War is Hell

War is Hell

by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2015 Melanie Brown

The Army told Tom they couldn't use him -- But...


 

I stood in line at the induction center wearing only my skivvies with about a couple of hundred other guys. We were being poked and prodded and inspected in places we didn’t even know we had.

I kept getting odd looks from both my fellow inductees as well as the center’s staff. I guess I did look kind of strange in the line. I was at least a head shorter than the average Joe and I was always being mistaken for a high school kid.

While we weren’t supposed to be talking the guy behind me whispered, “Hey, Mac. Don’t be surprised if they throw you back in.”

I looked around to look at the total stranger who talked to me. The guy towered over me. I said, “I sure hope not.”

As we passed down a row of tables, I noticed one table that had just one officer sitting there, glancing at each person that walked passed him and then he’d scribble some notes. As I approached him, I saw him studying me. It made me uneasy the way he looked at me.

When I came up to the table, the officer pointed at me and said, “You. Have a seat.” He pointed at the chair on the opposite side of the table from him. I hesitated and looked behind me. The officer sounded irritated as he said, “Yes. I’m talking to you. Sit down.”

I sat down as the officer jotted down some notes. The guys I’d been in line with continued on their way.

After a few minutes of silence as the officer continued to glance at me as he jotted notes down, he finally asked me, “So tell me. Why do you want to do in this man’s army?”

I started to feel nervous as I answered, “I want to kill Germans. Or Japs. I really don’t care which.”

The officer didn’t even look at me as he nodded. He then asked, “How old are you, son?”

“I’m twenty one, sir.” I said as the sweat began to trickle down my back.

The officer paused another few moments before asking, “And what if you didn’t get to kill anybody." He leaned back in his chair before continuing. "Would you still be interested in joining the army?"

I couldn't imagine where this line of questioning was leading to. I shrugged and said, "I just want to do my part sir. I want to do what I can to help the war effort. I can even speak a little German."

The officer looked down at his note pad for a moment. Giving me a sideways glance, he asked, “Can you dance? Sing?”

Feeling confused, I said, “Maybe.” He jotted down some more notes.

Placing his hands behind his head and frowning, the officer said, "I'll be blunt, kid. There's no place in the army or the navy for a runt like you. But we are looking at an experimental program that you seem especially suited for. Think you might be interested?”

With so little information, how would I know? I shrugged and answered, “Maybe. Depends on what it was I guess.”

“That’s the spirit, Mac,” said the officer with a wry grin. “But I’ll give you one last chance to go back to your farm or where ever it was you blew in from. Before we even tell you want we plan to do with you, you’ll be sworn to secrecy. If you violate your oath, we’ll deny everything and toss your little fanny in jail for the next fifty years. Still interested, son?”

Well, now I had to know! I said, “Sure. I guess.”

The officer smiled and said, “What’s your name, son?”

I said, “Henderson, sir. Tom Henderson. From Topeka Kansas.”

“Well, Tom Henderson from Topeka Kansas, I’m Captain Sykes. Follow me.” I followed Captain Sykes through a doorway and into a long hall.

As we walked down the hall, Capt. Sykes said, “After your oath, you’ll be told what your mission will be. If you reject the idea, you’ll be classified as ineligible to serve and sent home. You will still be bound by your oath. I have to say, we’ve had a ninety-nine percent rejection rate.”

We stopped in front of an unmarked door. Captain Sykes opened the door and motioned that I should enter. Sitting at a desk was a bored looking officer who obviously wanted to be anywhere else. When he saw us walk in, he stood up.

Pointing at me, the new officer pointed to a spot before the desk he’d been sitting at and said, “You. Stand there.” He shook his head a moment before turning towards Captain Sykes, and with a twisted smile said, “Steve, you have an uncanny eye for picking these candidates. I’m beginning to worry about you.”

Captain Sykes laughed and said, “Well, I was a talent scout before the war.”

His smile dissolving, the new officer turned to me and said in a monotone, “Raise your right hand and repeat after me.”

I raised my right hand and repeated after the officer, “I solemnly swear that I, Tom Henderson will not reveal to any person any information pertaining to the classified activities of the United States Army, except as necessary toward the proper performance of my duties or as specifically authorized by a duly responsible superior known to me to be authorized to receive this information. I further understand that if I reveal any information about the classified information that is about to be presented to me, I will be stripped of any rank, become ineligible to serve any branch of the military and will be imprisoned for not less than fifty years.”

Pointing to a chair behind me, Captain Sykes directed me to sit. He said, “Son, the Army is deadly serious about this experiment remaining classified and trust you will be prosecuted if you reveal what you are about to hear. You are under no obligation to agree to become part of this mission. Do you understand this, Mr. Henderson?”

Shifting uneasily in the chair, I said, “Yeah. I get it. It’s a secret.”

“Three men have volunteered so far. Most get offended and ask to leave.” Captain Sykes sat on the edge of the desk.

The other officer leaned against the desk as he took a position next to Captain Sykes. He cleared his throat a couple of times before saying, “Son, here’s the deal. Morale is always a problem in the military. You have boys far from home fighting for their country and after a while of taking a pounding they start to forget what they’re fighting for and morale wavers and you start to have desertions.

“The U.S.O. helps and they get as close to the fight as they can, but it’s still in a rear area. The guys along our front lines don’t get a lot of R and R. So the Pentagon came up with this little idea to bring a little bit of home right up to the front lines.”

He paused for a moment, and then continued, while pointing at me. “What is it, that every red-blooded American boy is thinking of, even while being shot at?”

I didn’t know if it was rhetorical or if he expected me to answer, so I just stared at him for a few moments. He then continued. “Women! God bless ‘em, they’re thinking of their wives, girlfriends and sometimes their mothers. But the Pentagon decided that the front lines are just too dangerous of a place for women. So here’s where you would come in.”

“Me, sir?” I asked incredulously. “I’m not a woman.”

“Not yet. Son, the way you look, your mannerisms and other factors that Captain Sykes has identified…” he glanced down at the notes Captain Sykes had taken, “…makes you an ideal candidate of making you appear to be a woman and showing the boys at the front what they’re fighting for.”

I just sat there, dumbfounded.

Captain Sykes said casually, “This is where most guys say we’re off our nut and walk out.”

“You guys are crazy,” I said. “Is this a joke? I mean, you can’t possibly be serious!”

The still un-identified officer said, “Oh, but we’re very serious. The Pentagon feels this is an important program to boost morale.”

I stood up and said, “Hey, I wanted to join the army to kill Germans or Japs. I don’t care which. But not to wear a dress!”

Captain Sykes said, “You will be taught how to handle a weapon just in case, but not issued one. And you can help brighten the day for a bunch of war-weary GI’s. You’ll also receive special hazardous duty pay on top of your regular combat pay.”

I looked at them as if they were both insane and said, “I don’t care if you gave me a million smackeroos! No one in their right mind would go into a combat zone dressed as a woman!”

Captain Sykes took a few steps toward me. He said, “Tom. You told me you wanted to help in the war. But you’re not fit to clean latrines or peel potatoes in this man’s army. But you can still help by using those very attributes that keep you out of the fight.”

The other officer said, “You won’t make it onto Movie Tone News, but you can make a difference. You’ll just be there to smile, dance and sing a little for the troops. We’re trying to recruit at least four men for this top secret program. We have three ready to start training. You can be number four. Are you really in that big of a hurry to go back to the farm?”

I hesitated a few moments. He had a point. I hated the farm. I wanted to move to the city, with its bright lights and constant excitement. If I say no, then it’s back to that farm for me where I’ll probably be stuck forever. But to have to pretend to be a woman, and entertain and be ogled at by men kind of turned my stomach.

Captain Sykes said, “Son, you have to make a decision now, not next week. You either sign up now, walk through the door on the right and make a difference, or you sign this document swearing you’ll never breathe a word of this and walk out the door on the left and back to the farm. Your choice. No pressure. But we need a decision right now.”

This should have been a simple ‘no’. I should just boldly sign the document, tell the officers to put it where the sun doesn’t shine and walk out. Back to the farm. But my knees where actually shaking from indecision. Pretending to be a woman for the Army was as nutty as a fruitcake, but I could still write home that I was in and going straight to the front lines. But I wouldn’t be shooting any one. I’d be worried about getting runs in my nylons. No, that was just crazy talk.

I walked over to the table where Captain Sykes was sitting and picked up the document. He held out a pen for me. I reached for the pen…then hesitated. How could I go back home with a “4F” practically stamped on my forehead? Not even man enough to be a woman for the Army. I set the pen down and Captain Sykes smiled at me.

