Veterans History Project: Lucille Little - - Jackson, MS

Veterans History Project: Lucille Little

By Jennifer Martin - email

Lucille Little graduated from high school in 1930 in McComb, amidst the Great Depression.

"It was terrible."

She was one of 5 children. Their mother died at an early age.

"The plan had been for me to go to Millsaps. I was gonna be a teacher. No. She went about two semesters, but her father couldn't make ends meet. So I gave that up & I became kind of the mother of the household."

A three month business course prepared her for the next several years she would spend as a secretary.

"That's the reason I was picked in the army. The main reason was that I could type."

It wasn't the traditional army, of course, but the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. 

"I volunteered. On March 31, 1943, I left Jackson to go to Daytona Beach for my basic training."

She was one of 12 in her class of 175 to go on to Missouri for 3 months of additional training.

"They said we had a special assignment and it was to be in London."

After a furlough, they reported back to Daytona, and found their orders had been canceled.

"So the 12 of us got caught up in the lull between being an auxiliary and being in the corps. It took about 3 months to be assigned but when I was assigned, I went to Oak Ridge."

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was the site where the army was developing materials for the Manhattan Project, a project to develop the atomic bomb.

"We were told not to ask questions and not to make any comments, particularly to the outside." She worked as a cryptologist.

"I was cleared, of course, to use the classified, teletype equipment. And I sent messages, got messages back. But they were coding messages. But you had to have a code to operate the machine. You had to change the codes everyday.

There was a big ax in the corner and I said, 'what am I going to do with the ax?' They said, 'that's there in case somebody drops a bomb on us. And you are supposed to destroy your equipment if that happens'."

She had no idea what was happening at Oak Ridge until after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. 

"I was on a train reporting for duty in General Groves' office. This was about August 7th. The train stopped, I looked out the window. And all the headlines, the bomb had been dropped. The first bomb. And I knew."

Little also did some work for the Corps of Engineers.

"I've always had mixed feelings about whether I was glad I served. And I worked on the atom bomb. Whether it was right to do it."

After the war, Little went back to her secretarial job. She never married.

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