Oral-History:Deborah Anderson

About Deborah Anderson

Deborah Anderson was born Deborah Ann Desch in Dayton, Ohio in 1950 to Joseph and Dorothy Desch. After briefly attending Ohio State University to study biochemistry, Anderson transferred to the University of Dayton where she dabbled in chemistry and computer science before finally settling on a major in English literature with a minor in history. Anderson’s professional career includes positions as an English composition teaching assistant, a temporary UD English department position, and work as a secretary. Her achievements include having held a position on the Board of Trustees for the Engineers Club of Dayton for three years, attaining stewardship of the Joe Desch Innovation Award instituted by the Club, and, most notably, bringing recognition to the, then unknown Dayton code breaking project. Her research on the secret project led her to publicly acknowledge and shed light on the secret work that the engineers, such as her father, and the WAVES completed during World War II, and to sponsor the documentation of seven IEEE oral histories of the surviving engineers.

Anderson’s father, Joseph Desch contributed to the advancement of information technology. Working in a lab at the National Cash Register Company (NCR) during the early years of World War II, he developed thermionic tube technology for early digital electronic counters. Chosen by the United States Navy for his research, Desch directed a classified war project to design and build the "Bombe," a machine that was successfully used by the United States during the war to analyze and “crack” encoded communication messages from the German Naval Enigma machine. While Desch’s work and contributions to the design and manufacturing of such machines led him to be awarded the Presidential Medal for Merit by President Harry S. Truman in 1947, it was not until 1992 that this work was declassified.

In this interview, Anderson discusses her life and career, such as the difficulties of being a woman in the STEM fields. Although not of a STEM profession, she provides encouragement to continue pursuing the movement of STEM education, to keep moving beyond mistakes and obstacles, and to keep contributing to the world. Additionally, she reflects and gives an inside perspective on her father’s career and how it affected her own choices and the research projects she later pursued, namely on the Dayton Code Breaking project.

About the Interview

DEBORAH ANDERSON: An Interview Conducted by Kelsey Irvin for the IEEE History Center, 1 July 2013.

Interview #651 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center. Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Samuel C. Williams Library, 3rd Floor, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Deborah Anderson, an oral history conducted in 2013 by Kelsey Irvin, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEW: Deborah Anderson
INTERVIEWER: Kelsey Irvin
OTHER PEOPLE PRESENT: Dr. Charles Cerny, Elizabeth Hiteshue, Dr. Mary Lanzerotti, Mr. David Pope
DATE: 01 July 2013
PLACE: Air Force Institute of Technology (Dayton, OH), : Deborah A. Anderson, Kelsey Irvin

Introduction

Kelsey Irvin:

So, we will go ahead and get started.

Deborah Anderson:

Okay.

Kelsey Irvin:

I would just like to welcome you to your oral history interview. Just bear in mind that the questions are very detailed because just at the end of the day we have to produce a complete transcript. We are hoping to cover the significant events of your life to better understand how you got where you are today. If you feel uncomfortable or unable to answer any questions at any time, please don’t hesitate to skip a question or anything like that. Again, you will be able to edit the transcript afterwards.

Deborah Anderson:

Okay.

Kelsey Irvin:

So, we are just going to get started talking about your early life and education.

Early Life/Education

Kelsey Irvin:

To start off, can you state your name and date and place of birth?

Deborah Anderson:

Sure. My name is Deborah Ann Anderson. My maiden name was Deborah Ann Desch. I was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1950.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay great. So, did you grow up there?

Deborah Anderson:

I grew up in—to be precise—Oakwood, but yes. Yes.

Kelsey Irvin:

That’s where I am from too. Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, my parents were older. My mother [Dorothy, 1913-1971] was 37 when I was born and my father [Joseph Desch, 1907-1987] was 43. They had kind of given up on having children so I was a surprise. I’m not quite sure why, I think it was because they were older and they were so happy to have me, that they really sheltered me quite a bit. And that’s had an effect on me, which I am still dealing with as far as shyness and a lack of self-confidence.

I went to grade school, I started at Holy Angels in Dayton, and then in 1957 we moved to Kettering. And I went to St. Albert’s and then to Alter High School. That’s what really opened my life up—when I went to Alter.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay. How did it open up?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I didn’t realize I had much academic ability. I kind of struggled through the first couple grades of school. By the time I was in 8th grade, my teachers were telling me I was gifted, but I didn’t feel that. At Alter, when I started taking algebra and I took biology my freshman year—and I really just fell in love with biology—I realized I did have some talent and some gifts. And by the time I was a senior, I was taking AP courses and I was getting very good grades. I had gained some self-confidence.

Kelsey Irvin:

Good. So were you interested in technology at all? You said you were interested in science and biology, but were you interested in technology at all when you were younger, like in high school?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, senior year of high school I really wanted to build a laser, but my dad wouldn’t let me. *Laughs* because I read Scientific American and seen an article detailed how this one scientist had built a ruby Laser. So I remember proposing to Dad for my science project that I build a laser and he just had a fit and conniption. Yes, I really loved it. I went up to Ohio State for college in part because they had a spectrophotometer, which back then was cutting edge. There were only a few in the country. And I just loved gadgets and tools and things.

Then my father had a heart attack approximately three weeks before I left for college. (Bad timing is a recurring theme in my story.) Back then heart attacks were kind of fatal, kind of a death sentence I should say. so I felt I had to go home, and it’s at that point I started at the University of Dayton.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay. So what did you understand about your parents’ occupations when you were growing up?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, Mom was a housewife through and through. And Dad, I thought, built cash registers.

Kelsey Irvin:

For National Cash Register (NCR)?

Deborah Anderson:

Yes. And then as I got older I realized he built computers, but I thought they were for business.

Kelsey Irvin:

You first went to Ohio State University and your major was going to be biology.

Deborah Anderson:

Yes, actually Biochemistry.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay. So then you went to the University of Dayton. What was your major there?

Deborah Anderson:

I started out in chemistry, I think. Later I transferred to computer science, briefly. I had fewer options plus I transferred from the quarter to the semester schedule, so it was an odd fit. I lost credits and I’m no longer sure of the details. There were not as many young women in the Sciences at UD so again, I ran into that “I’ve been sheltered and self-confidence problem”. English composition came easily to me. My English teacher thought a lot of my writing so, by the end of my first semester at UD I had switched to English. I did disappoint my father a great deal, but he was a man and I was having trouble with men in the sciences. I kind of shut him out.

Kelsey Irvin:

Which part of your education overall do you think was most beneficial to your life, to your career?

Deborah Anderson:

Oddly enough, in the liberal arts—English literature with history as a minor—I had to learn how to think as a researcher, to isolate a topic and to pursue it. Not research in a lab, but research in a library. And I loved it. To this day I love libraries. That confidence that I can go in and burrow in and find an answer is what spurred all of my recent history research. It gave me the confidence that if I just kept looking, I was going to stumble across clues that would tell me what Dad did and explain everything to me. So, it was the professors who assigned me research papers that really did me the biggest favor.

I know this might seem out of joint in an interview about careers in the sciences but I have one point I feel I should stress: in writing the number of papers needed in the liberal arts I learned to discipline my thinking, to incorporate logic in the research and writing needed. In particular it was a professor I had for an upper level course in Romantic Poetry who took the time to sit me down and talk through the construction of one of my first papers. I learned to keep my thought process linear—not to stray from a central point. It’s this discipline which I’ve relied upon again and again in the last 20 years.

But I have no doubt at all that it was my background in science, the AP courses I took at Alter, the math and chemistry I had at UD, and the topics Dad taught me like binary math, that gave me the confidence to tackle the mystery of the war work. Audiences frequently ask me how I recognized clues, how I felt I could gain an elementary understanding of the engineering, and it all goes back to the years between 14 and 20 years of age.

Kelsey Irvin:

Interesting.

[Deborah Anderson: I should note here that during my last year of college my mother became ill and then died in late 1971.]

Career

Kelsey Irvin:

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about your early life, we would like to talk more about your career. So what was the first job you had out of college?

Deborah Anderson:

Out of college, I went to Ohio State in English in graduate school and I became a teaching assistant—a graduate assistant.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay. For what class?

Deborah Anderson:

English 101, Composition

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay. How long did you work there?

Deborah Anderson:

Just a couple of quarters; I had a health problem that sent me home, but at the root I just was not good at teaching. To this day I don’t realize that sometimes when I am thinking and trying to express myself, I’m thinking in a different way, a different pattern than the audience to whom I’m speaking. And with students, I just had trouble explaining things in an understandable way and I know I wasn’t a good teacher. Later, in 1993, I wanted to go back to school to become a science teacher at the grade school level. And again when I would teach as just a substitute in grade schools, I had trouble translating what I’m thinking down to where my audience could understand it. Dad had that problem, too, and I probably took after him.

Kelsey Irvin:

So, after you were the teaching assistant what was that the next thing?

Deborah Anderson:

In January 1972, I started at Ohio State graduate school. I had gone through college in two and a half years, which was an unnecessary stress so when I graduated I was only 20. I was stubborn. Then in my second year of graduate school I encountered a health problem that sent me back to Dayton. The people in the English Department at the University of Dayton, where I had worked as a student, offered me temporary work. And then while I was there, the secretary position opened up. I was friends with everyone in the department and my husband was working in UD Theater by that time so I just took the secretary job and worked there until I took maternity leave. I enjoyed it because I was among friends and my salary was enough money that it helped us. I’ve kept saying I was going to finish my Master’s at OSU but I never did.

Kelsey Irvin:

So, you mostly did English but did you ever want to follow in your father’s footsteps and have more of a technological career? You said you had been interested in lasers.

Deborah Anderson:

Yes. I didn’t want to be exactly like him because engineering in a corporate setting is difficult. I thought about pure research and for a long time, I continued to read Scientific American and follow when new books came out and read them more or less just because it interested me—especially genetics, which was cutting edge. Well, it’s still cutting edge. It’s interesting to remember that just as I entered college people were learning that Watson and Crick had discovered the double helix! But time passed, I was married and ready to begin a family so I never went back to complete my degree.

Kelsey Irvin:

You are a member and you’ve been a board member of the Engineers Club of Dayton. What have you done in that role?

Deborah Anderson:

I’m very comfortable around engineers. The Club members had asked me to speak down there a couple of times. I understand the way engineers think, you know? So they asked me to become a member and I did. I wanted to help the club—it’s fascinating to be in a building where you know Orville Wright and Charles Kettering walked.

I served three years on the Board. The Club has now instituted the Desch Award. I’ve tried to pick people to accept it, and that’s been a challenge because you also have to pick out someone who will be an entertaining after dinner speaker. I’m still learning how to do that.

Kelsey Irvin:

What are the criteria for winning that award?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I was given a mandate to make the award a national award. I also wanted to make it different to distinguish it from a broad ‘pioneer in science’ award. I singled out the field of digital technology because that was Dad’s passion. I’ve tried to pick out pioneers in some kind of application of digital technology—digital communications, information science and of course cryptography. And I’ve had some luck but it’s always going to be tough finding somebody because it has required me to read, the keep more current in the breakthroughs in technology.

Kelsey Irvin:

What did you gain do you think from sponsoring the IEEE oral histories of 7 of the surviving engineers? (Robert Mumma, E. Vincent Gulden, Jack Kern, Edward DeLaet, Don Lowden, Roger Hull and Carl Rench who was a good friend to my father.)

Deborah Anderson:

Oh, that was a godsend. The story of the Dayton code breaking project was unknown at the time. 1995 was when it was actually declassified and we began planning in 1993. Convincing somebody to come in and interview some people from a project they’ve never heard of was very difficult. Luckily, the IEEE finally agreed to do it, but I had to cover the transportation costs of the interviewer, Dr. Rik Nebeker of Rutgers University, to fly in to do the interviews. I also had to transcribe the interviews myself because the IEEE wasn’t sure it was going to be anything worthwhile.

As it turned out, because the work had been so top secret and the 7 members of the team had never spoken about it, they had forgotten most of the details. It had been 50 years and apparently there is a phenomenon where you have to rehearse a memory to keep it fresh over the years. And these fellows in self-protection had filed their memories away, never referring to them. In fact, one engineer (Vince Gulden) had never told his wife. He told her the night before he was interviewed and she was in shock. She was upset to know that he had been part of that project and not felt he could tell her. She wasn’t upset in a bad way—she was happy—but it was a shock.

