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Collection Janice Belleau
WVM ID Number OH 1057
Object Name Oral History
Title Oral History Interview with Janice Belleau
Date 2007
Event World War II
Narrator's Name Janice Belleau
Interviewer's Name Terry MacDonald
Description In this oral history interview, Janice Jones Belleau, a Green Bay, Wisconsin native, discusses her service as a clerk in the Navy during World War II.

After basic training at Hunter College in New York City, Belleau served as a "Mail ma'am" at the Fleet Post Office in San Bruno (California). She describes the Navy Recruiting Office telling her to "go home and grow up" when she tried to enlist after graduating high school in 1942. Instead, she went to Layton School of Art in Milwaukee (Wisconsin) until she was twenty years old. Belleau explains that her father had been in the Navy during World War I and her brother was currently serving, so she "wanted to be there helping." Belleau reports that her father was in the hospital when she enlisted with her mother's permission. Her father reacted so furiously to her enlistment that the hospital staff put him in restraints. Belleau recalls working at the Fleet Post Office at Hunter College following basic training. While there, she handled many damaged care packages addressed to sailors overseas. The clerks would save the addresses and put all the items from the damaged boxes into a large, collective bin. Using random items from the bin, they would make new care packages to send to the sailors whose packages from home had been damaged. Belleau tells a story about coming across a package for a sailor she knew from Green Bay who had recently been killed. Belleau forwarded the package to his unit, thinking "somebody on his ship could use it."

Belleau also touches upon being stationed in San Bruno (California) at Tanforan Racetrack, which had been converted from a Japanese internment camp into a port of embarkation for the Navy. She briefly mentions difficulties of life on base, including living on a small salary and having an allergic reaction to eucalyptus trees. She details the Navy's precautions to separate the fifty-three WAVES from the thousands of sailors on the train to San Francisco, in the barracks, and on base. Belleau comments that she appreciated the car service that would drive the servicewomen around the base or into San Francisco, stating "they were very protective of us." Belleau mentions that she went to the USO often and that Ralph Edwards (a radio and television star) once took her and a few other servicewomen to dinner.

Belleau tells the story of meeting her future husband, a sailor, on Treasure Island Naval Base (California) in 1946. He was scheduled to ship out to the Pacific, so he bought her the most expensive item in the PX, a blanket, as a goodbye gift. He unexpectedly returned to base the next day because his ship collided with a piling of the Golden Gate Bridge during embarkation. They were married soon after in Oakland (California).

Belleau states that after the war she and her husband moved back to Green Bay (Wisconsin), but she briefly took beauty school classes in Memphis (Tennessee) under the GI Bill. Despite his angry reaction when she enlisted, Belleau's father was very proud after her homecoming and enjoyed showing her off in public. Belleau describes her father taking her to the Beaumont Hotel in Green Bay for coffee and walking her up and down Washington Street in her uniform. Belleau was the first woman to be hired by the Post Office in Green Bay. She tells of encountering sexism there and feels that an injury caused by a mail sack mysteriously falling on her head was not an accident. Today, Belleau continues to enjoy VA medical benefits and goes to the VA Clinic in Green Bay. Belleau refers to herself as "one of the most active" members of the American Legion Post in Green Bay, which she joined in 1960.
Extent and Medium of Description Analog audio recording: 1 audio cassette (approx. 20 minutes)
Transcript: 13 pgs.
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Biographical Record Belleau, Janice