World War II era WAVES
Overview and Special Image Selection



After a twenty-three-year absence, women returned to general Navy service in early August 1942, when Mildred McAfee was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander, the first female commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history, and the first Director of the WAVES, or "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service". In the decades since the last of the Yeomen (F) left active duty, only a relatively small corps of Navy Nurses represented their gender in the Naval service, and they had never had formal officer status. Now, the Navy was preparing to accept not just a large number of enlisted women, as it had done during World War I, but female Commissioned Officers to supervise them. It was a development of lasting significance, notwithstanding the WAVES' name, which indicated that they would only be around during the wartime "Emergency".

Establishing the WAVES was a lengthy effort. Inter-war changes in the Naval Reserve legislation specifically limited service to men, so new legislation was essential. Though far-sighted individuals in the Navy Department, and especially in the Bureau of Aeronautics, had long known that uniformed women would be a wartime necessity, general service opinion was decidedly negative until the crisis at hand. Even then, creative intrigue had to be used to get an authorization through The Congress. President Roosevelt signed it into law on 30 July 1942. The next few months saw the commissioning of Mildred McAfee, and several other prominent female educators and professionals, to guide the new organization.

Recruiting had to be undertaken (or at least managed, as the number of interested women was vast), training establishments set up, an administrative structure put in place and uniforms designed. The latter effort produced a classic design that still has many elements in use nearly six decades later. Difficulties were overcome with energy and indispensable good humor, and within a year 27,000 women wore the WAVES uniform.

These women served in a far wider range of occupations than had the Yeomen (F). While traditionally female secretarial and clerical jobs took an expected large portion, thousands of WAVES performed previously atypical duties in the aviation community, Judge Advocate General Corps, medical professions, communications, intelligence, science and technology. The wartime Navy's demand for them was intense as it struggled to defeat Hitler and Mussolini in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific. At the end of the conflict, there were well over 8,000 female officers and some ten times that many enlisted WAVES, about 2 ½ percent of the Navy's total strength. In some places WAVES constituted a majority of the uniformed Naval personnel. And many remained in uniform to help get the Navy into, and through, the post-war era.

This page features an introduction and special image selection on the Navy's World War II era WAVES, selected from the more comprehensive coverage contained in the following pages:

  • Recruiting and Training
  • Quarters & Meals
  • Recreation, Leisure & Good Deeds
  • Ship and Aviation Orientation
  • Transportation
  • Occupations - Aviation Related

    Artworks and posters of wartime WAVES "Recruiting Posters for Women from World War II - The WAVES".

    Additional information Women in the U.S. Navy.


    Click photograph for a larger image.

    Photo #: NH 89582-KN (Color)

    "WAVES' Anniversary", 1943

    Cartoon by Sixta, USNR, depicting events and activities in the first year following the 30 July 1942 authorization of the WAVES.

    Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC.

    U.S. NHHC Photograph.

    Online Image: 172KB; 530 x 765

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-13754 (Color)

    WAVE Specialist (Photographer) 3rd Class

    Saluting, as she stands among the springtime cherry blossoms near the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C., during World War II.
    Note her Specialist "P" rating badge.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 80KB; 590 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-14518 (Color)

    U.S. Naval Training Center, Women's Reserve, The Bronx, New York

    Some of the schools trainees march in formation behind their color guard, during World War II.
    This Training Center, located in the facilities of Hunter College, provided basic training for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard women recruits.
    Note the Center's flag, featuring the fouled anchor and propeller device of the Women's Reserve.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 155KB; 590 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-13879 (Color)

    Navy WAVE trainee

    Leans on a swab while cleaning her barracks, soon after she arrived at a Naval Training Center during World War II.
    Photographed prior to April 1944.
    Note suitcases at right, and dungaree working uniform with button fly.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 95KB; 740 x 605

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-5568 (Color)

    WAVES on liberty in Honolulu

    Yeoman 3rd Class Margaret Jean Fusco photographs three friends by King Kamehameha's statue in Honolulu, circa spring 1945.
    Posing are (left to right): Yeoman 2nd Class Jennie Reinhart; Yeoman 2nd Class Muriel Caldwell and Yeoman 2nd Class June Read.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.
    Online Image: 68KB; 570 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-4563 (Color)

    USS Missouri (BB-63)


    WAVES visiting the ship in an east coast port, during her shakedown period, circa August 1944.
    They are standing on the main deck at the bow, with the Navy Jack flying behind them.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 78KB; 585 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-272753

    Transporting WAVES by air, November 1944


    WAVEs en route to Naval Air Station, Olathe, Kansas, in a Douglas R4D-6 transport plane, accompanied by their instructor, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) N.J. Merrill. Most of the enlisted WAVES are strikers for the rate of Specialist (Transport Airman).
    Those present are (from left to right):
    LtJG Merrill; Yeoman 2nd Class Carolyn Fish; Seaman 2nd Class Gale Collier; Seaman 2nd Class Margaret Chapman; Seaman 2nd Class Gloria Marx; Yeoman 2nd Class Helen Niravelli; Seaman 2nd Class Marilyn Wheeler; and Seaman 2nd Class Helen Ranlett.
    Note cargo track in the plane's deck.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 118KB; 740 x 615

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-5793 (Color)

    Yeoman 1st Class Marjorie Daw Adams, USNR(W)

    Obtains a receipt from Mailman 2nd Class Wilbur L. Harrison, who is picking up classified mail for his attack transport, at Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, California, on 13 June 1945. He is armed with a handgun for security reasons.
    Much of the official Navy mail going to the Pacific Fleet passes through the Fleet Post Office's Registry Office.
    Note WAVES recruiting poster in the background.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 77KB; 600 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-5460 (Color)

    U.S. Naval Hospital, San Diego, California

    WAVE Pharmacist's Mate 3rd Class Winifred Perosky prepares to X-Ray Marine Private First Class Harold E. Reyher, circa spring 1945. She is one of 1000 WAVES assigned to the Naval Hospital at San Diego.
    PFC Reyher had been wounded by an enemy sniper on Iwo Jima.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 82KB; 590 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-5675 (Color)

    WAVE air station control tower crew

    At a Naval Air Station in the Hawaiian islands, circa mid-1945.
    Specialist 2nd Class Mary E. Johnson uses a microphone to speak to an incoming plane, as Specialist 2nd Class Lois Stoneburg operates a signal lamp.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 64KB; 590 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-43935

    Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Violet Falkum


    Turns over the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine of a SNJ-4 training plane, at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, 30 November 1943.
    This photograph was used in a World War II recruiting poster.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 83KB; 620 x 675

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     
    Photo #: 80-G-K-14222 (Color)

    WAVES study aircraft mechanics

    At Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, during World War II.
    Seaman 2nd Class Elaine Olsen (left) and Seaman 2nd Class Ted Snow are learning to take down a radial aircraft engine block.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

    Online Image: 93KB; 590 x 765

    Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

     


    For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions





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