Early Life

Being a Marine



Beverly Coleman Oates Rougas was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in February 1924. Life in New Orleans was wet and rainy. Rougas loved growing up in the city. Her father was a railroad engineer, but had been injured, so he retired. Her mother was a teacher. Rougas remembers the afternoon rain storms during the summer. The rain helped cool things down and the nights were cool. She grew up near Lake Pontchartrain [Annotator's Note: north of New Orleans] and the family had a fishing camp on the lake. She attended a nearby school. Rougas enjoyed going to City Park [Annotator's Note: New Orleans City Park] with her friends. She was coming home from the park when people started telling her the country was at war. When she got home, she heard about the attack at Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] from the radio. She did not know where Pearl Harbor was or why the Japanese wanted to attack it. Food, leather products, and shoes were rationed. She used coupons for bread, leather, and sugar. Rougas grew up not far from the river [Annotator's Note: Mississippi River] and the French Quarter [Annotator's Note: the French Quarter, or Vieux Carré, is the oldest section of New Orleans]. She remembered the nightly blackouts but does not remember the German submarine threat in the Gulf [Annotator's Note: Gulf of Mexico].


The war was on and all of the men were being drafted. After the first year, women were allowed to join the military, so Beverly Coleman Oates Rougas decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. She chose the Marine Corps because there was a Marine camp in New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana] and she thought they were outstanding. The training was strict and precise. She had to wear her uniform the exact right way. The training was not physical or harsh. She was physically fit, so it was not too bad. Rougas trained at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina [Annotator's Note: near Jacksonville, North Carolina]. She thought it was a good adventure. Her family was not happy, but did not object to her serving. Rougas was then stationed at Camp Lejeune working in an office. She did not have to drill, which she did not mind because she was not a physical person. She was not treated differently because she was a woman. She was almost treated as royalty off of base. When Rougas and her friends went into town, people paid for her lunch. She thought people were nice. She did not consider herself a trailblazer, she was just happy to be in the Marine Corps. She worked as a secretary in an office. She enjoyed working for the male Marines. Rougas followed what was happening in the war. While she was at the base, she received daily reports, but a single event did not stick out in her mind. She did not lose anyone personal during the war. She had enlisted for the duration of the war plus six months. Anyone that wanted to leave had to do certain things, but people were allowed to stay. Rougas met her husband at Camp Lejeune. They both worked for the headquarters people. Her husband had been in the infantry, but was transferred to Headquarters, Marine Corps. They both lived on base, but in different barracks. They saw each other every day. The camp was nice and had everything the Marines wanted in them.


Beverly Coleman Oates Rougas was relieved when the war ended. Everyone felt safe and happy. Rougas thinks it is important to know about all of America's wars and why the wars happened. People now do not know just like people then did not know why the war started. Rougas remembers being told about the Japanese attack [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] and not understanding why the attack happened. She was not raised in a military family. Rougas enjoyed every minute of her service in the Marine Corps. She thought she was doing something good. The war helped her grow and took her out of New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana]. The Civil War [Annotator's Note: American Civil War, 1861 to 1865] was still hanging in the background of southern living. Most people were nice.

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