So, the interviews were a mixed success but at least we gave it a try. And I was very grateful that the IEEE has been a wonderful partner in this whole journey.

Kelsey Irvin:

Great. So those seven engineers, had they worked directly with your father?

Deborah Anderson:

Yes. And one of them, Bob Mumma (Robert E. Mumma, 1905-2003), had been in on everything. A very intelligent guy and was very sharp, but he had forgotten a great deal.

My father’s case was different because in contrast, my father would talk about the general subject at home. He wouldn’t say anything significant, but he would remember it— circumstances, personalities and some stories. Bob wouldn’t talk about it at all and he had forgotten a lot of it.

[I’d also like to point out that the IEEE awarded the Dayton project a Milestone in Engineering Award in 2001. The Dayton Section spearheaded the effort, and I was privileged to write the nomination.]

Challenges Facing Women in College and in Careers.

Kelsey Irvin:

So, now that we’ve talked a little bit about your career and your education, one of the things that we are particularly interested in for this interview is learning about the challenges of being a woman in STEM fields. And strictly speaking even though you are not a STEM professional, I think you have a lot of insights into it, especially with your interactions with the WAVES and things like that.

Just to dive right in, have you ever experienced any issues in your career due to your gender?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, there was the problem in college when I couldn’t overcome the gender gap. I think the climb for a woman was steeper than for a man. And it was not only my problem—in particular, my two closest friends in those years had both transferred from the Sciences to the Liberal Arts. It seemed the expedient path to take if a woman wanted a career.

I need to complete the story however. Although I was close to these women I knew that there were many other young women in our class who met the challenge and not only succeeded but flourished.

Dr. Cerny enters and greets group.

Kelsey Irvin:

We were just talking about the challenges of being a woman in STEM fields. Did you feel any additional pressure to balance your professional and personal family life?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I don’t know if you’d call it my professional life. But, skip ahead 20 years from where we were, to when I started giving speeches. My experiences broadened. For instance, I gave a speech in Fort Meade (MD) and I gave a talk at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

My stresses were the shift in my priorities as those parts of my brain which hadn’t fired in 20 years began to work again—my curiosity, my concentration, my desire to communicate new ideas. This was different, for my husband and my sons. At one event my older son exclaimed, “Where did this new mother come from?”

Perhaps I’m finally rising to the challenges which I dropped back in 1969. There have been many mornings when I’ll come downstairs, get some coffee and sit and read about cryptography or prime numbers. I make time for those things I love to learn about and I hope it’s reflected in my presentations or my web site.

Kelsey Irvin:

How have you seen women’s role in STEM fields change over the years since the years your father had his career?

Deborah Anderson:

Oh, wow! That’s a really broad issue. I think the change in women’s roles has gathered momentum even as we speak! Women are much more visible in STEM fields, much more visible and much more comfortable, I think.

Esther Hottenstein, WAVE ensign

There was one story back in the War that I thought might be applicable to this. I’m thinking of a WAVE named Esther Hottenstein, from Millersburg, Pennsylvania. The WAVES were all volunteers for service. Esther had left her job as a schoolteacher. She had gotten her degree, I believe, from the Women’s Applied College in Pennsylvania.

This was in contrast to many WAVES who were students and volunteered straight out of high school. Esther was assigned as an assistant to a Howard Engstrom who was the mathematician for the project. Obviously, if he was an applied mathematician for cryptanalysis he was a brilliant man. Esther also was promoted to the rank of ensign, on the basis of her abilities and her character.

Well, she and Dad got to know each other during the War. She was a bright person but kind and beloved by the WAVES who served under her.

At the end of the War—Esther told me this when I met her—she didn’t know what to do, whether to just go home to Pennsylvania and resume teaching or to begin something different. It had to be difficult because she had been very important in Dayton and then later in Washington. Both of her brothers were physicians and my father discussed this at length. He encouraged her to go to medical school and become a physician. And she did!

She stayed in touch with Dad through the years. I let her know that he died in 1987 and she and I became friends. My family went over to visit her once and she was a wonderful lady. She was a family doctor in a small town and she had delivered 2,000 babies in her career. People just loved her to pieces and she was so grateful that Dad had encouraged her to go to medical school. But that was so unique back in those days. She needed special encouragement to even think in those terms.

Just thought that that was a wonderful contrast to the way women think now.

Kelsey Irvin:

What do you think is the motivation behind the changes of how women’s role has changed in STEM fields from WWII to now?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I think that is kind of sociological, that our society has just become much more based on the individual than the social structure of the man being bread-earner and the woman supporting him. That’s my guess.

Her Father, Joseph Desch

Kelsey Irvin:

So let’s talk a little bit about your father’s contributions. We’re going to try to inquire about things that are unlikely to be in existing record that we could just look up and find.

What kind of environment did your father grow up in Dayton?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, he grew up in the West side of Dayton. His home was within a mile of the Wright brother’s house. His family lived in a working class neighborhood called Edgemont. Their house lay between three railroad tracks and a few blocks from a stockyard. However his neighborhood was a slice of life, with tradesmen and craftsmen and people who worked with their hands and their brains for a living. He was exposed to immigrants of different cultures in the area—Germans, Italians, Appalachian, even freed slaves, people who were independent-minded and wanted to make it, to be successful and earn a living.

In short, he learned how to work hard at an early age. He also was exposed to a lot of craftsmen who were like his father, a wagon-maker. Dad grew up very confident that he knew how to use tools and take measurements and design things. And I think that was crucial.

I talked about this with Margaret Peters (Educator, African American historian) who grew up in Edgemont a few blocks from Dad’s home and a few years later we interviewed her for the documentary Dayton Codebreakers. She noted that another remarkable thing about the neighborhood was that on every street corner there were little stores. And so, as a child, even she learned kind of an entrepreneurial sense—self-reliance—that was unique to that neighborhood and which might not be in a neighborhood that was more residential.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay. What was his education like? What was his major in college?

