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Ilene Hall Joined the Army to Find Her Husband in the Middle of WWII

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 30, 2023 3:02 am

Ilene Hall Joined the Army to Find Her Husband in the Middle of WWII

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 30, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, when Ilene Hall enlisted in the Army WAC in 1943, she was following her husband, Edward “Ken” Hall, to war. When her husband, to whom she was married in March 1943, finished his training and was about to be shipped overseas, the young Canton, Ohio girl decided not to put an ocean between them. Here she is to tell her story! 

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Every morning on NBC, because every day needs today. This is Lee Habib, and this is our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, from the arts to sports, and from business to history, and everything in between, including your stories.

They're some of our favorites. Our next story, well, it's one about service, love, and sacrifice. Let's follow Eileen Hall's incredible journey across Europe as she searches for her husband in the middle of World War II. Eileen was a member in the Women's Army Corps, or WAC. We got together with Eileen and her daughter Sherry, who both live in Canton, Ohio.

Here's Eileen. I'm from Canton, Ohio. I was born in 10-11-23, and my mother and dad had a restaurant in downtown Canton, and we had a hotel up above the restaurant, and that's where I was raised. We lived right across the street from McKinley High School, so all I had to do for high school was walk across the street and go to school. After my mother made it to my high school graduation, and shortly after that, she passed on, and my dad remarried, and I felt very uncomfortable at home with a different mother, really. And you were working at a kimpkin and roller bearing company, so it's a long time.

That's 75 years ago, you know, so I'm trying to remember a lot of it I'll never forget. And there I met a girl, and we became friends, and we worked in the stationary supply office, and she had a boyfriend from Galion, Ohio, and every time he came up to see her, he brought his brother. So she said, do you think you'd mind dating his brother if he brings him up? And I said, oh no. Well, that was it, because we just melded together, and it's just worked out. So, but he was being drafted like all the, that he was going to be sent to Oklahoma.

So, after my dad remarried, I just didn't feel comfortable at home. So I said, I think I always wanted to go to California. So I said, I think I'll go to California, because I've always wanted to go there. So I boarded a train, and it stopped in Oklahoma. And I thought, well, I'll just see, you know, him while I'm here.

So that's as far as I got. We got married. After I was there a few days, we had to go through blood tests, and it was really, you know, so, and we were married in a Parson's office.

And then it wasn't long after that, that he was sent overseas. So I thought, well, since I'm married to him, I'll go back home and see what I can do, you know. So I went back home, and I decided to enlist in the service. So I went in downtown Canton, where they had their recruiting office, and told them I would like to join the Army.

Well, the Navy I really wanted, but you couldn't get in that one until later. So I decided to get in the Army if I could. So even though I was married, I had to get my dad's consent.

Because of my age, I couldn't do it unless I had my parents' consent. So I went to where he worked and told him, and he said, well, if I don't do this, you'll do something else crazy. So he signed.

He was a World War I veteran. So he signed, and I took it back. And after that, I got into basic training in Daytona Beach, Florida. From there, I was, I, they said as we were being interviewed, the girls that had already volunteered said, you'll be sorry. And so, but I volunteered for everything. So I always got to pick up things that I wanted to do.

So I thought that was a good idea. From there, I was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for driver training. And I led a convoy through Georgia as one of our tryouts, you know, to see how we did. And so, and then we had to go in gas chambers and take off with a gas mask and stay for a few minutes and then go out and catch your breath again. And then we had to lay down and they fired shots over us, you know, to see how we'd react. And then we had to go through other training, abandoning ship, we had to go, you know, to a top of the ship that would be and go down the sides.

And a couple of the girls were just terrified of doing it. So I helped along with them. And then after that was all done, I was sent to Fort Lewis, sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. And I was only there for a little while. The fellows in the barracks weren't used to having women there.

And boy, every time we'd walk out everywhere, phew, there were guys walking with us. So, but anyway, I volunteered, they asked for volunteers to go overseas. So I volunteered, but there were too many. So I wasn't going to get to go, but at the last minute, one gal dropped out. And so I took her place. And then it wasn't long after that, that we were sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and boarded the Queen Elizabeth and headed for France.

So on a ship that in peacetime would accommodate two people, there were 24 whacks in one room. And then we went on and we landed at Glasgow, Scotland, in the Isle of Clyde. And there we were met with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, and they gave us food, and until they decided where we were going to go from there. And some of us boarded a train and headed for Sutton-Coalfield, England. That's where I was going to be stationed for a while. And we've been listening to Eileen Hall's journey to find her husband in the middle of World War II, a great backstory. I can't wait to hear more.

Sure, you can't either. When we come back, more of Eileen Hall's story here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country, and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture, and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

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Listen to Untold Stories Life with myasthenia gravis on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And we continue here on Our American Stories with Eileen Hall's story. And what an adventurer this lady was, my goodness, and so many other women who served in the war.

She wanted to be in the theater and volunteered for it. Let's pick up where we last left off. Some of us boarded a train and headed for Sutton-Coalfield, England. That's where I was going to be stationed for a while. So that's where I had to drive a jeep. I went through the motor course, so I was allowed to drive a jeep and up to a two and a half ton truck. So I drove the, everybody in Sutton-Coalfield in England had to list if they had a room available for GIs because they didn't want the women staying in rooms, they wanted the men to be there.

