Catherine Long was born in 1924 in Dayton, Ohio. That was the home of her mother’s family. She soon moved to Pittsburgh where her father was an electrical engineer. Her mother was a librarian. When her parents met and then married, her mother lost her job. Women did not work when they were married in the 1920s. Long loved hearing stories about her father. He was an Englishman. He pursued his future wife. He disappeared for several months and then returned. He proposed to Long’s mother and they married soon afterward. They were well suited for each other. She played the piano and he sang. They had a beautiful life and home. Long grew up with a younger sister. They attended lessons at Carnegie Tech. Long started swimming there and has enjoyed it all her life. She failed the first year of kindergarten. She made it to the first grade and stayed there until graduating the sixth grade. She moved on to junior high but had problems with algebra. A lifelong friend named Frank Lee helped her get through it. They remained in touch until he died. She has been losing her close friends, and it is very sad. She graduated from high school in 1932. She remembers when Pearl Harbor was attacked. It was tragic to know that the boys she knew would be going to war. She never dreamed that she would be joining them. The family had an interest in the war prior to the United States entry. Her father was English and had served in World War I. The discussions really picked up when she was in junior college. She would discuss current events with professors and friends after studies. One friend was a conscientious objector. John Stayley [Annotator’s Note: unsure of spelling] died immediately after graduation. She was proud of being part of the discussion group. The conscientious objector went to prison. He did what he had to do. With all the men leaving, she decided it was time to join the service. She volunteered and was surprised to be doing it. She was glad to do it. She has doubts that she would have joined if she had to kill someone. Nevertheless, she joined the Navy and went to do her part in the war.
Catherine Long had boot training in the Navy. Her parents had no objection to her joining the service. Her father was particularly happy since he did not have a son and his daughter could help in the effort. Boot camp was fun. There was a lot of marching in the rain. She liked that. She gained weight from the white bread despite all the marching. She was at Hunter College. It was a positive experience where all she remembered was the marching. She went next to Bethesda Hospital for training for a couple of months. Then it was off to Corpus Christi, Texas. It was a big change moving down South. While in Bethesda, she was told not to anticipate special duty because that was to be done by the duty nurses. On her first day in Texas, she had to watch a seriously ill sailor. She had to give shots. Penicillin was just invented and it was excellent. She spent four months with the young man and became fast friends with the family from Oklahoma over that time. It was quite an experience to begin her career as a Navy WAVE. She watched over patients with serious diseases. She took to the duty and enjoyed the work. The Naval Air Station was next to the hospital. The worse cases to take care of were the burn patients. They would be disfigured if they survived. She liked the maternity ward work the best. She even delivered babies. She cut the cord and did everything she had to do. The first time she delivered a baby, it was named after her. She was proud of herself for accomplishing the tasks successfully for the residents of the community. Long worked 12 hour shifts or more. Special duty was the hardest. She had to deal with just one person. There was treatment of the individual and consolations of the parents and family. Those family contacts often continued after the death of their loved one. Work in the delivery room was special. That was where she wanted to go. Assisting doctors was also a requirement. She handed them surgical tools and supplies. She even participated in an autopsy. There was a major surgery involving a breast procedure that was difficult. She even learned to do circumcisions. Sailors on duty from the area were mainly the patients. There were not too many from the war zones. One young man was memorable. He played the piano well. He would hide under a table. He was mentally ill. He spent most of his time under the table but would get out and play the piano occasionally. Long was very anxious for the war to be won and the carnage to be stopped. When President Roosevelt [Annotator’s Note: President D. Franklin Roosevelt] died, it was a hard hit. His wife was Long’s heroine. Long was so busy with patients, she had little time to think about anything else. She had fun when the patients made funny comments to her. They had a lot of humor. Most of them were cheerful and appreciative.
