WAVES at NATC Pensacola, Florida, work on their shooting skills. They’re using a .22 target pistol before advancing to larger guns. Upon completion of the course, they will be assigned to teaching male gunners marksmanship, using films and synthetic guns.
The photo comes from the National Archives.
Janette Alpaugh (Shaffer at the time), originally from Indiana, joined the WAVES in January 1943. She was part of the second class of WAVES to attend boot camp in Cedar Falls, Iowa. After boot camp she applied to become a Link trainer, where she learned how to instruct men who were training as pilots in flight simulation. Janette was stationed in Pensacola, Fla., as a link trainer before she went on to become a WAVES officer.
She grew up on a big farm, north of Indianapolis, where she says she was raised like a boy. While Janette’s girlfriends were helping their mothers in the kitchen, Janette and her sister were helping her father with the farm. The family only had one boy, Janette’s younger brother, and everyone’s help was needed. Her time working on the farm, however, gave her a passion for hard work and athletics.
“[My Father] treated us just like boys. We did farm work that any boy our age would have done.”
Helen Gilbert was one of the first women to join the WAVES. Born in 1919, she grew up in Philadelphia and worked in the Navy as a radio operator during World War II.
Because she was part of the first group of women to enlist, they didn’t even have uniforms for the first several months of training. She had worked at the RCA (Radion Corporation of America) prior to joining the WAVES, and when her officers found out, she was assigned to train in Madison, Wis., at radio school, learning Morse code.
It was October of 1942 and Helen was excited and nervous to leave her hometown. She was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, during the war, and Pensecola, Fla., at the end of the war.
“When we broke into that man’s world, the Navy, the United States Navy … when we did that and made them respect us, when I see Navy officers today who are women, admirals, women, I think, hot damn, we did it! We did it.”