Women veterans recount wartime stories

Marine Veteran Marj Dukatz, 77, says she was in the “business of war” until she was the age of 25.

“Those were my prime years,” the Malibu resident added. “But it was something I had to do.”

After serving in the Washington, D.C. Marine headquarters, Dukatz said she was assigned to be an airplane spotter, where her job was to identify planes overhead within 10 seconds.

Her story was one of a handful of stories told by women veterans of their experience during wartime at the Daughters of the American Revolution Malibu chapter’s annual “Women in Military” potluck luncheon on Saturday.

This luncheon was a commemoration of the liberation of American women’s roles in society during and after World War II through the individual stories of local veterans.

“We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?” Dukatz asked the crowd of approximately 30 gathered in Gabrielson Hall at the Malibu United Methodist Church and Nursery School, where they displayed photos and memoirs from their service time.

Veteran Army 1st Lt. Caroline Tupper served in the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps). During World War II, she was assigned to Army intelligence with the Far Eastern Air Force and in the Korean War she was an inspector general and served in the intelligence group Army Security Agency.

She was also a problem solver for the Sixth Army for 12 years.

“We have done so much in coming forward in the things that women can do and all of this opened up in World War II,” Tupper, who lives in Hueneme, said to the group.

In observation of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Korean War this year, the members of this national society said they strive to educate teenagers and young adults in American history with firsthand accounts of war in an effort to increase appreciation of the past American efforts.

The chapter honored two 8th grade Malibu High students as winners of the DAR American History essay contest entitled “A Letter From Valley Forge, Winter 1777-1778.”

Thirteen-year-olds Devon Martinez and Dasha Jensen impressed the members with their faux accounts as soldiers writing home from the Revolutionary War.

Chapter regent Joan Prather, a Malibu resident, said she feels that since the devastating events of Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a shift in the curiosity of young people in learning the realities of war.

“Young people today whose ideas of war come from glorified movies and detached pseudo-military video games need to hear from those who have actually been there, done it and watched the horror,” the Malibu resident commented.

It may be Prather’s family’s role in American warfare that influenced her to lead the DAR chapter.

The actress’ father was a major in the strategic air command in World War II, her mother, a DAR member, worked as a USO (United Service Organizations) entertainer and her grandfather fought in World War I.

In the DAR veterans’ eagerness in recounting their experiences, Prather said, “Rather than relish their victories, you hear in a noble and humble voice their fervent hope that no one will ever have to face the same kind of war they did.”

Dukatz said she started the Gold Coast Women’s Veterans Association in 1985 with 300 women who said they hadn’t talked about their wartime in years.

She said these GCWVA members suppressed these accounts because “they didn’t want to upstage the men.”

No one would doubt that Josette Dermody Wingo ever kept to herself that she taught men how to shoot during World War II.

In her book “Mother Was a Gunner’s Mate: World War II in the WAVES,” the Camarillo resident outlines her adventures in the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) division as a specialist teaching gunnery to armed guards at Treasure Island, Calif.

Wingo comically told the crowd that when she was frequently asked why she enlisted, she once replied: “Cause there was a war on, you twit!”

Army Veteran Martha Nielsen was stationed in Hawaii during World War II. She also taught a skill to the enlisted men-how to make hula skirts. Nielsen said she volunteered because she wanted to go someplace.

The Army, Tupper said, allowed her to do what she wanted to do and gave her more free expression than the jewelry making for which she is trained. “World War II opened a whole factor in the civilized world,” Tupper said.

DAR District Nine Director Shelby Conti said of her first attendance of this event Saturday: “It is one of the most delightful, educational, inspiring, awesome events I’ve ever attended in my whole life.”

Conti, who said she is an ancestor of a Revolutionary War hero, said: “It’s a celebration of the women who were adventurous for their time.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

Related Articles



Latest Articles

%d bloggers like this: