about -- less than three miles from my mom and my sisters. so it -- you know, yeah. >> wow. did you get it -- so you didn't go back to benning with your husband when he went back for his refresher course before -- >> oh, that two weeks that he went? no. most wives didn't. okay? most wives didn't. >> did you get a chance to see him before he deployed? >> yeah. he came back home, uh-huh. he came back home and by that
time i had gotten into the apartment. okay? our household goods hadn't come back from germany yet. that usually took eight to ten weeks. but being around family, you know, everybody, you know, everybody -- between harry's family in new york and my family in jersey, we got all the stuff that was down in their basements or attics, okay, for furniture. all right? you know? so it -- that part -- it worked out well. but -- >> okay. so, when you came home, you had to live in montclair because of the army policy. tell me a little bit about what that army policy was. >> i can't really answer directly what the army policy is but most wives went home to their families. or, their husband's families. while they were gone, you know,
for that year in nam. but i have to tell you, though, people -- it was an awful time. >> right. >> because, you know, they called all the guys over in vietnam baby killers or this or that. and i could be walking in my hometown, you know, and, you know, people would say, oh, that's -- people that i knew. >> right. >> and they would know that harry was in -- how do you feel? you know? don't you feel like he deserted you? don't you feel like -- why did he go there? and i could never understand that. i would look at these people and think, my husband's over fighting in vietnam, that you have a great time here. that we're fine. and safe in the united states. so -- >> wow.
>> yeah. >> must have been difficult to deal with. >> it was. it was. >> so, what was your support network then? your family and -- >> oh yeah. >> and friends? >> harry's parents lived 50 minutes away so, you know, i had my family right there in montclair and then i went every weekend basically up to valhala which is right outside of white plains and spent the weekend with my in-laws because dad wasn't working on the weekends and this was the first grandchild on both sides. okay? so -- and then i would go up on friday and then come back on monday. so i had a lot of family. but also, i got together with some of the wives. pam dials who i mentioned lived down in the philadelphia area. eileen kelly lived down in washington, d.c. so, you know, we would go, you know -- they would come up to visit me or i would go down to
visit them. you didn't have cell phones back there so you didn't talk a lot on the phone because it cost money. >> right. >> long distance phone calls cost money and they were not cheap. >> okay. all right. so you had people you could rely on and people that you could communicate and stayed in touch with folks. that's good. what was your daily routine like? did you work? >> no. i didn't work since i had the baby. i did not work. i stayed home. okay? i had worked, okay, until we left for germany but i didn't work when we came back because he was only 4 months old. he was a baby. i was a stay at home mom that year so just taking take care of my child. okay? you know, being close to my family. >> now, did you hear from your husband regularly? when he was overseas.
>> harry would write letters when he could especially being in the infantry and out in the field a lot. but if i did get letters, sometimes i would get three, four and five letters at a time. sometimes i didn't get a letter for ten or 12 days. it just depended when they came out to harry to get the letter. >> right. >> okay? or sometimes i would get a letter like once a week. i wrote harry every single day that he was in vietnam. every time i put the baby down at night i would -- you know, i didn't have a whole lot to say but i would just -- i would write a letter every day when he was gone. >> that's outstanding. that's -- do you still have those letters? >> harry could not save those letters from where he was being out in the field. >> sure. >> but i saved -- i still have all his letters from vietnam. >> wow.
that's wonderful. was he able to call any? >> i think harry called once or twice on that mars system. just maybe once or twice. >> okay. >> and it was really hard. it was hard. >> sure. now, did you follow the news of the war? >> yes. >> okay. >> yeah. >> and how was that? >> well, i mean, everybody was -- you know, everybody was against the war in vietnam. including the news. so, you know, i would watch it and you know, they would show things and it would scare you. and then for a while i wouldn't watch it because it just wasn't worth it. so -- >> uh-huh. okay. and did you hear of any casualties overseas? did any of your friends suffer any casualties? >> the worst one was jack kelly.
a classmate of harry's. when they came back from germany, they came and stayed with me for about two and a half days in my apartment. and their daughter colleen was -- is our goddaughter. and she was a baby. and then they went and they got their car in bayoen. that's where the cars came in and then they went down to d.c. and that's where eileen lived. but six weeks after jack got there he was killed in action. and harry had already been over there since april. >> right. >> and when eileen called and told me, my mother took care of scott for a week and i drove down to d.c. to be with eileen to make the funeral arrangements.
