Nevada woman plays part in Allied war efforts of WW II
According to the Veterans Administration, 16,112,566 men and women served during World War II. Only 588,000 vets remain; 492 pass away every day. It becomes personal when I know one of the 492.
Phyllis Lorraine Anker Bendure entered this world on March 7, 1919, weighing four pounds. She wasn’t expected to live. Never underestimate the power of Phyllis!
I knew her for 39 years as a fellow business teacher at Carson High School, neighbor, fellow WNC student, friend and World War II vet. Our friendship grew as I spent hours at her home fascinated by her stories and asking follow-up questions.
Instead of Driving Miss Daisy, I drove Ms. Phyllis to our classes at WNC. I drove her to watch several Virginia City High School baseball games. Her son, Fred, is the Muckers’ coach. We watched at least one away game. In 2015 the Muckers won every game to take the Single A State Title!
At 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, Phyllis’ electric power and land line phone went dead. Her cell phone wasn’t charged, no communication. After a cold winter night, she opened her front door at about 7:30 a.m. and asked my next door neighbor, “Please, get Ken to my house ASAP.”
I walked into her 57-degree house. She asked, “Is your power out?” I told her, “No.” After checking her fuse box, I called NV Energy. That was frustrating, having failed to communicate with a humanoid.
Immediately, I dialed 911 and told the dispatcher, “I’m in the home of a 94-year-old female neighbor without heat.” The dispatcher told me, “The Carson City Fire Department is on their way to check your neighbor’s health.” Then, the dispatcher contacted NV Energy to send a truck.
Three male firefighters all qualified to have their own month in the CCFD calendar. They calmed Phyllis’ concerns while they checked her medically. It isn’t every day a mature woman receives so much male attention from great eye candy! Next, they tested the ground fault interrupter in her bathroom which had shorted out as Phyllis’ respirations returned to normal.
When the NV Energy lineman arrived at 9 a.m. he discovered several evergreen branches were resting on the power line to her home. The branches had pulled her power line from the service box, interrupting power. He cut about 20 guilty branches and reconnected the power to her electrical service box, Shazam, electricity!
In June 1943, Phyllis enlisted in the WACs, Women’s Army Corps. Staff Sergeant Phyllis Anker was assigned to Joint Chief of Staff General George Catlett Marshall’s office in the Pentagon. She handled files stamped “TOP SECRET, FOR EYES ONLY.”
Being fluent in French, Phyllis accompanied General Marshall to the June 1944 Roosevelt/Churchill Conference in Quebec. On Tuesday, June 13, 1944, a week after D-Day, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Mrs. Clementine Churchill had a tea to thank the USA WACs and Canadian Army CWACs, pronounced Quacks, no joke. The sergeant from little old Lovelock, Nevada, with all the WACs and CWACs met and had a brief conversation with both First Ladies!
She enjoyed her train rides to New York to shop at Macy’s. Unfortunately, before she could buy a couple of pairs of nylon stockings with seams, she had to buy a pair of shoes.
The reason why Okinawa was invaded on April 1, 1945 was to be used as the base of operations for “Operation Downfall,” the planned invasion of Japan on Nov. 1, 1945. Phyllis was excited because General Marshall planned to move his entire staff to Honolulu, Hawaii, before the invasion. The emperor of Japan burst Phyllis’ bubble when President Truman announced Japan’s unconditional surrender on Aug. 14, 1945. Finally, the war was over!
At the Pentagon, Phyllis greeted officers who had an appointment with General Marshall. During their conversation, she asked each officer for a shoulder patch from his unit. She crocheted 4 1/2 inches of white wool squares and sewed a shoulder patch on each square. When she had three crocheted squares with patches, she mailed them to her mom. During the war, servicemen and women didn’t pay to mail letters home.
Staff Sergeant Anker received her discharge papers, DD-214, on Feb. 18, 1946. She rode the first train to Lovelock. Her mother’s sister was a seamstress. Her aunt laid out the 96 patches. Phyllis crocheted the patches together using black yarn for an original patriotic afghan, “The Pentagon Patches.”
After a three-month whirlwind romance, she married Ted Bendure in May 1946. They had three children, Ted, Fred and Sue. Phyllis continued her teaching career totaling 40 years, retiring in 1983.
For someone who didn’t meet the height requirement — 5 feet, 2 inches — to earn her pilot’s license, she has stood tall and had a great ride until Aug. 11, 2017. Thank you and thanks to all our vets on both sides of the dirt.
Ken Beaton of Carson City contributes periodically to the Nevada Appeal.