So that's what I did for a while and got them all done. And then I was sent, I drove a major there. Four of us were drivers and we all drove an officer. So I drove a major.

So we were on call 24 hours a day for whatever reason they wanted us. But I had to drive in the fog so bad that I had to put my foot up. They drive on the left side on the curb so I would know where I was going.

And because of that, my left leg is not as big as my right one. It took that much, it froze. And I had to go back to the barracks and they put me behind a bakery until I could thaw out to my leg.

It was so frozen from driving. So we had gone through many air raids at night and one of the gals said, if I'm going to get killed, I'm going to do it right here. And so the rest of us decided we'd stay together. So that was it because there were nightly air raids. After I left England, I went to France and was with the post office there as a driver. So every morning I'd drive into Paris and you could, the streets were empty except for people going through garbage cans trying to get something to eat, people and dogs. And that's something I'll never forget. And as I drove to the post office that I was at, just as I drove in, something cracked on the steering wheel and I couldn't and I couldn't steer it, but I was already there. So I was that, I felt that was a blessing because if I'd done that out in the, you know, out on the streets, it would have been something else.

I have faith and I just felt I'd be protected whatever I did because I, if I volunteered for something, I felt that that's what I should do. So I just had a different life than some of the other WACs. But the Battle of the Bulge was going on then and they were bringing the wounded into the hospital in Paris. And our commanding officer was called from the hospital and asked to send some WACs down to help. The wounded were coming in so fast. So our commanding officer called me and said, you know, gonna take some WACs to the hospital. So I got a ton and a half truck and loaded it with WACs and drove into the hospital in front of the hospital and walked in and here the GIs are all laying on the floor and you could just walk sideways. And so they, we would kneel down and talk to them and take, you know, we all went and talked to each one and asked where they were from and just got them calmed down before. And then they finally found room for them all. So, but when I had time off, I was allowed to take the jeep and I became acquainted with two fellows from Iowa.

And one was, had his left leg amputated below his knees. So he was going to be sent home. And he said he hated to see, go home without seeing Paris.

And I said, well, I'll see what I can do. So I went to my commanding officer, told her to the store. And she says, you take a jeep and show him wherever you want to go. So where there were two WACs in the back and me driving and him sitting beside me and I took him all over Paris.

So he was, you know, excited about that. And we kept in touch for years after I got home. So, but I got a letter from my husband saying he was going to be sent to the CBI.

That's the China Burma. And I thought, and I started crying and the officer was below me and she came up and wanted to know why I was crying. And I said, well, my husband's going to be sent to the CB area.

And I said, I probably never see him again. And she said, I'll see what I can do. So she got me orders attached to Mark Clark's, but he never knew I was part of his service. So, but that got me to the airport and asked, you know, if anybody was going to Paris. And there, there was a plane just out there that was going to be going to Italy.

And I told my story to the guy at the desk. And so he said, that plane right there, you can get on. So they put down the Bombay doors and I walked out and, and they, one on one side, one on the other lifted me up and putting in where the gun turret is. And that's how I rode from there to, to Italy.

And I got off of the plane and I was standing on the road and I didn't realize right in front of me was the tower of Pisa because I didn't realize it was that big, you know? And so I walked out and I started hitchhiking and along came a British guy in a truck with three soldiers in the back. And one was, they were tending to one. And I said, what happened?

She said, he got hurt, but not by fire. I don't know exactly how I got hurt and they're going into Rome. So they stopped for water and the driver of the truck had to come back and stand in front of me.

And so I could lean to the back because the people just came from everywhere and they wanted to touch me and, you know, and I, I didn't know what to do. So they looked out for me and then we left and went on to Rome to the red cross there. And they put me up for the night. The next morning was a Sunday. So it was church. So I went down and went to church. And after a little while before church started, a fellow sat down beside me and he looked at my patch. He says, you're not from around here, are you? And I said, no, I, and I told him my story. He said, I'll see what I can do. So the next day he had gotten permission from his officer and he was able to take me from Rome to Milano. And on the way it started to rain and the fellow didn't know how to do the top to the jeep. So I showed him how to do that. And he took me up and my husband was waiting for me, waiting there. So we had our honeymoon on Lake Como and I had our own villa attached to a regular one, which is owned now by George Clooney.

And I'm sure George Clooney doesn't know it, but I'm going to write a letter to him sometime if he ever gets it. The Villa d'Este. Yeah. So yeah, that was the fifth army rest camp. So we left from Le Harve on the E.B.

Alexander, headed for the United States. As we pulled into New York Harbor, all the lights came on and they took us off the boat and fed us the best Thanksgiving dinner we ever had. So, and from there we had to go to Fort Dix to get released from the army. And then I boarded a train for Canton, Ohio. And when I got to Canton, there were my husband and my dad and just welcomed me home.

He got home seven days before I did. But other than that, why I think my experience was something that not too many people have the opportunity to experience. So that's my love story. And I love to tell it. So, and thanks for the opportunity to tell it. So that's it.

And that's it. And thanks for the opportunity to let us tell it, Eileen. And what a beautiful story about so many things, particularly just a sheer sense of adventure. Off to Europe to fight Nazis, searching for each other, learning how to drive trucks and tanks, supply lines to defeat one of the world's worst enemies in history. Eileen Hall's journey to find her husband in the middle of World War II.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-30 04:34:16 / 2023-08-30 04:42:26 / 8

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