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Eppstein family photo

Utah women at war: stories of service in WWII

By Peter Rosen | Posted - Aug. 28, 2014 at 9:18 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — When Kathryn Klaveano’s mother found out her daughter was joining the Navy, she burst into tears.

“My mother answered the telephone,” Klaveano recalled. “She says, ‘Oh, no! Oh, no! Only naughty girls do that!”

During World War II, lots of perfectly respectable women — 350,000 of them — served in the armed forces.

Klaveano served in the Navy WAVES — Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

“I told them I will go AWOL before I would be a secretary,” Klaveano said.

She became a flight orderly, a stewardess, on domestic military flights from Newfoundland to Miami to Hawaii and elsewhere, transporting equipment and personnel.

“I had really been a small-town girl,” she said. “You just learn so much. There’s so much a girl from Woods Cross did not know.”

Deborah Eppstein’s mother, Dorothy, served as a WASP – a Women Air Force Service Pilot. She transported planes and served as a test pilot.

She sometimes flew with a canine companion, a puppy named Roony, small enough to ride in the pocket of her flight jacket.

"I tell you the real challenge,” she told her daughters in the 2005 documentary, “The Life of Dorothy Jean Dodd Eppstein,” “was lighting a cigarette in an open cockpit airplane.”

“It’s real tricky to get the match lit and light the cigarette before it blew out.”

In 2010, Dorothy Eppstein and her fellow WASP veterans received a Congressional Gold Medal. Three months later, Eppstein died.

“I think of her as a pioneer,” Deborah Eppstein said, “somebody who forged new territory (and) really helped women gain a lot of the benefits we have now.

While most women served stateside, Ora Mae Hyatt, as a member of the Army Nurse Corp, went where the action was — to Okinawa — and has a battle star to prove it.

She recalls landing on the Japanese island in the dead of night.

“We could see flares of canons and gunfire,” Hyatt said. “We were young. We didn’t dwell on the danger we were in.”

There, at a MASH unit on the front lines, she aided the wounded and, away from the front, helped recovering prisoners of war.

“Some of them, we had to feed them by spoonfuls and tears would roll down their cheeks. They were so thankful and grateful for what we could do for them,” she said.

“It made me appreciate the freedoms we have in this country,” Hyatt said. “When I hear 'The Star Spangled Banner' or 'America the Beautiful' or see the flag, it just fills my heart. And I’m so grateful for this country and I love America more than I ever did before.”

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Peter Rosen

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