This interview of Norma Shaver is part of a collection called the World War II Veterans Video Tape Project.
Interview of Norma Shaver
Transcript Number 104
JANUARY 22, 2002
Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I’m a consultant with the University of North Carolina Wilmington. This is the World War II Veterans Video Tape Project. This morning we’re at the home of Ms. Norma P. Shaver. Ms. Shaver, a North Carolinian, enlisted in the, well I’m going to ask her.
INTERVIEWER: Where did you enlist, why did you enlist and when did you enlist? When, where and how.
SHAVER: It was 1943 and at that time they were trying to get a company to represent each state and so I joined the North Carolina company.
INTERVIEWER: And where were you living at that time?
SHAVER: In Winston-Salem, North Carolina and I was working for Hanes Inc. which was classified as a defense industry and we eventually got recognized for supplying men’s underwear to the Army…
…INTERVIEWER: …Well, where did you do your basic training, oh I’m sorry. Why did you go into the military?
SHAVER: Well I had one brother who was being drafted in the Army soon after Pearl Harbor. I had three sisters and I decided that I could join and help out. When they formed the Auxiliary Army Corps, I considered joining, but I wasn’t quite old enough. So when it turned into the regular Army, I decided to join.
INTERVIEWER: Now you enlisted in when, 1942?
INTERVIEWER: And at that time it was then officially part of the United States Army?
SHAVER: That’s right.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. And where did you do your basic training?
SHAVER: At Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your basic.
SHAVER: Well there were a lot of drills and we learned a lot how, you know, just general Army regulations and procedures.
INTERVIEWER: Did you fire any weapons?
INTERVIEWER: So it was drilling and getting an orientation to the Army, how to wear your uniform and stuff like that.
INTERVIEWER: How long was basic training?
SHAVER: Six weeks.
INTERVIEWER: And then what happened to you after that?
SHAVER: After that I was sent to New York, Long Island, as a finance clerk, working in the finance office and we paid the soldiers and kept the records of the finances…
…INTERVIEWER: Sure. Well you got to Australia.
SHAVER: Yes up to the northwest corner of Australia.
INTERVIEWER: Now what year was this, ma’am?
SHAVER: In ’43.
INTERVIEWER: Let’s see, did you get there in their summer or in their winter?
SHAVER: It was winter.
INTERVIEWER: And what did they have you doing there?
SHAVER: Well I was in the headquarters, I was assigned to the headquarters and they had me getting letters to… at first they said General McArthur. People would ask about their sons. They hadn’t heard from them in a long time and ask where he was and we would know. We would send out letters and find out where he was and notify the writers. We would give the information exactly where he was stationed if it was possible.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever see General McArthur?
SHAVER: Yes I did. I saw him, you know, going in and out of the office. The day that they had a memorial service for President Roosevelt, he was there and I saw him.
INTERVIEWER: Was he a big man, a small man?
SHAVER: Yeah, a big man.
INTERVIEWER: What was his reputation? Did the troops like him?
SHAVER: Well, everybody, well he had a lot of criticism. Sometimes they said nobody liked him, but people were all for him at his headquarters.
INTERVIEWER: Why didn’t they like him?
SHAVER: Well he was arrogant, that’s what they said (laughter).
INTERVIEWER: Stuck up, huh?
SHAVER: Yeah. And he was old Army, you know, his family was Army. But I was pretty low down on the totem pole. I didn’t have much to do with him, whether I liked him or didn’t like him.
INTERVIEWER: Were you promoted to PFC by this time?
SHAVER: I can’t remember exactly what year…
INTERVIEWER: You were probably making a ton of money, what, maybe $50 a month? How were living conditions? Where did you live?
SHAVER: In Brisbane, we lived in a park and had stationary tents. Then I moved up to New Guinea, we had just regular tents. In the Philippines, we lived in a schoolhouse set up to … and then when I went to Manila, we were at the university there. But the buildings were not, you know, in too good a shape…
…INTERVIEWER: I’m going to ask you what I ask the other people. All the places that you went and all the people you met and the good times and the bad times, what does it all mean to you now when you look back on it? What did you learn from all of that? What would you tell your grandchildren?
SHAVER: Well it was an experience and I met lots of different people and went to a lot of different places, but war is not good and we should learn to get along without it. And we’re still doing the same thing.
INTERVIEWER: Yep. We should learn to get along without it.
INTERVIEWER: There’s really very little glamour.
SHAVER: That’s right and so much suffering.
INTERVIEWER: I guess in my experience and I wonder about yours, the thing that kept me going were my buddies.
SHAVER: Yes, that’s true.
INTERVIEWER: You were all faced with the same difficulties at the same time and there wasn’t and even with the rank, one person wasn’t better than another, he may have been in charge, but they weren’t any better than me or I wasn’t any better than them.
SHAVER: Yes, that’s right.
INTERVIEWER: But I sure did meet an awful lot of interesting people. Would you do it again?
SHAVER: Not right now (laughter). Yeah, I think I would.
INTERVIEWER: It wasn’t such a bad experience that you wouldn’t touch it…
SHAVER: If I were young, I think I would now. I’m not in favor of war though.
INTERVIEWER: I think you’ve had a real interesting life.
SHAVER: I’m sure you have too.
INTERVIEWER: Well I’ve never been a WAC (laughter).
SHAVER: Are you originally from Tennessee?
INTERVIEWER: No ma’am, we lived there for 30 some years, but I’m not. Let me ask you one last thing. If your grandchildren came to you and said should I go into the service or should I not go into the service, what would you tell them?
SHAVER: Well as long as things are set up the way they are, I think it’s better to go in and not be a deserter, but I still don’t want them to.
Citation: Shaver, Norma. “Interview of Norma Shaver.” Interview by Paul Zarbock. January 22, 2002. University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Cape Fear Museum, World War II Through the Eyes of the Cape Fear, Transcript Number 104. https://library.uncw.edu/capefearww2/voices/shaver104.html. Accessed 22 August 2023.
- Why did Ms. Shaver join the military?
- What kind of instruction did she receive while at basic training?
- Using evidence from the interview and what you have learned so far about World War II, why do you think Ms. Shaver would not want her grandchildren to join the military, as she states at the end of the interview?
Enlisted: joined the military voluntarily
Drafted: selected to join the military whether a person wants to or not
Drills: training in formal marching or other military movements, such as gun drills
Arrogant: sense of superiority or self-importance
PFC: Private First Class; rank in the armed forces
Deserter: someone who leaves the armed forces without permission