Navy Help - History

Navy Help - History

The mission of the Navy Reserve is to provide strategic depth and deliver operational capabilities to the Navy and Marine Corps team, and Joint forces, in the full range of military operations from peace to war.

The Reserve consists of 59,152 officers and enlisted personnel who serve in every state and territory as well as overseas as of September 2020.

Selected Reserve (SELRES) Edit

The largest cohort, the SELRES, have traditionally drilled one weekend a month and two weeks of annual training during the year, receiving base pay and certain special pays (e.g., flight pay, dive pay) when performing Inactive Duty Training (IDT, aka "drills"), and full pay and allowances while on active duty for Annual Training (AT), Active Duty for Training (ADT), Active Duty for Operational Support (ADOS), Active Duty for Special Work (ADSW), or under Mobilization (MOB) orders or otherwise recalled to full active duty.

Every state, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico, [2] has at least one Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC, formerly the Naval Reserve Center), staffed by Full Time Support (FTS) personnel, where the SELRES sailors come to do their weekend drills. The size of these centers varies greatly, depending on the number of assigned reservists. They are intended mostly to handle administrative functions and classroom style training. However, some NOSCs have more extensive training facilities, including damage control trainers and small boat units. Some NOSCs are co-located on existing military facilities, but most are "outside-the-wire", stand alone facilities that are often the only U.S. Navy representation in their communities or even the entire state. Because of this, NOSCs outside the fleet concentration areas are also heavily tasked to provide personnel, both FTS staff and SELRES, for participation in Funeral Honors Details. This service provided to the local community is one of the NOSC's top two priority missions (the other being training and mobilization of SELRES). [3]

Those SELRES assigned to front-line operational units, such as Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers, Naval Flight Surgeons and enlisted personnel assigned to Navy Reserve or Active-Reserve Integrated (ARI) aviation squadrons and wings, or personnel assigned to major combatant command, Fleet and other major staff positions, are typically funded for far more duty than the weekend per month/two weeks per year construct, often well in excess of 100-man-days per year. SELRES have also performed additional duty in times of war or national crisis, often being recalled to full-time active duty for one, two or three or more years and deploying to overseas locations or aboard warships, as has been recently seen during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Full Time Support Edit

FTS, previously known as TAR (Training and Administration of the Reserve), serve in uniform all year round and provide administrative support to SELRES and operational support for the Navy. They are full-time career active duty personnel, but reside in the Reserve Component (RC), and perform a role similar to Active Guard and Reserve (AGR), Air Reserve Technician (ART) and Army Reserve Technician in the Air Force Reserve Command, the Air National Guard, the U.S. Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard.

Individual Ready Reserve Edit

The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) do not typically drill or train regularly, but can be recalled to service in a full mobilization (requiring a Presidential order). Some IRR personnel who are not currently assigned to SELRES billets, typically senior commissioned officers in the ranks of commander or captain for whom SELRES billets are limited, will serve in Volunteer Training Units (VTU) or will be support assigned to established active duty or reserve commands while in a VTU status. These personnel will drill for points but no pay and are not eligible for Annual Training with pay. However, they remain eligible for other forms of active duty with pay and mobilization. The largest source of IRR Officers in the Navy Reserve are commissioned from the United States Merchant Marine Academy and comprise more than 75% of the Navy's Strategic Sealift Officer Community which is focused on strategic sealift and sea-based logistics.

Mobilization Edit

Reservists are called to active duty, or mobilized, as needed and are required to sign paperwork acknowledging this possibility upon enrollment in the reserve program.

After the 11 September attacks of 2001, Reservists were mobilized to support combat operations. [4] The War on Terrorism has even seen the activation of a Reserve squadron, the VFA-201 Hunters, flying F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, which deployed on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). Additionally, more than 52,000 Navy Reservists have been mobilized and deployed to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, including more than 8,000 who have done a second combat tour. They have served alongside Army, Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard and service personnel from other countries, performing such missions as countering deadly improvised explosive devices, constructing military bases, escorting ground convoys, operating hospitals, performing intelligence analysis, guarding prisoners, and doing customs inspections for units returning from deployments.

Reflecting the importance of Reservists in the naval history of the United States, the first citizen sailors put to sea even before the Continental Congress created the Continental Navy, forerunner of today's U.S. Navy. On 12 June 1775, [5] inspired to act after hearing the news of Minutemen and British regulars battling on the fields of Lexington and Concord, citizens of the seaside town of Machias, Maine, commandeered the schooner Unity and engaged the British warship HMS Margaretta, boarding her and forcing her surrender after bitter close quarters combat. In the ensuing years of the American Revolution, the small size of the Continental Navy necessitated the service of citizen sailors, who put to sea manning privateers, their far-flung raids against the British merchant fleet as important as the sea battles of John Paul Jones in establishing the American naval tradition.

