World War II Navy Radio
WAVES Stories
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The Navy trained women to serve as Radiomen as part of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program.  The idea was that a woman serving at a Naval shore or air station would free a man for fleet duty.  Recruiting appealed to women’s patriotism, and offered equal pay and a chance to travel.


Some WAVES Radiomen told their stories:


Barbara Tanner Aldrich:


“I enlisted in December of 1942…in Boston, Massachusetts.”

“I was then ordered to Hunter (College)”

“I was hoping to go into cryptography.  There was no call for any cryptographers at the moment, so finally they sent me to radio school (at the University of Wisconsin).  Two days after I left they had a call for cryptographers.”

“…at 0800 there was code.  At 0900 there was procedure.  At 1000 there was code.  At 1100 there was drill.  Then we ate on the first bell.  At 1330 there was code.  At 1430 there was typing.   And 1530 seems to be free.  At 1630 there was a lecture.  And at 1900 there was code.”

“They sent me to New York City, the Eastern Sea Frontier”

“We monitored the radio for the Eastern Sea Frontier and we sent and received messages on teletypewriters…”

“When I left I was a (Radioman) first class.”


-Barbara Tanner Aldrich, in an oral history conducted by Dr. Evelyn Cherpak, Naval War College, 1997



Emily Stone Cocroft: 


“I went with every intention of applying for officer training and was told I would have to wait…so they said, ‘but we are recruiting for the first enlisted class…’  I had got my self all geared up to do this so I said, ‘yes, sure.’ “

“Well, the regular training course (at the radio school at Univ. of Wis.) was two months, and then we had to have two months extra for communications.”

“We had, of course, a test at the end to see how fast you could do the code.  I got it up to twenty-two words a minute, a third class rating.  Otherwise you didn’t get a rating.”

“I got Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego…”

“The chief was really in charge of our office and he had a really hard time adjusting to the WAVES.  He’d had these seventeen year old sailors before that he could just boss around.  We were much better at the work.  I think a lot of the girls were more emotional about things.  He had a hard time with that…”

“We didn’t really use the Morse Code after all our training…teletype had just come in and they used that.  There was something called the “Fox” schedule which got sent out from Washington all the time to all the navy stations and you had to sit there and take that down (in Morse Code).”

“…I applied (for a commission) as soon as they opened it up.  I was almost the last class at Smith.  (U.S. Naval Midshipman’s School, Women’s Reserve, Smith College)”

“…it was really quite much of a repeat of Wisconsin  We had to learn how to operate the coding machines, which were classified.”

“(I worked in) the federal building downtown (San Francisco), which is communications headquarters for the whole 12th Naval District.”

“It was just coding.  A desk where you routed messages and that was…very busy, finding where the messages came from and where they should go.  If they said Top Secret, you were supposed to get somebody higher up to come finish it.”


-Emily Stone Cocroft, in an oral history conducted by Dr. Evelyn Cherpak, Naval War College, 1996.