he was being buried at arlington cemetery and that was a bad time. >> okay. how was she notified? do you know? >> i really can't say. i don't remember. >> sure. >> jack's father was a three-star general. >> okay. >> okay? stationed at the naval war college at the time. i don't know if general kelly heard first and went to eileen. i cannot answer that. i don't remember. >> yeah, sure. it's good that you were able to go down to d.c. and be with her then. >> yes. >> that must have been a stressful drive down for you. >> the whole week was stressful. you know, making the arrangements. you have to wait for the body to come back. >> right. >> it was stressful because she was getting letters from jack, you know, like i said, you know, letters are still coming in, you know, because jack was in the infantry, too, so you could three or four.
so we were getting letters that is week from jack when he was -- so that was -- that was really hard. and it was hard for me because harry was there. >> right. >> okay? and, you know, then it hits you like, oh my goodness, you know? even though other classmates had been killed this one was the closest. >> right. >> to me. okay? because we were very close friends. >> uh-huh. wow. that must have been a terrible thing to deal with. but good that you could be there for eileen. >> yes, yes. >> that's good. >> yes. >> so, when did your husband return from vietnam? >> he returned in april of 1970. >> okay. >> yeah. >> now, did he go on leave while he was in vietnam? >> yeah. we did r&r. >> okay. >> we went in -- he left in
april. i went over in october. okay? >> okay. >> so he was there almost seven months when i went over and we decided that i would not take scott with me. scott was just turned a year old. my in-laws took scott for the five or six days that i was gone. >> okay. >> where did you go? >> we went to hawaii. >> yeah. >> and actually harry was only actually really there like three nights and four days. it was -- it wasn't like it was very long. >> sure. once you factor in travel time and all that. >> yeah, yeah. like when i got there, i got there like the night before harry. and then you went to -- i don't know, some center. >> right. >> okay? where all the military wives whose husbands were going to be there for those few days, you know, they sat us down like in a hall and when they told us the
buses came, okay, you know, there could have been two or three buses and then you wait for your husband to come out or boyfriend. >> sure. >> and you get to hug for a second and then, of course, then you have to go back inside in the hall and they give you a briefing. okay? >> sounds like the army system. >> yeah. you know? the briefing. you're sitting there just like holding hands. you haven't seen each other in seven months, right? you have to listen to this briefing. okay? so we had the briefing. and then from there we could -- you know, we went back to our hotel. >> okay. and how did he look when you first saw him? did he look the same? >> no, no. harry had lost -- i mean, he was very thin. >> right. >> very thin. looked very haggard. you know? and the one thing i did notice those few days was if he heard
any kind of loud noise he would jump. a little bit. but that was understandable being in the infantry. >> yeah. and so, do you remember some of the things you did while he was on leave? >> well, we enjoyed the beach. we did some sightseeing. i had never been to hawaii. harry had been there as a cadet so he knew some of the places to go to. you know, i had never been there so that was nice because he knew some of the places to go to. so we did sightseeing and, you know, mostly stayed at the beach. we both loved the beach. and getting good food. especially for my husband. >> sure. tried to fatten him up a little bit before he went back? >> yes. >> okay. and so when he went back, then he only had five more months? >> yeah. october, november, december, january, february, march. yeah.
he came back i think it was like the first week in april. >> okay. and what was it like when he came home? where did he come home to? >> he flew in to i think kennedy airport. and we all went, you know, a lot of family members went. you have to remember, he hadn't seen his son in a year. when he left his son was 6 months old. when he came home his son was 18 months old. >> so now walking. >> walking. >> probably starting to talk, right? >> yeah, a little bit. but so -- it was -- it was hard. you know? that was hard because scott wouldn't go near him. he didn't know -- even though i had a picture of harry and, you know, i would talk about, you know, he was only 18 months but i would talk about his daddy and we kissed daddy's picture every
night. but that was different than seeing daddy in person. so he just looked at harry like, who the heck are you? and -- it was, you know, it took him -- i can't even remember. it took him a little while to get used to his having somebody else around. you know? having -- it was just mommy and, you know, and the -- him. we were in the apartment for a year together. >> right. >> so -- >> so now was there a readjustment period? because now when soldiers return from overseas, there's some pretty intensive reintegration. was there a readjustment period for you all? >> no. they didn't have that kind of stuff back then. we stayed home. i think harry had, like, a 30-day leave. and we stayed, you know, for a couple of weeks. with the family and all of that. then we were going to ft. benning. and after that, you know, we drove down to ft. benning. >> okay.
