Dinner and a Dance

WAVE Merrily Kurtz Hewett remembers evenings in Hawaii:

The fellows liked to be asked to come.  Have meals with us.  You have your friends over for a meal.  Then they’d stay and usually it would be a dance night, I guess.  I can’t remember for sure exactly how many times a week we dances.

This photo shows WAVES Rita Bergan, Mary Burke, Rosalene Brown, Helen Beegle eating in the mess hall in Hawaii. It comes from the National Archives.

Unofficial Greeting

It wasn’t just the Navy officers who were happy to see the WAVES. The enlisted men were as well.

Just getting more familiar – some of those fellas had been over there three and four years and didn’t know what a woman looked like .. and of course we were pretty good lookin.’

– Merrily Kurtz Hewett, WAVE

This photograph shows the first enlisted WAVE to arrive in Hawaii, Mary Babine, being presented with the traditional lei and a welcoming kiss by sailor E.R. Baker.

Arrival!

Hawaii was a Pacific territory during World War II. But it wasn’t the manicured beaches and tourism mecca that we know today.

It was a territory, and it was laid back, you have to understand, very very primitive.  Primitive.  Kamaiamaia Highway was a dirt road and everything.

– Patricia Farrington Siegner, WAVE

This photo shows WAVES disembarking from their transport ship in January of 1945. It comes from the National Archives.

In Port!

The WAVES travelled aboard an L-S-T ship, or troop transport ship. It was mostly women aboard – the only sailors were the crew.

It was fun being aboard ship. We did zig-zag, we could see where we zig-zagged.  Didn’t need to, but taking precautions, I think.  This was early in ’44 — no later in ’44.  But anyway, a couple of the girls fell in love with the sailors. That was the disease, I think, with the women, with the sailors (laughs). Away from home. We had a good time aboard ship. We didn’t have any rough weather, I didn’t get seasick.

– Merrily Kurtz Hewett, WAVE

This photograph shows WAVES leaving their ship in Hawaii. It comes from the National Archives.

In Quarantine

The trip to Hawaii didn’t always go smoothly.

We ported and we were all going on the same ship. This was really under tight orders because they were very careful about  us.  On the ship, which often happens when people are crowded together, it happens. A case of spinal meningitis broke out and we were quarantined for six weeks in Hawaii.

– Patricia Farrington Siegner, WAVE

This photo shows WAVES crowding an open hatch door even before their transport ship docks in Hawaii. It comes from the National Archives.

Heading to Hawaii

The first group of WAVES headed to Hawaii in January 1945. Doris Mansfield Leichliter was in the third group of WAVES to go overseas. They were the first to be based at Barber’s Point.

I wanted to see as much of the world as I could since I had never gone anyplace growing up anyplace because my dad would never go anyplace.  Once I got to New York and saw how much fun it was to travel, I just wanted to do all the traveling I could.  So I had decided that based on my parents, by the time I was — I didn’t want to get married and I figured I didn’t want to until I was past 30, because up to 30 I would see all the world I wanted to see.  That was my logic.  (laughs)

This photo shows WAVES embarking on the ship to head to Hawaii in January 1945. It comes from the National Archives.

Overseas

WAVES (and also the Coast Guard women, the SPARs) were able to be based not only to Hawaii, but also to Alaska and selected Caribbean locations.

They opened it up for women to go overseas, which was Hawaii and Alaska. And I didn’t want to go to Hawaii. I grew up on the ocean (in Oregon).  I didn’t want to go see the ocean. So I elected to go to Ketchecan (Alaska).  I was in Ketchecan for, I don’t know, six weeks. I was there long enough to turn around and come back to Seattle.

– Vicki Burdick Leach, World War II SPAR

This image shows the first contingent of WAVES packed and ready to go ship to Hawaii in January of 1945. It comes from the National Archives.