Second World War: Female Communications Officer Causes Stir

After V-J Day, at the close of the second World War, a WAVE communications officer commanded a team of radiomen by herself.

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It was not long after V-J Day that it all started. Night watches were not new to me. As a WAVE officer in communications, I had spent my entire naval career working night, evening, and day shifts, on the top deck of the Administration Building. 

But now that the Japanese had surrendered, there was less classified material coming through on the top deck, and the main communications room below was understaffed. The married WAVE officers were leaving the service, the men communications officers had not returned from overseas, and another watch officer was needed to supervise one of the crews. I was to be it.

I had not been around sailors much because of the caste system in the Navy. On the watch to which I was now assigned, I would be the only female on duty in the communications room for the evening and midwatches. Brady and Carruthers were the ones I worked closest with, because we were responsible for checking and routing all messages from the teletype and radio rooms. The boys in the back room did all the sending and receiving of messages, unless they came upon a problem - in that case, Brady did it.

One night when Brady and Carruthers had gone out to midnight chow, I had to go into the teletype room about a message. The teletype made so much noise the men did not hear me come in. They were having problems, and Duke and Behrens were swearing angrily.

When they saw me, they straightened up. Duke said, "I'm awfully sorry, ma'am. Please yell out before you come in here. We wouldn't intentionally use that kind of language in front of you for anything."

The other WAVE communication officers on the other watches and I bought a Christmas tree for the office. Ornaments were not to be had that year, so we made our own out of cardboard. The sailors helped us cover cardboard stars and wreaths with foil and even joined us in painting walnuts with nail polish.

Jean Ciavonne
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.