Deborah Anderson:

He started out in civil engineering at the University of Dayton. As a child he had been so impressed with the formation of the formation of the Miami Conservancy District and flood control. He had lived through the 1913 flood. Their home had been flooded out and he — at the age of 6—had been rescued by his uncle in a rowboat and taken over to the grandparent’s house where they entered through a second floor window! And so he watched the Conservancy District and the dams being built, —they lived just blocks from the river— and he thought he was going to go into civil engineering. I think during his sophomore year he entered electrical engineering.

Kelsey Irvin:

How did he get interested in radio?

Deborah Anderson:

He heard a wireless set in a department store when he was a young boy and he was so curious. He wondered how it worked and since his family couldn’t afford a radio he decided to build his own. He learned about crystal sets. He loved the downtown Dayton Library, so he just went there and educated himself.

Kelsey Irvin:

So, how did he get his job at General Motors Radio?

Deborah Anderson:

He was in his senior year at the University of Dayton. He was studying electrical engineering. At that time students were not allowed to work while they were studying so he had to request special permission from the University President.

General Motors Radio (actually it was Day-Fan Electric when he started) was close to his home and I think he probably knew a great many people who worked there, by frequenting the one or two radio supply stores in Dayton. The radio community in Dayton was still small. Back then if a person was a ham radio operator, they kind of had an air of somebody that was up-and-coming and knew the latest technology. To tell you the truth, more than that I don’t know. He just did it.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay. How long did he work there?

Deborah Anderson:

Until the Depression and the place went bankrupt.

Dr. Lanzerotti enters and distributes tea.

You know, Kelsey, you got me thinking. Dad started repairing radios at night just for a little bit of money. And that could have helped him meet the right people to get hired.

Kelsey Irvin:

That makes sense. How did he start working at National Cash Register (NCR)?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, once he liquidated General Motors Radio, he had to freelance. Again this was during the Depression. He built radios for people and he tried a few designs, one of which was for Charles Kettering. He met Charles Kettering by building a teletype—that would send signals out over a wire. Kettering wanted to try the design. Kettering mentioned to an engineer at Frigidaire that he had met this young, promising engineer. Well that engineer, whose name was Harry Williams hired Dad, then left Frigidaire and went to NCR to work for Colonel Deeds Williams then brought Dad over. And Dad brought Bob Mumma over. And they started the Electrical Research Lab at NCR.

Kelsey Irvin:

Interesting. When he got that job, what was he hoping to accomplish there? What did he think he would be doing?

Deborah Anderson:

It’s every young man’s dream. He was kind the assignment to see what NCR could do with electronics to augment their mechanical machines. So he got to play in his own lab with a good budget.

Kelsey Irvin:

I’m sure he loved that.

Deborah Anderson:

Yes.

Kelsey Irvin:

How long did he work there before the War?

Deborah Anderson:

Joseph Desch and the "Bombe" code-breaking machine.

He was hired in April of 1938, but they started ramping up for war-work as early as 1940. They went into defense work I think just because it might be—well, Colonel Deeds was very patriotic. I’m certain the primary reason was to aid the country, but it’s also lucrative.

Kelsey Irvin:

What do you know about the meeting between your father and Alan Turing in 1942?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I have been told that Turing was in Dayton three times. The visit which Turing documented was in December 1942.

Dad told me stories about dealing with British—“Brits” he called them. I don’t think he ever used the name Turing. He did tell me about one instance in particular where a British official—and he didn’t even use the word Bletchley Park—he just said one of the Brits came over and inspected his work on ‘the machine’. Dad would tell me stories in these broad terms so he avoided dropping details and felt he wasn’t breaking his oath. He called it “the machine”, which could mean anything, and he would refer to the Brits. But he said he just got really infuriated at the criticisms reveled by one official because the fellow wasn’t even an engineer and he was criticizing Dad’s design. Dad would say very emphatically with a lot of colorful language that it worked so it didn’t matter if he liked the design or not. And that’s all I really remembered.

Much later, I told that story to Bob Mumma and Mumma said, “Well that was Turing he’s talking about. Boy, I never saw Joe as mad as I did then.” It’s one thing I really wish I could have seen because two people couldn’t have been any different than my father and Alan Turing. But they were both brilliant and they were both self-confident, so it must have been quite something to see and hear.

Learning about her father's work

Kelsey Irvin:

So what do you recall about the WAVES when you were growing up?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I wasn’t born until 1950.

Kelsey Irvin:

Okay.

Deborah Anderson:

My parents talked about them quite a bit. My mom loved their visits.

Kelsey Irvin:

What would she say?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, some of the girls used to come visit on the weekends at my Mom and Dad’s house. Mom got to know some of them. Now Mom didn’t have much in common with them. I mean it would never have occurred to her to go and enlist in the Navy. But she could make friends. They would help her cook in her kitchen. In addition Dad had a Victory Garden. They’d help with canning; they’d eat meals there. It wasn’t like it was an open house, but there certainly was a lot of traffic in and out of the house.

Dad loved to garden and apparently one WAVE was missing the vegetable Kohlrabi in particular. Dad grew it for her one year and was she was so grateful that she could hardly wait for it to be cooked. She would eat it raw, like an apple. He enjoyed that a lot.

Kelsey Irvin:

That’s nice!

Deborah Anderson:

Yes it was. There’s another story I love to tell. After Dad died, and my boys were a bit older, I took them back to visit one of our neighbors who still lived next door to our home (about 1988). Her name was Marie McCune, and she was close to my mother for years. One remark Marie made was that she could never understand all the Navy traffic in and out of our home during the war. “Why were all those people in and out? And that Captain Meader—why was he there? That was so strange.”

Kelsey Irvin:

How did you first find out more about your father’s work? Was there a moment when you realized what he had been doing?

Deborah Anderson:

You mean after he died?

Kelsey Irvin:

Yes.

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I found his papers in the basement but I didn’t really understand their significance. This was a moment, however, when that science background I had played a role. In particular I remember being amazed by a report Dad wrote where he outlined the improvement in a counter he built for the University of Chicago I remembered what he had told me about the importance of filaments, current and the shape of the impulse.

And then this morning, as I was going through my files, I recalled an important event: an article in the Dayton paper in 1990 that a machine was going on display at the Smithsonian and it mentioned Dad as being the person who built it, that is Joe Desch and Bob Mumma.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Without your knowledge they mentioned it?

