Ken Beaton: From Pershing County to the Pentagon

What can the color Brown do to you? Since all her friends had enlisted by June 1943, Phyllis Lorraine Anker enlisted in the Women Army Corps on Sept. 20, 1943. After WAC boot camp, Phyllis taught WACs to type. Her next assignment was the newly constructed Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

To be a successful military leader, accurate and complete information is vital to make informed decisions. Every eight hours, seven days a week, Joint Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, received a complete briefing of every American military operation around the world. Phyllis handled top secret folders, “Operation Overlord, For Eyes Only,” the plans for the invasion of Normandy, D-Day.

Phyllis had overcome many challenges in her 98 years. Weighing only 4 pounds on March 7, 1919, she wasn’t expected to live. Fortunately, her family doctor was wrong. Graduating as an honor student from Pershing County High School in 1937, she became a freshman at University of Nevada. Phyllis earned money for her tuition by piano gigs, tutoring, and summer jobs. She tutored Marion Motley, the only University of Nevada football player and the second black to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. She graduated from Nevada in 1941, taught Business subjects at Eureka County High School in 1941-1942 and Yerington High School 1942-1943.

Being fluent in French, Phyllis accompanied General Marshall to the June 13, 1944 Roosevelt/Churchill Conference in Quebec. A week after D-Day, Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Churchill sponsored a Tea for the U.S. and Canadian WACs attending the conference. A Canadian WAC was known as a CWAC, pronounced “quack” by the Canadians. Phyllis had a memorable conversation with both hostesses.

In General Marshall’s office one of her jobs was to greet each officer to see General Marshall. She would ask the officer for a shoulder patch. Phyllis crocheted 4 ½” x 4 ½” white wool squares and sewed the shoulder patch to a square. When she had completed three squares, she mailed them to her mother in Lovelock. (During the war, service personnel mailed letters for free).

Phyllis’ Aunt Hannah was a seamstress and suggested an afghan for the patches. Phyllis with Aunt Hannah’s guidance crocheted the squares together with black wool to create a 41 ½” x 64 ½” afghan, The Pentagon Patches.

Each of the 96 patches represents an Army, Corps, Division, Service Corps, Theatre of Operations, USAAF, Parachute Infantry Regiment, Location of Headquarters, Defense Command or Veterans Administration representing the 16 million men and women of the greatest generation.

Staff Sergeant Anker was discharged on Feb. 18, 1946, returned to Lovelock, had a whirlwind romance, and married Ted Bendure in May 1946. They had three children, Teddy, Fred and Sue. Phyllis taught Business subjects at Carson High School and retired in 1983 after teaching in Nevada for almost 40 years.

Phyllis’ family gathered to celebrate birthdays and holidays. She treasured her life experiences and those special moments with her family, She passed away on Aug. 11, 2017 at 98 years and 5 months.

Ken bought The U.S. Army Patch Book. He spent hours identifying each of the 96 patches in Phyllis’ afghan.


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