Lois Annette Callen

Photo of Lois

Lois Callen enlisted in the WAVES at Duluth, Minnesota on October 9, 1943 and went on to “boot camp” at Hunter College in the Bronx of New York City. While at Hunter she was a member of the glee club known as the “singing platoon” which performed for various civilian functions in the area as well as sang while marching from class to class. She was then sent to Yeoman Training School in Cedar Falls, Iowa for two months where she was promoted to Yeoman 2c.

After graduation Callen was told that 90% of the WAVES would be sent to Washington D.C. to complete their tour of duty, relieving their male counterparts, while 11 individuals were needed for a TOP SECRET installation. She volunteered and was chosen for duty. They were sent with sealed orders from Chicago to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia where they boarded an army truck and arrived at Camp Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. It was here that Callen learned that they were at a germ warfare facility, which housed Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. She was instructed to not discuss anything about the camp or what was being done there. They were told that experiments were being conducted with certain deadly diseases. As the secrecy ban was lifted several years after the war, the diseases were psittacosis (parrot fever), undulant fever (rabbit fever), anthrax (from tanning animal hides) and botulinus (food poisoning). It was Callen’s job to type lengthy reports of the findings of the field experiments. She discovered after the war that her brother Robert J. Nelson had been stationed on Horn Island and had constructed the testing ground there. While at Camp Detrick she met the Army Staff Sergeant who she later married. Callen was discharged at Washington D.C. on December 4, 1944.

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