“If I get killed while dressed as a woman, will my parents be told?” I asked.

Captain Sykes looked grim for a moment, then said, “No, son. No one will ever know you were a woman for the Army.”

“I’ll do it. I think I’ve lost my mind, but I’ll do it.” I said standing straight after leaning over the table.

Captain Sykes held out his hand and said, “Good decision, Tom. I just hope I won’t live long enough to regret it…”

 

*          *          *

 

After being officially inducted into the Army and taken my oath, Captain Sykes led me outside to a waiting jeep. I was surprised that he got behind the wheel. I thought that officers always had a driver. He motioned that I take the passenger seat and off we went.

We drove across town from the induction center to Fort Janus outside of town. The guard smartly saluted the captain and waved us through the gate. We drove past rows of barracks, past the parade grounds, past other large buildings that I had no idea what they were for. Captain Sykes was strangely quiet the whole time.

Trying to break the silence, I said, “What are some of these buildings, Captain Sykes?”

He seemed annoyed that I spoke to him and said, “I’m not a tour guide, soldier.”

“Yes, sir.” I said sheepishly. I turned away from him and just watched the base pass by us.

We finally arrived at an area that was fenced off from the rest of the base, and was made up of three or four buildings, one looking like a small barracks. There were two MPs standing guard at the gate leading into the area.

One of the MPs opened the gate and we drove through, stopping a few seconds later in front of the small barracks. Captain Sykes indicated with his hand that I should exit the jeep. I followed him into the barracks.

Three guys in the barracks were lying on their bunks listening to the radio and reading when we walked in. One of them looked up at us and then jumped out of bed, shut off the radio and shouted “ten hut!”

The other men jumped out of their bunks and all three stood there stiffly at attention, arms up in salute. Thinking I probably should too, I stiffened and saluted. I looked around and the barracks area was rather small.

Captain Sykes returned the salute and removed his hat and placed it under his arm. “At ease, gentlemen,” he said as he looked at each of us.

I was finally able to take a gander at the other men that were in the barracks. I was shocked. They were short, like me. And the only way to describe their facial features was “pretty”. These jokers looked like fish out of water dressed as G.I.s. Then it occurred to me that I must look the same way.

“Gentlemen,” said the captain. “Here is the latest and last recruit for our special project. PFC Henderson.” The other men nodded at me, but kept silent.

“Let’s get down to business,” said Captain Sykes in a serious tone. “Your training starts tomorrow. You will be issued new uniforms. You will only wear these new uniforms from now on. They will be WAC uniforms. Sgt. Carpenter of the WACs will be your instructor. Let me be perfectly clear, ladies. Any one of you not following the sergeant’s instructions seriously and to the letter will spend the rest of this war in Leavenworth. It is the sergeant’s job to turn you into convincing women. All leave is denied until this has been accomplished. And when you are allowed leave, you will remain in character. Ladies, is this understood?”

There was a chorus of “Yes, sir,” from the four of us.

“I’m well aware that you will very probably feel ridiculous being dressed as women and wearing wigs and lipstick, but this is what you agreed to do. Your quarters are segregated from the rest of the base because no one is to learn what we are doing here. The guards at the gate do not know who you are or why you are here. The guards who saw you arrive as men will be rotated out and the new guards will only know there are women here.

“Sgt. Carpenter will instruct you on the use of cosmetics, how to stand, walk, gesture and even speak in a feminine manner. You will learn how to dance and flirt with men. You will also be administered experimental injections and possible surgery to help you adjust both physically and mentally as female. Don’t worry, I’ve been told the effects are reversible unless you take them for an overly extended time.

“Let me reiterate, ladies, the secret nature of your assignment. If any of you so much as hints that you are not female for the duration of your enlistment, or mention that you were a woman for the Army when you return to civilian life, do not doubt that you will spend the rest of your natural lives in prison, in solitary confinement. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m just laying out the facts.

“When Sgt. Carpenter is satisfied with your, well, conversion, you will be assigned to an officer and then deployed. Two of you will be deployed to the European theatre and two to the Pacific theater.

“Lastly, I know some of you are concerned about just how deep your role is to be. I know you are all red-blooded American boys and the Army will not ask you do to anything lewd or lascivious. The men you are to entertain will be told they are not allowed to touch you. That said, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to kiss or be kissed by someone. Sorry ladies, but war is Hell. Just keep your panties on.

“I wish you great success, ladies. I’ll be monitoring your mission, but I will no longer be personally involved. Once deployed, you will be assigned a lieutenant to get you to your destinations and provide security. Good day, ladies.”

Captain Sykes gave us a smart salute which we promptly returned and he spun on his heels and left the building. A few moments later, we heard the jeep fire up and then drive away.

We all just stood there, looking at each other for a minute.

Finally, I said simply, “I’m Tom.”

The others relaxed visibly and one said, “My name is Sam.” He extended his hand for a shake.

The second guy held out his hand and said, “It’s Jake.”

The third guy looked embarrassed to be there, held out his hand as well and said, “Hey Tom. I’m Lance.”

Sam said, “Welcome to the loony bin, Tom. I have a feeling we’re all going to deeply regret this decision.”

I laughed and said, “I regretted it before I even signed the papers. I just couldn’t face going back home.”

Jake said, “So you decided to face the krauts in a bra instead?”

I spread my arms in a “yeah, so?” gesture and said, “Well, we’re all here, aren’t we?”

Sam belched out a short, guttural laugh and said, “Yeah. We’re all here because we’re short, skinny, pretty, sissy boys.”

Jake said, “I’m not skinny.”

 

*          *          *

 

From the radio drifted the sounds of the Andrew Sisters singing about not sitting under the apple tree while I sat on my bed trying to compose a letter to home. I didn’t want my parents to worry too much, but I did try to make the basic training sound grueling, even though we hadn’t started anything. Well, how could I tell my parents, their soldier son was going to be learning how to put on lipstick straight?

I looked up from my letter and looked over at my partners in crime. I could see why Captain Sykes picked them. The tallest was Sam at five foot six. Jake and I were both five-five and Lance was shorter still. None of us could be considered muscular in any conceivable way. We all had delicate facial features, with Jake being the prettiest. It was weird to describe another guy as pretty, but that’s the only way to describe him. All of us really. If they were like me in any way, school had been a living hell.

I looked at my hands. I’d never really given it a thought before, but my hands were small, delicate with longish fingers. I had to smile slightly. If I’d stayed on the farm, in a few years, these hands would be worn, thick and weathered. I wondered if they had a medal for being a call girl for Uncle Sam.

 

*          *          *

 

I sat bolt upright at the sound of the shrill whistle. I had fallen asleep while writing my letter and spent the night in my undershirt and khaki pants. Jake and Sam were jumping out of bed in the undershirts and skivvies. Lance just looked up from his bed covers and tried to blink away the sleep. I looked around for the source of the whistle and in the middle of our barracks stood a stern looking woman in uniform and she looked pissed.

Jake got up with bleary eyes, smacking his lips noisily. “I smell hotcakes. I’m starved.”

With a voice dripping with sarcasm, the woman, who must be Sgt Carpenter said, “Well, well, well. If we don’t have four pretty little princesses. I hope I didn’t disturb your slumber.”

Sam smirked, waved his hand dismissively and said, “Aw, don’t think nothin’ of it. I needed to get up anyway.”

Shouting, Sgt Carpenter said, “Fall in! Now! In front of your bunks!”

All of us scrambled to stand stiffly at attention in front of our bunks. Sgt Carpenter stood there, appraising each of us as we appraised her. Looking at her, her stance, her short cropped hair and the way she set her jaw, I began to doubt that she would be able to teach us anything about femininity.

“I had to see this with my own eyes, otherwise I wouldn’t have believed it,” she said, barking her words. “Of all the stalwart, red-blooded American boys being sent to combat, I have to deal with the likes of you. I feel downright masculine just standing in the same room with you girls.”

I wouldn’t doubt that she’d still feel masculine standing in the middle of a bunch of battle-hardened Marines.

She continued, “You are all rated four-effs. You don’t even rate to peel potatoes in this man’s army. Look at you! Skinny, no muscle tone, short and pasty skinned. I have WACS that are less feminine than you.”

She folded her arms and seemed to be sizing us up. Sgt. Carpenter started pacing back and forth as she began speaking again. “Here are the rules, ladies. Listen up. I really hate repeating myself. First, I don’t care what the doctor told your poor mothers when he yanked you out of her. You are women and you are in the WACS. This is not a vacation and this is not light duty. Despite what your sisters back home may look like, facial hair is not allowed in the WACS. You all will eat, sleep, drink and shit as women. As you have already been told, if you can’t cut it as a woman, you don’t get excused and sent home. We’ll have a nice little room for you in Leavenworth.