>> the three of us. and found some place to live off post. okay? before harry started work again. >> okay. >> so, you know, there's -- they didn't have this kind of readjustment kind of thing. >> sure. >> harry came back and he just had to readjust himself, trying to get back to a normal life again. >> now, you said when he was on r&r you noticed that he'd jump at certain sounds. how was it when he came back from vietnam for good? >> he was still a little jumpy. he would have sometimes nightmares at night. okay? didn't talk a lot about it but, you know, he would have nightmares and i would wake him up. >> yeah. okay. and so, how was the advanced course then? how was it being back at benning? had benning changed any? this is early 1970 now.
>> yeah. no. it really hadn't changed that much. at least we got to live in a nicer apartment than the first time around and before harry started the advanced course he became a ranger instructor. can't remember if it was like for two months. two months? three months? that he was a ranger instructor before the advanced course start so harry would be, like, five or six days as a ranger instructor. you know? away. and then come home five or six days and go back. >> right. >> okay? so we did that for the first two or three months. i think it was only two months. i can't quite remember. >> okay. and then after the advanced course is this about the time when he was picked up for graduate school? >> no. >> okay. >> we went out to ft. lewis, washington. >> okay. how was ft. lewis? >> i loved it out there. our second child was born out
there. our second son was born at ft. lewis. >> it was a different experience than in germany? >> harry, you know, then they would let the husbands come in the labor room. okay? not the delivery room still but the labor room. >> right. >> so you took these classes, you know, to teach us how to breathe, you know, to breathe, okay? harry went through all of those classes. okay? and my second son was born within two hours after i went into labor. >> wow. >> so i -- the time we got to the hospital, okay, they rushed me right up to the delivery room so all those classes that harry had taken to be in the labor room did not work because i went directly to the delivery room. >> okay. >> okay? so at least he was there when i, you know, was in the recovery and harry came in and at least -- yeah. he was there but he didn't get to do everything he had learned.
>> and what was it like living at ft. lewis then? >> ft. lewis was a really -- we had small quarters but that was okay. you know? washington state, that's -- i mean, how far more could i go away from home like germany and then washington state. but everybody was friendly. you know? the one thing about military you all -- it's a comradery. you know? that's your family. because most of us are all away from our family. so you do things together. you know? you do things together in the holidays if people didn't have their families come out. and harry and i both parents, they, you know, they didn't have enough money to fly out there. you know? it wasn't like our family had a lot of money. so you -- we spent holidays with, you know, with friends.
and your children. and helped take care of each other's children. >> right. >> but i loved it there. washington state was a -- it was gorgeous. the pacific northwest is a gorgeous place. >> this is still the time when the vietnam war is still going on. >> yes. >> so what was -- what were the social or political atmosphere out in washington state? >> that -- the war ended in '72? '73? harry? >> about -- >> '75. >> '75? >> when saigon fell. >> okay. most of the people that we were with there had already had their tours in nam. what was different is harry was a captain then. and he had a company. but anybody could join the army then. so, that was a lot different.
>> okay. and so, how so? >> i don't know how to explain that. >> because it is a time when the army is trying to fill ranks and hard to recruit at this time. right? and it's -- we're not at the volunteer army yet? or are we? >> yeah, yeah. >> okay. >> yeah. and harry had to deal with a lot of things with being the volunteer army. >> okay. >> getting calls out in the middle of the night, you know? >> all right. and so, then after his command time, that's when you all went to grad school, right? >> yes. >> and what was it like going to unc? >> well, that was -- that was -- you know, beautiful campus. we just had the two boys. we lived like about ten miles outside of sort of like out in
the farm country and then they built these little townhomes out there and it was all families that were either going to law school or residencies for doctors. >> right. >> okay? there was like maybe ten or 12 families. we all had small children. it was -- it was really nice. we used to go to the football games. we had a few classmates that were going to unc or some were going to duke. >> right. >> so you would get together. >> okay. >> you know, it was a much more relaxing time. except harry studied a lot. >> sure. >> he would stay in school basically all day. okay? because, you know, having two small boys, you can't study at home. >> right. >> and then he'd come home. have dinner and then be with the boys for a while and once we got them to bed harry would be in there studying. >> sure. >> you know? but it was a nice two years there. and knowing that we were coming
back to west point to teach was wonderful for him and i because we were coming back home. >> right. >> that, you know, we had never been close to home in those years so that we were looking forward to. to be back with family. >> now, was there any -- any -- how did your neighbors treat you knowing that you're a military family? this is still the mid-'70s? no issues at all with the neighbors? >> no, no. not at all, really no. >> and what was west point like coming back to teach here? in the history department. >> that was wonderful because we had so many classmates who, you know, were teaching in all different departments. i mean, you know, close friends. >> right. >> west point to harry and i is like, you know, this is where we met. this is where we got married. this is home to us. so it was wonderful to be back in that atmosphere. and going to football games and,
you know, i don't know if they do it today but you sat, you know, with your class of '67. okay? you know? that's -- i don't know if they do that today. and that was fun and just being back with all of your old friends that you might not have seen and my two boys, even though they were 4 and 7 when we came here, okay, and we were here for three years, they remember, you know, living here and we lived up at stony lonesome and they absolutely loved it. went to elementary school here and our third son was born here in 1977. >> okay. >> he was born here at west point. >> uh-huh. >> so -- >> it's a great family post, isn't it? >> oh, great, great family post. >> and so, then after west point there's another assignment and then you ended up at the pentagon. right? >> yes.
>> how was it different between west point and the pentagon? >> well, i had gone back to work. after my boys got to a certain age i went back to work full-time. >> and what did you do? >> i always worked in doctor's offices. so, we lived in alexandria, virginia. okay? and, you know, we had friends, you know, who were stationed at the pentagon but it's different because everybody lives all different places. you know? it's not like you're on a military post or anything. and by this time most wives are working. okay? your kids are older so you're more into the children's, you know, activities and everything. so, you know, we had some military functions to go to but
it's not like when you were on post. it was just like -- you know, he went to work. i went to work. we came home. you know? >> kind of lived your own lives. >> yeah. yeah. but we still saw, you know -- we still had friends and get together with military friends and everything. but it was different than living on a post. >> right. okay. and then your next assignment after that was ft. campbell. >> yep, yep. >> ft. campbell about 1985 when you arrived? >> yes, yes. >> his first job was on staff. correct? >> yes, yes. >> okay. what did you think of ft. campbell? >> i liked it. i liked it. we had really nice quarters. it was a first time, you know, we had the three boys that they actually could have their own rooms. you know? each son could have their own rooms. >> it must have been a big deal for them. >> it was a big deal for them because the rules back in the days of two boys you only allowed two bedroom quarters if
you had a boy and a girl you could get three bedrooms. okay? so this to the boys was like, you know, terrific. they all had their own rooms and like a little individual house. that was really nice. and we knew some people that were already been stationed there but then we met a lot of other people and we had a son in high school at ft. campbell high. a son in middle school and a son in elementary school. you know? all different levels. so you got to meet a lot more people because you had children in all the different schools. it was -- it was a -- there wasn't a whole lot to do outside of ft. campbell but we used to go up to nashville a lot and they used to have opraland and the boys loved it there. hopkinsville. i loved hopkinsville on the kentucky side. that was a neat place. it was -- i really liked it. >> and then, unfortunately, there was a tragedy that
happened at -- not at ft. campbell but a plane bringing multinational observers crashed in gander, newfoundland. >> yes. >> your husband was not in battalion command but accelerated the process and took command. tell me about the events surrounding that tragedy. >> oh boy. >> or at least your role in it. >> it was really hard. when we first heard i had a good friend who lived a couple of blocks down in the housing area and she -- harry had gotten a call and just told me that there was a plane crash. he had to leave right away. so i sort -- i didn't really know everything and then this friend of mine called and she says, i have wives out here in
the court yard whose husbands had been -- okay. >> they're expecting everybody to come home. >> right around christmastime and expecting them to come home and said they're yelling and screaming and there was a plane wreck and didn't know if their husbands were in it. i got a call from harry and told me what i had happened and before i knew it the brigade commander's wife came over and the general's wife mrs. patrick came over to my house. we sat down and talking about -- telling us what we have to do. and the only thing that i really remember was just -- and it was we went to some of the wife's homes to see how they were and the one that stuck out to me the most was the chaplain's wife. we went to her home. i had never met her.