Following the American Revolution, the expense of maintaining a standing navy was deemed too great, resulting in the selling of the last Continental Navy ship in 1785. However, attacks by Barbary pirates against American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea prompted a change in course in 1794. A navy that helped give birth to the nation was now deemed essential to preserving its security, which faced its most serious threat during the War of 1812. Not only did reservists raid British commerce on the high seas, but they also outfitted a fleet of barges called the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla in an effort to defend that vital body of water against British invasion. Though overwhelmed by an enemy superior in numbers, these men, most recruited from Baltimore, continued to wage war on land, joining in the defense of Washington, D.C.

Having fought against a foreign power, naval reservists faced a much different struggle with the outbreak of the Civil War, which divided a navy and a nation. Within days of the attack, President Abraham Lincoln authorized an increase in the personnel levels of the Navy, which assumed an important role in the strategy to defeat the Confederacy with a blockade of the South and a campaign to secure control of the Mississippi River. By war's end the Navy had grown from a force numbering 9,942 in 1860 to one manned by 58,296 sailors. A total of 101,207 men from twenty-one states enlisted during the war and volunteers were present during some of the storied naval engagements of the American Civil War, [5] including serving in Monitor during her battle with CSS Virginia and the daring mission to destroy the Confederate ironclad CSS Albermarle. The latter action resulted in the awarding of the Medal of Honor to six reserve enlisted men.

With the lack of any major threat to the United States in the post-Civil War years, the U.S. Navy took on the appearance and missions of the force it had in 1860. Then came publication of naval theorist Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan's landmark study The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, which in part prompted a modernization of the U.S. fleet and brought some of the first calls for an organized naval reserve to help man these more advanced ships. In the meantime, state naval militias represented the Navy's manpower reserve, demonstrating their capabilities during the Spanish–American War in which they assisted in coastal defense and served aboard ship. Militiamen from Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, and Maryland manned four auxiliary cruisers—Prairie, Yankee, Yosemite, and Dixie—seeing action off Cuba. All told, some 263 officers and 3,832 enlisted men of various state naval militias answered the call to arms. [6]

As successful as the state naval militias were in the Spanish–American War, which made the United States a world power, events unfolding in Europe following the turn of the century demonstrated that a modern war at sea required a federal naval reserve force. The first formally funded naval reserve force was organized around the United States Merchant Marine with the formation of the Merchant Marine Reserve, then called the Naval Auxiliary Reserve, in 1913. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his assistant, a young New Yorker named Franklin D. Roosevelt, launched a campaign in Congress to appropriate funding for such a force. Their efforts brought passage of legislation on 3 March 1915, creating the Naval Reserve Force, whose members served in the cockpits of biplanes and hunted enemy U-boats during the Great War. [7]

Though the financial difficulties of the Great Depression and interwar isolationism translated into difficult times for the Naval Reserve, the organizational structure persevered and expanded with the creation of Naval Aviation Cadet program and the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. When World War II erupted on 1 September 1939, the Naval Reserve was ready. By the summer of 1941, virtually all of its members were serving on active duty, their numbers destined to swell when Japanese planes roared out of a clear blue sky over Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Navy reserve sailors from Minnesota aboard the USS Ward fired the first U.S. shots of World War II by sinking a Japanese mini-submarine outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor. Over the course of the ensuing four years, the Navy would grow from a force of 383,150 to one that at its peak numbered 3,405,525, the vast majority of them reservists, including five future U.S. presidents. [5]

The end of World War II brought a different struggle in the form of the Cold War, which over the course of nearly five decades was waged with the haunting specter of nuclear war. Cold War battlegrounds took naval reservists to Korea, where a massive mobilization of "Weekend Warriors" filled out the complements of ships pulled from mothballs and in some cases sent carriers to sea with almost their entire embarked air groups consisting of Reserve squadrons. Other calls came during the Berlin Crisis and Vietnam, and with the defense build-up of the 1980s, presided over by Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, a naval reservist, the Naval Reserve not only expanded, but also took steps towards greater interoperability with the active component with respect to equipment. Yet, the divisions between the active and reserve cultures remained distinct.

This began to change in the 1990s as over 21,000 Naval Reservists supported the Persian Gulf War's Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, which coincided with the ongoing collapse of the Soviet Union. Since that time, whether responding to the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia or the threat of world terrorism, the latter coming to the forefront in the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, the Naval Reserve transformed from a force in waiting for massive mobilization to an integral component in carrying out the mission of the U.S. Navy. In 2005, the U.S. Naval Reserve was redesignated as the U.S. Navy Reserve.

As Admiral William J. Fallon stated, "We must remember that the Reserves, which represent twenty percent of our warfighting force, are absolutely vital to our Navy's ability to fight and win wars now and in the future."

