EASLEY – At 96-years-old, Dorothy Dennis stills has a glint in her eye when she talks about her days in the Army during World War II.
Her’s is a somewhat unusual story for its day when few women joined the military.
Thousands of young me were signing up and being drafted into the armed forces in the days and weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.
Dennis is now a resident of Countryside Village in Easley, surrounded by two daughters and two sons who live in the Upstate. Another daughter lives in St. Louis.
By 1943 when the woman known then by her maiden name Dorothy Eifort turned her thoughts to the Army, women were being enlisted to jobs that the fighting men had vacated. Arms needed to be built and mills needed workers to turn out supplies for the military.
Eifort and a girlfriend were looking for a little more excitement, she said. So they signed up for what was known as the Army Auxiliary.
Some time later Eifort and the girlfriend had to re-enlist to become part of the regular Army, she said. “We thought it would be exciting. We were looking for an adventure. You had to be at least 5-feet tall,”she said. “I was worried, so I stretch up and measured 5-feet-1/2 inch.”
So the Army shipped her from her home near St Louis to basic training near Des Moines, Iowa.
She learned most of what the men learned. “We had to keep our bunks just so and learn to salute..” There was also some familiarity with weapons and shooting, she said, but her training led her to be an Army cook.
“They made a cook out of me,” Dennis said. “Then they sent me to baking school. Then they sent me to butchery school. They’d throw a side of meat up on the table, and I’d have to cut it into roasts and whatever.”
Main assignments for her included a post near Detroit. Then she spent time at Gravely Point, Va., just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. “Washington had all the officers,” Dennis said. “If you walked down the street you almost had to keep your arm up like this,” she said indicating a permanent salute.
Her favorite post was Detroit, she says; although she had hopes of going overseas to get closer to the action.
“Few women were sent over there. They didn’t have women actually fighting. Those who did go over were mostly clerks,” she said. The Army also had significant numbers of women in nursing positions who put their lives in danger.
Dennis said that women, however, weren’t in the same fighting situations they are now.
“I don’t know exactly how much fighting they do on the ground. I know I have heard of some women pilots who have be killed fighting.” Captain Kimberly Hampton of Easley was on of those.
Should women be in fighting situation?
“I suppose they could if they want to be,” Dennis said. “I would have wanted to. I enjoyed my work. I wanted to stay.”
She suffered a back injury and left the Army on a medical discharge.
“I went before the board several times to get them to let me stay in, but finally they put me out on a medical discharge.”
After the war, Army cook Eifort returned to St. Louis, married and raised a family.
“I guess you could say I have a military family,” she said with pride. “I have a brother who was in the Army and a daughter and son in the Navy.”
She continued as a restaurant cook for many years, moving to Pickens County in 1971. Here she worked in several mills and as a cashier with local companies, she said.