okay? and she just couldn't believe it. i just -- you know? we were all -- we were talking and all she kept saying was i had just talked to him. when they stopped at gander they had all called saying, hey, we'll see you in a couple of hours. we'll see you. we'll be home. you know? that's all she just kept saying. i just talked to him. i just talked to him. he's not gone. and oh boy. that was so hard. that is the one wife that i really, really remember. >> right. >> it was a nightmare. it was -- a total nightmare. >> and so, now you're now the battalion commander's wife. >> yeah. >> essentially and so you're having to deal with the family readiness group or a family support group and trying to
figure out how to deal with helping all of these families as best you can. how did all that go? >> it was hard because you knew your husband gets a battalion. it was supposed to be a happy experience. >> right. >> having a ceremony, you know, that he's going to take over a battalion and it's supposed to be, you know, this is a big thing. well, it wasn't like that. you know? i'm trying to take care of the widows and then you're trying to take care of new wives that are coming in, you know, their husbands replacing -- >> right. >> -- the ones that passed away. then you had some that were still part of the battalion, you know, who did make it home. so you had this -- this conglomeration of the wives.
it was very, very hard. thank goodness that we had the family support group. if i remember, general patrick even went up to washington to make sure that the widows could stay in housing for six months. because at that time it wasn't like that. like, usually had to be out of housing within 30 days. thank god they let the families stay there for six months because some had kids in school. or give them time to find out what they wanted to do. >> right. >> so, so we had the first six months we had quite a few widows still there and it was hard. it was very, very hard. >> okay. now, i know the scale is completely different but how did this experience compare with the experience with mrs. eileen
kelly back during the vietnam era when you were dealing -- helping her deal with her loss. now you are helping other families deal with their loss. was there any similarities or totally different? >> it was totally different. with aeileen and jack's passing, they were very close friends. we always stayed very close to eileen. >> right. >> okay? this was different. this was like -- i can't even explain it. it was -- there was so much sadness, so much -- it was just really all i can say it was really hard and harder on my husband. >> right. >> and then, but then -- now you have a whole two more years of being -- >> yeah. >> being in battalion command and how did the battalion grow
or change after this experience? >> it got a lot better. okay? it was a great experience. i had some wonderful wives. okay? being a battalion commander's wife was a whole different spectrum from me. i'm -- you know, i just -- i just married somebody who happened to be in the military. okay? and as his rank grew, i just still was thinking i just married this man and so i just -- i just come along for the ride and then all of a sudden being a commander's wife was a whole different experience
for me. i'm not the type of person that is -- likes to stand out in a crowd or having ten or 12, 15 women looking at me as i'm talking so that was very hard for me in the beginning. you know, i tried to make it a relaxed atmosphere. okay? you know? i'm just here doing a job. so -- but it got better, and we enjoyed, okay. it was just in the beginning. i would say that probably the first year was hard but then things settled down and it got better. >> that's good. then after this, after battalion command you all went to the naval war college. >> yes. >> was that a different environment for your family? >> oh, you men up in newport, rhode island? yes. because we somewhat came back home again. >> right. >> what i mean is we were back up in the north again.
being closer to family again. and it -- newport is gorgeous. we lived at ft. adams. okay? which was wonderful. and, yeah. because it was -- you know, navy wives, army wives. yeah. it was -- it was a lot of fun. the two years that we were there but i was working, you know, again. >> right. and the boys are older. >> oldest son was in college. in new york. and our middle son had his junior and senior year of high school there so that was great and our little one did sixth and seventh grade there. and they had a little teen center, you know, up -- you know, up at ft. adams that our youngest one could go to and then troy having the last two years of high school was really great for him and it was great for him in the sense because the kids who grew up in newport were used to ft. adams every year or
two years of military children coming to their schools. so they were friendly to the military -- >> that's good. >> -- kids which made it easier for your children to adapt. because the one thing i have to say is i grew up, you know, in one state. with all family around. my children were army brats and i give them all the credit in the world. you know? for these children to go traveling around with their parents and having to drag them everywhere. and i think it's a great experience for them but i give them credit for doing that. >> sure. yeah. and then your final assignment was the -- back to the pentagon again, back to -- >> yeah. our last six years, yeah, yeah.