Deborah Anderson:

NCR’s Public Relations Department put it in the paper. The article said this machine was called the “Bombe” and it had been built at NCR by Joe Desch and Bob Mumma and it worked on the Enigma code. This was a complete eye-opener to me, or more accurately it confirmed some of my suspicions. So, we—my family and I — got in the car and drove down to Washington D.C. And luckily, I had made the acquaintance by phone with the woman who had curated the display. She had already sent me her news release.

Handling paper copy of news release.

That gave me the confidence that I was really onto something. I had had hints here and there, but not enough to really lock it in that my dad really had done some-thing...and that didn’t even say that he designed the machine. It wasn’t until much later that I realized he designed it. The article just said he built it. And as you’ll notice, the inscription here gives all the credit to Turing.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Now was your mom alive during that time?

Deborah Anderson:

Mom died in 1971.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Okay, so quite a while before.

Deborah Anderson:

Yeah she never talked about—she talked about the WAVES, but she never talked about anything else.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Do you think she knew?

Deborah Anderson:

Everybody asks me that. I honestly don’t know. The only thing she ever told me was that my father was very smart.

Knowing Dad, he might have lived without telling her. His life was so divided between work and home. But it makes more sense that she learned the general substance of the work during the 3 years her life was upended during the War.

Kelsey Irvin:

When did you first become aware of his Medal of Merit that he got from President Truman?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I grew up with his citation up on the wall. And again, the citation is pretty specific. But when you grow up with something there, you never question it. It wasn’t until all of this started happening that I took it down and actually read it.

Kelsey Irvin:

What did it say?

Deborah Anderson:

It gives him credit for the design and manufacture of machines that were crucial in the victory in the Atlantic and in the Normandy Campaign. It’s very specific complimentary. (I posted the Nomination online)

I tell this story when I give a talk. One time, Mom and Dad gave a big party and there was a lot of liquor flowing. And one of the officers of NCR, who happened to be a good friend of the family, went over and started reading the citation. Dad was in the kitchen making drinks and out guest yells out “Hell Joe, what’s this for?” And he says, “Joe, come in here! Tell me what this is for.” And Dad says, “Dammit Harry, don’t look at that!” Harry said, “Well, I want to know why you’ve got this thing from Harry Truman and what it’s about.” Dad said, “I knew she shouldn’t hang it up on the wall.”

All laugh.

And Dad didn’t say anything.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Was it because he wasn’t allowed?

Deborah Anderson:

Yeah. Yes, the project didn’t get declassified in his lifetime, not until 1995. And honestly, even if it had been declassified while he was alive I don’t believe Dad would have said anything specific. He would still honor his oath. Many of the veterans felt the same; an oath is a lifetime commitment.

Kelsey Irvin:

Did you father ever discuss any of his accomplishments at NCR after the war, during peacetime, before he died?

Deborah Anderson:

Oh yes.

He talked about his—in fact, he took me down to NCR and showed me the 304-computer (see, for example, NCR photograph and NCR description article) He was very proud of that. He also built rescue beacons that were used in Vietnam and we had some of those at home. And he was very proud of those because he told me, and I don’t know how truthful this is and how much he was kidding himself, but he told me that he would never build military equipment that wasn’t intended to save lives. He didn’t want to build anything for purposes of death and destruction.

But after World War II—even when I was a child in the early 1950s—he had nightmares about ships sinking and men dying. He had trouble dealing with the aftermath of war. He knew his cryptanalysis resulted in the deaths of Germans and Japanese. I believe today his condition would be considered PTSD but after WW2, there was no such idea or counseling.

Years later he really tried to get contracts that would result in lives being saved without destruction. I don’t think he could maintain that entirely, but he tried. Just to finish, he was really proud of those rescue beacons…very proud.

Kelsey Irvin:

So what did you learn from the WAVES at the Reunion?

Deborah Anderson:

Oh, they were something! You talk about women in STEM—those women were incredible! They were independent, they were intelligent, they were motivated, they were very moral, very patriotic and funny. Later on, you have a question, “What am I most proud of?” I think the 1995 reunion without any doubt because I didn’t realize how much it would mean to them to get some recognition. They never in 50 years had gotten any recognition. They were released from the service and some of them got letters from the Navy thanking them for their service but most didn’t. A few got a recognition or two—and it seemed very haphazard who got recognition and who didn’t. Many records were destroyed because the Navy tried to completely destroy any evidence that there was this project in Dayton.

And so I had no idea! I haven’t been around military and I didn’t know about these things—it was a complete education when they arrived and I met all of these wonderful and funny women. The first morning we had a ceremony at Sugar Camp and some began crying. I was wondering “What’s happening here?” And they started to tell me what it had been like for 50 years. They couldn’t even brag of their service because they’d been instructed to keep it secret. So they would tell their families they were somewhere else in the country working on adding machines, doing computation or something—anything to keep the whole thing secret. Of course they’d been told if they ever breathed a word of it, they’d be shot and they believed it. Dad believed it too. He used to say, “I can’t tell you that or they’d come and shoot me at dawn.”

So the fact that they found out—and they wouldn’t talk until I had a representative from the Navy come and tell them that they could start to talk about their service. And once they relaxed, they were so moved and so grateful. I can’t do it justice. Unfortunately, we tried to make a video of the thing and the tape is starting to decay and it wasn’t a very good tape to begin with.

Kelsey Irvin:

What did they talk about at the Reunion? Did they talk about a typical day for them?

Deborah Anderson:

Yeah, that was one of the questions. A fellow named Curt Dalton wrote a book based on their letters and their interviews called Keeping the Secret. I’ll try to get that to you so you can copy it because it’s out of print.

They talked about life at Sugar Camp. They talked about marching to work because Sugar Camp is on the hill above where Building 26 was.

Kelsey Irvin:

Yeah, we saw that in the video—we saw them marching.

Deborah Anderson:

Yeah, yeah! Their barracks, their friends. Once they got to work in Building 26, they had a proctor in every room or a room mother and they had to be silent while they worked. And they’d solder for a couple of hours, have a break, solder a couple more hours, have lunch, solder a couple more…and they’d do a full day and then they’d march back up the hill. Or no, they got to just walk up the hill at night. Oh, they’d talk about dating and being homesick and food and kind of like you’d talk about college.