Commanders Edit

Office of the Chief of Naval Reserve was established as Director of Naval Reserve, with the consolidation of the Navy Air and Surface Reserve headquarters organizations at the Naval Support Activity, NAS New Orleans, Louisiana in April 1973. Prior to August 1989, all of the Flag Officers listed were active duty officers in the Regular Navy. In August 1989, RADM James E. Taylor became the first Reserve officer to hold the post. In September 1992 RADM Taylor was relieved, in turn, by RADM Thomas F. Hall, another active duty officer in the Regular Navy. In September 1996, RADM Hall was relieved by another Reserve officer, RADM G. Dennis Vaughan. All subsequent Flag Officers in this role have been Reserve officers. [8]

List of Commanders
Tenure begin Tenure end Rank Name
Apr 1973 Aug 1974 VADM Damon W. Cooper
Aug 1974 Sep 1978 VADM Pierre N. Charbonnet, Jr.
Sep 1978 Oct 1982 RADM Frederick F. Palmer
Oct 1982 Nov 1983 RADM Robert F. Dunn
Nov 1983 May 1987 RADM Cecil J. Kempf
Nov 1987 Aug 1989 RADM Francis N. Smith
Aug 1989 Sep 1992 RADM James E. Taylor
Sep 1992 Sep 1996 RADM Thomas F. Hall
Sep 1996 Oct 1998 RADM G. Dennis Vaughan
Oct 1998 Oct 2003 VADM John B. Totushek
Oct 2003 Jul 2008 VADM John G. Cotton
Jul 2008 Aug 2012 VADM Dirk J. Debbink
Aug 2012 Sep 2016 VADM Robin R. Braun
Sep 2016 Aug 2020 VADM Luke M. McCollum
Aug 2020 Incumbent VADM John B. Mustin

Persons who enlist in the Active duty program first sign a contract to enter the Ready Reserve for a period of time that coincides with time served as Active Duty. Upon separation from Active Duty, members may still be obligated by their reserve contract if it has not expired. The remainder of the contract may be served as a member of the Selected Reserve or the Individual Ready Reserve. [9]

Prior service enlistees may be able to affiliate with the Navy Reserve in their active duty rating (job specialty) and paygrade. [10]

Non-prior service enlistees are sent to Initial Active Duty Training (IADT), also called boot camp, located at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois (same location as Active Duty training) and qualify for a specific billet (job) in order to make their rate permanent. Very few ratings are available to non-prior service personnel. Based upon their skill sets, members will enter into service at paygrades E-1 through E-3. Although non-prior service recruits are paid from their first day at the advanced pay grade, they are not entitled to wear the insignia signifying their rank until they successfully complete boot camp. After graduating from boot camp, the reservist usually trains at a Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) [11] again to complete the final "Phase IV" requirements. After that, he or she is sent to a reserve unit.

Typically, the Reservist is required to drill one weekend every month and spend a consecutive two-week period every year at a regular Navy base or on board a ship. While training either for just a weekend or during the two weeks, the Reservist is on active duty and the full spectrum of rules and regulations, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice, apply.

United States Navy reservists are allowed to serve simultaneously in the United States Navy Reserve and in the naval militia of their state of residence however, when called into federal service, reservists are relieved from service and duty in the naval militia until released from active duty. [12]

  • Under the new system, drilling reservists will pay $47.90 a month for self-only coverage, or $210.83 a month for self and family coverage. This replaces the complex qualification rules previously in place for Reservists receiving Tricare coverage. With the new rule, the only requirement is being in SelRes, meaning the sailor drills a minimum of two days (typically one weekend) each month. [13]
  • Navy Reservists qualify for the Montgomery G.I. Bill, which covers graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational and technical school training offered by an institute for higher learning that has been approved for G.I. Bill benefits, tuition assistance, and licensing and certification testing reimbursement. On-the-job training, apprenticeship, correspondence, flight, and preparatory courses might also be covered. With more than 90 days of qualifying accumulated active duty service, Navy Reservists can qualify for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
  • Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) is a program extended to the spouses and dependent children of members insured under the SGLI program. FSGLI provides up to a maximum of $100,000 of insurance coverage for spouses, not to exceed the amount of SGLI the insured member has in force, and $10,000 for dependent children. Spousal coverage is issued in increments of $10,000.
  • Reservists and immediate family members with dependent ID cards are allowed to shop at all U.S. military base commissaries (super markets) and base/post exchanges.
  • The Heroes Earning Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (HEART) makes permanent two important tax code provisions contained in the Pension Protection Act of 2006. The first provision created an exception for mobilized Reservists to make early withdrawals from retirement plans without triggering an early withdrawal tax. The second provision allows a Reservist who received a qualified distribution to contribute the funds to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), during the two-year period beginning after the end of his or her active duty period. The IRA dollar limitations will not apply to any contribution made following this special repayment rule.
  • The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal law intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard or other "uniformed services" are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty and are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. The federal government is to be a "model employer" under USERRA. [14]
  • Reservists receive the same promotion opportunities as active duty sailors except they compete against other Reservists.
  • Reservists holding their military ID cards are also entitled to receive military discounts at airlines, restaurants, home improvement stores, etc. like their active duty counterparts.
  • Retired Navy Reservists qualify for Veterans Preference if mobilized under US Code, Title 10 or if they have completed more than 180 days of continuous active duty. [15]

In the 1954 Paramount Pictures film (based on the 1953 James A. Michener novel), The Bridges at Toko-Ri, actor William Holden's character, LT Harry Brubaker, is a highly experienced Naval Aviator and combat veteran of World War II. In the early 1950s, now a civilian attorney and an officer in the Naval Reserve, he is involuntarily recalled to active duty to fly carrier-based F9F Panther jet fighters during the Korean War. Shot down by antiaircraft fire while on a strike mission, a Navy helicopter attempts to rescue him when it, too, is disabled by ground fire. Both Brubaker and the helicopter crew are killed while trying to defend themselves against advancing North Korean and Communist Chinese ground troops.

