Julianna Relich Houtz Served as General MacArthur's Secretary
The following story appeared in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel (in Indiana). It concerns a Croatian-American, Julianna Relich Houtz, who served as secretary to legendary General Douglas MacArthur. As noted, she still speaks Croatian. John Peter Kraljic, Esq.
Posted on Fri, May. 28, 2004
Time with the general
She now lives in Fort Wayne, but during WWII she was MacArthur's secretary.
By Jennifer L. Boen
of The News-Sentinel
"Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
Those words, credited to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, describe well Juliana Relich Houtz, who served as secretary to MacArthur while he was commander of Allied forces in the Pacific during World War II.
At 84, Houtz's short-term memory is fleeting at times. She might not recall what she ate for breakfast, but she frequently holds rapt an audience at Village Oaks assisted living center in Fort Wayne, regaling caregivers, residents and visitors with stories of her 20 years as a U.S. Army WAC sergeant.
"General Mac was my chief. I thought he was a great guy. He was a very handsome man," said Houtz, who was one of fewer than 50 U.S. Army women serving in active duty overseas in World War II. Most women in the military at the time remained stateside.
She served as MacArthur's secretary, but because she was fluent in Japanese and four other languages, MacArthur sought her out for other duties. "He asked me to go into homes of the Japanese. I met a cleaning woman who invited me to her home. She had a son in the Japanese Army. One time I was eating with the family, sitting on the floor like they did, and her son - he was in uniform - came in and saw this American soldier, this WAC sergeant, sitting there. He was shocked.
"But the people, they trusted me. They told me things. They (the commoners) liked Americans. It was their leaders, the higher (government officials) who hated the Americans." So Houtz socialized with the Japanese.
"I found out where the Japanese (military) were. Then I reported all the things that were going on. I guess you could say I was a spy. I'd hand (MacArthur) the reports and salute him. He'd say, 'Thank you,' and wink at me."
Because of her sometimes short-term memory loss, one might wonder if her military stories are accurate.
"Oh, they are. It's amazing," said Lee Marki, nursing services director of Parkview Hospital's New Life Center and Houtz's long-time friend and now the person with power of attorney.
Marki's mother, 84-year-old Laura Steffen, and Houtz were best friends in high school in Milwaukee. Because Houtz has no other family, Marki and Steffen encouraged her to move to Fort Wayne several years ago.
"She was a spy. After she came back from Europe, she worked at the Pentagon, doing high security information processing," said Marki, who has many of Houtz's military keepsakes. "They asked her to spy in Europe, but she wanted to stay stateside."
In great detail, Houtz describes the Diichi Building, once the Japanese military headquarters in the center of Tokyo, where American forces eventually set up command.
"There were the most beautiful ballrooms there. I danced with Jimmy Martin, a civilian. He bought me beautiful, long gowns. Then he went off and married someone else.
"I don't think I ever danced with General Mac, but I danced with all the other guys," Houtz said, a gleam in her eyes and a smile radiating memories of good times gone by. "I think I had my picture taken on the steps of the Diichi Building once with General MacArthur, but I don't have the picture."
In her 50s, she married Kenneth Houtz, a military retiree who also worked at the Pentagon. He is now deceased.
Houtz's penchant for languages started when she was young in Milwaukee. Her mother, an immigrant from Yugoslavia, worked at a Chinese restaurant, where Houtz spent a lot of time.
"I learned Chinese there. I picked up Japanese easily when I was first stationed there," said Houtz, who also speaks Polish and Croatian.
"I enjoyed serving in the military. It was my life. I was good at what I did," she said.
Marki agreed: "Whenever I saw her, when she was home on leave, she was always in uniform, impeccably dressed. She was always proud of being in the military and of being a woman in the military."
For Houtz, the advantage these days of knowing so many languages has a different twist.
"If I get mad at someone here, I tell them off in Japanese or Polish or Croatian. They have no idea what I'm saying."
© 2004 News Sentinel and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.