By Mary Kay Gominger
We have all had events that have happened during our lifetime
that when the event is recalled years later we can remember exactly
where we were and what we were doing at the precise moment it happened.
It could be a personal event such as giving or receiving a wedding
proposal, the birth of a child, the death of a parent…or it could be
something that didn't affect us personally but instead had a monumental
affect on our country - such as the first landing on the moon, the death
of President Kennedy, the 9-11 tragedy.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is one of those
events for many of our residents at AFRH and especially so for Catherine
Deitch. Catherine recalls that fateful day with full clarity. Here’s her
“I was on my honeymoon in an oceanside cabin when the news of the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was broadcast on the radio. My husband
picked up a broom, put it over his shoulder, started marching around and
said to me, “America is going to war.”
We returned to Pennsylvania, rented an apartment for one year in
Harrisburg, Penn., and started to get our affairs in order and as my
husband was about to be drafted, I enlisted. My active duty date began
on Dec. 30, 1942, and I traveled on a troop train to Daytona Beach,
Fla., arriving just as the whistles were blowing to welcome the New Year
Since my husband’s date to report for duty was Jan. 10, 1943, he
was able to stand on the train platform in Harrisburg and wave goodbye
to his wife. He joked about that for many years.
I served in the WAAC from Dec. 30, 1942, to Aug. 9, 1943, then
served in the WAC from Aug. 9, 1943, to Nov. 24, 1945.
After basic training at Daytona Beach, I was assigned to Boston
and lived at the Boston City Club for 15 months, where I worked in the
From Boston, I was sent to Bradley Field, Conn., and later to Ft.
Oglethorphe, Ga., and from there on a troop train to Riverside, Calif.,
to prepare for overseas assignment. I still have a copy of the list of
113 women who sailed with me on Sept. 30, 1944, on the USS General A.E.
Anderson, and, believe it or not, one woman is Miriam C. Rivkin, who
also lives here at AFRH. We were both discharged in 1945 and had not
seen or heard from each other until I arrived at AFRH on March 14, 2007,
almost 62 years ago. Great reunion!
Since our ship, the USS General A.E. Anderson had to zig zag
crossing the Pacific Ocean to avoid being sunk by enemy submarines it
meant were were on board from Sept. 26, 1944, until we arrived at
Bomban, India, via the Indian Ocean on Oct. 28, 1944. We had made only
one stop, at Melbourne, Australia, for one week, to refuel and restock
We were driven to Hastings on the Hooghly River, a branch of the
Ganges River and lived in a huge jrrite mill which the Army had
converted for our living plus headquarters. The women were clerical
workers, telephone operators, cooks, medical staff, etc.
We were offered the opportunity to see India and I visited the
Taj Mahal, saw Mt. Everest, Darjeeling, etc. Some of our women
honeymooned in Kashmir.
On Oct. 30, 1945, my group sailed from Karach, Pakistan on the
ship Callan to the USA via the Suez Canal, Mediterrain Sea, North
Atlantic Ocean and arrived in New York City on Nov. 21, 1945, bused to
Camp Shanks and on Nov. 24, 1945, we were discharged. It was
Thanksgiving Day and Ft. Dix, New Jersey, served us a feast!
My Army service afforded me the opportunity to sail all the way
around the world. Now, when people ask me what I did, I say I was an
administrative specialist with duty one year as WAC Det First Sergeant
at Headquarters A.A.F. India Burma Theatre, Calcutta, India.