>> how was that? >> it was fine. harry worked -- when we first got there in '90 it was the gulf war. >> right. >> okay? so harry's hours were unbelievable. you know? for probably the first six months. >> because he was planning the operations, wasn't he? >> yes. >> uh-huh. >> yep. and i was back -- you know, i was working. >> right. >> we only had one son at home now. okay? because troy had gone off to college, you know. the hardest adjustment was for my youngest son. he was entering eighth grade and we lived in a civilian community in alexandria. we rented a home. and they weren't used to military kids. all these kids had gone through elementary school together. so he was like an outcast and probably the first two years of my son's -- it was very hard on him.
he had no friends. you know? he played soccer. okay? you know, he was into sports. but nobody would invite him over to their home. it was very, very hard for my son the first two years and then after that it got much better but i felt really, really bad for him. you know? that's an awful age for children to begin with and so it was hardest on him. you know? otherwise, i've always loved the d.c. area so -- >> yeah. >> you know? it's a wonderful place to be stationed. >> okay. and as your husband was planning desert shield and desert storm, what were all the other military spouses thinking or how did that affect your lives other than the long hours? >> i really can't answer that because we really didn't get -- have a lot of social events at this time. >> sure. >> you know? i didn't even know a lot of the wives or even the men because they were so busy. you know, we just had friends
who were stationed in d.c. too, that was one thing nice. stationed in other areas of the pentagon or whatever that we would see them but, again, i was working full-time. you know? we had children. you know? it's different. >> sure. >> it's totally different. >> yeah. and then, what's it been like since your husband's been retired from the military? >> when he retired in '96, harry got a job in orlando, florida. so we moved down to orlando, florida. and became civilians. you know? i got a job. >> was it a big adjustment for you all? >> not particularly for me but i think it was a big adjustment for harry. he'd been in the military a long time. i think it was hard for him at first.
you know? to be in retirement but he worked at a place where there was a lot of military people. so, he -- you know, he finally adjusted but it took him longer than me. >> but -- and now you're back living in new york? >> yes. >> you've come home. >> yes. yes. >> and what's it being so close to west point again? >> we love it. we love it. we love it. one of the reasons why we came back is, of course, our children are scattered being army brats so we have live one that lives and works in boston. i have my youngest son lives in the d.c. area, you know, works in d.c. and lives in maryland. my oldest son lives out in long island. okay? so coming back here, we can drive to see the children and
the grandchildren instead of having to fly. >> that's nice. >> you know? and them flying down. as their families grew to fly down to us is expensive when you have four, five people flying down. so they enjoyed it at the time when the children were younger, because we were only like 35 minutes from disney world. but this way it was like coming back home. because harry had a brother who still lives in new york. i have a sister who lives in jersey. my other sister lives up in boston, is like 15 minutes from my son. so we just feel like we're back home. it's a great place. and even though we're retired, we can use the facilities, you know, being close and, yeah, we
just like going back in new york. even the cold weather. everybody asked us why go from the warm weather up to new york? but it's been fine. >> and you kind of already said what west point means to you. but is there anything you haven't said that i haven't asked you yet that you would like to talk about? >> no, not really. i mean, west point is meaningful to us as i told you before. our oldest son got married here. >> okay. >> at the catholic chapel, which was really nice. and i can't think of anything. >> it's been a pleasure to talk with you. and i really enjoyed hearing about all your experiences. >> thank you. >> have a wonderful day. >> thank you very much. >> on american history tv in peopletime, a look at the 50th anniversary at the murder of
martin luther king, jr., with fi films. beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. tonight on c-span2, book tv in primetime with books on business and economics. sus susan marquis, author of "i am not a tractor." and creativity and intellectual property in "you don't own me." "new york times" finance editor writes about a financial scam that impacted millions of people with the spider network. after that, queens college history professor joshua freeman examines how factory production has impacted the world's political norms in his book. and william rempls and his book
"the gambler." book tv all this week on c-span2 in primetime. monday on "landmark cases," katz versus united states, where charles katz, a bookie, was tape recorded by the fbi while transmitting illegal bets from a telephone booth on sunset boulevard in los angeles. the supreme court's decision in this case ultimately expanded american's rights to privacy under the fourth amendment and forever changed the way law enforcement officers conduct their investigations. our guests to discuss this case are jeffrey rosen, ceo of the national constitution senter in philadelphia. and jameel jaffer, founder of the national security institute and director of the national law program. watch "landmark cases "monday and join the conversation at
#landmarkcases. and we have resources on our website. the landmark cases companion book, a link to the national constitution center's interactive constitution, and the landmark cases pod cost at c spat.org/landmarkcases. each week, american artifacts takes viewers into museums and historic sites around the country. the hay-adams hotel is just across from the white house. it's decorated with a collection of political cartoons at the bar, and even the coasters are updated with current caricatures. we spoke with the vice president hans