A Close Group

Josette Dermody (at far left in this photo), worked as a gunner’s mate at Treasure Island in San Francisco, training men to shoot at moving targets. It was a small, close-knit group who worked and played together.

 Mostly we stuck together because, you know — let me see, there were probably 30 of us. And depending upon your duty hours and that sort of stuff — then since our work was with the guys, it wasn’t with the gals as much — although it wasn’t exclusive particularly.  It was just the way the work went.

This photograph comes from the collection of Josette Dermody Wingo.

Navy Lingo

I fall into Navy jokes. We called the blankets the admiral so you could write home and say, “I was sleeping with my admiral” (laughs).  There was a lounge upstairs with no men allowed. And a phone, I think one phone in the hallway, which meant you had to train your roommates to take your messages.  “Tell Ronald I’m dying of pneumonia and tell my mom I’ll call her back next Tuesday (laughs) and tell Gerald I’m” — you don’t want to sound too eager.  “Oh, it’s you Gerald! Yes da da da da da.”  Everybody talks about all the camaraderie, so in one sense we were not exactly careful, but close to each other. We made a circle around where the guys would not wear us down.

-Josette Dermody, World War II WAVE

This photograph shows WAVES and sailors going out for a meal; Josette Dermody is third from the left. It comes from the collection of Josette Dermody Wingo.


Seventy years ago today, America wasn’t officially involved in World War II.  In less than a month, the country would be. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would thrust the United States into the war and transform the country.

This is a photograph of my (Homefront Heroines Director Kathleen Ryan) mother, Mary Marovich Ryan. It was taken after she enlisted in the WAVES. She came from a large family and grew up on the south side of Chicago. They didn’t have much – it was the Depression and there were a lot of mouths to feed.

But as the war enlisted all of her brothers – except for her younger brother who was too young to join up – enlisted in the military. They joined the Army and the Coast Guard. Two of her brothers joined together. By the time my mother enlisted, every member of her family was in the service, except for that younger brother and a sister who was married with a young child (her younger brother would serve during the Korean War). I love her quote in the article below about wanting a six star pin so she can honor her brothers.

Those of you who have been following the Homefront Heroines project know that my mother didn’t talk much about her military service. I knew that enlisted in mid-1943. She went to New York for boot camp, and then traveled across country on a train to head to her specialty training at a Naval Hospital in California as a pharmacist’s mate. A pharmacist’s mate helped out in various  medical capacities; my mother actually worked in the pharmacy. She was stationed at Treasure Island in San Francisco where she met my father, a pilot in the Army Air Forces. She was decommissioned shortly after V-J Day, and she and my father eventually settled about an hour north of New York City in a town along the Hudson River.

But she kept things. Like these photographs (including the one above of a celebration at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco with a group of friends) and the articles about her service. Or a book discussing the properties of various prescription drugs. Or gloves. Dozens of pairs of white cotton gloves, which were part of the formal WAVES uniform. And before she died, she asked that she be buried with military honors, commemorated by a headstone listing her dates of service.

On this Veteran’s Day, we salute all of those who offered their service to our country, including those Homefront Heroines who blazed a trail for women in the future – in the military, of course, but also in the civilian workplace.