Every Saturday at the Treasure Island base, World War II-era WAVES were part of the “ship” inspection with the Captain (bases are known as ships in Navy parlance). Above is a description of a typical Saturday inspection, including a charming story at the end, as published in the WAVES Newsletter.
Of course, where there are young men and young women during wartime, there is a chance for romance and adventure. And for the oh-so-innocent Josette Dermody, romance and adventure came in a dashing package known as Blackie.
Blackie was my epitome of being a sailor. He loved his ship. He loved being a sailor and in a sense he loved me. But, I found out that one day he was dating me, but he would drop me off and go find the other kind of woman for the evening and stuff. He was scary but he was exciting.
This photo comes from the collection of Josette Dermody Wingo.
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.
Dorothy Turnbull had a history of service with the Navy in her family. Her father was in the Navy during World War I, and her brother later would become a Navy officer during World War II.
As World War I was ending, Dorothy’s father, the longtime New Orleanian, was sent back to the U.S. in New York. There he met Dorothy’s mother, a New Yorker from German Harlem. They married and moved to the South.
This photograph comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.
Jean Byrd began working after the war, returning to the job she had before entering into service. When her brother returned home from his stint in the Navy, he brought along a friend. Bill Stewart.
You just don’t up and get familiar with a person. You have to learn something about them. If they’re nice, or you can be congenial, or get along with them. So I’m minding my business, going to work. I hate to say it, but they served me a drink that I just thought was light soda or something or other, because I was going to work. I wasn’t going to be home and talk with them. I was going to work. And they said, “You can’t go to work because we put something in that, and you just have to take the day off and go on.” Well, I didn’t like that. Because every day counted, right? Yeah, that’s what they did to me. So I didn’t go to work that day. I got to learn something more about him.
After he had been over a couple of times, Bill suggested that he and Jean might want to think about getting married near his birthday in June. It was May.
I said to myself, “This is moving in a hurry.” Well I had a sister who was supposed to get married in September. As time when on, I don’t even know how long it was, but come to find out he appeared to be nice and I didn’t know anything that was against him (laughs). I said, “Well, we’ll talk to Lina and Johnny.” I said, “It would be rough on my mother to have a wedding for them and have a wedding for us at another time too. What if we get together and have a double wedding?” And so it ended up, that we had a double wedding and got married.
This photograph comes from the collection of Jean Byrd Stewart.
Pat Pierpont met her husband-to-be, Dick Graves, while serving in the Navy. She was a WAVE and he was a sailor. They were both stationed in Jacksonville, Florida.
My sister was very much into boyfriends and things but I didn’t have any. So I went down there (to Jacksonville) and just knew a lot of guys but didn’t go out hardly at all. And then I met someone one day. He was in the hangar. And I just happened to meet him and he asked me once to go out. The first time we ever went out was New Year’s Eve. We went to a movie. That was it. Had dinner and went back to the base and then saw each other off and on, but we didn’t get married until we were both out of the Navy because that was the way it was. We hadn’t known each other that long, you see, He was from California and I was from Connecticut.
Their marriage was in February 1946. In Connecticut. Pat told them to prepare for the worst.
I said, “Send for your skates, your ice skates” because we always had ice everywhere. And virgin ice, clear beautiful. On the lakes, everywhere. Well, of course, this was the year when they wasn’t any ice when they were there. Except the night we left from church. Then it was raining and freezing. Dick learned to put on chains right away.
This photograph comes from the collection of Pat Pierpont Graves.
As World War II was winding down in late 1945, people in the military started thinking about life after the war. Jane Fisher was in the Coast Guard boot camp to serve in the SPARs (from the Coast Guard Motto Semper Paratas, Always Ready) when the word came down that the war had ended. She ended up relieving other women who had been enlisted longer.
Jane was sent to Seattle and assigned to work in the Post Office. For her, military service was about patriotism – and flirting.
I worked in the post office. Oh that was good deal. I had a friend who worked in personnel. If we saw a cute guy, (laughs) just to show you how women worked in that day and age, if we saw a cute guy, she looked up his personnel records. If it didn’t show that he was married, then I’d check the letters to see if he got a letter from the same person all the time. (laughs). Oh, we had a system.
Jane met her husband-to-be while she was heading back to work after leave to visit her family in Nebraska. She noticed him when he got on the train in Idado.
