Erickson was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin in 1918. Her father was still fighting in World War I in France. He returned three months after she was born. She remembers seeing railroad cars full of caskets in her youth that were filled with flu victims. Her family came into money during the Great Depression from a deceased uncle. Fortunately for them they came into money. Erickson remembers getting teased by kids because of how much money they had. They built a beautiful six bedroom, six bath house with three cars in the driveway. When Erickson was fourteen years old her parents paid for her and her sister to go to Europe. It was a learning experience for her. She took care of as many friends as she could. Erickson questioned her mothers flaunting of the wealth they had. The Depression was terrible yet people accepted it. They accepted the fact that they were poor and everyone who could tried to help out other people. Erickson was in New York City when World War II broke out. She had won an essay contest and was selected to go to New York. Her essay was entitled, "Why American democracy is worth saving."
The judges at the essay contest [Annotators Note: in New York] were distinguished writers and figureheads. Erickson was one of the winners. She was sent to the Peace Institute by Pepsi Cola. She worked daytimes in the presidents office and at night she learned how to type. She was on the Merritt Parkway when she found out about Pearl Harbor. Men registered for the draft and women got married. Erickson herself got married. She ended up in Boston working for the educational advisor's office a Harvard University. She helped to interview undergrads for guidance. Her husband joined the Navy so Erickson had to travel all over. His ship was christened near the same time her daughter Claudia was born. Erickson had the German measles during the first few months of her pregnancy. German measles in the early term of pregnancy causes deformations and birth defects. They were not able to keep her alive. She had a bunch of different jobs after her husband left to go fight. She maintained these jobs to keep busy. Because of her work at OSS [Annotators Note: Office of Strategic Services] she was recommended for a wartime job. She got on a train and went to Washington D.C. to go to work. She did not know much about the OSS when she got there. She loved Washington and it was good for her to have a secure job. The biggest shock about the job she got was that she could not tell anyone about the work that they were doing. She had never been restricted like that before. They could not keep diaries or talk about work even with their coworkers. They had to learn a new way of being secretive.
The training was on the job. Erickson learned most of her secretarial duties on the job. They did not study outside of the office because of the secrecy order. She was assigned to work with the map division. The maps were card catalogued under a specific filing system. When World War II ended American soldiers pillaged the libraries of Germany to get all of the atlases they could. In Erickson's department these maps came back in knapsacks. They were covered with mud. When they were cleaning the mud off and extracting the material from the knapsacks they could not help but wonder if men had died in that mud. All of the atlases had to be card catalogued and put into the map division. The men who were in charge of the invasion of Europe came to the map division in order to get maps made for their troops. They also needed map information for railroad tracks and libraries. They also needed to know bridge locations and things of that nature. Erickson grew fond of the men who came to get maps because she knew that some of them might not come back. The Army Air Corps had their own map system however Erickson worked with the better maps. She visited the Army Air Corps at one point to see what kind of maps they had. There was a rivalry between the Army Air Corps map division and the overall map division in Washington D.C. that Erickson worked for. The OSS [Annotators Note: Office of Strategic Services] would come in groups of five to collect maps. They were mainly interested in railroads and bridge locations. Erickson went to work in September of 1944. She was mainly in charge of keeping track of the maps through a card catalogue system. A lot of the maps were devised by the leading geographers from the major universities in the country. She was at one point was assigned to put into microfilm, all of the relevant maps in National Geographic's collection. Erickson also went to the 5th Avenue library [Annotators Note: in Washington D.C.] to put onto microfilm their map collection.
Erickson's department held all of the best maps in the country. She saw the war from an interesting perspective. Yeta Sternfeld was the most brilliant woman that Erickson worked with. She knew where everything was in the map division. Everyone turned to Yeta for help. Her husband was on a submarine. She never allowed anyone in her apartment. Later on her life Erickson was back home and an FBI agent came to her door inquiring about Yeta. All Erickson could tell the FBI was that Yeta was a brilliant worker and that she never wanted people around her apartment. She never found out what happened to Yeta. Erickson does keep in contact with some of the former OSS [Annotators Note: Office of Strategic Services] employees she worked with. Arthur Robinson, a former employee kept in contact with her. She worked under contract for eight hours a day, however a lot of the time they were asked to stay late. Some days Erickson would have to stay until nine or ten o'clock.
Erickson had supportive parents. They were worried about her, especially after Claudia passed away. They were happy that she was able to stay busy. Erickson was shocked by the idea of Japan. They had been working through the aerial maps of Japan and they feared that the invasion would be costly. She recalls the willingness of young men and women during her time to contribute. Erickson followed the war by reading newspapers and listening to the radio. She wrote to her husband all of the time. He was a gunnery officer aboard a submarine and had to endure the elements of the North Atlantic. She remembers her husband describing how cold it was. Donovan came through the map division one time. He was a charmer according to her. When Erickson left her job she had to sign a notice of confidentiality. They were also given a little book that said what they could or could not talk about. It was not until 1976 that Erickson could talk about it. Erickson discusses how people dealt with rationing during the war. She also recalls all the different types of coupons that were used. She notes that the spirit of World War II was good and uplifting. The people were good.
Erickson was always active in church groups and organizations such as Daughters of the American Revolution. She lost four children in her life. She had one son who survived. Her son Stephen is 58. Erickson stayed home for two years caring for him. Erickson's impression of the people during World War II was that the American people did a phenomenal job. She believes it was America in its heyday. Erickson is impressed by the vastness of our military effort. She feels as if World War II did not change the world that much, people were the same way and they were, focused on rebuilding. She notes that it took people a long time to even start mentioning the war. Now greed has taken over. Al Capone was the only crook she knew growing up. On the whole, World War II was a magnificent undertaking. She believes that the National World War II Museum is very important to the United States. She realizes that she played a very important part in the war effort.
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