In 1944, civilian women drivers were hired for civil service jobs to work out of the motor pool at Vancouver Barracks. At the age of eighteen, I was one of six or eight women hired to drive Army trucks and staff cars. The motor pool was located on the west side of what is now Fort Vancouver Way and north of McLoughlin Boulevard (across from Clark College.
Our duties were:
Driving staff cars for officers.
Driving trucks to pick up and deliver troops arriving and departing from Portland.
Trucking men to Bonneville Rifle Range for training in the live-fire infiltration course.
Delivering laundry to and from post laundry.
Delivering bread from the post bakery to the Mess Hal.l
Driving truck for ash and garbage pickup throughout Barracks.
At that time, all of this area was a military post with limited access. Entry was through a gate and guard station which I believe was on Mill Plain Boulevard, near the freeway.
A large number of troops were accommodated; the Barracks were full and a small city of tents was erected in the northeast area of what is now the corner of Fort Vancouver Way and Mill Plain Boulevard. These tents had wooden floors and side walls with canvas tops.
Also at this time, a number of Italian prisoners of war were housed in the East Barracks These prisoners were used in the ash and garbage pickup. We carried three or four prisoners plus an armed guard on the back of our truck. It’s hard to remember everything about how the original, larger Vancouver Barracks area once looked, especially in the area around what is now Clark College.
It was a nostalgic visit I made when I attended the World War II 60th Anniversary Commemoration in 2005 at the Vancouver Barracks. On display were many restored army vehicles that I recognized as being of the same vintage as those that I drove. I was pleased to pose for a photo with an Army truck like those I had driven. (See Photo Attachment)
Eleanor L. Pearson lives in Vancouver.