“Second. Reveille is at oh six hundred. Not six oh five or seven-thirty. Oh six hundred. After one week of training, you will be expected to be ready for inspection right here in front of your bunks, in standard WACS uniform and make-up by six fifteen. Chow at oh six twenty. At oh six thirty, I expect you in the training hall ready to become the women Uncle Sam needs you to be.

“And third, taps at twenty-two hundred. All lights will be extinguished and radios turned off. I would suggest you use your evenings to study the literature I will give you as well as practice putting on your make-up. I also encourage you to practice dancing, as you will be required to entertain the troops. Dancing as a woman, means dancing backwards in high heels.

“Any questions?” Sgt Carpenter stopped pacing and stood with her feet spread apart and her arms behind her back.

Jake said, “Can we eat breakfast now?”

Sgt. Carpenter said with a sneer, “It’s after six-thirty. I’ve had the chow taken away. You want to eat, you need to be punctual. Any serious questions?”

We glanced back and forth at each other to see if anyone else was going to speak. Sgt. Carpenter said, “What’s with the head bobbing, ladies? Until you’re told you’re dismissed, eyes to the front, only.”

She just stood there, hands on her hips and looking at us while shaking her head. She said, “I think it’d be harder to turn any of you group of misfits into actual men than make you into a WAC. Okay, fall out girls. Time to learn about how to wear cosmetics.”

 

*          *          *

 

I’ve decided I really don’t care for the way make-up smells and feels. It was actually kind of humorous to watch such an obviously unfeminine woman showing obviously feminine men how to wear make-up. And not just how to apply the stuff, but also how you hold it as well.

Sgt Carpenter leaned across the table towards me and said, “A lipstick ain’t a paintbrush, soldier. Don’t hold it like one. And don’t press so hard. You’re not putting on clown make-up!”

For two hours, we washed our faces, and then applied make-up. I got pretty good at it and thought I really didn’t need a whole week to learn it.

After our make-up session, Sgt. Carpenter demonstrated the proper way for a woman to walk. Seeing this woman who could probably kill all four of us with a single punch attempt a feminine manner of walking was quite comical and Jake couldn’t hold it in. His burst of laughter cost him fifty pushups.

Around noon we finally got a break from training on femaleness. Chow, which consisted mostly of ham or turkey sandwiches, was brought in for us. Along with the sandwich, there was a pill we were told to take.

“Sarge. What’s the pill for?” asked Sam. “Is it some kind of vitamin?”

Sgt. Carpenter, her mouth full, said, “Yeah. Something like that. I was told it will make you look more female.”

Jake said, “Are you going to take them too, sarge?” Sam chuckled.

Scowling, Sgt. Carpenter stood up from the table, pointed to the floor and shouted, “Give me fifty, soldier! Now!”

 

*          *          *

 

A Glenn Miller tune played on the radio as I lay on my bunk, exhausted. I looked over at Sam, Lance, and Jake sitting at the table playing some card game. Who knew learning to be a woman was so demanding? Up until today, I always thought girls had it easy.

Staring at the ceiling, I said, “Can you believe we have a whole week of this crap? I don’t know if I can make it.”

Sam snorted. He said, “Look at you, toots. You look more like a dame than us three combined.” He laughed and said, “You’re a natural, if you know what I mean.”

Still annoyed by the feel and taste of the red lipstick I was wearing, I said, “What’s that crack supposed to mean?”

Studying his cards, Sam said, “Well, you’re pretty skinny for a farm boy and your face has more delicate features. Like I said before, we’re all here because we’re sissy boys, but you seem especially suited to being a broad. Jake here is going to have arms the size of tree trunks if he doesn’t learn to keep his trap shut.”

Jake looked up from his cards and said, “You’re one to talk, Sam.”

I sat up, swinging my legs off the bunk and making a conscious effort to keep my knees together while wearing the skirt. Knitting my brow, I said, “Are you trying to say I’m a homo or something?” I really wanted to listen to the radio as Fibber McGee and Molly was just starting.

Sam shrugged and said, “Well now, I wouldn’t say that.” I stood up and took a few steps towards the table.

“Now girls,” said Jake. “I don’t think any of us are in a position to question anyone else’s manliness.

“Jake’s right, Sam,” I said. “All of us are here because we look girly. But don’t go assuming something just because we’re wearing skirts.”

Sam grinned and said, “Me thinks thou protesteth too much. Besides honey, I don’t know what your problem is. I like boys. And the way you look, maybe you should too.”

I sat back down on my bunk and said, “No thanks. I’m not a pervert.”

Jake laughed, “He says while wearing a skirt and make-up.”

“What about you, Jake?” I asked. “Are you like Sam?”

Jake lowered his cards and sighed. “Beats the hell out of me, Tom. I always thought I preferred women, but to be honest, girls just aren’t interested in me. One of the few girls that would go out with me told me she liked being with me because she felt safe. When she was with me, she felt more like she was with her sister, than with a boy. We’ll see how this little adventure goes.”

Lance looked at Sam and then Jake. He said, “You gonna bet or what?”

I turned my attention back to the radio just as Fibber McGee opened his closet again.

 

*          *          *

 

Sgt Carpenter paced back and forth as she looked us over. “Well, well. Aren’t you dolls looking pretty?” She walked up to me and said, “Looks like you’ve done this before. Very nice with the make-up.” Jake gave Sam a quick knowing glance and Sam smirked.

Turning quickly to Sam, Sgt. Carpenter said, “Oh, did I say something funny, miss?”

Sam stiffened and said, “No, ma’am.”

Sgt Carpenter said, “I know this seems like a joke to you girls, but your job is to be the best looking woman you can be in order to give the men on the front lines a severe case of blue balls. Henderson is the closest to doing this.”

The sergeant went back to pacing in front of us. She said, “Before we start today’s training, I want you ladies to think of a female name for yourself. I want you to give me those names by noon today. Going forward, you will only use your female names for the duration of your enlistment. Even in private amongst yourselves you are to forget your male names and only use your new names.”

I had been giving this some thought since I figured we couldn’t continue to use our real names after we were deployed. I’m sure there must be, but to be honest, I couldn’t think of any feminine version of “Tom” that I liked. My mom’s name was Abigail, which I didn’t really like much either. After a bit of pondering, the simple answer suddenly came to me. I could just use the name of the month I was born in – April.

The training that morning consisted of more tips on how to wear make-up to achieve different looks. Also on the agenda was how walk, sit and speak as a woman. We were going to have to cram into two weeks what any other woman took her whole life to learn.

At noon, we all sat down at the table in our tiny chow hall, with our plates of creamed chipped beef on toast, or SOS as it was more commonly called. Sgt. Carpenter looked around the table with a look of approval.

“Ladies, I have to say I am quite pleased at the progress you all are making.” Sgt. Carpenter cracked a smile and it was not a pretty sight. “I feel very confident that by the end of next week, you could all pass while surrounded by other WACs.”

Pointing at Lance, Sgt. Carpenter said, “You. What girl name have you chosen?”

Lance’s face reddened and at first he could only stare at his plate. After a few moments he looked up and said, “I’m a big fan of Betty Grable. So, I chose Betty.”

Sgt. Carpenter nodded and pointed next to Sam. She said, “And what name have you chosen?”

Sam continued chewing for a moment before swallowing. Setting his fork down, he said, “I’ve always been partial to the name Anna. That’s the name I picked.”

Sgt. Carpenter nodded to Sam. And then to Jake she said, “Do you have a serious answer for me?”

Looking offended, Jake said, “I think I’ve been slighted. I decided to call myself after my dear departed mother, Sarah.”

Sam grinned and said, “I really think Blanche or Gertrude would be good names for you, Jake.”

Sgt. Carpenter’s face clouded for a moment and she said, “Knock it off, Anna unless you want latrine duty two nights in a row.”

Finally Sgt. Carpenter nodded at me. I smiled and said, “I decided to go with my birth month, April.”

Looking around the table, Sgt. Carpenter said, “Nice job, ladies. All good choices I think. Remember these names. This is who you will be for the duration. Your old identities no longer exist as far as Uncle Sam is concerned.”

 

*          *          *

 

I looked around at the others sitting at the table in the chow hall while eating lunch. We were finally at the end of the two week intensive training and if anyone were to just walk in, they would never know the four of us were not real women. In fact, I would have to say all of us were more attractive than a typical woman.

