Growing up on a farm in Indiana, one of Winona Ruth Gunther’s fondest memories is discussing world events with her father. Although he died just before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, his patriotism is what inspired Gunther and three of her 12 siblings to later join the military.
“My father loved his country and he instilled that in his children,” said Solana Beach’s Gunther, who offers a personal look of what it was like for women to serve during World War II in “What Would Your Father Say?”
The recently published book follows Gunther’s life from before the U.S. entered the war to after the war ended.
“There are a lot of things I bring out in the book that I had forgotten about,” said Gunther, who has lived in Solana Beach since 1962. “It was a lot of research. I went through my old photos and letters.”
Although Gunther grew up during the Great Depression, she had dreams of becoming a doctor. She attended Oklahoma State University, then known as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, for one year.
“It was so hard for women to get jobs,” she recalled. “Jobs were reserved for the men. The only thing you could do as a woman was housework. So I had saved to go for that one year, eating very little.”
With no money to continue her education, Gunther started working as an apprentice pharmacist at a drugstore, where she also managed the soda fountain. Although she said she made the best sodas around, Gunther wanted to contribute to the war effort.
In 1943, she volunteered for the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), seeking to join the hospital corps. She was 23 years old.
“With my one year of pre-med and pharmacy experience, I think that’s what got me in,” she said.
Gunther went to boot camp at Hunter College in New York and corps school at Naval Medical Center San Diego — where she’s holding a book signing from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 9. For the rest of the war, she was stationed at Corona Naval Hospital in Norco, where she cared for injured sailors and marines.
Gunther’s two children, as well as her peers at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s San Diego chapter, urged her to write about her service in the military, an endeavor she started several years ago.
Filled with joy and sorrow, laughter and romance, the book details a crucial time in history while addressing the mental and physical adjustments servicemen and women face.
“It was difficult,” said Gunther about the writing process. “It brought many memories back. But I hope it inspires a love of country and duty.”
“What Would Your Father Say?” is available on amazon.com.