Mar 20

Celebrating Women’s History Month

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 12:24 PM

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Captain Winifred Quick Collins

Captain Winifred Quick Collins

 

I’ve enjoyed reading the oral history of Captain Winifred Quick Collins during Women’s History Month. Captain Collins dedicated her career to the advancement of women in the Navy, and her reminiscences reveal the many obstacles she overcame as we progressed toward a more inclusive Navy.

Collins was among the first officers accepted when the WAVES were established in 1942; one of the first female officers commissioned in the regular Navy, which happened in 1948; and at the top of her profession as the only woman line captain at the end of her career. She was selected for the Navy experience as the result of being one of the first five women to undergo Harvard Business School training, which she studied at Radcliffe College in 1937-38. She received naval officer training at Smith College in 1942 and subsequently served there as personnel officer until 1944. She served 1944-46 as a personnel officer for the 14th Naval District in Hawaii and from 1946 to 1950 with the Potomac River Command and Bureau of Naval Personnel. She was on the staff of the Secretary of Defense, 1950-51. After postgraduate study at Stanford University, 1951-52, she was personnel officer on the 12th Naval District staff, San Francisco, from 1952 to 1956. She served 1956-57 on the staff of Commander in Chief U.S. Naval Forces Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (CinCNELM) in London. Her final tour of active duty, 1957-62, was as Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Women.

One of the more humorous incidents that Winifred Quick Collins relates in one of her interviews tells of her first time meeting Admiral Halsey while she was stationed in Hawaii as personnel officer for the 14th Naval District:

“I have to tell you about one incident that was very amusing. A multimillionaire businessman from Denver gave the women officers a beautiful home at Kailua.

It’s across the Pali from Pearl Harbor and right on the beach.• It was a gorgeous place. Two of my friends and I went over on a Sunday, which was our only day off, to go swimming and enjoy this beautiful place. It was right on the ocean-a magnificent place and beautifully furnished. He also left us a little Chinese boy and a maid, so it was a great treat to be away from the BOQ and to be out of uniform.

So one day we came back from swimming and went in and showered. I was the first one dressed, and just as I came out in this beautiful living room, I saw the houseboy letting a man in from the beach, which was the front of this house. He was wearing shorts, because he’d been walking and swimming. I recognized the man immediately as Admiral Halsey.I He didn’t say who he was, so I just said that I was Winifred Quick. I didn’ t know what else to do. If he doesn’t say he’s in the Navy, should I say I’m in the Navy? So I asked him if he’d like a drink. And he said he would. So the houseboy went to get him a drink, and he said, “Well, this is certainly a beautiful place you have here.” He said, “Have you lived here long?”

I said, “No, sir.”

He said, “Do you expect to stay long?” I said, “I think quite a while.”

So he said, “Are you here alone?”

I said, “No, I’m here with two other friends. You’ll meet them in just a few minutes.” I think he’d finished his first drink, and then my second friend came out, and I said, “This is my friend Winifred Love,” still not saying anything about the Navy, because I thought I would just play it the way he did. Fine, he had a second drink, and then my third friend came out. I said, “This is Louise Wilde.”+

He put down his drink, looked at his watch, and he said, “I have to leave right away.” It just seemed like a complete change in him, and he dashed out the door.

The next morning I got a call about 9:00 o’clock. I answered the phone, and I said, “This is Lieutenant Quick.”

He said, “This is Admiral Carney. I’m glad you’re admitting you’re in the Navy.”* Then he said, “Do you know who I am?”

I said, “Yes, sir. You’re chief of staff to Admiral Halsey.” He said, “Do you know who visited you yesterday?”

I said, “I most certainly do.”

He said, “Why didn’t you tell him you were in the Navy?” I said, “He didn’t tell me he was in the Navy.”

So he said, ” Well, I must tell you that the aides in intelligence have had a very interesting night. Admiral Halsey came back, and said, “You won’t believe it. There are three spies living up there: Quick, Wilde, and Love.” The Third Fleet recreation area for the officers was about a quarter of a mile from us. “He said, I know what they’re going to do. They’re going to waltz down the beach and get acquainted with our officers. They’re going to find out when were leaving, what our next objective is. I can see the whole thing.”

So he told the aide to get the intelligence section to find out. So the aide came in the next morning, and Admiral Halsey said, “Well, what’s the story?”

He said, “A millionaire Denver man gave it for the use of naval officers.” Halsey said, “I didn’t see any naval officers.”

The aide said, “Women naval officers, sir.” Admiral Halsey said, “Oh, my God, I’ve been had.”

 

An index to this volume can be viewed here (.pdf). and complete text can be ordered by contacting the director of the Naval Institute’s oral history program, Eric Mills at [email protected]