Emily Drake was born July 4, 1925 in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. Her parents had emigrated from Vilna in the period before the First World War, and Emily remembers growing up speaking Polish at home. Her childhood took place during the Great Depression, but – too young to be aware of pressing economic and political matters- she remembers playing in the streets. She was 16 when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place, and when her two older brothers and sister-in-law joined up, Emily wanted to as well. She was too young to enlist, so she lied about her age, but her parents ended signing on her behalf. Her first task was to take a course in stenotype, and the army ended up using those skills in interviews for men going through the dependency discharge process. Emily recalls hearing some shocking stories during that time – not the kind of thing a 20-year old girl had heard before – ! She recalls many other episodes: a trip to New York where a trip to the Vanderbilt Mansion led instead to a seedy Bowery hotel, and a difficult Christmastime trip to Florida. As the war came to an end Emily’s facility with languages worked to her advantage when she came into the employ of the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. She worked there for six years, followed by another six year stint at the VA in Pittsburgh; then Emily learned about a civilian opportunity in the USAF, and she was off to Germany. Her boss later transferred to Langley, Virginia, bringing Emily back to the US, and retirement and San Diego soon followed. Emily Drake was interviewed by Scott Masters at her home in Pittsburgh in August 2023.
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