October is certainly a month for Navy-related anniversaries: the U.S. Navy, the Naval Academy, the Dahlgren base, and the Dahlgren Heritage Museum. As such, it is also a month of firsts. About eighty years ago, on October 11, 1943, the first WAVES contingent reported to the Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground.
President Franklin Roosevelt had signed Public Law 689 on July 30, 1942, which created a women’s reserve for the navy known as Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. Before its formation, women could serve only as nurses in the navy. Now they could fill a wide range of support positions, from clerical positions to aviation instructors and engineers. Many at Dahlgren were computers before the base had computers, computing ballistic tables for guns and recording data at the gun range. Members were given full military status – unlike those who joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps – which meant that they enjoyed full benefits. Over 100,000 women served as WAVES during World War II.
To learn more about some women of Dahlgren, please visit the UMW Dahlgren Campus and see the display “Extraordinary Careers, Unique Possibilities.” Although their usual business hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, their hours are contingent upon the academic and event schedule. You can verify the hours for the day of your visit by calling (540) 663-4030. Please be mindful that classes may be in session during your visit.
Caption One: First contingent of WAVES at the Dahlgren base, on the parade field in front of Building 193. (U.S. Navy Photo)
Caption Two: Image of poster courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command. (Accession # 81-156-L)