Immigrating to American, Joining the Navy and Being Assigned to Naval Intelligence
Meeting Foreign Dignitaries, V-J Day and U-Boats in Argentina
Submarines, Family, a Wedding Dress and Postwar Career
Postwar Career and Appreciating the United States
Rosemary Fagot was born in Nicaragua. Her father was an American citizen from New Orleans and she was registered as an American citizen at birth. She did not receive much schooling. Before the war, she worked at a gold mine with her father. The operator of the mine had an American wife who read American magazines like Life. Fagot saw an article in one of the magazines about the Navy WAVES [Annotator's Note: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service]. She was accepted into the WAVES, but she remembers someone from the Navy coming to Nicaragua to interview her parents before she was officially accepted. Fagot saved her money in order to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana to become a WAVE. She had an uncle who lived in the city who took her to the local Navy office where she was sworn in. She was sent to Hunter College, New York for boot camp. Boot camp was difficult for her at times because she was an immigrant with very little formal education and she did not speak English well. She was given an aptitude test and received good marks. She was one of 20 women who were sent to Iowa State Teacher's College for Naval intelligence. Fagot learned short hand and typing for five months before she was transferred to Miami, Florida. There were no barracks in Miami. They stayed in a hotel and Fagot walked to work everyday. She enjoyed Miami much more than Iowa. Miami was the center of international liason. She was assigned to Captain Howe as his aid. She would meet with international officials and take them to meetings and translate if she could. She was happy to serve in the Navy. Fagot remembers the meetings were for peace, not war time discussions. She remembers at one point carrying a gun in her purse and learning how to shoot it because she could be unknowingly carrying documents about the atomic bomb. The Navy trained them to use firearms. She remembers practicing on Miami Beach. She knew she could never kill someone with the firearm. She only carried the firearm while delivering secret documents. Fagot feels that her time in the service helped her future. She says it was hard at times. She did not make many friends and people were jealous of her for the privileges she received. Overall, it was a wonderful experience that made her a better human being.
Rosemary Fagot was born an American citizen, but she had never been to to the United States until she enlisted in the Navy. She remembers one incident when her boyfriend at the time did not believe she was going to the airport late at night to escort foreign dignitaries to their hotels and meeting. Captain Howe allowed her to take her boyfriend with her and he could not believe she was telling the truth. She recalls some of the dignitaries, particularly the men from South America, were too forward with her. After that incident, Captain Howe assigned a Marine to escort her to the airport. Fagot remembers Captain Howe sending her to the airport to meet a group of Russian dignitaries. She did not speak Russian, but he sent her anyway. She recalls they only knew how to say "No jitterbug" in English. They said it to her several times thinking she wanted to dance with them. She never received any foreign language training, but she knew some French. At some of the meetings, Howe did not have a translator, which she found odd. The meetings were friendly. Fagot recalls being frustrated at times because of the language barrier. If any foreign dignitaries passed through Miami, they were required to meet them. Fagot recalls welcoming wounded American soldiers back to the United States. It made her very sad to see the men returning home in such bad condition. Howe would not let some of the women come down to greet the men because they were attractive women and some of the soldiers had not seen a woman in years. She remembers the excitement in Miami when she found out the war was over. It was an amazing experience. Towards the end of the war, Howe took Fagot to Argentina to accept the surrender of enemy submarines. She had to translate the surrender; it was done in Spanish because it took place in Argentine waters.
Rosemary Fagot would not go into the u-boat [Annotator's Note: German submarine] because she is claustrophobic. [Annotator's Note: Fagot was in Argentina with the commander of her naval intelligence unit for the formal surrender ceremonies of two German u-boats.] She went on an American submarine in Miami and she was not happy with the experience. She saw the outside of the u-boat, it was well equipped. When they reached Buenos Aries, the US Navy greeted them at the airport. There was no down time, it was business right away. She worked at various hours of the day, at night and on weekends. She was more privileged than some of the other WAVES [Annotator's Note: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service]. They did not offer her a position in the Navy, they discharged everyone. After the war, she was sent to Jacksonville to be discharged. She stayed in south Florida after being discharged. Fagot's family came to America after the war. All of her brothers served in the military, in Korea and Vietnam. She remembers after the war there was no material in the stores, she was trying to make her wedding dress. She made it out of curtains and bits of lace trim from the barracks at Jacksonville. She let five other women wear it after her. She was allowed to go to the commissary, she did not need ration books. Fagot is grateful that the Navy sent her to school. It was difficult for her because she was an immigrant. She was the only one with an accent so she was excluded from the rest of the women. After the war, Fagot was a translator for the United Fruit Company in Palm Beach, Florida.
Rosemary Fagot remembers the difficulties she had translating for the United Fruit Company because of the cultural differences. Everything was regimented in the Navy; civilian life was very different. After she gave birth to her first child, she became a fashion designer in Palm Beach for many years. She designed Rose Kennedy's dress for JFK's [Annotator's Note: President John F. Kennedy] inauguration. She attended the inauguration. Being in the war helped her feel like an American and proud to be a citizen. She cannot stand when people speak ill of the United States. She recalls years later being in a store when she overheard a man speaking ill about the country in Spanish. She pulled the man aside and told him if that was what he thought about the country she would buy him a one way ticket back to Cuba. Fagot feels the United States gave her a chance for freedom and to serve a country that deserved it. She does not feel that her superiors treated her differently for being Hispanic. She remembers how her coworkers treated her with indifference. Fagot feels that it is very important to have a World War 2 museum because it makes people realize the sacrifices that were made for this country.
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