At least three characters in popular TV shows were officers in the Naval Reserve. These were Commander Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-O, Captain R. Quincy, Medical Corps of Quincy, M.E., and Commander Thomas Magnum, a SEAL officer of Magnum PI. They were veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, respectively.

In Simpson Tide, a 1998 episode of The Simpsons, Homer joins the Naval Reserve. He becomes commander of a submarine after accidentally firing the captain out of a torpedo tube, and subsequently receives a dishonourable discharge for his actions. [16]


I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. [1]

The oath is for an indeterminate period no duration is specifically defined.

Officers of the National Guard of the various States, however, take an additional oath:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State (Commonwealth, District, Territory) of ___ against all enemies, foreign and domestic that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of the State (Commonwealth, District, Territory) of ___, that I make this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the Office of [grade] in the Army/Air National Guard of the State (Commonwealth, District, Territory) of ___ on which I am about to enter, so help me God. [3]

Commissioned officers O-1 (second lieutenant or ensign) through O-10 (general or admiral) and W-2 through W-5 (chief warrant officers) are commissioned under the authority of the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the United States Senate warrant officers (W-1) receive a warrant under the authority of their respective service secretary (e.g., the Secretary of the Army or the Secretary of the Navy) National Guard officers are additionally committed to the authority of the governor of their state. They may be activated in the service of their state in time of local or state emergency in addition to federal activation. Reserve officers may only be activated by the President of the United States.

Air Force Edit

Officers of the United States Air Force take the following oath: [4] [5]

I, (state your name), having been appointed a (rank) in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution Of the United States against all enemies, Foreign and domestic, that I bear true faith and allegiance to the same that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God. (optional)

Enlisted members of the United States Air Force take the oath of enlistment:

I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. (optional)

The first oaths of office were given to those serving under the Continental Army, beginning in 1775. A candidate had to not only name the 13 states, but also swear to keep them "free, independent and sovereign states and declare no allegiance to George the third, king of Great Britain" as well as "defend the United States against King George, his heirs and successors, and his and their abettors, assistants and adherents".

It was first updated in September 1776, after the Declaration of Independence, to swear to be “true to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies opposers whatsoever and to observe and obey the orders of the Continental Congress and the orders of the Generals and officers set over me by them".

This was changed in 1789 to place allegiance to the Constitution of the United States at the beginning of the oath. It remained relatively unchanged until the 1860s. At this point, the reference to "them" was replaced with "it" to reflect the realities of the divided nation during the American Civil War, as well as the shifting attitude of viewing the United States as one entity rather than a collection of smaller ones.

In 1884, it was simplified to having the candidate "solemnly swear (or affirm) to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic to bear true faith and allegiance to the same to take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

U.S. Navy SEALs and their companion Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) have become an ubiquitous component of the on-going war against terrorism on a world-wide basis, yet, until recently, they have remained predominately and uniquely obscure. As in past conflicts, they prefer obscurity however, unlike past conflicts, they have become increasingly a focus of national interest particularly since the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk ship Alabama, and the raid at Abbottabad, Pakistan, where they killed Osama bin Laden the world’s foremost terrorist.

Origins of Naval Special Warfare: WWII

The origins of Navy SEALs actually began with specially organized maritime commando units during World War II, where legacy capabilities were adopted and remain embodied in today’s SEAL Teams.
Read more.

Commemorating The Birthplace of UDT-SEAL Teams: Waimanalo, Hawaii

It is a little known fact that the foremost precursors of today’s Navy SEALs, the Pacific Underwater Demolition Teams, originated on Oahu’s windward coast at Waimanalo Beach in December, 1943. Two years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, UDT-1 and UDT-2 were formed at Amphibious Training Base (ATB) Waimanalo, which was situated in proximity of today’s Bellows Air Force Station (AFS). The Museum is supporting the creation of a Memorial to commemorate this history and honor all of the Pacific Underwater Demolition Teams. The Memorial will provide a permanent gathering place for current and future SEALs to enjoy, whether for family outings or private Team ceremonies in a secured area.
Learn more here.

The First Airborne Frogmen: Divers First Take to the Air

Today, basic and advanced parachuting in the SEAL, SDV and SWCC Teams is routine and an accepted part of doing business. While the parachuting lineage of today’s Naval Special Warfare forces can be traced to the early 1950s, there was one unsung hero in World War II, who by virtue of training and operations was likely the first individual in the United States to ever conduct the full range of missions considered core to the SEAL Teams.
Jump in here.