The wigs we were issued must have been very expensive. Once they were securely attached to our heads, it was impossible to distinguish from natural hair. A cream they issued to us kept our faces smooth and beard free for days before we had to use it again. Anna had to use her cream more often as she was the only one of us who would actually have a five o’clock shadow at five o’clock. We were all now experts at wearing stockings, skirts and make-up.

Sgt. Carpenter entered the room with wide smile on her face and carrying manila folders. She said, “Ladies, I’m very proud of all of you. All of you passed your inspections with flying colors. I have been sending reports and some candid photos of you to Captain Sykes and he is very pleased with the results. Today, you graduate to Phase II of your training.”

Anna looked up and said, “Do we move in with the regular WACs, sergeant?”

Sgt. Carpenter said down opposite us and said, “Yes and no. You will be moving to the WACs barracks briefly until we can get you on a plane. You won’t have a lot of time to mingle and socialize. There will be no bunking or bathing with any of the WACs. No exceptions. You will be in your own wing. It’s only for a week. However, you’ll have the same training, chow and lights out schedule as the rest of the WACs. And as a reward for doing so well, Captain Sykes is giving all of you a pass for this Friday night.”

A cheer erupted around the table and we all smiled at one another. Betty said, “I’ve forgotten what it’s like outside this building.”

Sgt. Carpenter leaned in towards us and said, “Now remember, girls. You must remain women. And you must return to your bus by midnight. It will leave without you. If it does, then you become a guest of the MPs. Sorry it can’t be for the whole weekend, but it’s too great a security risk.

“I recommend you go to the USO in town and practice dancing with men. Also…and this is important if you ever want another weekend pass. No alcohol. The last thing we need is an incidence from one of you getting drunk.”

Anna smirked, “But sarge, I promise not to get pregnant!” A few girlish giggles went around the table.

Frowning, Sgt. Carpenter said, “I’m serious Anna. If you’re caught drinking or obviously under the influence, your pass will be revoked and it may be awhile before you see another one.”

I wadded up a piece of paper and bounced it off Anna’s nose. “Don’t screw this up for the rest of us!”

Anna lifted her hands in a gesture of surrender and said, “Okay, okay! I promise to be a good girl!”

A bus was waiting for us as we exited our barracks. Everyone was excited as this was our first leave time since the program began. I stood back for a minute and watched the other three step up into the bus. They looked for all the world like three WACs getting on the bus, their bill-less caps cocked to one side of their head and wearing those ugly shoes.

Chattering like excited school girls, the four of us rode alone on the bus to a downtown area. The USO would be close to our stop. There would also be several bars. I’d only been in the bar in my home town and then when accompanying my dad. I really didn’t care for the smell or the lighting in the place, but Dad swore bars were the best places to pick up women. In that very bar, Dad met Mom. Well, should I try to enter a bar here, I sure won’t be picking up any dames in this WAC getup.

After we climbed out of the bus, we all just stood around, not sure what to do or where to go. We’d been caged in those barracks so long we didn’t know what to do with a few hours of freedom.

Anna said, “Tell you what, girls. Since it may be a while before we have another chance at it, I’ve heard there’s little café up the street that has the best steaks you’ve ever tasted. Who’s with me?”

Sarah shouldered her purse and said, “Sounds good to me. I’m tired of Army grub. If I have to eat shit on a shingle one more time, I’m going to hurt someone.”

Betty just glanced around all three of us for a moment. She said, “I think I’ll follow Sgt. Carpenter’s suggestion and go to the USO and practice dancing. I just have a feeling we’ll be deployed soon and I think we should actually know what we’re doing.”

Looking annoyed, Anna said, “We’ve been dancing with each other for weeks now. I think I could give Ginger Rogers a run for her money. Let’s go eat.”

Sarah said “Yeah, girls. There’s a steak with our name on it.”

Frowning, Betty said hesitantly, “I’m going to the USO.”

“Suit yourself,” said Anna. She pointed at me and said, “What about you, April? Coming?”

I said, “I think I’ll go with Betty.”

Anna smirked and said, “Hah. I knew you liked men. Can’t wait to get some dancing in, eh?”

I felt my face turn red as I said, “Hey, knock it off. I don’t like men. But Betty is right. We need to practice dancing with actual men.”

Anna grinned knowingly and said, “Have fun. Come on Sarah.”

Betty and I watched Anna and Sarah walk up the street.

Betty said, “Thanks for coming with me. I really do think we should do what the sergeant said to do. I didn’t want to go by myself though.”

I smiled and said, “Sure, toots. What are girlfriends for?”

It was only a block to the USO building. Along the way we got cat calls and wolf whistles. I allowed myself the luxury of being annoyed, but it also re-assured me that our disguises were working.

I was surprised to see the USO so filled with men in uniform. We were greeted by a hostess, a pleasant young woman wearing a blouse and skirt. I half expected the women at this place would wear sexy evening dresses. But they all looked like typical girl next door types. Most were dancing or talking with GIs. There was an actual band, at one end of the hall belting out popular Swing tunes.

Betty and I had no sooner sat at one of the rare empty tables when a young man who had been staring at me from the moment we arrived walked up to us. He looked like he was just a kid and his dress uniform seemed a bit too big for him.

He just stood there for a moment, seemingly frozen. Finally he nervously blurted, “Would you dance with me?”

I smiled at him and said, “I’d love to.” Truth be told, I’d rather be elsewhere, but I needed to get the hang of dancing with random men.

We walked out onto the crowded dance floor and found an open spot. The song was fairly fast and he surprised me with how well he could jitter-bug. He spun me and tossed me between his legs and was shocked that he was able to deftly lift me up. It was exhausting keeping up with him.

The next song was slower and he took my hand and places his other hand on my waist. I tried to catch my breath.

Between breaths I said, “Wow. You’re a real hep cat. Where did you learn to dance like that?”

He looked shyly to the ground and said, “Aw, it ain’t nothin’” After looking at the ground for a few moments, he finally looked at me and said, “My name is Ralph. Please tell me your name is Mary. My girl back home is named Mary and she looks just like you.”

Poor girl, I thought. I said, “That’s amazing!” I said. “My name is Mary too!” I hated to lie to him, but he seemed adamant that my name be Mary.

Ralph’s face brightened as he said, “I knew it. You look like a Mary.”

I smiled at him and said, “It must be fate.”

Ralph smiled back at me and said, “It sure must be. My buddies didn’t want to come here tonight. They wanted to go to that restaurant down the street and get big thick steak. We don’t know when we’ll get to eat like that since we’ll be shipped out this weeke…”

I put my finger against Ralph’s lips and said, “Icks-nay, Ralph. You know better than to mention stuff like that. You don’t know who’s listening.”

Ralph’s face turned red. He said, “You’re right. You’re so much like my Mary back home, I forgot.”

“Well, don’t worry. My lips are sealed,” I said with a grin.

Ralph just looked at me for a moment and then said, “And those lips are very pretty. So soft and kissable. You’re a very pretty girl, Mary. I bet your boyfriend misses you a lot. Is he in the army too?”

“I uh…I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment,” I said with a shrug. The moment those words left my lips I regretted saying it. Since I didn’t want Ralph getting any ideas, I should have lied.

“I don’t believe that for a second,” said Ralph. “I bet you have to beat guys off with a stick!” Ralph then stopped dancing long enough to make a Groucho Marx gesture raising his eyebrows and pretending he was holding a cigar. He said in a Marx-esque voice, “If that’s your ideer of a good time!” We both laughed at his joke.

With a chuckle, I said, “You’re pretty good. You sounded just like Harpo.”

“Thanks…” Ralph started to say with a smile. He suddenly frowned and said, “Heyyy…” We then both laughed again.

Ralph looked directly into my eyes and said, “I like you, Mary. You’re pretty. You’re funny. And you’re a great dancer!” He suddenly looked serious. He said, “You know, there’s a good chance I won’t come back. Maybe you and I can…”

I put my finger against Ralph’s lips again. I said, “Hush. You’re coming back. To your Mary back home. You got that, buster?”

Ralph nodded. He glanced down at his watch. He said, “Can you believe it’s almost midnight? The night has flown by.”

My eyes widened as I said, “No kidding? My bus leaves at midnight, with or without me.”

Ralph said, “I’ll walk you back to your bus then, if that’s okay.”

“I’d like that,” I said, smiling. “I need to get my friend Betty.” I had completely lost track of Betty since I was having a good time dancing with Ralph. Needless to say I was completely shocked to see Betty locking lips with some GI. Her lipstick was smeared and she was not fighting him off.

“Oh, Betty!” I said in a sing-song voice. “It’s time to come up for air and head back to the barn.”

