July 30, 1942 ~ Women Make WAVES in WW2

On July 30, 1942, President Roosevelt signed a bill creating a women’s auxiliary agency in the Navy known as “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service” or WAVES for short.

Women served in armed conflicts combat long before the establishment of the WAVES.

During the War of 1812 and the Civil War, women regularly can be seen passing food and water, tending equipment, and servicing wounded all in an effort to make the U.S. military successful in its endeavors.

Mildred H. McAfee, on leave as president of Wellesley College, would became the first director of the WAVES.

She was tasked with recruiting female personnel for shore assignments so that officers and men could be released for sea duty.

Female officers entered fields previously held by men, such as medicine and engineering.

And enlisted women served as clerical workers, parachute riggers, aviation mechanics, photographers, control tower operators, and intelligence personnel, and more.

The WAVES would peak at 86,291 members during WW2 serving at 900 stations in the United States and Hawaii.

Seven WAVE officers and 62 enlisted women would die during the war.

Upon demobilization in 1946, many WAVES were acknowledged for their contributions to the country, including Captain McAfee who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her efforts as Director of the WAVES.

In 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act (Public Law 625) was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, allowing women to serve in the regular Army or Navy on a permanent basis.

The Navy swore in its first six women enlistees on July 7, 1948

We salute these dedicated, selfless woman who make our military stronger and continue to serve and protect our country with the highest honor.


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