History of the Navy SEALs: UDT in Korea

After World War II, the Underwater Demolition Teams next saw action during the Korean War, where these Navy frogmen expanded their expertise in demolitions to innovate a variety of land capabilities now standard among modern commandos. Read how, from the start of the Korean War in 1950, to the Inchon Landings, to the armistice in July, 1953, Navy UDT teams demonstrated remarkable versatility, laying the groundwork for what would eventually evolve into the Navy SEALs.
More here.

Genesis of the U.S. Navy’s SEa, Air, Land (SEAL) Teams

It has been often printed that President John F. Kennedy directed establishment of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Teams for activities in Vietnam and, while that is a good urban legend, it’s not at all true.
Read about the origins of the SEAL Teams here.

Before the First Mercury Splashdown

In 1958-1959, Navy Frogmen from Underwater Demolition Unit TWO (UDT-TWO) in Little Creek, VA supported NASA in two separate, but related long-forgotten, undocumented events.
Read the seldom told story here.

UDTs and the Space-Flight Programs

Like most activities conducted by UDT between the wars, they went unnoticed and unrecognized. From the beginning of America’s manned space program in the late 1950’s, NASA decided to utilize water landings for spacecraft and crews returning from their flights. The fledgling space agency relied heavily on the UDTs to help establish an effective astronaut survival and recovery program. Long before America’s first manned space flight in May 1961, UDT personnel were training the Mercury Seven astronaut corps how to safely egress their capsule after it splashed down in the ocean. Read more

The Leap Frogs: Origins of the Navy SEAL Parachuting Exhibition Team

Freefall Parachuting, also referred to as Sky Diving or Sport Parachuting, is the art of exiting from an aircraft at a high altitude, stabilizing the body during a delayed fall, executing various maneuvers, safely opening the parachute at a given time over a given ground reference point and guiding the parachute so as to land on a specific target. With today’s technology, training and expertise, this art form has exceeded the wildest expectations of those UDT SEAL pioneers of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, and no one does it better than today’s “Leap Frogs.”
Take the leap here.

SEAL History: Vietnam–The Men With Green Faces

Shortly after being established in January 1962, SEAL Team ONE deployed CPO Robert Sullivan and CPO Charles Raymond to take initial surveys and make preparations for training indigenous South Vietnamese in the tactics, techniques, and procedures of maritime commandos.
More on Navy SEALs in Vietnam.

SEAL History: Navy SEALs in Grenada Operation URGENT FURY

In 1983, tensions between the U.S. and the tiny Island-nation of Grenada caused the U.S. to invade the island to ensure the safety of the U.S. citizens living there. SEAL Teams were attached to the U.S. forces to aid in the assault. This would be the SEALs first introduction to combat since Vietnam.
More on the invasion here.

U.S. Navy SEALs and the Achille Lauro Mission

On October 7, 1985 four heavily armed Palestinian terrorists hijacked the ship in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Some 320 crewmembers and 80 passengers were taken hostage. Read the story of what happened when highly trained U.S. Navy SEAL assault forces were launched from the U.S. to capture or kill the terrorists before they could harm any of the Achille Lauro passengers or crew. Read more

Operation JUST CAUSE: Navy SEALs in Panama

On the night of 19 December 1989 the United States invaded Panama. During the invasion, U.S. Navy SEALs were tasked with two missions: (1) disable a boat in which President General Manuel Noriega might use to escape and, (2) disable Noriega’s Learjet at Patilla Field – to also prevent him from escaping. The boat attack went well – it was indeed “disabled.” In typical SEAL fashion however, so many explosives were placed under the hull that one engine was never found!
Read more

Global War on Terror

On September 11, 2001, commonly known as 9/11, nineteen terrorists from the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against U.S. targets. Two planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and the fourth plane was heroically forced down by its passengers in an open field in Somerset County, PA.

These attacks resulted in 2,996 deaths and triggered the Global War on Terror. Navy SEALs and other Special Operations Forces (SOF) were immediately called upon to play key roles in the War on Terror. Fighting this new kind of enemy required SEALs to both utilize their traditional skills and broaden their operational capabilities for targeted missions.

Today’s SEALs

Today there are 10 active-duty SEAL Teams, each made up of more than 200 men and women (SEALs and support and mission-enabling personnel), and each commanded by an 0-5 commander. Two additional SEAL Teams have been organized within the Naval Reserve Component.

“SEALs have survived from the earliest days because of the hallmarks of success and operating tenets adopted by them through the actions and activities of their legacy brothers in NCDU, Scouts and Raiders, OSS Maritime, and Underwater Demolition Teams. SEALs are and will remain unique among all special operations forces, because it is they who are called upon when tasks need to be carried out clandestinely where there is a high security risk or if the task is a particularly difficult or delicate one, where operations involve working in small numbers under isolated, unsupported, and/or hostile conditions, and where the approach to the target is on or under the water.” – CDR SEAL (Ret) Tom Hawkins

Helping with the health care needs of Navy and Marine Corps families

By the early 1920s, one of the biggest needs for Society loans and grants was medical expenses for dependents. At the time, the military only provided health care to active duty service members. To help with health care needs of spouses and children, the Society hired its first registered nurse in 1922. She provided in-home nursing assistance and guidance on caring for babies and children. Today, our visiting nurses still make house calls to answer medical questions and visit newborns.