It took a moment for Betty to look up with an air of confusion. She looked around and said, “What? Oh, yeah.” To the obviously inebriated soldier she said, “Sorry baby. But I have to go. Maybe I’ll see you next time?”

The drunken GI looked at her for a moment and then passed out on the table. Betty stood up quickly.

Betty said, “I think we better go.”

I pulled a handkerchief from my purse and said, “Better clean up your face.” Betty took the cloth and began wiping around her mouth with it.

We left the USO with in a brisk walk back to the bus. Ralph and I walked in silence, as he held my hand. We arrived at the bus with less than a minute to spare.

“Thanks again for dancing with me Mary, even if that’s not your real name,” said Ralph. He bent down and kissed my forehead. As he turned to walk away, he said, “See you in the funny papers.”

I said, “Take care of yourself, Ralph.”

Through the bus window Anna said, “Well well well…look who has a boyfriend!”

I frowned and said, “Go to hell.” I climbed into the bus. Anna just laughed.

 

*          *          *

 

Sgt. Carpenter strutted back and forth in front of us as we stood in before our bunks. She said, “Congratulations, ladies. All of you managed to behave yourselves, didn’t get drunk, didn’t rape anyone’s pet and came back on time. One of you however, did go a bit above and beyond presenting yourself as a woman. A gentle reminder ladies. We are not to get physical with the men. I understand how tempting some of these young, virile, red-blooded American boys can be. But you need to control those feelings. If one of these young men would manage to get under your skirt, this whole operation gets compromised.”

Anna looked over at me and wiggled her eyebrows. I shook my head slightly and gave a slight nod in Betty’s general direction. Betty gave me a withering glare.

Sgt. Carpenter cleared her throat and said, “Alright ladies. Take a good look around these barracks. At Oh nine hundred this morning, you all will pack your delicate undies and uniforms and fall out in front of the barracks. A car will take you to the special wing of the WACS barracks we’ve set up for your final phase of training before you’re deployed. Yes, I’m stuck with you sissies for the next two weeks.

“You will be mingling with real women several times a day. Your barracks will be separate. By now, the Army docs are telling me that those special vitamins you’ve been taking several times a day are not only giving you nice girlish figures, but you should be losing any lingering interest in women. If not, be advised that those women are off limits. Any questions?”

Sarah said, “I really enjoy getting tits, sarge. Those vitamins really do the trick in getting feminine charms. You should try those vitamins too, sarge!”

Sgt. Carpenter pointed at the floor and said, “Give me twenty!”

 

*          *          *

 

“Hi! I’m Maxine!” said the cute girl brightly with short blonde hair. “We were told some new girls were transferring to our building.”

“Nice to meet you, Maxine. I’m April.” I said smiling back at the cute blonde.

“We’re all curious about you,” said Maxine. “We can’t figure out why they’re putting you girls in the barracks that’s been closed. We have more than enough space left in our building.”

I took a deep breath and sighed. I said, “We’re all pregnant.”

Maxine’s eyes went wide as she exclaimed, “You’re what? Shouldn’t you be getting a discharge instead?”

I winked at her and laughed. “I was ribbing you. I have no idea why we’re going into the other barracks.” I really hated to lie to her, but there really wasn’t any other choice.

Maxine laughed and said, “Oh you! I thought you were serious! Anyway, welcome to our little home away from home. Most of the girls are nice, but we do have a few bad apples.”

I smiled and said, “So do we.”

Maxine frowned and said, “But there’re only four of you.”

“Sad, isn’t it?” I said with a smirk.

“Well, you only have two weeks to put up with us,” said Maxine. “That’s how much training we have left.”

“Same with us,” I said. “Though I have to admit, I’m not really looking forward to what comes next.”

“Really? I think I am,” said Maxine with a far-away look in her eyes. “I’ve been trained as a radio operator. I’m pretty sure where I’m headed. I’m looking forward to it. I’m glad I can help with the war effort. What about you?”

“I’m trained as a dancer,” I said partially honestly.

Maxine pointed at me and laughed. She said, “Oh you! I need to go. See you around.”

It was interesting mixing it up with actual women. They talked about their boyfriends, brothers and husbands who were overseas. I did feel a bit funny hearing of the men in their lives who were risking life and limb fighting against the Axis. While they were being shot at, bombed and sleeping in mud, my biggest worry so far in the Army was making sure the seams in my nylons were straight.

I tried hard not to feel any shame about what I was doing. I kept telling myself that I and my three companions were all four-effs and wouldn’t be in the Army at all if not for this. As strange as it was, we were doing our part towards the war effort.

The chemicals or vitamins or whatever the hell it was that we ingested daily were now rapidly changing our appearance. Unless we stood there naked, nobody would be able to distinguish us from legitimate women. And even then, I’m not so sure. What could now only laughably be called my manhood had shrunk down to a mere nub. Sitting to piss was mandatory as there was not enough there to hold onto.

All of us felt as though we were going through a second puberty. Our emotions had become raw and all of us experienced crying to no apparent reason. Being around women turned out to be very helpful for us as they consoled and co-miserated with us.

Again, I have no idea what they were administering to us, but by now all of us were able to dispense with the high-quality wigs we’d been wearing. All of our hair had grown out enough to be shaped into the latest styles. The hair and make-up tips we got from the other women were worth their weight in gold.

“Well girls,” said a woman named Beverly. “We’ve got one more week of this hole-in-the-wall before we go our separate ways. Call me off my nut, but I’m going to miss all of you.”

She was seated at a table set up in the day room where half a dozen women, including Anna and Sarah were playing Pinochle. A haze of cigarette smoke floated through the room. Me, Betty and two other WACs huddled by the radio listening to The Whistler. Other women were either engaged in reading and some were sewing.

Anna looked around the table and said, “Oh, me too. I know I speak for the other girls that joined you a week ago, that even in that short time I feel like we’re all sisters.”

Another woman looked up from her reading and said, “While most of us will probably stay state-side, I doubt any of us will see each other again. At least most of us anyway.”

Betty, Anna, Sarah and I all cast a quick glance at each other. We might not see each other again either, but we all knew we were not only heading overseas, but also straight to where the fighting was heaviest.

Betty said, “Hey, pipe down, will ya? We can’t hear the radio!”

Beverly turned around to glance at us at the radio. She said, “Why I oughta…”

A rather tough looking girl with us at the radio as she made a motion to stand said, “You oughta what?”

Beverly quickly turned her head back to her game and said, “Nothing. Nothing…”

When the radio show ended, I got up and walked to the table where Anna and Sarah were playing Pinochle with Beverly. I just quietly stood behind Anna. On the radio, I could hear it start to play Cab Calloway singing “The Blues in the Night.”

Beverly looked up at me and said, “Have a seat and join us.”

I shook my head and said, “Thanks. But I’ll just watch for a minute.”

Beverly said, “You’re a quiet one, April. I’m just curious though. Do you have a boyfriend or husband overseas that you’re worried about?”

Shaking my head, I smiled weakly and said, “No. I’m just a quiet type. I only have pigs and chickens to go back home to.”

Looking up, Beverly said, “Oh. A farm girl, huh? That’s a hard life for such a pretty little thing like you. Maybe you’ll meet someone who can take you away from all that.”

I said, “That’d be nice.”

Anna laughed and said, “With a kisser like that, April will have to beat men off with a stick.” Sarah chuckled.

Sarah said, “So, April. You use a stick to beat men off?”

Offended, I said, “I don’t use a stick!”

Everyone laughed and I felt my face redden.

Flustered, I said, “I mean, I don’t beat men off!”

All the women in the room laughed again and I felt my face must be glowing like a beet.

Smirking, Anna said, “That’s not what I’ve heard!”

Getting more frustrated, and balling my fingers into a fist, I said, “I…I don’t…you know what I meant! Why I oughta…”

Suddenly taps started playing throughout the base’s PA system.

I shook my fist at Anna and said, “You’re lucky!”

Anna laughed heartily. “As if you could do anything.”

 

*          *          *

 

“Ladies,” said Sgt. Carpenter as the four of us were lined up in our barracks. All the “real” women had already shipped out. It was just us now. Sgt. Carpenter continued, “You have completed your basic training and conversion over to female. Congratulations! You are all now officially women in the eyes of the Army. I have your orders. Two of you will be sent to Europe and the other two will be sent to the Pacific theater. Any questions?”

Betty said, “Do we get to choose?”

Sgt. Carpenter said, “No ma’am. Captain Sykes and I made those choices. The main reason the two we picked for the Pacific was that we felt they would look best in bathing suits.” We all laughed.

