Joining the Red Cross

Becoming a Red Cross Clubmobile worker

Red Cross Clubmobile service

Serving GIs overseas

Red Cross service in France

Red Cross service in Germany

Red Cross service in Germany

Red Cross service in Germany

African Americans interactions with the Red Cross

Relfections on Red Cross service

Privileged part of the war effort

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Barbara Pathe was born in Bethel, Ohio. She lived there until she was eight years old. She had an older brother, an older sister and a younger brother. When she was eight she moved to Cincinnati with her family. Pathe went to Simmons College in Boston and graduated in 1940. Upon graduation she moved back to Cincinnati. She majored in publishing. Pathe went to New York City and lived in Manhattan. Her first job was writing about the Caribbean islands for a small travel advertising agency. Pathe was working in New York City in December of 1941 when she found out about the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was fired the next day because since the world was now at war her travel agency was not going to be doing a lot of business. Pathe went into fashion advertising for a time but was recruited by the New York State Medical Society as the circulation manager for their journal. Everybody seemed to be involved in working towards the war effort. Pathe became a blood donor. After work on Thursdays she would go to the old Tiffany building which was leased to the American Red Cross. The display windows were still there but everything on the first floor was taken out. Her job was to fold surgical dressings. Pathe became the head of the Thursday night group. One night Pathe saw a man holding up an American Red Cross membership card on a pane of glass at the bandage folding station. Pathe took up knitting to the dismay of some of the guys who received her knitted goods. She did not travel at all by plane. She traveled by train most of the time. There would be Red Cross volunteers at major stations serving troops trains as they passed. It was everywhere you looked. The Red Cross had a wonderful way of getting involved. Pathe’s coworkers were leaving to do war work. Some of them were going into the women’s military services. They would not take Pathe because of her eyes. She heard from a friend that the Red Cross was training people to go overseas. They turned Pathe down initially because of her eyes but she insisted and was accepted. Pathe wanted to be a part of what turned out to be the biggest event in her generation. Pathe signed up on 22 May 1944 for the Red Cross. She is not too sure why the Red Cross took her. She was not a party girl. When Pathe went into orientation at the university campus it was general orientation. They were teaching the girls about different things they might encounter. They taught them useful things like how to salute and how to march. Lecturers who had been overseas came in to lecture the women. Pathe recalls a lecturer who had an interesting anecdote. She told the ladies she got three propositions a month. They were put through a couple of weeks of training before they headed to their port of embarkation. They practiced going to sleep standing up. Pathe learned to sleep standing up leaning against a post. She recalls being in a K Street Hotel in Washington DC when she heard about the invasion of Normandy. The girls were disappointed that they missed the invasion.

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Barbara Pathe was disappointed that she missed the Normandy Invasion. She was sent by train to Brooklyn, New York where the staging area was. They were instructed not to tell anyone that they were going overseas. They were fitted with gas masks. Finally a group of 25 women were sent to the dock and they were put on the Argentina which was a small cruise ship. There were about 3,000 troops aboard. Pathe had a deck cabin which was nice. There were about 15 army women who were physical therapists. It took them about two weeks to cross. They had destroyer escorts. Pathe would help stand watch for submarines. That was a taste of what was coming. Their convoy had 54 ships in it. They landed in Scotland in the first week of July 1944. They had heard about the buzz bombs. They landed at Liverpool and were put on trains. Pathe got her regular assignment. That was the point where they could decide which kind of service they could be in. Pathe chose Clubmobile service [Annotator's Note: a division of the Red Cross]. She wanted to participate in the war. She thought that the clubmobile service would get her closer to the war. Pathe worked in combat zones. Working in a combat zone is a different experience. Pathe has always been glad with her choice. They made the donuts. They had donut machines and donut mix and ground coffee. Pathe was a good donut cook. She intentionally did not follow the Red Cross directions because she found a better way. Pathe would work the dough until she got the consistency she wanted. At her station she had a donut bowl, a wash station and a donut machine. The guys loved the donuts. The girls wore white cotton wrap-arounds. Sometimes the guys would tie their sash to the pole and it would come off. The guys thought it was funny. The GIs would come aboard sometimes and help the girls. Pathe saw her cooking as a form of entertainment for the guys. It was nice to let some of the men participate. In her off time she would go to the nearest Red Cross club. She recalls listening to GIs. The Red Cross had officer privileges. Pathe could enter the officers’ quarters or the enlisted quarters. The officers had to pay for their meals. Pathe was the lowest rank which was staff assistant. She was paid 150 dollars a month.

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Barbara Pathe tried to be a good citizen to the British. In Bury St. Edmunds the English locals had decided that the wrong kind of girls were consuming the attentions of the officers. They decided to host a reception for the Red Cross girls. They were the right kind of girls. When they got out to the parking lot near Angel Hill there was a small car. The man was about to leave but they asked him for a ride. She introduced the girls to the man driving. The Duke and Duchess had given them a ride. The people that mattered to Pathe were the men who were doing the fighting. Paying was one of the requirements of the war department. Some GIs had to pay for donuts. The Stimson letters exist in the Red Cross archives that discuss how GIs would have to pay for certain items. It was a small amount. It was not just coffee and donuts. Some of the men had to pay for other types of snacks that they offered. It was three cents for two donuts and a cup of coffee. They had other items such as coffee and sandwiches. The Red Cross did not make any money on these transactions. The Red Cross had to pay their employees. Some people have said that they saw Red Cross women charging for donuts in the foxholes. Pathe dispels this rumor saying that they were never close enough to the front lines to serve the men in foxholes. In the eyes of the GIs the story about Red Cross women charging ludicrous fees for donuts grew and changed. The best known clubmobile program had a donut shop on a GMC truck chassis. It looked like a moving van. It had a water tank lounge and PA system. They had different clubmobile groups. Pathe was assigned to the 7th Army. She cannot describe the divisions and how they received Red Cross Clubmobile workers. A group had several Clubmobiles. The Red Cross would have a man for a supervisor. The 7th Army had formed its work patterns through experience in North Africa and Italy. Pathe wanted to be on the continent of Europe. She realized that the guys were going through hell. She wanted to be where the fighting was because those were the guys that needed the most. They gathered together a group of 30 women to be replacements for Clubmobile girls in the 7th Army. Pathe was taken to La Havre. They came into La Havre escorted by minesweepers. They went ashore on barges because the port was damaged.

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When Barbara Pathe landed [Annotator’s Note: in La Havre, France] there was a congressional delegation overseas that tied everything up initially. Eventually they got some train cars to string together and finally the girls had a way of transportation. It took them four days to get to Paris. The train had to stop at various points to fuel up. Pathe’s train was attacked by the French at one point as well. One of their girls on the train would lean out of the car when the train would slow down to find out what was going on. They had emergency rations on the train. They called the biscuits dog biscuits and butter was axle grease. Pathe recalls seeing the Eiffel tower and some of the railroad marshalling yards in France. The Red Cross had trucks waiting for the women. Pathe waited around for a bit. She was taken to the town of Dijon. It is the capital of Burgundy and it was a beautiful medieval town. Pathe was sent to the 42nd Bomb Wing’s base as a short term replacement. They were supposed to be flying in support of the Battle of the Bulge but the weather did not allow for that to happen. Pathe served them through Christmas. They got their permanent assignment with the 45th Infantry Division in February. In England, Pathe served people out of busses. They had a PA system on the busses. Pathe and the girls found some records to play. Some of the guys would walk off with the records so that they could bring them to their barracks. The men would dance or listen to the music when they sat and enjoyed their coffee and donuts. In Dijon they had no vehicles. Pathe would go out to the squadrons. Each squadron had its own chateau-type area. The jeeps and vehicles were not winter proof. They would take the women to the squadrons to meet the men as they got back from their missions. Pathe recalls one time when they sent the girls a jeep. On the back of the jeep was a bag of donuts. Pathe drove until they got to the place where they had to serve. They were told to get out of the truck but they were frozen. Pathe had to be carried into the building. She also used to help out in the parachute shop. She always worried that she was folding the parachutes the wrong way.

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[Annotators Note: Barbara Pathe worked for the American Red Cross (ARC) on a Red Cross Clubmobile attached to various units in France and Germany. After the war she remained in Germany with the occupation forces.] The commander of the air base preferred having the Red Cross girls around because they were helpful. At the 42nd Bomb Wing the guys had a recreational area in a building that had been bombed. They danced with the guys. The dance of the day was the jitterbug. They moved Pathe out of the club area because they needed the bunks for transient GIs. Pathe recalled getting a call at two in the morning one time. She was told to bring donuts. Pathe was told it was a hospital train. She gave the donuts to a lady on the train and it turned out she was a famous movie actress. Pathe never knew what was going to happen next. She enjoyed a Christmas party in Dijon. The 36th General Hospital was in the area. Christmas time is a lonely time for people who are far away from friends and family. In the evening they went to the club. It had been a Nazi club. In the coffee room they had tables. Pathe was wandering around the room when she met a young blonde man. He had the big red 1 on his shoulder. He was looking kind-of forlorn. Pathe asked him about his family. The GI took out pictures of his family. At one point he looked up at Pathe and asked her if he could call her sis. He pulled out a crumpled package of chewing gum and realized he only had one piece of gum left so he said Merry Christmas and gave it to Pathe. She notes that a lot of times the guys did not realize how much those little gestures meant. She stayed in the Red Cross for two years. She was in Austria after the war and a guy asked Pathe if the Red Cross could keep him from going home. He pulled a picture out of his pocket and it was his wife. He pulled another picture out and said this is my wife over here.

