In her second memoir, Gunther (Papa Said, 2012) tells of the good and bad parts of her service in the Navy WAVES during World War II.
After one of her brothers enlisted in the Army, the author, then named Winona Ruth Anderson, was determined to join the military and care for the wounded: “I had to do something for the war effort. I wanted to serve my country,” she writes, in her simple, straightforward style. She found a place as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy’s Women’s Reserve, also known as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and was quickly dubbed “Andy” by her fellow corpsmen, as well as her patients. Stationed at a naval hospital in California, she saw the horrors of badly wounded soldiers who’d been shipped back home—and, like everybody else during the war, she learned to make the best of what was available: “Those who were burned and jumped into the salty ocean healed better than those who didn’t,” she notes. “We were taught…to soak a sheet in saltwater and wrap a burn patient in it until he could be transported to a hospital.” But not all the stories that Gunther chooses to tell are so grim. She also effectively describes the camaraderie and friendships she had with other young WAVES and their male counterparts. She eventually stumbled into what would become the love of her life with Navy specialist Herb Gunther—but he was Catholic and she was Protestant, and Herb’s priest said that he’d go straight to hell for marrying outside the church. Gunther focuses on their struggles to build a life together, both within the military and after their discharge at war’s end. Overall, the author’s level-headed storytelling style allows her wry humor to shine through, as she tells how she and Herb made do as well as they could; one passage, for example, tells of how she used a wine bottle as a makeshift rolling pin.
A very personal, easy-to-follow memoir of everyday lives during a time of war.