Sgt Carpenter shook each of our hands. She said, “Ladies, I have to say this has been the most interesting project I’ve been involved in since I’ve been in the Army. I wish you girls the best of luck. Keep your heads down.” She looked us over and smiled. “I’m proud of each of you. Get your stuff packed. Your lieutenant will have additional clothes for you. Your lieutenants have been briefed and sworn to secrecy as well. A bus will be here in a hour to take you to the airfield. Dismissed.”

Sgt Carpenter turned smartly on her heel and left the barracks. I never saw her again.

Sarah said, “Well, girls it looks like it’s beaches and sunshine for me. Anyone ever hear of Tarawa before?”

Anna was studying her orders. She said, “No. And I’m not sure where Guam is either. Looks like our initial stop is Hawaii. Mmm mm! I can’t wait to take a gander at all those buff men on the beach!”

Sarah said, “I hear ya, sister. We’re just a couple of khaki-wacky dames.”

Frowning, Betty said, “Mine just says, ‘Classified: Italy’. I go to London first.”

I said, “Well, Betty. It looks like we’re traveling to London together at least. Mine says ‘Classified: France’. That’s a large area.”

Betty smiled weakly at me and said, “I’m glad I’ll be traveling with you, April. Now that it’s sinking in that we’re really going, I’m starting to get nervous.”

“Me too, Betty,” I said. “I’m trying not to think about it too much.”

We all finished packing our bag, not that we had a whole lot to pack, about ten minutes before the bus arrived. We all boarded the bus quietly as where we were going, started to really sink in.

As we got off the bus at the airfield, there were two C-47 transport planes warming up. Obviously it was going to take several hops and then getting on a boat. There were other WACs also getting on the two planes.

Anna slapped my butt and grinned. She said, “Take care of yourself kid. In my book, you’re all right.”

“You too, Anna,” I said, shaking her hand. “You too, Sarah.” I extended my hand to her.

Sarah laughed and said, “What’s with the handshakes, sister? We’re girls. I want a hug.”

Laughing, I hugged both Anna and Sarah good-bye. With a final wave, we all boarded our planes.

 

*          *          *

 

The jeep slid in the mud as Lieutenant Connor made a sudden left turn. The canvas top was up, but without sides, I was still getting snowed on. A heavy snow fall had started about ten minutes out from the base. While ground and trees were covered in a blanket of fresh snow, the roads were mostly just strips of mud.

“What? You’re not going to talk to me?” I said over the whining transmission of the jeep. “You haven’t said a word since leaving the airfield.”

Not taking his eyes from the mud road, Lt. Connor said, “What would you have me say, toots? It’s bad enough that I have to baby-sit and chauffer some queer. Do I have to entertain you too?”

Scowling, I said, “I’m no queer, lieutenant!”

Glancing at me for a moment, Lt. Connor said, “Are you wearing a skirt?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a dick?”

“Yes.”

Lt. Connor smirked and said, “You’re a queer.”

Scowling again, I said, “Look lieutenant. What’s between my legs is classified. And to be honest, there’s not a whole lot left down there after all this crazy crap the Army’s been feeding me. What’s your beef anyway? Isn’t this better than being shot at?”

Lt. Connor laughed. He said, “I’m still going to get shot at. But I have to baby-sit you on top of it. I got this gig because I screwed up and almost got my patrol killed. The captain laughed when he read the orders and assigned this job to me. And stop denying you’re some kind of homo. I saw you flirting and making eyes at those soldiers when you got off the plane.”

“With all due respect, lieutenant,” I said with a sneer. “Will you please put the kibosh on the homo talk? I’ve been trained to flirt with the men. That’s my job. It’s why the both of us are even here.”

“You don’t think it was a little much when you flirted with General Patton?” asked Lt. Connor.

I smiled and said, “He enjoyed it, didn’t he?”

Lt. Connor turned towards me again and said, “That’s not the point. The general would have blown his stack if he’d known a man in a WAC uniform was flirting with him. I think that’d any man would be upset if he knew that.”

Giving Lt. Connor a sweet smile, I said, “And it’s your job to make sure nobody finds out. If you blow this assignment, lieutenant, you’ll be peeling potatoes until the cows come home!”

“Oh trust me,” said Lt. Connor. “I’m not telling anyone! Get ready. There’s our first stop.”

Lt. Connor rolled the jeep up next to a bombed out farmhouse. The snow had let up and I could see about three dozen men sitting around or huddling by a fire. They looked like they were eating. There was a Sherman tank parked next to the house.

A soldier stepped up to the jeep after Lt. Connor brought it to a halt. I could see he was a captain. To Connor he said, “Lieutenant. What are you doing with *that* here?” He pointed at me. “Turn that jeep around and head back to the rear area. There are krauts about five klicks East of us. This is no place for a dame.”

I jumped out of the jeep, my shoes sinking into the mud. With a cheerful grin, I said, “Hi-de-ho, lieutenant! I’m here to entertain your boys. Sing a few songs. Tell some jokes. Maybe dance with some of your men. Show them what they’re fighting for over here.”

The captain said, “Is she off her nut? Why did you bring her out here, lieutenant?”

Lt. Connor shrugged and said, “Orders. That’s what she’s supposed to do.” Connor handed the captain a sheet of paper.

The captain frowned as he read it and said, “This is an incredibly bad idea.” Again he pointed at me and said, “Okay, corporal. You have an hour. At the end of the hour, I want you and that Jeep outta here. Understood?”

I saluted him and said, “Understood, sir! I just need a place to change.”

“You can change in the farmhouse,” said the captain. “Make it quick.”

“Thank you sir,” I said grabbing my bag. The snow was letting up, so that was good. I hurried into the farmhouse and went into one of the bedrooms and closed the door.

I undressed down to my bra and panties. There was still an intact mirror on a dresser in the room. I stared at myself, as I always do in front of a mirror for a few moments. I still can’t believe how feminine I look. My breasts are real and my penis is so small as to be pretty much undetectable. To be honest, I don’t think any of this is reversible. But I have to admit that I really love how I look. And it’s such a kick to see men turn and look at me.

I slipped into a pretty red dress and heels. I leaned into the mirror to check my make-up. I did a few poses in front of the mirror. I was both nervous and excited. I’d performed in front of men a few times now, but was my first time in front of battle weary troops out in a combat zone.

Lt. Connor had the portable record player already set up when I came out of the farmhouse. He had assembled the men who didn’t have duties, next to the tank. There was some stone flagging here, so it wasn’t muddy. I gave them all a big smile as I rounded the tank and stood in front of them. I was freezing my arse off wearing the dress.

“Hello boys!” I said looking at their sappy faces as they just stared at me. “We thought you might need a break so I’m here to give you a little entertainment.”

There were woof whistles and cat calls as Lt. Conner put on the first record. I started to dance and sing to the cheers of the men. I didn’t lip sync with a recording. I sang with my own voice. I have no idea what it was that the Army had given us back in training, but instead of being completely embarrassed, I loved having the attention of all these men.

The men cheered and applauded when I finished my first song. The captain kept looking nervously around. It made me realize that we weren’t behind the lines. This was the line. But that’s why I was here.

When I’d finished the song, I said, “I need a dance partner. Any of you boys want to volunteer for this duty?” I had to laugh as many were actually raising their hands.

Someone shouted, “Get up there Jones! You’re the hoofer here.” Several other shouts to encourage whoever Jones was to come up.

A guy, obviously embarrassed got up, and said, “Aw, knock it off!” He was a bit shorter than most guys, but well muscled. He’d be quite the lady killer if you could get him cleaned up.

I waved him up and said, “Come on, Jones. I can’t jitterbug by myself!”

Looking embarrassed and staring at the ground, he approached me. I said, “Where are you from, Jones?” I didn’t see any rank on his jacket.

He stood up straight and said, “The Bronx, ma’am.” His accent confirmed it.

I nodded to Lt. Connor to start the music. I said, “Let’s hoof it, Jones!”

He hesitated at first, but with the music playing and me holding out my hand to him, he finally loosened up and started to dance.

I was impressed. Cheers from the men went up as Jones picked me up over his head, tossed me between his legs and spun me around. He was good and a really great dance partner.

There was applause and laughter when the song ended and Jones quickly returned to where he had been sitting, getting slaps on his back from several of the men. I blew him a kiss and said, “You were wonderful! Let’s have another round of applause for Jones!”

I told a few jokes that I had stolen from Bob Hope, did a dance on my own and was singing another song when I saw a soldier walk quickly up to the captain and say something to him. He frowned and ran up to where I was singing.