I remember peeking out. His voice. It just sounded good. But I was playing it pretty cool as we were going up the river. And we had had a wreck in the middle of the night which made our train late. And we got to the Dalles (in Oregon) and everybody was getting off the train, you know, to go to the ladies who were serving cookies and stuff. I thought, “Well, I’m not going to get off and have him give me a bad time.” Because he kept walking back and forth and I knew he was getting up nerve enough. So I waited and I got off. He had got off to check uniforms. He waited and he jumped off the train behind me. And he informed me that SP stood for “SPAR Patrol.” Or “SPAR Protector.” And then he sat on down beside me and he asked me if I knew anything about fish ladders. Now that was the craziest line I had ever heard in my life. And I didn’t know what a fish ladder one. I had never heard of one. He said, “Well we’re coming to this Bonneville Dam and they have a fish ladder and I’m going to point it out to you. Because someday, I’m going to design and build fish ladders.” He was the only guy I ever met who really knew what he wanted to do with his life. It really impressed me.
By the time the train reached Portland, Oregon, Jane was smitten. But she was supposed to transfer to a nearby train head back up to base in Seattle.
He said to me, “If you purposely miss that train I’ll sign your papers that we had a wreck.” So I did. And we spent the whole day in Portland. I went on the train that night that he was on Shore Patrol to Seattle. And he took a cab and took me to where we were staying and got it all squared away that I really wasn’t late. Signed the all papers and stuff. And we were married three months later.
It was a whirlwind courtship – spurred along by an over-anxious mother:
We were going to get married, but we were going to get discharged and go home. But my mother kept planning my wedding. And one night we were in a movie and I was so upset with her and I said, “Gee you know for two cents I’d just get married right here in Seattle.” And he reached over and gave me two pennies. So we got married in Seattle. We were married 28 years.
The photograph comes from the Betty Jane Fisher Collection.
Ruth Kinman used the power of letters to keep romance alive while serving as a WAVE during the war.
My sister, who is 13 months older than I, she decided she was going to go into the WAVES. And I hadn’t thought anything about it. But she decided and she joined. And then this young man I was going with, he was drafted into the Marine Corps. So I thought, “I’m not going to stay here by myself. I’m going to go into the WAVES too.” So that’s why I enlisted.
Ruth stayed in touch with her young Marine, Carl Gaerig, throughout the war. But it wasn’t until the war was nearly over that they began talking seriously about marriage.
He had been discharged because he had been wounded, had been in the hospital and recovered. Then he came to Washington, where I was stationed and so we decided to get married. When we decided to get married I had to get permission from my superior to wear a wedding gown and veil and all that. And my mother came to the wedding and Carl’s mother came tot he wedding from Duquoin, Illinois. It was quite a spectacular occasion for us.
This was in September of 1945, after V-J Day. Shortly after the wedding, Ruth was discharged. She can Carl moved back to Illinois, where they both went to college. We met them aboard the WAVES National Convention Cruise in 2006.
We’ve been married 61 years now, I don’t know where the years have gone.
This photograph was taken of Ruth in 2006 aboard the WAVES National Convention Cruise. It comes courtesy of Mel Kangleon.
Doris Cain had been married before she joined the WAVES in 1944. The marriage ended badly and she decided to enlist so she wouldn’t see her husband in the small farming community where they lived (he was deferred from military service because of the farm).
One day, she was at the USO for a dance and met a man who had been a pharmacist’s mate on Guadacanal. Doris was gunshy – she didn’t want to get into another bad romantic situation. And something the pharmacist’s mate did raised her suspicions:
He was wearing a Marine uniform when I met him. He made a date with me to pick me up for dinner or something, and he picked me up in a sailor uniform. I was really amazed because I didn’t know you could interchange uniforms like that. I almost quit going with him. We were working in a tight secure environment. I didn’t want to have anything to do with somebody who was messing around, do you know what I mean? Well, you don’t know if they’re spies or if they’re crazy or what. So I went out with him for dinner but I wouldn’t make another date or anything. He kept bugging me. “Why? Why?” And I told him. I said, “Because you wear a Marine uniform one time and a sailor uniform.” That’s when he told me that the Marines don’t have a medical department and the Navy supplies medical for them. He was stationed at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. That’s the reason he could go in either uniform. He wears a Navy patch in the Marine uniform that shows he’s a pharmacist. But outside of that you can’t tell.
Doris’ pharmacist’s mate was persistent. They began going out, and he began asking her to marry him.
He proposed to me, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get married again. I told him, I says, “I don’t love you.” And he said, “But I can make you love me.” So I married him.
By this point it was late 1945 and the war was over. Doris left the service and she and her pharmacist’s mate got married shortly after. Once he was out of the military, they moved to California and had two children.
This photograph, “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not,” shows WAVES and sailors on liberty in New Orleans, LA, c. 1944. It comes from the Naval History and Heritage Command.