A World War II love story: Two veterans share their tale

Idaho StatesmanNovember 11, 1999 

Veterans Day is a time to honor men and women who have served in the armed forces, a day for those who fought to remember the horrors of war. For Pat and Rosemary Powell of Boise, however, Veterans Day is a time to recall their courtship during World War II, to remember how they fell in love in the midst of a badly damaged Europe. " 'War is hell, ' Sherman said, but for us, war meant falling in love, " said Pat, 81.

The couple met at the end of the war at an Army camp on the coast of France, near Le Havre.

One day in August 1945, 1st Lt. Pat Powell from Michigan was charged with looking after 36 women officers and 188 enlisted women coming through camp.

Pat said he wasn't interested in the women until he saw Rosemary walking slowly with two other young women across a field.

"When they got a little closer, I saw this little one in the middle, " Pat said. "There was some sort of attraction."

That little one was 1st Lt. Rosemary Reed, a no-nonsense 24-year-old from Boise on her way to take charge of the civilian personnel office at 3rd Army Headquarters in Munich.

Pat barely left Rosemary's side during the next three days. He escorted her to dances, to meals, on trips to nearby beaches. They talked through the night about their families, values and goals.

They had a lot in common, and Rosemary was attracted to Pat, too. After three days at the camp she had to leave, but a few days later she traveled to Paris for meetings. She called Pat and asked him to meet her there.

That's when they fell in love.

"Those were beautiful days, " said Rosemary, now 79. "We walked everywhere, looked at everything, drank wine."

"We went everywhere from the Louvre to cafes, " Pat said. "People were so nice to us. They could tell we were in love."

Pat proposed two days into the trip.

"We realized there was nothing else to do but be together, " he said. "Everything just meshed."


Finding time for each other was difficult after that first rendezvous in Paris. Rosemary worked at 3rd Army Headquarters in Munich, Pat in France.

The next four months, they met in Paris whenever they could. Rosemary finally pulled enough strings to get Pat transferred to 3rd Army Headquarters, by then in Bavaria.

There, Pat worked as a military police officer. Rosemary, now a captain, continued to run the civilian personnel office for the entire European theater. Her responsibilities included finding and hiring civilian workers to help rebuild Europe and take over jobs from departing soldiers. At one time, her office paid 98,000 civilian workers.

Rosemary also was involved in a top secret operation called Paper Clip. The military was secretly taking top German scientists to the United States after the war so they could learn about German technical innovations. Rosemary was responsible for paying the scientists and their relatives .

Rosemary has lots of stories about her days as a bigwig. Once, a young, low-ranking couple from the Luxembourg Army came into her office, which had moved to Heidelberg. The couple had just married and was looking for a room for the night.

Wanting to do something nice for them, Rosemary called a fancy castle up in the hills of Heidelberg, where Eisenhower and U.S. senators stayed when they visited. She told the hotel that very important dignitaries were in town and arranged special accommodations for the couple.

The newlyweds were so thankful, the woman gave Rosemary her wedding bouquet, which Rosemary still has today.

"That is so Rosemary, " Pat said with admiration. "She's sees something that should be done, and she does it."

Nearly a year after they met at the camp in France, Pat and Rosemary decided to go home and marry. They wed Aug. 27, 1946, in Ogden, Utah.


Pat said he fell in love with Rosemary's straightforward personality.

"She's the most honest, direct person that ever was, " he said. "She is very precise, a perfectionist."

"You could say I'm loving!" Rosemary interrupted.

"I have been loved more than any man has ever been loved, " Pat added emphatically.

Rosemary describes Pat as laid back, intense, a storyteller.

"Opposites attract, " she said.

After 53 years of marriage, Pat and Rosemary still are quite amorous. Rosemary said her doctor credits their strong relationship for her continuing good health.

They do have some opposing ideas, however. For example, Pat believes Veterans Day should be a time when veterans and civilians pull together, as they did during World War II.

But the holiday doesn't mean much to Rosemary.

"When I was working, it meant a day off, " she said with a shrug.

Both agree, however, that the military profoundly impacted their lives.

"It made my life, " Pat said. "I had no idea what I wanted to be or do before (I joined the Army). The Army took me and threw me into the officer corps and gave me responsibility and thrills I never had before - and I was so proud of what I had done and what I could do."

For Rosemary, the military meant unlimited opportunity. She said there were no gender barriers that kept her from excelling. She ran into those obstacles when she got home.

Rosemary wanted to work when she and Pat settled in Boise after the war. But she was competing for jobs with soldiers, and employers figured the men deserved the jobs. The state employment agency also told her she was overqualified.

"The military made me see in civilian life what the glass ceiling means, what feminism means, what chauvinism is and to be angry when men deride feminism. Men are so stupid - Pat is not included here because he's a feminist - they don't understand feminism makes them freer, too. When one person is free, everybody is free."

Rosemary ended up working as a mother and housewife. Pat found a job as a wholesale salesman. The couple eventually had three daughters.

"Housewifery and motherhood were very fine, but it wasn't fulfilling, " she said. "There was a vacancy in my life."

In 1960, when her daughters were 9, 12, and 15, Rosemary finally went back to work at the Downtowner Hotel. She later worked as a secretary for the Boise School District until she retired in 1983.


These days, Pat and Rosemary play bridge several times a week and read voraciously. For exercise, they swim in their backyard pool during summer and walk in winter. They laugh at their cats, Cuddles and Sweetie Pie, and e-mail their daughters and four grandchildren.

Rosemary doesn't like to talk much about her Army days, but Pat does. He said he is grateful for the military for many things, but especially his wife.

"Rosemary made my life different, " he said. "For the rest of my life, I never wanted to go back to Michigan. I wanted to stay here with Rosemary."

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