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According to food industry lore, a young naval officer who managed the canteen in the New Hebrides during World War II did some finagling to trade a jeep for an aircraft carrier’s ice cream freezer. He then began to experiment with tropical flavors and later used the recipes to start a business with his brother-in-law. Naming their ice cream company after themselves, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins would become quite successful.

Navy eLearning (NeL)

Navy eLearning (NeL) delivers computer-based learning designed to enhance your professional and personal growth.

To log in to NeL via the My Navy Portal click here. Click on Quick Links, then click Navy e-Learning and then go to Online courses.

  • You may complete NeL courses in the connected environment (via the Internet) or in the disconnected environment (provided by the shipboard NIAPS server).
  • In the Internet environment, the NeL home page links to mandatory training, thus providing a listing and direct access to courses you are required to complete.
  • On the afloat NIAPS server, the NeL home page provides lists of courses available (or not available) on the ship or submarine.

Use Navy eLearning (NeL) to enroll in and complete Navy Schoolhouse, Professional Military Education (PMW), General Military Training (GMT), and Information Assurance courses.

To log in to NeL on surface ships with a NIAPS server installed, go to NKO at Sea. On the Learning tab, click Navy e-Learning and then go to Online courses.

To find assistance or help contact your command Training Officer (TRAINO).

* NKO was retired on April 14th 2017. NKO functions are now in My Navy Portal (MNP). MNP is an all new system that allows Sailors to “Self Service” manage their careers from hire to retire.

Direct access to the online Navy e-Learning (NeL) management system website will be available at a new web address beginning October 23, 2017.

The direct NeL link of is available 24/7 and will take Sailors directly to the ‘My Learning’ and ‘Course Catalog’ tabs of the NeL learning management system after logging on.

Although direct access to NeL is available through the internet, a Common Access Card (CAC) is still required for NeL login. Courses on NeL have been standardized to run using the Internet Explorer browser.

Sailors depend on NeL to help advance their careers and stay current with training requirements. Courses range from general military training to specific training for individual units. The site also contains an individual’s training history where completion certificates can be obtained. To find certificates for completed courses, click on the ‘Open My Training History’ link located above the ‘Show Individual Courses’ and ‘Show Curricula’ tabs.

Trainees using NeL complete over five million online courses a year, from a comprehensive catalog of 12,500 distance learning courses. The Naval Education and Training Command relies on NeL for use in schoolhouses for individual skills and skill refresher training.

To access NeL through a link on My Navy Portal (MNP), select the “Professional Resources” drop-down menu, then “Navy e-learning Online Courses.”

Navy Seabees Built and Fought in Vietnam

On the morning of July 1, 1967, Chief Petty Officer Joseph Herrara of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 was driving a truck near Da Nang Air Base when a lone Viet Cong soldier fired a poisonous dart that shattered a window and caused a deep gash in the chief’s arm. Realizing he was under attack, Herrara switched off the engine and got out. As he ran toward the back of the truck, a bullet struck his belt loop. He drew his pistol and made his way to a ditch across the road. He spotted the Viet Cong and fired four rounds before chasing him. The Viet Cong threw a grenade, and Herrara hit the ground, waiting for an explosion that didn’t come. He slowly rose and inspected the grenade its safety pin was still partially in place. The Navy construction man had survived the sudden attack.

Two years earlier, on June 10, 1965, steelworker Petty Officer 2nd Class William C. Hoover from the same battalion was less fortunate. When Viet Cong attacked the U.S. Army Special Forces camp at Dong Xoai, about 55 miles northeast of Saigon, Hoover was wounded in the initial mortar shelling but continued firing and was killed later in the battle. Posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a “V” device for valor, Hoover was the first person from the Navy’s construction battalions—abbreviated CBs and called “Seabees”—killed in the Vietnam War.

Trained for combat as well as construction, Seabees frequently found themselves in the thick of the fighting and just as often distinguished themselves with their heroism. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., includes 85 Seabees among its list of war dead—a tribute to their motto, “We build, we fight,” which is symbolized in their logo of a bee holding a wrench, hammer and machine gun.

I served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 as a swift boat maintenance and repair electrician aboard the landing craft repair ship USS Krishna. We were anchored near An Thoi, a fishing village on the southern tip of Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand. When the site became the home of the first swift boat division in Vietnam in December 1965, the Seabees were short on virtually everything needed to build the base, so the Krishna served as their supply depot. That all changed after Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze visited in 1966. After living in a tent for a few days and taking part in some swift boat patrols, Nitze made sure the Navy delivered the materials needed to make life at least a little more bearable. In short order, the Seabees, with a hand from the Krishna and swift boat crews, had the buildings up and occupied, including Quonset huts, the military’s old standby in prefabricated metal structures used for officers housing, storage and recreation.

