“Not Going to Make It”

SPARs, the Coast Guard women, had similar training as WAVES.  SPAR Dorothy Riley Dempsey remembers the physical training as being extremely taxing.

We were not prepared for boot camp. We had to jump through the tires, you know. Then the next thing we had to do was we had to scale a wall.  We couldn’t do it.  I said to the girl in back of me, “Quinn, push, because I’ll never get over that wall.”

There was a big rope and it had a knot on it.  And there was a pit with mud here.  We had to back up and jump and my friend Quinn who was with me, I said, “Quinn, I’m never going to make that pit.”  And she said, “Neither am I.”  So we sneaked over to another line. We never had to go over it.  We didn’t get caught.  I said, “If we’re caught, we’re out. They’ll get rid of us.”

The photo comes from a Navy post card set produced about the Hunter College boot camp. It’s from the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.


Depending upon the weather, WAVES could do their exercises either indoors or out. These WAVES are at the Naval Training School for Advanced Machinist’s Mates in Norman, Oklahoma. They’re working on a field outdoors (note the jumpsuits they’re wearing for their exercise).

But a cold winter day could drive the WAVES indoors. Jeanette Shaffer Alpaugh remembers being at training camp in Cedar Falls working one day inside in the gymnasium.

We were four abreast, one bunch of four after the other. The officer is charge was, somebody came to the door and called her over. She didn’t say “halt.” So we were marching ahead and this person kept talking to her. Now, we didn’t really know this. Anyway, I was in the second group of four,  We come to the end of the gymnasium and she hadn’t said, “halt” or “squad left” or right or anything.  And so there were stall bars at the end of the gymnasium.  I don’t know how this first group of four — I don’t think I would have thought of it, but they started climbing the stall bars (climbing bars on the walls of old gyms).  So here’s four people going up stall bars. We’re the second group of four, we started going up stall bars. She turned around and there were about four groups  (laughs) up on stall bars. I think that — you know, then she says. “Halt!”  It was really funny.

The photograph comes from the National Archives.

WAVES Do Swim!

One of the rumors swirling about the military women was the various qualifications they’d need in order to join the different branches. Since the WAVES’ name evoked water, and the WAVES were part of the Navy, one rumor about the WAVES was that a woman had to know how to swim in order to join. Some members of the Women’s Army Corps even now say they didn’t join the WAVES in World War II because they couldn’t swim!

The rumor was false; a woman didn’t have to be a swimmer to join the WAVES.  But swimming was one of the activities women could do to keep in shape.

These WAVES are swimming in the pool at Yeoman Training School at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, circa March 1943. The photograph can be found in the National Archives.

Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

What’s your resolution this year? Do a search on the web and you’ll find any number of resolution ideas. The top ten resolutions for small businesses. The top ten anti-aging resolutions for seniors. Top resolutions for a first-time pregnant mom (and isn’t that redundant – I mean, can you be a pregnant dad?). Top vacation resolutions.

According to USA.gov, some of the most popular resolutions in the U.S. revolve around getting into shape (physical or financial):

  • Get fit
  • Lost weight
  • Manage debt
  • Drink less
  • Save money
  • Reduce stress
  • Quit smoking
  • Get a better job
  • Eat healthy food
  • Get a better education

Since this is the week when most people give up their resolutions, it may be time for some inspiration from the WAVES. For WAVES, physical activity was part of their daily routine, with a number of exercise choices to stay in shape on the job.

This photograph from the National Archives was taken at the WAVES Radio School at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It dates from March, 1943. According to the caption:

The Navy knows that these girls will attain top efficiency in their work only if they are in perfect condition, so building a sound body plays an important part in the day’s routing at the WAVE Radio School.