Packing Up

WAVES received “seabags” (Navy-issued duffel bags) for their voyage on the ship to Hawaii.

In this photo, WAVES Ava Barton and Marcella Fisher get some last minute packing instructions from Lt. Margaret  Kuechle before shipping out in January of 1945.

It comes from the National Archives.

Tropical Whites

WAVES heading to Hawaii would need uniforms fit for a more tropical environment. That meant the seersucker uniforms for work and tropical white uniforms for dress, instead of the every blues most women wore.

Here, WAVES are learning the protocol for wearing the white uniform, which most hadn’t had or needed before heading to Hawaii.  It dates from January 8, 1945, just before the women were scheduled to depart.

It comes from the National Archives.

Getting Picked

The post to Hawaii was very desirable for some. And not everyone was selected for overseas duty.

After I was in the service for six months, I could sign up for overseas.  My officer was Lt. Jerry Clays and he said, “Dottie, I know you have the time in, but I want a letter from your folks saying it’s OK to go overseas.”  He said, “I want a letter from your folks giving permission for you to go overseas.”  Well, by the time I got the letter back, and so forth, the war was over and so I never got to go overseas.

– Dorothy “Dottie” Anderson McDowll, WWII WAVE

This photograph shows WAVES leaving on their last stateside liberty before heading to Hawaii in January of 1945. It comes from the National Archives.

WAVES to Hawaii

Continuing our theme of Asian-Pacific Heritage month, we’re going to begin a series looking at the WAVES’ experience in Hawaii.

Initially, the WAVES were only allowed to serve stateside, but by late 1944 discussions began to expand their duties to overseas. And that included the then-US territory of Hawaii.

This image shows the first members of the Women’s Reserve of the Navy and Marine Corps doing a preliminary survey of the area in October of 1944 before sending female personnel.

The people shown are (from left): Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghermlevy, Colonel Ruth Street, Lieutenant Commander Jean T. Palmer, Major Marian B. Drydenyof, Vice Admiral John H. Towers, Lieutenant Commander Joy Bright Hancock, and Brigadier General L.W.T. Weller Jr.  It comes from the National Archives.

A Family Affair

Susan Ahn Cuddy’s two brothers, Phillip and Ralph, also joined the military.

I was Korean blood.  We were fighting the Japanese. I was American. I was very American, raised to love and honor America. There was actually no choice. I mean that was it. Why other women didn’t do it, I don’t know.

This is a photograph of Ahn and her brothers in uniform. It comes from the collection of Susan Ahn Cuddy and the Island Mountain Trading Co.

Naval Security

After Susan Ahn Cuddy graduated from Smith College officer training school, she was sent to work in Naval intelligence after Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal saw her at an event. But initially the brass in Naval intelligence weren’t so certain about having an Asian woman in their midst.

The captain of the station was appalled. He couldn’t believe that this Asian was on his station So for six months I didn’t do anything, but file.  And then after that, he was still nervous.

Ahn eventually became the Navy liaison with the Library of Congress, and after the war would continue working in the intelligence community, in the National Security Agency.

This photograph of Ahn and an unnamed sailor comes from the collection of Susan Ahn Cuddy and the Island Mountain Trading Co.

The First Korean-American WAVE Officer

Susan Ahn Cuddy would go on to many Navy firsts. She became the first Korean American gunnery instructor in 1943. She was the first Korean American WAVE officer, selected to train at Smith College. After officer training she would go on to work in Naval Intelligence.

This image comes from the University of Northern Iowa Archives. It is from the base newspaper, The Iowave, telling of Ahn’s promotion to WAVE officer.

In Training

Susan Ahn Cuddy would be sent to Cedar Falls, Iowa for her training as a WAVE.

You stand out like a sore thumb for one thing ,and so you have to behave properly. But, everyone was very cordial to me and accepting and I don’t think I faced any uh, problems except that many of them didn’t see an Asian before in the Midwest like in Iowa.

After her initial training, Ahn became one of the first women selected at a Link Trainer Instructor.

This photograph comes from the collection of Susan Ahn Cuddy and the Island Mountain Trading Co.

The First Korean American WAVE

Education was important to the Ahn family. Susan Ahn Cuddy attended college in Southern California, and would be both a good student and an active athlete.

But even though she met the qualifications: a college graduate with some work experience, she was turned down by the recruiting officer when she first attempted to enlist as a WAVE officer in 1942.

As she said:

When the Navy program opened up for the women, I was gung-ho.  I was in San Diego and I came up to Los Angeles and tried to be part of it, but it was an officer’s training group and I didn’t make it. Well, I mean it was known that it was because I was Asian and not acceptable.

A woman who knew Ahn intervened, and she was later accepted as an enlisted WAVE.

This photograph is of Susan Ahn’s college field hockey team: she is in the front row, fourth from left.  It comes from the collection of Susan Ahn Cuddy and the Island Mountain Trading Co.