The Seabees at An Thoi were continuing a tradition that began in the summer of 1940 when the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks began to build Naval Air Station Quonset Point, near Davisville, Rhode Island. The new huts were designed in two primary sizes—20 feet by 48 feet and 40 feet by 100 feet—and could be connected side-by-side and end-to-end, offering numerous configurations.

Assistance to local communities
was a priority for Seabees, who trained Vietnamese in construction techniques. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

In the 1930s, as Japan’s expansion in the Pacific increased the prospects for war, the Navy had begun building bases on islands in the region. The work was initially done by civilian construction contractors, but after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor pushed the United States’ into war, the Navy needed to replace the civilian workers with military construction personnel who could engage in combat if necessary.

On Jan. 5, 1942, Navy officials authorized the Bureau of Yards and Docks to organize battalions of armed military construction workers. Within days, men just out of basic training gathered at Quonset Point to learn how to use construction equipment and build the huts before shipping off to Charleston, South Carolina, where they established the Navy’s first construction unit on Jan. 21. Although called a construction battalion, the unit comprised only 250-300 men—not much bigger than a company. One week later they shipped out to build a fueling station on Bora Bora. The men, initially dubbed “Bobcats,” after the operation’s code name, reached Bora Bora on Feb. 17.

The Navy officially named its construction battalions “Seabees,” on March 5, 1942. Ten days later in Norfolk, Virginia, the Seabees formed their first true battalion-sized unit with a headquarters organization and four companies, totaling about 1,000 men. In April the battalion split into two detachments, and each sailed to different islands in the Pacific. Although the first Seabees went to the war zone with little more than basic training, by the end of June 1942, the Navy had established “advance base depots” for advanced military and construction training in Davisville Port Hueneme, north of Los Angeles and Gulfport, Mississippi.

During World War II, about 325,000 Seabees served on six continents and 300 islands. Their gallantry caught the attention of Republic Pictures Corp., which released The Fighting Seabees, starring John Wayne, in January 1944.

Rapid postwar demobilization left the Seabee force with just 2,800 men at the onset of the Korean War on June 25, 1950. The Navy quickly put about 10,000 members of the Naval Reserve Seabee program on active duty, and Seabees were among Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s troops who landed at Inchon on Sept. 15, 1950, and forced a North Korean retreat. An armistice that stopped the fighting and set up a demilitarized zone was signed on July 27, 1953.

Three years later, in the summer of 1956, a team of Seabees arrived in the Republic of Vietnam, created just two years earlier when the country was split into a communist North and noncommunist South after French colonial rule ended. The Seabees’ initial task was to survey approximately 1,800 miles of current and proposed roads across South Vietnam. They worked seven days a week for two months in challenging terrain and then left Vietnam after completing their assignment. Years later, those surveys would be crucial in the construction of roads essential for U.S. military operations in the country.

In 1963, Seabee teams were once again in South Vietnam, constructing U.S. Army Special Forces camps being established to help counter the political influence and armed threats of the Viet Cong in rural areas. The Seabees also assisted civilian communities with projects that included construction of hospitals and storage facilities and digging wells for drinking water.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress in August 1964, gave President Lyndon B. Johnson the authority to send combat troops to Vietnam. On March 8, 1965, the Marines were the first ashore, landing at Da Nang in the northern part of South Vietnam. On May 7, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 10 was the first Seabee battalion in Vietnam after the introduction of combat forces, arriving to build an airfield for the Marines at Chu Lai.

Dozens of other Seabee units soon followed, including more than 20 mobile construction battalions, the 3rd Naval Construction Brigade, the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, the 32nd Naval Construction Regiment, construction battalion maintenance units 301 and 302, and amphibious construction battalions 1 and 2. Seabees served in 22 provinces from the Mekong Delta, up through the Central Highlands, to the border with North Vietnam at the Demilitarized Zone. They not only performed their assigned construction tasks for the military, but also helped teach the Vietnamese construction techniques.

Force protection was crucial for Seabee work crews in isolated and vulnerable areas. (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

Early on, the Seabees discovered that there would be many times when they had to put down their hammers and pick up their weapons. Among the most prominent gunfights in Seabee lore is the June 1965 Dong Xoai battle in which Hoover was killed. The American camp at Dong Xoai was defended by 11 Special Forces soldiers and nine members of Seabees Team 1104 from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11. Seven of the Seabees were wounded, and killed along with Hoover was Petty Officer 3rd Class Marvin Shields, a construction mechanic. Shields posthumously received the Medal of Honor for carrying a wounded man to safety and destroying a Viet Cong machine gun emplacement before dying. He was the only Seabee awarded the nation’s highest honor and the first Navy man to receive it in Vietnam.

In October 1965, the Viet Cong attacked the Marble Mountain airfield, just south of Da Nang, inflicting severe damage on U.S. aircraft and a base hospital being constructed by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 9. Eight Seabee-built Quonset huts used for X-rays, labs and surgical wards were destroyed. Two Seabees were killed and more than 90 wounded. After the attack it was—as always—“all hands on deck” to rebuild the hospital and living quarters. The Seabees accomplished that task in just three months.