“I’m sorry Miss,” said the captain. “But we have a war to fight.” Turning to my audience, he said, “Sorry boys, show’s over.” In the distance, I heard a few shouts and the crack of a rifle.

The men who had been enjoying my show got up quickly, checking their rifles and knocking mud from their uniforms.

The captain took me by the hand and led me over to Lt. Connor. He said, “Get her out of here, now.”

I said, “Just give me a second to change.”

Looking stern, the captain gave me a little push towards Lt. Connor and said, “Now, lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir,” said Lt. Connor. As he picked up the portable record player, he said, to me, “Get in the jeep. We have to go.” The Sherman tank belched smoke as its engine fired up. More sounds of gun fire could be heard only much closer.

It was difficult walking in the mud in my heels, but I hurried to my side of the jeep climbed in, still wearing my red dress. Lt. Connor ran into the farmhouse and got my bag. He tossed it in the back up the jeep, and tossed me my jacket, climbed in behind the wheel and fired up the engine. With a lurch and a shower of mud, we sped away.

I looked down at my red painted nails and red dress as we drove quickly away. I looked back and felt a bit of guilt that here I was, still basically male, wearing lipstick, heels and nylons while the guys we just left were up to their keisters in mud. Some of those men who were just a few moments ago were laughing and cheering will be dead in a few minutes. I stared at my hands. I tried not to think about it.

“That was close,” said Lt. Connor.

“I thought you wanted to be shot at, Lt. Connor,” I said sarcastically as the closeness of the war continued to sink in.

Looking grim, Lt. Connor said, “I should be leading men into battle, corporal. That’s what I was trained for. Not playing nursemaid to some…”

Interrupting him, I said, “Stop. Please? Just stop.” It started snowing again.

 

*          *          *

 

Lt. Connor stopped the jeep at the next camp. It was a much larger camp than before with three tanks and a howitzer pointing out across a meadow over a hedgerow. The area was dotted with a few tents. A lot of trees ran behind the hedgerow which hid the camp from the air.

I was still in my red dress and heels as we got out of the jeep. I heard a soldier shout, “We must be dead because I see an angel!”

Another soldier said, “Knock it off, Patterson…oh! Hey you’re right!”

There were whistles and cat calls as we approached one of the men. Lt. Connors said, “Where’s your CO, sergeant?”

Grinning like an idiot at me, the sergeant pointed and said, “First tent on the right, lieutenant.”

“Thank you sergeant,” said Lt. Connor with a nod. We walked quickly toward the tent.

There were more whistles and calls. Men stopping whatever they were doing to stare at me. I should have been embarrassed, but I just ate it up. I waved and flashed them smiles.

Scowling, a man exited the tent and looking around said, “What the fuck is going on…” He saw me and said, “Oh, sorry, ma’am. Lieutenant, do you mind telling me what is going on here?”

Lt. Connor saluted and held out a paper. He said, “Orders, captain. I’m to bring Corporal Henderson to several frontline positions in this area to give the troops a bit of R and R.”

The captain took the paper and looked me up and down and said, “What? Is she a hooker?”

“No sir,” I said. “I’m in the Army, but I’m an entertainer.”

The captain looked at me with a jaundiced eye and then glanced over the order. He shook his head and said, “This is FUBAR, lieutenant! This is no place for a woman! I got over a hundred krauts trying to break through our lines here.” Several men were gathering around us.

I said, “I do a little dancing, a little singing. Tell a few jokes. Just to lighten the mood of the men, sir. It’s just half an hour, captain. I don’t even have to change clothes.” I looked around and the men gathered around us were staring at my chest.

The captain handed the order back to Lt. Connor and said, “If I ever find the fat-head at the Pentagon that thought sending a broad to the front lines was some kind of swell idea, I’ll…I’ll…well it won’t be pretty.”

One of the men near me waved to some of the other men and yelled, “Hey boys!
Get a load of this cookie over here! My, my, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”

I gave him a big smile, popped a pose with a wave and said, “What’s buzzin’, cousin?” In a louder voice, I said, “I’m here to bring you boys a little taste of home!”

Furious, the captain said to Lt. Connor, “I don’t give a damn about your orders, lieutenant! You two need to get lost. Now.”

One of the men starting to gather around said, “Aw, come on Cap. Let her stay for a few minutes.”

Another soldier said, “Yeah. I ain’t seen a dame in months! Especially one from back home.”

“Yeah, let her stay!” echoed a few more voices.

The captain said, “Have you men taken leave of your senses? With that red dress against this white background, I have no doubt some kraut sniper has her in his sights right now.”

Another one of the soldiers said, “Well, I certainly have her in my sights! Hubba-hubba!”

A soldier standing in front of me said, “This reminds me of what my dear mother used to say…”

Another soldier shoved him to one side and said, “Who cares, knucklehead? You’re blocking my view.”

I laughed as a few more men joked and clowned around, trying to vie for my attention.

“Get back to your positions now or all of you will be spending the rest of this war cleaning latrines!” shouted the captain. His face was beet red.

Suddenly there was a clink and thud sound near our feet. I looked down and an icy bolt shot down my spine. It was a German grenade!

The soldier who was about to tell us what his mother used to say, pushed me back, hard. I stumbled and fell backwards into the snow. He shouted, “Get down, Miss!” And then to my shock he leaped on top of the grenade just an instant before it detonated.

There was a muffled thump sound and his body lifted from the ground and rocks and shrapnel ripped through his body. From the ground, I just stared in shock and dismay at his now lifeless body lying on the ground, a trail of smoke rising from his back, his eyes staring sightlessly.

Soldiers who had been standing around grinning at me suddenly took off running, their guns held at the ready as they rushed toward the direction the grenade had come from.

I jumped up and started to run towards him, but several men held my arms. I just started screaming, “Oh my God! Oh my God! No!” I started crying uncontrollably. Through my sobs I said, “He was just talking. And laughing. And now…oh my God he’s dead! Dead because of me! I broke free of the men’s grasp and collapsed to the ground, wailing.

Lt. Connor and the captain helped me up. The captain snarled through clenched teeth, “Get this woman out of here now, lieutenant. You’ll have to take that road. The direction you came from has fallen to the Germans.”

Lt. Connor practically carried me back to the jeep as I was crying hysterically. I said, “He’s dead because he was saving the girl. Me. But I’m not…I’m not…and now he’s dead!” Gunfire was erupting all around us and a shell exploded really close.

After Lt. Connor loaded me into the passenger seat of the jeep, he climbed back behind the steering wheel. He started the engine and hit the gas hard. Slinging mud behind us, the jeep leaped forward.

As Lt. Connor clung to the steering wheel with a death grip, he said, “That soldier wasn’t just protecting you. He died protecting his buddies.”

A small group of German soldiers suddenly emerged from the forest next to the road. They opened fire on us as Lt. Connor mashed on the accelerator. Several bullets struck the jeep but thankfully missed us completely.

The sun had long set, but the snowy blanket over the country side made it almost as bright as day, so Lt. Connor had no problem following the road. After a couple of hours driving, we spotted an abandoned farmhouse just off the road. There were no lights and as far as we could see, no one was around.

Lt. Connor pulled the jeep around behind the house and we got out, him carrying our packs. There wasn’t much inside the house beside a rubble strewn floor. But it was out of the cold wind. We didn’t dare start a fire. In the distance we could hear artillery fire.

Lt. Connor tossed a couple of blankets onto the floor for us to lie on. He said, “We should be safe here for the night. I hope. If I read the map correctly, we should be inside allied held territory.”

We both lay down on our blankets and covered up with a couple more. I wish we could have started a fire in the fireplace! It was cold in the old farmhouse, but probably better than being out in the weather.

I tried not to listen to the endless artillery fire. I closed my eyes and tried to shut out from my mind the horrible images I’d seen today. How do those men go every day seeing such things? I felt guilty again, knowing these men are living in these horrid conditions, being shot at and always at risk of death. My worries consisted of do I have lipstick on my teeth and are the seams in my stockings straight?

Shivering from more than just the cold, I pressed up against Lt. Connor. I said, “I’m scared.”

Lt. Connor slid up close to me and put an arm around my shoulder. He said, “You and me both, doll-face. You and me both.”

Feeling a bit more secure, I drifted off to a fitful sleep.

 

*          *          *

 

I awoke the next morning, feeling cold and stiff. I heard a dull roar of engines and the sounds of many feet. As I sat up, I said in an annoyed tone, “You didn’t wake me up for my turn at watch!”

“Shhh!” Lt. Connor held up a finger to his lips. He waved me over and whispered, “Take a look out this window.”