Kelsey Irvin:

Did they talk about your father? Did they talk about how they knew him?

Deborah Anderson:

Yeah, and they wrote me letters mentioning him too. I didn’t know if you’d want to see the letters or not.

Kelsey Irvin:

Anything is great! We’re interested to learn more.

Deborah Anderson:

They said he was very quiet and he really didn’t associate with them. They said he always seemed to have a lot on his mind. They said he was very kind and very polite, which would fit.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

When you scheduled the Reunion, how did you get in contact with all of them?

Deborah Anderson:

There were no records. I called the Navy and then I had to write them a letter asking for permission, and they never acknowledged it at all. I think it was probably because there was no record. So, there were a few WAVES in town that saw that newspaper series that Jim DeBrosse wrote and had contacted NCR. And NCR had given me the letters. So, we started with the girls who were in town and it turned out there was kind of a group of WAVES who had stayed in touch with each other over the years. And it just was kind of word of mouth. Out of the 600, we ended up only finding 78. It’s sad but like I googled WAVES of Nebraska Avenue this morning—Nebraska Avenue is the facility in Washington—and I get obituaries. Sometimes a WAVE will find out that this has been released and when she dies in her mostly small town, the newspaper will run a story about what she did during her life. Sometimes they talk while they are still alive. That’s not a lot of women surviving out of that big group.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Still enough for a great event though.

Deborah Anderson:

It was, it was. We had 100 people. We had 78 WAVES, we had 15 sailors I think, and we had a handful of people from NCR—either the factory workers or the surviving engineers.

Kelsey Irvin:

After the War, what was your relationship like with your father and mother?

Deborah Anderson:

Oh, well that would be after I was born. What do you mean?

Kelsey Irvin:

Did they talk about the War? What kinds of things would come up when you talked about the War with them?

Deborah Anderson:

Dad wouldn’t talk about it. He had an emotional breakdown—and he wouldn’t talk about the War until after Mom died and he didn’t have anybody else to talk to. After he retired, I think he relived a lot of the War and he started to kind of want recognition. The best he could do is just tell me these stories.

When I was growing up—our house at Greenmount Blvd in Oakwood only had two bedrooms and I slept in of course the second bedroom, which is where Commander Meader had slept during the war. And my parents called it Meader’s room. Dad would say, “Oh, that’s back in Meader’s room.” It wasn’t until all of this began that I realized how unusual was.

I didn’t have a children’s bedroom per se. In my room was a big oak desk with odd things like drafting tools and a pin-up calendar. There was a scrapbook—a Navy scrapbook—in there, which they said was Mom’s and I now realize it must have been Meader’s and Mom didn’t change it. I didn’t have a kid’s room, you know? And in the corner there was a hutch and it had things on it that were adult. Any toys I had either had to be in the closet or under the bed. Meader and then he left in a hurry and then he left the Navy in a hurry. And I think they thought he’d come back to get his things but he never did.

So we still have the oak desk—it’s got his map book. The drawer in the desk had map pins and I didn’t know what they were until I was an adult. In the map book, in the page for the Pacific Islands, there’s lines and arrows pointing to…

Dr. Cerny:

What’s the battle that had the breakdown about…?

Is it in the Pacific?

Deborah Anderson:

It was in the Philippines. It was the worst Naval battle…Leyte Gulf.

Dr. Cerny:

Yes.

Deborah Anderson:

I’ve studied an illustration of the ambush around the Leyte Gulf. When I was working one day, I opened the Atlas to that page to look at and I started looking and there are these faint lines drawn around Leyte Gulf. It’s really eerie, very eerie.

So that was a weird way to grow up.

Laughs.

I wouldn’t recommend it.

Kelsey Irvin:

What questions are there about your father’s work that have been left unanswered that you would like to know?

Deborah Anderson:

I don’t want to know any more because it’s not good for my health.

Laughs.

I have learned where to quit asking questions. There are still things that haven’t been declassified and I’ve got a pretty good idea what they are and I just…not in this lifetime.

Kelsey Irvin:

Yeah. Did your father discuss ever what he was most proud of? You said he was proud of the rescue beacon.

Deborah Anderson:

He was proud of his early work. That was an area of great frustration for him—Dr. Cerny may understand this. Once NCR was dedicated to War work and the Navy literally took over his lab—it wasn’t like the Company chose to hand over their lab. Once NCR said, “Okay, we’ll do the work”, the Navy directed everything.

Dad had very cutting edge theories and equipment for computation, and it was what he wanted to pursue. And there was an element of ego in it, but it’s also that passion for research. But he couldn’t do it during the War. At one point, he had two major contracts and a whole bunch of minor contracts. He had a staff of 20 people when the War started. And he was building all this and he no sooner got the Bombe running, then they had to start on the Japanese machines. He knew the University of Pennsylvania was going ahead with their work and the University of Chicago was doing work, not to mention the British. And it crushed him that by the time the War was over and he could get back to his research, he was in the backwash. He talks in an interview with the Smithsonian about going over to see ENIAC and he had a lot of criticisms of ENIAC, but he could never catch up. It was too late. And then by the time he got some tubes perfected he was happy with, transistors came out.

Dr. Cerny:

So I don’t want to interject too much, but one of the people who used to be at NCR was Thomas Watson. And he actually approached Patterson about evolving the switch into an electronic form and pushing it in such a way that you felt though there could be greater computational capabilities. Well when they split then, that became IBM. T.J. Watson Research, just north of New York City.

So her father probably had some discussions with T.J. Watson about some of that and it ended up being a new revolution after World War II and then the people at AT&T Bell Labs eventually. That was also—I don’t know if I can remember the fellow’s name—Bardeen was one in there, but it escapes me now. There were three of them; they eventually won the Nobel Prize for the transistor. But that really began to push forward the way we look at computers today, right? But what I think Ms. Anderson’s saying here is that it was the thought or maybe the mind of either her dad or her dad’s group that this switch we’re going to move because certainly NCR had relied on switches to do all of the computations for both their cash registers and these other crypto-logical devices. But there were ways in which they could move forward and of course she was talking about the ENIAC, which is the first really tube-based computer electronically-based. But yeah, that was one of the other things that obviously ended up being the genesis of the IBM Corporation was that kind of discussion about, “Well we need to move in this area.” And those in power at NCR said, “No, that’s a little too fast, too furious” maybe. I don’t know.

