Early Life, Joining the Red Cross and Overseas Deployment
End of the War in Europe and Going Home
Working with Locals, Caring for the Troops and Dating
Seeing Famous People and Writing Letters for Servicemen
Changing Role of Women, African-American Red Cross Workers and Getting Engaged
Entertainment in England, Getting Married and Divorced, and Caring for Animals
African-American Red Cross Worker
A Wedding Dress from the Red Cross
Holly Frederick Reynolds was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. She was born in Virginia because her mother was there at the time and her father was in the Army right after World War 1. After she was two months old she moved to Covington, Louisiana to live with her father after he was discharged. That's where she was raised. She went to high school in New Orleans at Ursuline Academy. She graduated from college in Gainesville, Florida in 1939 and then went to LSU [Annotator's Note: Louisiana State University] for her master's degree. She majored in recreation and that is why the Red Cross contacted her to go overseas to work with the troops. Reynolds was driving on Sunday afternoon with mother when she found out about Pearl Harbor and it was early in 1942 that the Red Cross contacted her. Her father had died in early 1941. She waited to join the American Red Cross in 1943 because of family issues. First she went to Washington DC where the Red Cross had training about the Army and Navy and how they were to conduct themselves. After the training course they waited for their assignments. They always wanted to go overseas but usually got assigned to nearby locations. In September 1943 Reynolds was told she would be going overseas. She was asked what theater of operations she would like to go to and because she was raised in a warm climate she said North Africa. They sent her to the British Isles. She left from Brooklyn on 1 October 1943 aboard the Aquitania. There were 12 women in one cabin. They moved zig zag across the ocean because they were not in a convoy. They landed in Scotland after eight days then went to London to get assignments. Reynolds was then sent back to a Red Cross club in Edinburgh, Scotland. Reynolds was a staff assistant. She planned tours through castles and other areas of interest in Scotland. They also had dances and recruited volunteer girls to dance with the soldiers. The place was full of serviceman all the time. Reynolds was invited to go with a lieutenant to see the Augusta [Annotator's Note: the heavy cruiser USS Augusta (CA-31)]. She was only in Scotland for three months before being transferred to Northern Ireland in Warrenpoint, County Down. She was raised in a small town so she liked Warrenpoint. There were only two American girls there and she was the activities director. She mostly worked with the 5th Infantry Division, 2nd Infantry Regiment. That unit would train in the morning so she decided to take up golf in the mornings when she was not busy. She made sure all the games were ready for the soldiers. She was there six months and then her unit left on 6 July 1944 to go to France so the club closed.
The club [Annotator's Note: the Red Cross in Northern Ireland] closed and Holly Reynolds was sent to Wales to Abergavenny. She was there for a couple of months. In Wales and England she rented rooms in local homes. She changed locations frequently for troop movements and other Red Cross worker's vacations. Her last assignment was in Kidderminster, England in December 1944. She lived with a local woman there. She was there when President Roosevelt died. It was such a shock and everybody felt terrible. She was also there when the war ended. She was the only one in charge of a small club called a donut dugout. They served only coffee and doughnuts and they had games available. She was the only American there. When the war was over in Europe people went into the streets to celebrate. Soon her orders came to go home. She came home on the Santa Rosa. There were a lot of sick and wounded men going back to the United States so the Red Cross workers spent a lot of time with them. She found that the servicemen were always happy when they found someone to listen to them. They liked to talk about their wives, girlfriends, parents, children and pets. She thinks this was a very beneficial thing the Red Cross was able to provide. She got back to New York on 21 June 1945. Reynolds does not really remember any specific requirements for joining the Red Cross. She had just graduated from LSU [Annotator's Note: Louisiana State University] with a master's degree in recreation so she does not know how she could do much better than that. She did not receive any medical training because they were not going to be in hospitals at all. Pearl Harbor was 7 December of 1943 [Annotator's Note: Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941] and she was teaching in Arkansas at a junior college. She decided to have a blood drive in Covington, Louisiana. That was the first blood drive of World War 2 held in Covington. Reynolds' mother was active with the draft boards and had always been a Red Cross volunteer. In 1944 the Red Cross recruited her to be in domestic service in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Going overseas was exciting for Reynolds. When they got on the Aquitania they were carrying all their supplies and wearing their helmets, and even dog tags. They had fish for breakfast. She could not believe it when she got to Ireland and just hoped she would be able to do what they had been sent there to accomplish.