I peeped through the torn curtain in the window. The sky was clear and soft sunlight floated through the tree branches. Through a thin patch of foliage, I could see trucks and what appeared hundreds of soldiers marching along a road we didn’t even knew existed. Apparently the farmhouse sat between two roads that intersected a few dozen yards down the road.

“Oh my God!” I said in a hushed tone. “It’s hundreds of Germans!”

Nodding, Lt. Connor said, “From what I’ve seen so far, I’d estimate somewhere around four hundred men, about five trucks so far and three cannons so far. They’re heading straight towards our positions.”

“We have no way of warning them!” I said while watching at the parade of German soldiers and equipment passed by.

Lt. Connor turned towards the door. He said, “What’s that sound coming from the front of the house?”

I hurried to the front window and peeked outside. My eyes widened as I saw what was just outside the door. “It’s two krauts on a motorcycle and sidecar.”

Lt. Connor rushed next to me. He said as he took a gander out the window, “They have a radio. They must be spotters or something.”

“But it’s a German radio,” I said feeling hopeless.

Lt. Connor grinned and said, “A radio’s a radio. There are frequencies we’re always monitoring. If I can get to the radio, I can call out with my call sign and give the position of this troop convoy.” He looked out the window again, and looked grim. “But how do we get it? They both have MP40s and all I have is my .45. We don’t want to attract any attention.”

I ran to my pack and opened it. I said, “Get your knife ready. I’ll bring them to you.” I pulled out my favorite dress. A pretty red and white dress. I hated what I was about to do to such a lovely dress, but hey, war is hell.

I stripped down to my bra and panties. I then slid the dress over my head. I picked up my knife and poke some holes in my nylons. They tore as I slid them up my legs and fastened to my garters. I then ripped the dress’ blouse open and messed up my hair. I quickly put on lipstick and then smeared it. I slipped my heels on. I slid a knife inside the blouse.

Lt. Connor just stared at me. He said, “Just what the hell are you doing?”

I said, “Get ready to surprise a couple of Germans.”

I took a few deep breaths and then ran out the door. Breathless, as I ran towards the two soldiers, I said, “Bitte! Bitte!

The two soldiers turned with confused looks on their faces. They both turned and pointed their machine pistols at me. One of them said, “Was? Frauline?

Breathing hard, which wasn’t hard to fake at the moment, I turned and pointed back at the farmhouse. I said, “Amerikaner! Er versuchte…” I started to cry. “Er versuchte bis notzucht mir! Helft mir! Bitte!

The other soldier said, “Amerikaner? Wie sehr?

Eins!” I said. Still crying, I put my hands together in a pleading fashion and said, “Bitte!

Looking grim, the two soldiers ran towards the farmhouse door. I pulled the knife from my blouse and followed quickly behind them. As the first soldier kicked the door open, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a second. In my mind’s eye I saw the soldier being blow apart by jumping onto a live grenade. I then opened my eyes again and slammed the knife with all my might into the second soldier’s neck.

I felt sick as blood shot from his neck onto my hand and dress. He made a ghastly gurgling sound as he uselessly tried to grab the knife from his neck. He made a final oof sound as Lt. Connor pushed his own knife into the soldier’s heart. He fell to the ground and convulsed. It was all I could do to keep from throwing up. The other soldier lay in a crumpled heap partway through the farmhouse entrance.

Lt. Connor patted my shoulder and said, “Good girl!” as he rushed past me carrying an MP40 he picked up from one of the fallen soldiers. “Let’s use the radio before we’re discovered.”

There was already some chatter coming over the radio in German. Lt. Connor started turning the tuning dial. He said, “Here’s a frequency I know is being monitored. He picked up the microphone and said to me, “The problem with radio is that everyone can hear it. We’re going to have to hot foot it out of here as soon as I transmit this.” I just nodded.

Lt. Connor keyed the microphone and said something that would have sounded silly if it wasn’t so serious. He said, “Grandma, grandma. This is Little Red Ridinghood, over.”

There was a pause of several seconds. The radio’s speaker said, “We read you, Ridinghood. What the hell are you doing on this frequency, Connor?”

Lt. Connor said, “No time to explain. German column, about three hundred men, and at least six vehicles flanking our positions. No tanks. At these map co-ordinates.”

As Connor gave the co-ordinates, I ran back to the dead German soldiers and picked up the other MP40. Through the trees I saw the lines of German soldiers continuing to pass by. Being so close to enemy soldiers was scaring the crap out of me, but fortunately, they hadn’t spotted us.

The voice on the radio said, “How close are you to those co-ordinates?”

Connor said, “About twenty-five yards.”

The voice on the radio said, “You have thirty seconds to get as far from there as possible.”

Connor said, “Understood.” He dropped the microphone into the sidecar. To me he said, “Get in!” He kicked the motorcycle into life. Throwing a small rooster tail of dirt, the motorcycle lurched into motion.

There was some yelling in German from the other side of the trees. I said, “I guess they heard you.”

“Shoot at them!” yelled Connor as we sped quickly away.

I fired the MP40. It almost jerked itself out of my hands. The Germans coming from the trees ducked down, which was good. Harder for them to shoot back. About ten seconds later, all holy hell broke out on the convoy.

A shell landed too close for comfort to us causing Lt. Connor to lose control of the bike and flipped over, sending us rolling to the snow covered ground. Connor shouted, “Keep your head down.”

The shelling lasted for several minutes. I just laid in the snow, with my hands over my head and crying. This was all just too much for me. Then the shelling stopped. Connor and I both raised our heads and peeked.

There were dead Germans everywhere. The vehicles were burning and so were some Germans. There were cries of pain from wounded and dying men. Before we could get up, three P-51 Mustangs flew quickly over the road and strafed the men lying on the ground, bullets ripping across the ground.

Lt. Connor sat up with a big grin on his face. He raised his arms and shouted, “We did it, doll! We stopped the convoy!” He grabbed my shoulders and kissed me. He pulled back looking embarrassed. He said, “Oh what the hell…” He kissed me again.

 

*          *          *

 

“Walk through those doors, corporal and I’m officially no longer your nursemaid,” Lt. Connor said as he reached out his hand to shake it. “I’m sorry your mission got scrubbed, but you have to admit it was a total SNAFU from the beginning. I wouldn’t doubt if someone got demoted over it.”

I smiled at Lt. Connor and said, “Thanks for taking care of me. And I hear you’re in line for a promotion for keeping those Germans from overrunning our positions.”

“I’m surprised you aren’t getting a promotion,” said Connor. “You were there too.”

I shrugged and said, “I’m just a girl, I guess. I’m going to be a secretary to a general here at HQ. I don’t know how to be a secretary. I was trained to dance and flirt with men.”

“That’s the Army for you,” said Lt. Connor. “Well, the war’s winding down. It won’t be long before you’re heading back home. You need to check in. Don’t want to make the general angry before you even start.”

I gave him a smart salute and he returned it. He then bent down and kissed my forehead and turned and walked away. I just stood there a few moments and watched as he got into a jeep and then drove away.

 

*          *          *

 

It took some digging because our mission was classified for so long, but I managed to find out what happened to everyone. The names are still classified, so I had to make up the names.

Anna was killed by a landmine on the beach of Iwo Jima. Sarah went back to being a guy after being discharged and went into acting and was surprisingly successful. I wish I could give out his name. It would surprise some people.

Poor Betty. She was such a sweet girl. I got the impression from her that she was the only one of us who actually wanted to be a girl. But she was captured by the SS. After discovering she wasn’t really a woman, the SS beat her and raped her before having her shot as a spy.

After the war, Captain Sykes left the Army to become a very successful Hollywood talent scout, like he had been before the war. He got called up from the Reserves to build bridges or blow them up; I’m not sure which, during the Korean War. Then for some unknown reason, he signed up for Air America during the Vietnam War. Sometime in late ’68, he was part of a convoy along the Laotian border and was never heard from again.

And me? Well, I decided to stay a woman. After getting stateside, I learned that my parents had been killed when a tornado destroyed our farm. I had nothing to return to. So I sold the land, and quietly went overseas and had a sex change operation to finish what the Army had started. I then met a wonderful man and we got married. I never told him of my past. I know that was wrong, but I did tell him I was barren and that we couldn’t have kids. So we adopted three beautiful babies, two girls and a boy.

And so, Son. If you’re reading this, then it means I have passed on. Please forgive me for not being honest with you and your sisters. I felt it was for the best. But please try to forgive me if you feel I was wrong.

Love, Mom.

Formerly Tom Henderson from Topeka Kansas.

 

*          *          *

 

The End



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