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Barbara Pathe and her friend Connie would be assigned to different bomb wings. They would be assigned to the squadron when they came in and attended their debriefing. Pathe used the phone system to get orders and to make sure she was in the right place. Pathe asked to be connected to six which was the designation for commander. One time the people on the other end thought that Eleanor Roosevelt was calling. Pathe feels that the conversations they had with the soldiers truly meant something. She enjoyed her time talking with GIs. Pathe has learned that listening is a full time occupation. She is glad that she learned how to listen. They had to drive their own Clubmobiles sometimes but they did have assigned drivers. One time they were driving at night going from village to village. The first thing they did was locate the quartermaster unit. They had not remembered to designate an area for the Clubmobiles. They drove to a house in the village. Pathe felt bad taking over a German’s house but they were the enemy. When they went into Germany from France they were in a convoy with the quartermaster company. The MPs [Annotator’s Note: Military Police] were directing traffic. The MP checked the numbers on the car and told them to go to where there were dead horses in the street. When they arrived on the north side of the Danube River there had been a battle fought close to the time they arrived. They came down the road in a convoy and the guys in front of them were fairly noisy. All of a sudden they went silent as they went around the curb. In the center of a cleared area was a young guy who was dead. They had the makeshift memorial with the rifle and helmet. He was killed before he got the chance to do anything. It was sad realizing that the kid’s parents did not even know yet. Pathe learned to watch the direction in which she set up her tent. The rule and the orders were to not travel without an armed guard. They were to bivouac in an area where there were not any troops. There were other times when they heard rifle fire. They carried bedding rolls like the GIs carried. When they were bivouacked they had nothing to wash themselves with other than a helmet with some water on it. Pathe recalled the first time one of the girls wanted a shower. The division surgeon had to authorize when people could shower. The bathing truck was on the riverbank. Connie and Pathe got in the shower tent and all of a sudden she realized that the guards were checking them out. Pathe realized that they were being quite distracting.

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Barbara Pathe got her assignment from headquarters in Dijon. Her assignment was to join the 45th Infantry Division. They sent a command car to pick up Connie and Pathe. They stayed overnight in the hospital quarters. Pathe began to realize that they were headed into a combat zone. The roads were mucky. She saw an American plane burning in the field. Pathe realized they were really getting into it. They were taken to a building and put into an office. They were greeted by Colonel Lee. He was the G-1 for personnel for the Division. He greeted them in name of the general. He welcomed the girls and told them what they had to do first. They were told to set up their donut kitchen. They had designated a two and a half ton truck as their Clubmobile. The general had ordered his headquarter officers to not preempt their time. Pathe was told that she was there to help the enlisted men and no one else. Pathe was told that if the unit they were serving in came under fire a designated individual would come help the girls get to a safer place. She was told to not attempt to be a heroine. Pathe had some questions about living arrangements and the officer guided them to their house. Pathe and Connie were the first to arrive. They had five girls at their post. Pathe recalled that on the first night they were there she found a big window in their room that would open. They set their cots up in the room. They came back from serving a party and the artillery was booming. The entire horizon would light up and they thought it was beautiful. Connie’s cot was closer to the wall switch. They were in bed but all of a sudden the lights went on. A voice outside the open window said to turn out the god damn lights or he would shoot it out. They were civilians. The guys were excited to see the Red Cross girls. The first unit that they served was an artillery battery in firing position. They would line up Jerry cans and lay out their donuts coffee and sugar. Some of the guys would wonder out loud why the Red Cross girls were so close to the front. Pathe was doing coffee working the one pound ladle. She was about to pour it into a guys cup and it turned out it was the commanding officer. The 155mm artillery pieces went off and startled Pathe and she spilled coffee on his jacket. Pathe could tell the guys had great respect for their commanding officer. Pathe helped a man on kitchen patrol peel potatoes. The man was certainly happy to have the help of eight Red Cross girls. A lot of the guys were genuinely surprised that girls were up so close. Sometimes the guys would tease them and ask them why they were not fighting.

