Catherine Williamson (Nee Castille)
Catherine Williamson (Nee Castille)
In March of 2011, Catherine C. and Harry L. Williamson moved into the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi, hoping to settle down after many years of military, civilian, government, and private sector service – and 50 years of married life.
In the early years of World War II, four young women from the small Village of Sunset, Louisiana, population 600, were imbued with the national patriotic spirit and decided to join the Armed Forces of the Country. They considered it their duty to be involved in relieving 150,000 men for other duties. IN ALL, five members of the Castille family of ten children – 8 girls and 2 boys – honorably served their country. Mercedes “Mac” was first, being a registered nurse, joined the Army Nurse Corps. She was quickly trained for combat conditions and shipped to England. Catherine “Kadie” finished business college just as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, recruiting only college graduates for its first Officer Candidates, began enlisting other women to begin training. She first went to Fort Des Moines in Iowa. After strenuous physical exams and aptitude tests, and what seemed like a long wait, Catherine reported to New Orleans and was on her way with several rail coach loads of excited recruits to Des Moines.
After completion of basic training, Catherine was sent to recruiting school (2 weeks), having been turned down for the Motor Corps, which she hoped would take her overseas as an ambulance driver. She was to spend two years in recruiting in the states of Georgia and Florida, traveling to many small towns, talking to and enlisting many women; and taking part in events in the Country like war bond drives, ship christenings, parades, and too much to remember.
Sisters Mildred “Mimi” and Mary Francis “Mamy” meanwhile had enlisted in the Air Force branch of the WAC. Mimi completed basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and was assigned to IBM training and sent to Washington D.C. “Mamy” was sent to an Air Force Base in Texas as a medical technician. Our brother Michael (the youngest), became old enough (18) to join the Coast Guard and in 1945 served in Groton, Connecticut as his sisters were coming home. Mac rode in trucks and other transportation Christmas 1944, evacuating wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, made it to Paris to celebrate VE Day, and home for Christmas in 1945. Mimi and Kadie made it home for Christmas also, but Mamy became ill and after a year was discharged to the VA.
In the meantime, Harry L. Williamson of Auburn, Indiana, had grown up and had a career in the U.S. Air Force in mind. His parents weren’t ready to lose their youngest son since two of his brothers serving in the Army and Air Force had been killed during World War II: Richard in a military rescue accident in 1942, and Joseph in France in 1944 near St. Lo. Harry was finally able to enlist in the U.S. Air Force and spent 20 years serving in Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, North Africa, and Itazuke Air Base, Japan. Harry and Catherine’s lives did not cross until he was assigned to the Office of the Air Attache’ at the American Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. Catherine had spent the years after Army service in 1945 in secretarial jobs in Florida, New Orleans and Houston until recruited by the Department of State Foreign Service in 1949. She spent the next ten years in Warsaw, Rome, Teheran, and Rangoon, with breaks in Washington D.C., until she was assigned to Seoul as secretary to Ambassador Walter McConaughy. She had also served as his secretary in Burma.
Catherine and Harry were married in Seoul in October, 1960. They had worked together during riots that brought down Korean President Sigman Rhee, and during President Eisenhower’s visit. Catherine still has the 37mm cannon shell that Harry took from a Russian MIG-15 that defected from North Korea in August, 1960 (she says “he was trying to impress me.”)