Holly Reynolds remembers a lot of Army and Navy troops coming in. She also remembers Merchant Mariners there because she had to tell a man that his wife had died. He was not able to cable home but the Red Cross could do it for him. She felt very helpless that all she could do was talk and listen to him. There was one group of a lot of men from one unit that were so impressed with the Red Cross that they raised 1,000 dollars to give back to the Red Cross. About 500 men per day came through the Red Cross club in Scotland. She found out a Lockheed factory was stationed near Glasgow and she found out a person she knew from Covington [Annotator's Note: Covington, Louisiana] was working there. She ran across people from her home town a few times. There as a man once who recognized her accent and knew she was from Louisiana and they stayed friends throughout the war. There were three or five American girls working in the Red Cross club in Scotland but they had a lot of Scottish employees and volunteers that she had to recruit as well. In Edinburgh, Reynolds was asked to address the British Red Cross and talk about the American Red Cross. The Scottish people were very friendly and warm. When they arrived from the United States they landed in Gourock, Scotland and were met by three bagpipers in kilts. She went back 25 years later and was met by volunteers from the club during the war. All the money used to fund Red Cross activities in Europe came from the American people. When she had to order donut supplies and coffee she just submitted her bills to the main office. Dating or interacting with troops was not prohibited for Red Cross girls but Reynolds does not think that would have worked. She was reading through her diary recently and saw she had documented a date with a boy on the Aquitania on her way overseas. In Warrenpoint, Ireland Reynolds went to the dances and always had two or three escorts.
In Warrenpoint, Ireland, Holly Reynolds always had more than one date. Reynolds saw a show in Washington DC called Back the Attack and the biggest star of that was Lucille Ball. She does not remember seeing any others but she did get to see Eisenhower [Annotator's Note: General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of Allied forces in Europe] twice and Churchill [Annotator's Note: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill] once. A man from Louisiana took Reynolds on a date in London and as they were walking around they spoke to a Bobby [Annotator's Note: an English police officer] on the street and he pointed them to an area where Churchill would pass by in a car. She never got to see General Patton [Annotator's Note: General George S. Patton]. Reynolds saw Eisenhower at the end of the war in London and was also in New York when he arrived there from overseas. Reynolds also worked with men with an Indian insignia [Annotator's Note: 2nd Infantry Division] on their shoulders and others with a big red one [Annotator's Note: 1st Infantry Division]. She never had any problem with soldiers being inappropriate. They were all happy to see American girls and they were treated like sisters. The soldiers talked to her about missing home, food, home cooking, being tired of K rations, and their girlfriends. She wrote letters to some mothers. When she visited soldiers in hospitals she would offer to write their letters for them. They also talked about the pets they left at home. They missed their families a lot. They felt sorry the soldiers who were hurt but it was always exciting to see old friends [Annotator's Note: from the 5th Infantry Division]. They had news of other friends who were hurt or killed. She also got letters from others who were doing well. She has some of those letters if the Museum wants to see them. She also has two diaries that she wrote in everyday. Reynolds talked to friends after the war that she stayed in contact with. For Reynolds, the hardest part about being overseas was hearing about heroic things being done by people who later died or were captured after D-Day.