Catherine Long lived in a barracks with four other WAVES [Annotator's Note: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service]. There were bunk beds with two on each side. She had a terrible experience after taking a shower. When she returned to her locker, it was filled with Texas red ants. They were tiny and bit her. She returned to the shower to get rid of them. Her commanding officers visited the barracks once in a while. There were inspections and the restroom floors had to be oiled. There were many officers who had left civilian practices. The relationship between the nurses and the WAVES was not too good. The WAVES, such as Long, were doing nurses’ work without the recognition. There was little contact between them. Only one was friendly, and she ended up being transferred. The male officers did not like the WAVES at all. They liked to give the women orders. Long did a lot of typing for the doctor officers. She was paid in liquor. The doctors would have preferred being at home practicing. There was no way for her to keep up with the war except for the few literary magazines sent to her by her mother. She worked long hours and stayed busy. She was tired at the end of the shift. She became engaged and went to college with her fiancé while in Texas. They took courses together and went to Laredo with the group. He was from Shreveport and had a Southern background. His parents did not like their engagement since she was from the North. Long would fly a plane with him. They would have a good time. He went to Guam. He became a surgeon and had a good life except for his marriage to a woman his mother picked out for him. Things might have worked better for him if they had married. The only thing she felt about the Japanese was that they needed to be beaten. She was very patriotic. She thought the atomic bomb was terrible. She especially felt bad about two being dropped. Since the war, her feelings are even stronger. Her church has reached out to young people in Hiroshima. They sent pencils, crayons and books. The children send back pictures, some of which Long has kept. Long knew that after the atomic bombs were made, they would be used. She celebrated VE-Day [Annotator's Note: Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945] just like a Fourth of July celebration. Everyone was happy because they knew the war was ending. The GI Bill was a real benefit. It was the best legislation ever passed. The military people at the end of the war wanted to get out and use the benefits. Long used it for education and housing. She was so glad she was in the Navy. It was a wonderful experience.
Catherine Long went to LSU because she did not want to go back to the New Jersey College for Women. Her best friend in the Navy lived in New Orleans and suggested that she apply to LSU. Long was accepted because the college wanted out of state students. Long was procrastinating until her friend showed up at her doorstep and coaxed her to go to LSU. She soon met a former Army captain on campus. He was running for office in a college election. He was elected and they were both in the coronation court. That was her first introduction to politics. She was introduced to the first Louisiana Long at that point. They ended up being married. He loved to tell people that in five months he changed his wife’s name from Small to Long [Annotator’s Note: Gillis Long married Catherine Small and changed her name.]. She never imagined that she would be married to a Louisiana Long. Many people had similar experiences. Her life from then on was strictly politics. It took five years to have two babies. There were complications in carrying some of the other babies. Long is very proud of her two children. She finished LSU in sociology. She enjoyed her education. She worked for multiple doctors while her husband went to law school. After he went into politics, she spent her time in that career supporting him. She loved it. She wrote his speeches and arranged his schedules. She campaigned for him and opened offices for him. With his bad heart, she did most of the campaigning for him while he raised money. He loved to raise money and did it well. Senator John Breaux from Louisiana marveled at how fast Gillis Long raised six hundred thousand dollars. Long’s husband would run and lose then run again. In between, he would work for OEO [Annotator’s Note: Office of Economic Opportunity]. She did a lot of things for her husband. The night he died, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs called and told her that she would have to run. In the funeral home, people were giving her checks for her campaign. She ran and defeated four men in the first primary and carried every parish. She found herself in congress as the first woman veteran to serve. Illness took over and she ended her political career. She ended up in Brighton Gardens [Annotator’s Note: Brighton Gardens is a retirement community] for her last chapter.
Catherine Long had her most memorable experience in World War II when the armistice was signed. She served because of her patriotism. The war changed her life completely. It made a Southern out of her. She married a Louisiana Long [Annotator’s Note: Gillis Long]. She has been to the World War Two Memorial twice and has three bricks out front. Her experiences in dealing with people that were ill have helped her throughout her life. Being in the Navy was exciting. She enjoyed it. It was a wonderful time and she was proud of her service. She would recommend military service to any woman. There are so many opportunities. She promoted up the ranks quickly in two years. The ladies who flew planes during the war with no credit are only recently being recognized. Anything a woman thinks she can do, she can do. That would be even if they thought they could not do it. World War II veterans are getting older and scarcer. Five people in her group have died recently. There is great interest in the war. Some individuals still have wounds from that time. Veterans enjoy each other’s company. It is nice to be together. It is important that institutions like The National WWII Museum continue and the lessons of the war be taught. It is important to learn about our country’s history whether it is good or bad. She recently watched a program on how badly the blacks were treated in the past. Learn so things can be done better in the future. This is a wonderful country. Long would not want to live anywhere else. As a final note, she remembered a young sailor who needed penicillin shot. While she was injecting the man, she heard a thud. The sailor’s friend had passed out [Annotator’s Note: Long chuckles at the memory]. Penicillin was available only after she was in the Bethesda or Corpus Christi hospitals.
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