Women’s Military History Week Highlights: Lotte W. Goldschmidt Magnus and Paula Towne


Featured today are two more outstanding figures from Oregon’s women military history, including a Jewish German refugee who directed the troops’ dietary needs during WWII and one of the first known women with children to be allowed to serve in the nation’s military.

Lotte W. Goldschmidt Magnus, U.S. Army, WWII

Growing up in Frankfurt, Germany, before the onset of World War II, Lotte Goldschmidt Magnus and her parents had carefully followed the rise of Nazism. And they were terrified.

“My father had been following the political career of Hitler,” she later said. “As soon as Hitler started to raise his ugly head, he always said, ‘That man is no good for the Jews.’”

Magnus’ father, Adolf Goldschmidt, arranged for her to taken out of the country in 1934, through a secret children’s transport funded by wealthy Jewish banking families around the world.

She was placed with a foster family in New York and lived with them until she graduated from high school. She attended college in Colorado, during which she enlisted in the military as part of a civil service program — believing it was the least she could do, out of gratitude for being able to come to the United States in her time of need.

She graduated in 1943 and was soon transferred to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to begin her training as an Army dietician. In June 1945, she was assigned to the Tripler General Hospital near Fort Shafter in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she spent most of her time in the service.

It was during her time in the military, on a transport that flew over the Portland area, that she looked down on the fog and the trees and said, “Someday I’d like to live there.” That she did, moving there with her husband in 1949 to raise their family.

“Someday I’d like to live there.”

Lotte W. Goldschmidt Magnus, U.S. Army, WWII

Magnus had two sons, and worked as what is today the Legacy Holladay Park Medical Center until she retired in 1977. She died on Aug. 9, 2006, at the age of 86.

Paula Towne, U.S. Army Medical Unit, Cold War

Paula Towne grew up in an interesting household. Her mother was, in Paula’s words, “so full of life, … unconventional yet very proper all at the same time.”

One of the ways this manifested was in some unusual dinner company.

“My mother was the sort who would invite anybody to the house who was interesting,” Towne later recalled. “So, my stepfather generally got quite used to ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner, dear.’ So did we. The governor of California popped in for dinner a couple of times. John Wayne popped in for dinner a couple of times.”

Towne joined the U.S. Army in 1976 — just after the end of the Vietnam War — though her decision had more to do with the nation’s bicentennial and her personal family history, having recently learned from a great-aunt’s research about a great number of their ancestors who had served in the Revolutionary War and other conflicts.

Towne was also motivated by her recent loss of a child to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and a new decision by the military to allow mothers to serve. (Previously, women who became pregnant or who had children were discharged.)

Both her recruiter and company commander told Towne she was the first woman with children to serve in the U.S. military.

“I remember July 4, 1976, standing at attention with tears running down my face, thinking about all of the people in my family, how proud they would be,” she said. “It still makes me tear up. I joined because I love my country.”

“I joined because I love my country.”

Paula Towne, U.S. Army Medical Unit, Cold War

Towne served four years in the military, eventually remarrying and moving to Oregon. She raised two children, including a daughter, Jennifer Boyle, who followed in her mother’s footsteps, serving as a military police officer in the Iraq War.

ODVA will be sharing stories of women veterans via Facebook and Twitter throughout the week of March 14-20.

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