Deborah Anderson:

Well, Dad used to travel to IBM and he loved to go to Bell Labs. He went over to visit with Eckert and Mauchly, and of course he went to the University of Chicago. He was aware of all of these things and he was a peer among them. But he couldn’t move ahead. Well, yeah…that was a frustration.

Kelsey Irvin:

So how much did he know about the application his work when he was doing it?

Deborah Anderson:

Oh, I believe that during the War he knew most everything. Yes, that’s why he had that breakdown: the Navy motivated him by explaining battle plans—that’s why the map book was in the room—what battles were affected and why they wanted certain things by this deadline because a battle was going to go ahead. He knew when and where his machines needed to be delivered, and I assume, why.

He also went to Washington—I think he went to Washington every other week until later in the War. And so, he would visit the Navy building and get that viewpoint too.

Reflections and Advice

Kelsey Irvin:

So now I’d like to ask you a few questions kind of just to reflect on your career and your father’s career, and maybe give some advice about some things before we wrap up.

How could your experiences and knowledge help someone entering or contemplating entering a STEM field, being a woman in a STEM field?

Deborah Anderson:

I think the STEM education has moved beyond me. Fifteen years ago, I might have felt more confident but all this emphasis on STEM and this generation of new women scientists and engineers is wonderful, but it is new to me. I can tell them what it might have been like 40 years ago, but…

Kelsey Irvin:

It moves so fast.

Deborah Anderson:

It does, yeah. It is. It’s moving very fast.

Kelsey Irvin:

If you could go back and change one thing, anything, what would it be?

Deborah Anderson:

I really puzzled over that question. Anything I say would be very subjective. My best observation is that I view a lifetime as a journey. The most important attitude is to keep moving ahead, despite wrong turns and setbacks. I might be in an unexpected point but I try to reassess and keep moving on, to keep contributing.

Kelsey Irvin:

Well, as Dr. Lanzerotti had mentioned to us earlier, because you maybe didn’t do that, you were able to do all of this. You know?

Deborah Anderson:

Yeah.

Kelsey Irvin:

So really there’s a good side to everything.

Deborah Anderson:

You know that’s true. The one thing I sometimes wish I hadn’t stayed so close to home at all. But if I hadn’t sat and listened to my father on those Friday nights and heard those stories, I never would have realized that I had a little peek—a unique peek that many historians can’t have—into the way he thought and his own impressions of his life. If I had been off with a career in California or Michigan or Florida or somewhere, I wouldn’t have had that. So yes, it’s a trade-off.

Kelsey Irvin:

What would you say is the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome in your life?

Deborah Anderson:

Self-confidence. I’m still working on it.

Kelsey Irvin:

I think we all are.

Deborah Anderson:

When this story came out—and I’m a very altruistic person—I thought, “Oh, here’s this wonderful gift I can give the city of Dayton.” I didn’t realize what I had was a piece of intellectual property and people wanted that. People could profit from that. People could use it for their own purposes. That was really painful and I realized I was going to have to get the self-confidence to look at this—yes, keep the altruistic idea but protect myself. That’s been an eye-opener. I’ve had to throw my shoulders back and say, “Okay, I’m drawing the line” more than once.

Kelsey Irvin:

We have a quote here. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” So what do you think have been your previous goals maybe that you’ve already realized or goals you still have for the coming years that you’ve had in your life?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, I discovered a lot of things because of the first reunion. One of them is I discovered the computer, the personal computer. And I love working on my website. It’s difficult work and I have to concentrate, but I love it. I’ve taught myself HTML and now learned how to use Wordpress. I also feel the documentary was a contribution.

Kelsey Irvin:

It’s a great website. We looked through it—it’s really nice.

Deborah Anderson:

I want to continue that. We have footage shot for the Dayton Codebreakers documentary, most of which we never used. My fellow producer and I talked about putting up podcasts of the footage. That’s yet to do.

The topic of digital communications and encryption has become hot because of the NSA and related topics. Information security is a hot topic. It’s fun to learn about what’s going on now and contrast it with 70 years ago.

Kelsey Irvin:

In the personal statement on your C.V., you stated that you have “become a cheer-leader for the importance of technology in the past, present, and future”. I liked that quote. What do you think is the importance in these three times?

Deborah Anderson:

I’ll tell you my current passion. I am concerned about the public’s ignorance about their personal computers, their iPhones, their tablets as machines that are broadcasting digital information. I believe the public should gain more understanding in order to protect themselves. If I mention this, many just tune me off. And yet they go home and they send email. They don’t understand the potential of technology. And I don’t mean intimate understanding, the theory behind it, the little 0’s and 1’s. So in a way, I’m trying to drag themes of information security into the website so that people will know their world. It’s the future and people need to understand it.

Kelsey Irvin:

Have you studied up on that yourself?

Deborah Anderson:

I read a lot of books about Silicon Valley and the birth of the Digital Age. I receive a daily Google news alert about cryptography. I’ve been to a number of lectures at Fort Meade I really try to keep up with it.

Kelsey Irvin:

Is there anything at all, anything on any of the topics we’ve covered, that I’ve neglected to ask you that you want to share or talk about?

Deborah Anderson:

Oh, I probably want to tell you a little more about the WAVES. They are really interesting women. It was hard for some of them to go back to their former lives.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Do you know if any of them are still currently alive?

Deborah Anderson:

I think a handful of them are. Some of them went and lied about their age and joined when they were 16 or 17. So they’re younger, but not many of them.

Kelsey Irvin:

It’s so great that they got to go to that reunion. It’s such a great idea.

Deborah Anderson:

Well, initially I didn’t do it for them. I did it for the story and it was such a huge eye-opener for me. We did it again in 2001, but it was right after September 11th and a lot of people cancelled. Those five or six years had made a large difference in their health, too. They were still young enough in 1995 that they could stay up and party and carry on.

Dr. Cerny informs group that he has to leave and exits room.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

I had a quick question. I know in the car we were talking about your sons. You said you have two sons?

Deborah Anderson:

Yes.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

We talked about you and could you talk about your family? I was kind of wondering actually about the relationship your children had with your father.