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[Annotators Note: Barbara Pathe worked for the American Red Cross (ARC) on a Red Cross Clubmobile attached to various units in France and Germany. After the war she remained in Germany with the occupation forces.] Clubmobile workers had their own field uniform. They looked like the Women’s Royal Air Force uniforms. They had a white shirt with a red cross on it. They also wore a cap. They had Red Cross top coats that were bankers grey. Basically that was it. They had military style field coats. They also had field jackets. Pathe had a helmet that she wore too. The first time they were strafed made them realize they might need protection. They could not understand why the engineers would not paint the red cross on their helmets. They were told that the red cross was for the medics. Pathe was at a prisoner of war camp just across the Danube. They were bivouacked in a wooded area. At night the Germans began strafing the river. They were hitting it with tracer bullets. It was quite a spectacular show. The Germans were strafing the engineers who were working on pontoon bridges at night. They were also sending assault troops across by boat. Pathe did not realize what was going on until the next morning. They were to be among the first units to cross the bridge. Apparently they were following the 10th Armored Division and they had knocked down the gate of a prisoner of war camp. They set guards to guard the prisoners after the camps were liberated. This was so they could maintain and check on the prisoners’ nutrition. Pathe was ordered to be one of the first across to service the prisoners of war. They were shown to a kitchen which was to be their base of operations. Pathe did not get combat or hazard pay. The men got paid more for hazard pay. Pathe notes that it was the 1940s. The male supervisor of the Clubmobiles would be paid extra. Each Clubmobile had a captain who was in charge of each individual truck. The captain was a woman. There was a differential in pay in the Red Cross. The man in charge of the Red Cross in Europe made extra money. Pathe never thought about her role in how women would be treated in the future. Pathe accepted the fact that men got the higher positions.

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[Annotators Note: Barbara Pathe worked for the American Red Cross (ARC) on a Red Cross Clubmobile attached to various units in France and Germany. After the war she remained in Germany with the occupation forces.] The rule was that the Red Cross did not discriminate, but the army did. If there was a large concentration of black people then the Red Cross would have a Clubmobile staffed with African Americans. No one was to be turned away. Pathe hoped that the black people felt comfortable about receiving service from other black people. Pathe had two friends during the war that were black and worked at the Duchess club in London. Since the military was segregated there were black clubs and white clubs. Pathe is not sure that they had a black Clubmobile. Pathe would also serve GIs getting on and off ships. Pathe was standing between two servicemen serving donuts. They were serving troops before they got onto an LSI [Annotators Note: actually an LCI or Landing Craft Infantry]. A big, black man came up and said thank you sweetheart and the two servicemen were about to lunge at the man. Pathe held them back. She said if she did not object to being called sweetheart then they had no reason to object. Pathe would go pick up mail at the APO. They had a black man there. He thanked Pathe for treating them normally. Wherever they had a concentration of black troops they had black staff. Pathe is not sure if the army or the Red Cross dictated who was going to serve the troops. The Red Cross records exist at the National Archives. The blood drives were segregated. Pathe believes that is a sad part of our history. The Germans had set up a series of camps in Bavaria to take prisoners from the eastern front. They would have been Polish and Russian. They were marched to the camps in Germany. Pathe was not sure if it was just Americans, but it was a sea of faces. There was disbelief and joy when the prisoners were liberated. It was not only Americans. Pathe asked the prisoners questions when she got there but they would not answer initially. An American came forward and asked if he could touch her hand. Pathe wanted the men to know that there was a normal caring world out there

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The Red Cross was rewarding work for Barbara Pathe. She was always there to talk. They were always exhausted. Listening was exhausting. Pathe was on a train after the war going up to New Haven to visit a friend. She was in a sleeper car. Pathe used an acrobatic move to get up to the top of the train and a porter came by and said that she must have been in the army. Pathe had a focus and she had a purpose when she was over there serving. Pathe’s Clubmobile had a nickname and it was Jersey Bounce. The 45th [Annotator’s Note: the 45th Infantry Division] was a Jersey National Guard outfit. The Jersey Bounce was a popular song at the time. Pathe would go back if she had the chance. She would be better prepared the second go around. She wished that she could be a better Red Cross girl. There are little things that she would do in order to be better prepared. Pathe understood that the men were hungry for sex and were lonely and scared. There were local women available. They would come to the barracks of the camp and try to get men. Pathe’s rule was that she would not make a permanent commitment overseas. A lot of the Red Cross women did marry overseas. Pathe helped to establish the American Red Cross Overseas organization. The Red Cross had about 15,500 people. The men were in the minority but they were the ones who held the higher positions. The Overseas Organization served its purpose because people got what they needed. Pathe was instrumental in helping the Red Cross get a memorial.

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The Red Cross had to raise 75,000 dollars for the statue [Annotator’s Note: for a Red Cross memorial]. It was made by the same man who carved the Iwo Jima memorial near Arlington National Cemetery. The interviewer, Pathe, and a third person discuss different examples of how the Red Cross charged people for donuts and coffee. Pathe wants people to remember that the Red Cross was there to serve the troops. They were a part of the war effort. They were a privileged part of the war effort because they were able to be so close to the troops. Pathe notes that they are privileged because they belong to something that is incredibly big. She is happy to see that the Red Cross focuses on helping people. It is still true today. When Pathe resigned as a staff member from the Red Cross she had the opportunity to visit and see the different Red Cross branches. The American Red Cross meant something back then. Pathe was so proud knowing how well regarded the Red Cross was back in the 1960s and 1970s.
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