For Holly Reynolds, the experience of being overseas was so unusual that she appreciated it as a whole. She is also conscientiousness and tries to do the best she can, even in work with animals today. She feels that she contributed to the war effort and that the Red Cross contributed so much to the morale of the troops. She is pleased she was able to be a part of it. Reynolds had not thought about her work advancing the status of women before but they were there and they were needed and they provided a service. She feels that that itself was advancement for women. Reynolds feels they were able to show more of their abilities and interests and that was definitely an advancement for women. Reynolds rarely worked with African American Red Cross women but she did see one on the boat coming home. Seeing the African American Red Cross woman on the ship was a strange experience. Station wagons came to pick all the Red Cross members up from the port and take them into the city. Reynolds and the African American woman were standing together. They asked Reynolds to come over but she waited with the other girl so she did not have to wait alone. Reynolds often wonders about how that girl felt. Reynolds is aware that there have been criticisms about the Red Cross for charging American soldiers for things. When the question first came up about paying for donuts and coffee the Red Cross worked with the military and the military decided that there should be a small price so people did not take what they did not want or need. The club mobiles on the front did not charge for anything out in the field though. A lot of the GIs thought of the Red Cross as a place to get money when they needed it. Only a small amount of staff handled that though. It was a misunderstanding that she thinks is unfortunate. Reynolds fell in love with a man in the 2nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division and they became engaged in Northern Ireland in May 1944. He went into combat and came back wounded in November 1944 and right away wanted to apply for them to get married. He applied through hospital and she through the Red Cross to get married then she had to go to London to talk to a head Red Cross member there.
The Red Cross members in London tried to talk Holly Reynolds out of getting married overseas but there was a group of women in the United States who had decided to give their wedding dresses to the Red Cross so that women overseas could use them if they got married. So when she went to London the Red Cross headquarters said they had wedding dresses and asked if she would like to see them. She selected a satin wedding gown and veil and took in back in a box on the train where Bob, her fiancée, met her. He asked her what it was in the box but she would not tell him. That was a very generous thing for those women to do. It was not the best time to make a momentous decision like getting married and they turned out to be right as in the long run her marriage was not successful. But they were both hard headed. They went to Stratford-on-Avon for their honeymoon. In Reynolds' off time overseas she went on a train everywhere. She went to Bath, Oxford, the Giant's Causeway, and saw the grave of Thomas Gray. She saw plays in London and went to the movies whenever they got the chance. Every place she was stationed, the men would bring them gifts like lemons or eggs. The American Red Cross workers were on British rations so they were very happy to get any fresh fruit. The Navy men would usually have fresh fruit. Reynolds had no desire to stay with the Red Cross after the war ended. She had just been married and thought they would go and get settled. But after a couple years and under different circumstances she did go to work for the Red Cross again in domestic hospital service. She was stationed in Augusta, Georgia at Oliver General Hospital for six months working with patients in recreation programs. Then she was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina but was only there for a short time. At that time she had her first dog that she got during her divorce. The dog helped her get through that divorce. He was born on the Fourth of July and his name was Yankee Doodle Dandy. She had to rent rooms in both places because she had a dog but the Red Cross thought she should be living with other Red Cross members. They told her to give up her dog or give up her job so she gave up her job. She left the Red Cross again. Since then she has been an activist for animal welfare. She has started three humane societies in Louisiana. Her motivation in starting these was to pay her first dog back for helping her through a difficult time in her life and she still has the same motivation. She has a foundation for animal welfare that will benefit when she dies. [Annotator's Note: Reynolds holds up a plaque for the interviewer to see.] Reynolds would like all the anchors on TV who talk about the greatest generation to remember that the Red Cross were also members of the greatest generation. She would also like for them to remember that the best thing any person can do is to help others, be it people or animals. Reynolds would not do anything differently after looking back on her time with the Red Cross. She would probably do the same thing but she does wonder if she should have perhaps joined the WAVES [Annotator's Note: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, the US Navy's female auxiliary branch] because she would have advantages now from being in the military instead of a civilian.
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