Deborah Anderson:

Oh, my children had with their grandfather?

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Yes.

Deborah Anderson:

Well, Dad was older of course. We visited about once a week to his house and I think my sons were a little scared of him because he was very colorful and a lot of times he’d get upset about something—not with them, but he’d just get upset perhaps by the national news or taxes and so on. One of the neat things about Dad was that until he was in his seventies he would do a lot of tinkering in the basement. Actually the day before he died he was on his short wave radio talking to Mexico.

He had all sorts of supplies in his basement, like phosphorous or materials or he had a black light and he had a lot of electronic equipment. The kids learned that all of that was down there—a microscope, a chemical balance, a vacuum pump. And after he died, we moved in that house and they just had a ball getting into his stuff, respectfully.

And he would have supplies in his basement like phosphorous or materials or a black light and he had a lot of electronic equipment. The kids learned that all of that was down there—a microscope, a chemical balance, a vacuum pump. And after he died, we moved in that house and they just had a blast getting into his stuff (like the night my older son exploded hydrogen on our back steps!)

Dad would never let me touch anything, but I’d let allow our own sons to go down and experiment. And they learned about his radio and they learned how to operate a radio. He was a photographer and they learned how to use his photographic equipment. It gave them a lot of self-confidence. And there was some breakage and some loss, but not much. Plus my husband always loved to work on cars, so they learned a lot of mechanical engineering. My older son is actually an automotive engineer. He’s a mechanical engineer and he’s working on hybrid vehicles. My younger son, who’s the biologist, is brilliant at coding. One summer he was an intern at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He understands the history of cryptography and he’s the one who told me about that declassified document released this summer.

Kelsey Irvin:

Do you think your willingness to kind of let them explore your father’s things led to their interest?

Deborah Anderson:

Oh yes, between my husband working on cars and our letting them play in the basement—We got them a computer. Our younger son got into the very early Usenets, the very early bulletin boards One of the interest groups was cryptography and the group was being moderated by professionals in Britain and Europe.

One conversation was about Turing. Our younger son joined on and wrote, “My grandfather was Joseph Desch and he worked on the Enigma decryption project here in the United States during the War”. He caused quite a stir! So Jesse got me downstairs and showed me the computer and said, “Mom, you’ve got to contact this person”. And I said, “No! I can’t do that. You shouldn’t be doing that.

Dr. Lanzerotti enters.

I’m telling them how my younger son, remember in the very early days of Internet, back in 1995 or 1996, there were Usenets, the very early bulletin boards—message boards, postings.

Kelsey Irvin:

Like a blog, kind of?

Deborah Anderson:

No, like a bulletin board. Somebody would post a topic and then people would contribute to it. I may have printouts.

One of the fellows was Frode Weierud, in Switzerland. Another was a gentleman from Great Britain who was active in analyzing documents from the British Public Records. Both are brilliant and I now consider them friends. But that was from our son getting on the computer at two o’clock in the morning. He’d go into high school and fall asleep in class, but it developed his ability to write code, which is how he’s earning his living now.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

Turned out for the better.

Deborah Anderson:

Yeah, we were permissive parents.

Laughs.

Well, we’ve gone through the questions.

Kelsey Irvin:

Yes, is there anything else you want to talk about? Are there any other questions?

Deborah Anderson:

No, I take my cue from you.

Kelsey Irvin:

Well, again, if there is anything you want to add later, you can add in full questions if you want or if you think of something later. That’s no problem.

Esther Hottenstein

Dr. Lanzerotti:

How did she say that your father encouraged one WAVE to go into STEM?

Deborah Anderson:

Well, Esther had brothers who were physicians. At the end of the War, she’d had all of this responsibility in Washington and in technical areas, which she would never describe. But she got into top-secret clearance. She had been a schoolteacher in Pennsylvania and I think it was going to be—it was a let-down for most of the WAVES to go home. Going back to teaching school I think was going to be difficult. And Dad encouraged her to go to medical school like her brothers and that was something she had never really considered. But she did. She went to medical school and became a physician.

I think it was a process of discovery that the women learned they had capabilities of which they weren’t aware. There was another WAVE, who is still alive, who joined the WAVES just to get away from her father. Her father had told her she would never amount to anything and she wanted something better. So she joined the WAVES and was tremendously popular and got much more self-confidence. She met her husband—he was stationed at the base—and they got married after the War. But it changed her—she was so glad that she had believed in herself and joined the Navy and felt she could amount to something. And she never had to go home and answer to her father again. So it changed their lives.

Dr. Lanzerotti:

Could you just say what was Esther’s full name?

Deborah Anderson:

Esther Hottenstein. Millersburg, Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

And she had said that she became a physician who delivered 2,000 babies…

Deborah Anderson:

Yes, 2,000 babies.

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

She delivered 2,000 babies.

Dr. Lanzerotti:

Oh, wow!

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

It’s like you said…there is so much information there that fairly recently became open to talk about.

Deborah Anderson:

And that’s something I just thought of. Esther, despite the fact we became good friends, would never talk about her work. The girls who did the soldering realized they could talk about it, but any girls who had responsibilities beyond that would not. You couldn’t shake it out of them. The whole idea of taking their oath seriously then that is completely lost now. People laugh—it makes me angry sometimes when I’ll be speaking and I’ll refer to this because I think it is something to be very much respected. The last time I mentioned it to a public audience, they laughed and that offended me.

Kelsey Irvin:

It is something to be respected, absolutely.

Deborah Anderson:

And some of it is the fact that our culture has changed so drastically and makes people uncomfortable. It was frustrating not hearing the WAVES’ stories but you had to respect it. I asked Esther once exactly what she did and she said, “Oh, you’ll never get that out of me.”

Elizabeth Hiteshue:

That is something we saw in the video and in reading, how serious they took everything and how proud they were of what they did.

Deborah Anderson:

Yes.

I mentioned that I had to have somebody from the Navy at the first reunion come in and tell them to their face that they could finally talk about what they did because they would not shirk that oath until they knew.

So, that’s it.

Kelsey Irvin:

Well thank you so much for letting us do this. It’s been my pleasure. It’s amazing to hear about all of this.

Deborah Anderson:

Thank you.