Mary Baruth, 85, of Bloomington was one of the first people to know that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor to start World War II. "I was a telephone operator in the Kenwood District -- the only one left that was manual. We were all half-asleep when the board lit up," she told me on Thursday. "I knew our life was going to change from then on." (Listen)
She didn't know then, of course, that she'd spend the war years in the Army Air Force. She hadn't considered the military until a trip to Seattle where she met women in the Coast Guard who convinced her that the reputation of military women as "raunchy" wasn't true. "It was new to have women actually in the service and there were rumors that there were a lot of rough women in the service. And there were a few." Two of her best friends in the service became nuns after the war. "I made two of my best friends nuns," she said. (Listen)
She joined the Army after a fight with her boyfriend, she said. She served in the Army Airways Communication System, investigating people who were going to be engaged in secret work. "Any guy who was going to do any of the secret work had to be investigated, and we would try to get information on him from the various police departments." She started in Shepherd Field in Texas but was eventually moved to Langley, Virginia, now the home of the CIA. "That was interesting because of all the secretive work that was going on there."
"Any secrets you'd like to share," I asked.
"No," she said with a laugh, leaving the distinct impression it wasn't because she didn't know them. "They had us in a building with no windows. It was like working in a dungeon."
Mary Baruth (then Mary Reese) met the man who would become her husband after the war, when he walked into her office by mistake. It wasn't until 1949 that they married and had three children -- he called them "Little works of Art." He died last year.
The military was one of the best times of her life. "When I went in the service, I had to do things whether I liked to or not. Just to get out and meet people, it just changed my whole life as far as me not being in a shell anymore," she said. "I always think it gave me more confidence -- the people I met and travel. But I wasn't just going in for me. I was trying to help out."
Asked about an event next week at which Minnesota's women veterans will be honored, Baruth said, "It's kind of late, isn't it? We were new to the service, but it's taken awhile and I'm thinking, 'how many of us are left?'"
What would she like to hear someone say? "That we've done well. That we helped out," she said, with a touch of guilt, however. "We were there to relieve the guys and if we weren't there, maybe some of them wouldn't have had to go overseas."
This is the final of the short series on the women of World War II. You can find the first one here and the second one here. My colleague, Elizabeth Stawicki, also produced a nifty story on the subject in 2005.(3 Comments)
Last Friday I published the obit of Chuck Doyle, one of the most colorful pilots in Minnesota's history (you may remember him as the guy who flew a plane into a house at the Minnesota State Fair). Chuck held court at the South St. Paul airport on Saturdays, telling old stories and now the Experimental Aircraft Association has made it permanent, publishing this segment of its "Timeless Voices of Aviation" series.(4 Comments)
Every now and again a news story comes along so filled with irony that you can spend half a day turning it around and around trying to make it black or white. Last year, for example, my favorite was the bill at the Capitol (eventually signed) was the one that mandates that American flags sold in Minnesota can only be made in the United States.
Today, it's this one:
The Tennessee parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq are attempting to open a $40 billion class-action lawsuit against Flagstaff T-shirt vendor Dan Frazier.
Frazier sells shirts emblazoned with the phrase "Bush Lied, They Died," along with the names of thousands of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Is it freedom of speech? And, if so, isn't that what soldiers are defending? On the other hand -- and these sorts of stories tend to be full of "on the other hands" -- should you profit on the deaths of others?
(H/T Politics in Minnesota)(8 Comments)
More musings on what it means to politicize the I-35W bridge collapse.
John McCain's comment in Pennsylvania:
"The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money. The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."
Rep. Keith Ellison in the Associated Press story on McCain's remarks:
"The last thing we need is a misinformed presidential aspirant posturing at our expense."
Keith Ellison on August 3 -- two days after the bridge collapse:
"Well, I will say this. You know, life is about tradeoffs. Government is about tradeoffs. And you can have one thing or another. You can invest in infrastructure or you can pursue other government expenditures, which are not as productive as basic infrastructure investment."
Are they saying the same thing with different words? Infrastructure is crumbling because money is being spent elsewhere?
Posted at 11:32 AM on May 2, 2008
by Bob Collins
Lindsay Petterson, whose story I profiled here last month, is happy that the Legislature has finally reached a deal on compensation for victims of the I-35W bridge collapse last August... and maybe a little hesitant about what's next.
She posted on her Caring Bridge Web site today:
I will be curious to see how my emotions play out in the next few months. For so long, I was able to focus on the legislative stuff when I felt hopeless and helpless. At least I could do something to make a difference. I'll just have to wait and see how things play out at least.
I got so busy working on the Women of World War II stories over the last week (here, here, and here and thanks for asking!)that I neglected to put together a News Cut Quiz last week. Nobody noticed -- a blow to your education and my ego. But let's muster on. This week's quiz is full of great trivia from this week's news stories. Where else can you learn the temperature at which a seed of corn germinates. There. That's your only clue this week.
As always, report back here when you're done.
I am heading to New England for the next two weeks. I'll be occasionally posting something but in the meantime, if I hear correctly, MPR's Tim Nelson and, perhaps, Tom Weber will be your hosts. In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter.
And, what's that? You say you have a good angle for News Cut, or a person you think I just have to profile? Good. Tell me about it.(8 Comments)