If man bites dog is news, what is it when civilian girls like these start pleading for tours of duty in overseas war zones?

By Cpl. Hyman Goldberg

YANK Staff Writer

The old gag that goes, “If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the mountain,” is getting a new twist back home these days. A lot of wives and girls of GIs in overseas theaters who have been sweating out their men’s return are now trying to get overseas to join them.

frederick mayer

Insignia of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

The Office of Strategic Services, the Government agency that coordinates intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently announced that it had some 200 jobs for women aged 23 to 43 in various spots abroad. Though it’s true the salaries offered, plus overtime and maintenance allowances, were considerably higher than the prevailing rates paid for such jobs in the States, the OSS officials were amazed at the great number of women who responded.

The girls who thought they saw an opportunity to join their men were disappointed. The State Department doesn’t allow civilian employees of the Government to go to theaters where their relatives or boyfriends are assigned, and the OSS can’t hire them.

It was the first time a great number of jobs for typists and financial clerks in Africa, the Far East and Western Europe had been offered to American civilian women. Besides the thousands who applied in person in Washington, D.C., and New York City, the two places where the OSS held interviews, thousands more telephoned, sent telegrams and wrote air-mail letters asking that jobs be reserve for them

The jobs pay a base salary of $2,000 a year, and a maintenance allowance of $1,377 in the Far East and $1,134 in Western Europe. In addition, there is an annual allowance of $410 in both places for overtime. OSS officials say the money is almost as great a lure as the husbands and boyfriends overseas; to a girl used to making from $35 to $40 a week, the average of about $70 a week looks pretty attractive.

But it wasn’t just sex and adventure, or comparatively high salaries that brought all the girls to the OSS hiring offices. Here are some of the reasons women gave for wanting jobs overseas.

Winifred Lieck, who lives at Great Neck, Long Island, N.Y., is a secretary for an executive in a chemical concern that’s doing war work. “Even so,” said Miss Lieck, “I don’t feel quite near enough to the war. I think that if I went overseas I could do much more for the war effort.”

Merioneth Whittaker returned to the United States recently from Bolivia, where she had spent nine months with the Rubber Development Corporation, a Government agency. “I’d like to go over to Europe and see what has happened there,” she said. “I would like to see how the war has affected the people and I would like to help them in any way I can.” Miss Whittaker was born in Colorado, went to school in Switzerland and has traveled to France and Germany. She speaks several languages.

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Merioneth Whittaker has already worked for Uncle in Bolivia. Now she would like a job in Europe.

Gwen Mallach, a small, slim brunette from Farmingdale, Long Island, is a clerical worker and production planner at Grumman Aircraft. “Why do I want to go overseas?” She asked. “Why, I want to see all those places I’ve been reading about in the papers since the war started. I would like to go to Paris. My sister Maxine is a sergeant in the WAC. She was in the Philippines when the prisoners of the Japs were freed, and she saw them.

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Gwen Mallach works at Grumman Aircraft. She’d like to go to Paris because she’s half French.

“The reason I’d like to go to Paris particularly is because I’m half French, on my father’s side. And I studied French in high school. And, also, my boyfriend is in the Army, and he’s in England. No, of course that’s not France, but it’s closer to him than I am now, isn’t it.

Yes, it is, dear.

About 20 percent of the girls who want to go overseas have husbands or boyfriends in the places they pick, according to the hiring agent for the OSS. In most cases they know that the State Department won’t give them passports because of the rule against U.S. employees being sent to countries where they have relatives. So they don’t say anything about their husbands or boyfriends, even if they’re asked. But they might as well tell right away, because they are investigated not alone by the OSS, but by the FBI as well. In about six weeks, if a girl is accepted, she is ready to go overseas.

“I’d like to go to Switzerland,” declared Betty Loughran of Hartsdale, N.Y., who is a secretary. “I would like to go there because I’m very interested in seeing what happened over there in the war. This country is really so untouched by the war. Especially,” she added wistfully, “because more than five million men are out of the country. It looks to me like it would be very interesting and exciting over there.”

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Betty Loughran, a secretary, would like to go to Switzerland to see what has happened there.

Margaret Murphy, from the Greenwich Village section of New York City, has been a supervising bookkeeper for seven years. “And I’m getting bored with it,” she said. “The thought of going overseas is awfully attractive. I’ve got no preferences about going any place. Just anywhere at all, as long as it’s away from here. And I think the pay will work out fine. I think it will work out at least as well as it does here at home, especially with the way the cost of living has been going up here all the time.

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Margaret Murphy, a supervising bookkeeper, has no preference, just wants to go anywhere abroad.

“I’ve been working in a bank,” said Helen McGiff of Jackson Heights, New York City. “I’ve always wanted to travel, and working in a bank I’d never be able to. The place I’d like to go is Saudi Arabia. But if I can’t get to Saudi Arabia, I’ll take Cairo. Why do I want to go there? Well, I think it’s so beautiful in those places, so romantic. The Arabs are the most romantic people in the world.

“How do I know?  Well,” said Miss McGiff, I’ve never met or known an Arab, but I’ve read about them, and I’ve seen them in the movies.”

Miss McGiff heaved a sigh.  A deep sigh, from all the way down.

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Helen McGiff has been working in a bank. She has her sights set on “beautiful, romantic” Arabia.

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  • Bill Getz says:

    Ninety-nine percent (arbitrary figure) of the overseas jobs for women were clerical in nature. The OSS may have hired women for clandestine operations, but I am not aware of them. The prejudice against women in the workplace was broken by the war (i.e., Rosy the Riveter) but it has been a slow path upward for women in key position.

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