AND NOW YOU KNOW — Orange’s Fannye Beaty delivered doughnuts near front lines of WWII

Published 12:24 am Friday, September 9, 2022

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Fannye Beaty was just an average small town girl until World War II started.

She was born in Orange. After high school she graduated Mary Hardin Baylor College in Belton, Texas. She had been a physical education instructor at Huntsville High School in Huntsville and also at Daisetta High School in Daisetta, Texas.

She returned to Orange and became the WPA Recreation Director in Orange. When World War II started, she became a member of the American Red Cross and applied to go overseas. Her application was accepted and she became an assistant program director with the Military and Naval Welfare Service of the North African Area.

On March 19, 1943, she arrived at Oran, North Africa. She became a member of a four-woman team attached to the 88th Infantry Division. Nicknamed the “Blue Devils,” they were a support division of the 5th Army.

The commanding general, General John E. Sloan, was not happy about having four females attached to his division. Later, he became one of their biggest supporters.

The women were from four different parts of America but had a lot in common, mostly a desire to help sustain the morale of the boys in combat in any way they could. They found the primary job was to cook doughnuts.

The Workshop for War Relief to the American Red Cross in New Canaan, Connecticut, donated a new Dodge Clubmobile to the Red Cross for use by the support teams. It was a vehicle similar to an SUV today. It had room for the supplies needed to cook doughnuts, make coffee and have space for things like a victrola, records, magazines (when they could find some) and the occasional musical instruments they may find along the way.

Beaty and the other three young ladies accompanied the 88th Division from North Africa to Sicily, and then through Italy to join and become part of the European Campaign. She wrote letters to her family in Orange and gave as much detail as the censors would allow.

Beaty wrote she learned to take a bath using only the amount of water her combat helmet could contain. She wrote they were often covered with a heavy coat of dust, would encounter rain and then be covered with mud when the rain hit them.

They ate what the troops ate and slept in tents like the troops. Occasionally, they would find sleeping quarters in a house. Their concern was taking care of the soldiers that became “our boys.” The troops appreciated the ladies being with them and cared for and protected them. Beaty once remarked years after the war there was never any disrespect shown by any of the men and “Nothing out of the ordinary ever tried. They treated us like the girls next door.”

After a few months, they were given a weapons carrier to use along with the clubmobile. That was a great help because now they could carry more supplies. Later they got a trailer that could carry a portable kitchen where they cooked the doughnuts. They had to carry a quantity of doughnut flour and lard for the cooking. They were amazed that the doughnuts were so popular with the troops.

“There is no way to figure how many thousands of doughnuts we cooked in the three years we were together,” said Beaty after the war.

She wrote Feb. 21, 1944, that she was in Naples, and they had been given a house to use while they were there and she had taken her first tub bath in a year.

In September 1944 Beaty was able to go home for a vacation. While she was in Orange, one of her girls wrote and told her the 88th had been in heavy combat in the Appenines Mountains.

“Don’t believe what you may read in the papers, it was a lot worse than they will report,” the letter read. On her return she found it had indeed been bad and she found some of “her boys” were no longer with them.

In January 1945 they were in Montecatini, and the division took over three hotels. She wrote home that they were in a resort area “like Hot Springs (Arkansas).” They found tables, chairs, found a piano, hired an orchestra, scrounged up “other things” and opened “The Blue Devils Juke Joint.”

Germany surrendered in May 1945. Beaty wrote home “the Red Cross is frozen over here till all the GIs get home that deserve to go, which is only fair.”

While in Europe, after the war ended, she was able to travel. One of the places she went was Dachau, the infamous concentration camp. She was profoundly moved by what she saw.

After three years overseas, hundreds of miles in all conditions, being only about two miles from front lines and cooking thousands of doughnuts, Beaty sailed home from Naples, Italy, on Sept. 25, 1945.

Her mother kept all of the letters she wrote while overseas. In 1999, she co-authored with Linda Ferris, a book about her experiences. Italy, Through The Hole of a Doughnut is a unique account of her experiences as a “Doughnut Dollie.”

“And now you know.”

— Written by Mike Louviere