First Officer on Ship

WAVES would continue to serve in the military through 1950s. And while enlisted WAVES were assigned to ships in 1953, it wouldn’t be until 1961 that the Navy would assign a WAVE officer to shipboard duty.

Lieutenant Charlene T. Suneson, received that honor. She reported for duty aboard the USS General W.A. Mann (AP-112).

This photograph comes from the Naval History and Heritage Command.


  1. Wow. I finally found out where I get my sense of righteous indignation from and my passion for facts as a journalist. My mother was an enlisted Wave in 1953 aboard a transport ship and though I have had the article for years, never thought to google the facts. Well, when Lt. Suneson hit the news, a lot of papers reported her as the “first woman” assigned to active sea duty. Of course in those days, the history or women in the Navy, much less the armed services, wasnt as widely known or instantly available. So I when I found this post today in researching the article on my mom and Lt. Suneson, I had to chuckle at finding out, at the age of 52, what my mother left me in character which I never knew before (she passed away when I was 11 years old). Thanks for the info!

    1. And WAVES themselves were even aboard ships in WWII, albeit just to be transported to the “overseas” post of Hawaii. Thanks so much for the comment, and for sharing your mother’s story.

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