Suggested Interview Questions

These are some sample questions which we’ve used in oral history interviews with Navy WAVES and Coast Guard SPARs. Remember, the interviewer is helping the veteran to narrate her life history, so the order and format may change from interview to interview. In some cases, a question won’t be asked at all.  Keep in mind at all times that this isn’t an interview, but rather a conversation – and so let it go where it will.


  • Where were you when World War II started?
  • Tell me about how you heard about Pearl Harbor.  What was your reaction?
  • It seems like it was a very different time from now (in terms of patriotism and military service).  What are your impressions?
  • Before joining the military did you do anything to help the “war effort”?
  • How did you first hear about women being allowed to join the military?
  • Why did you decide on the WAVES/SPARs?
  • What was your family’s reaction?
  • Tell me about your trip to boot camp.
  • What was it like when you first got to boot camp?
  • Tell me about your uniform.  Did it play a factor in your joining the WAVES/SPARs?
  • What was toughest about boot camp?  Your living conditions?  Marching?  Exercise?  Learning to be part of the military?  Something else?
  • Where did you go for further training?  Was that your first choice?
  • Tell me about your advanced training.
  • Where did you get stationed?  What was your job?
  • What did you do in your “spare time”?
  • What was it like being a “trailblazer” of sorts?
  • Tell me about the end of the war.  How did you hear about it?  What did you do?
  • What was your reaction to the end of the war?
  • Tell me about what it was like to go back to civilian life.
  • Would you have wanted to remain in the WAVES/SPARs if you could have?
  • Do you think your life would have been different if you hadn’t served?
  • How did serving impact your life?  How did serving impact your family?