FedEx Corp. CEO Frederick W. Smith, who served two tours in Vietnam as a Marine officer, worked with Seabees during the war. “I first saw the Navy Seabees’ abilities at Marble Mountain, where I was stationed in Vietnam on my second tour,” Smith recalled in 2016. “The Seabees built this airfield, bulldozing sand dunes and laying steel runways to accommodate heavy traffic. They also built a 660-tent camp and a huge mess hall, working alongside Marines under tough conditions, including enemy fire.”

By the final months of 1965 the Seabees had established large bases in Da Nang, Chu Lai and Phu Bai in South Vietnam’s northern provinces. The bases provided combat forces the support required to increase their attacks and were instrumental in defeating Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army offensives around the Demilitarized Zone and Laotian border.

As U.S. forces in South Vietnam gradually increased, so did the need for Seabees to build facilities for those troops. In mid-1965 there were 9,400 Seabees in Vietnam, and that number increased to 14,000 over the next 12 months. By 1967 there were 20,000, and over the following two years the number peaked at more than 26,000. Typically, deployed Seabees spent eight months in Vietnam, returned stateside for six months in Davisville and then went back to Vietnam for a second eight-month tour.

To support the demand for Seabees, the Navy made a concerted effort to recruit skilled construction trade workers. Using advanced pay grades as an incentive, a program for “direct procurement” of petty officers was very effective: More than 13,000 signed up.

In 1966 the Seabees were expanding the initial bases and building permanent facilities for men and equipment. They went into Quang Tri, the province closest to North Vietnam, to construct concrete bunkers overlooking the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and they built structures for the Marine base in Dong Ha, about 12 miles south of the DMZ.

The next year brought still more construction projects. An airfield in Dong Ha and Liberty Bridge south of Da Nang were on the Seabees’ endless “to do” list. Despite the challenges of working during the monsoon season, they finished the airstrip in 38 days. The bridge, more than 2,000 feet long, was completed in five months. Among the other projects in 1967 was the construction of officers housing for swift boat skippers in Chu Lai.

The ever-resourceful Seabees also created barbecue grills from modified 55-gallon drums that had drilled-out sections of deck plate installed on them for cooking hot dogs, hamburgers and even chicken. We had one at An Thoi and used it when we visited a nearby island beach.

Jacks of all trades, the Seabees performed
tasks that included constructing huts for the Marines, laying pipes, working on power distribution systems and surveying more than 1,000 miles for roads across Vietnam, a crucial job done in challenging and dangerous conditions—sometimes in enemy-held territory. (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

When the communists’ Tet Offensive began on Jan. 31, 1968, the Seabees were on the battlefield alongside the Marines and Army. Much of South Vietnam’s third-largest city, Hue, in the northern part of the country, crumbled during the struggle, and Seabees stationed about 8 miles to the south at Phu Bai were called to rebuild a critically needed concrete bridge. After enemy snipers began to fire on the construction team, it immediately formed a combat force, eliminated the sniper fire and finished the bridge. In spring 1968, the Seabees rebuilt the railroad from Da Nang to Hue, completing a project that had been halted for three years due to relentless enemy fire.

American military operations were significantly reduced after June 1969, when President Richard Nixon announced his Vietnamization policy of gradually withdrawing U.S. troops and transferring combat responsibility to the South Vietnamese. But the Seabees continued to be busy. For instance, they built coastal bases and radar operation centers in the Mekong Delta that enabled the South Vietnamese to assume coastal surveillance operations previously conducted by American swift boats.

On June 23, 1970, the last units of Seabees left Vietnam from Chu Lai’s Camp Shields, a site that had been renamed in September 1965 to honor the Medal of Honor recipient. Their work had not only assisted the military but also improved the lives of South Vietnamese civilians. They had built bridges, docks, schools and hospitals. They had dug wells and paved roads to provide access to farms and bring medical treatments to villagers. Such efforts proved the Seabees were not just fighters, but also “builders of peace.”

After his discharge from the Navy, Tom Edwards earned an engineering degree and spent most of his career as senior facilities engineer with General Dynamics-Space Systems Division in San Diego. He thanks Jack Springle of the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park and Bob Bolger and Bob Brown of the Swift Boat Sailors Association for their help with this article.

American Independence and the Naval Factor

It is now no longer necessary to bemoan a lack of maritime perspective on the American Revolution, and yet the naval war still does not receive the recognition that is its due. It is, without question, the largest and most significant naval war of the 18th century a war that is crucial in helping us to understand the path of the 18th century and the nature of revolutions and a war that enables us to question—and in many cases answer in some detail—the very nature of sea power and its relationship with history. Indeed, no other war in the entire Age of Sail provides more clues as to the influence of sea power upon history. This is a war at sea that has so many lessons to teach us that, ultimately, it helps us understand what a war at sea actually is.

Also, of course, it is a war that presents one of the most glaring conundrums in all of military history: How did 13 colonies that, at the start of the war had no navy or army, win their independence from the greatest naval power on earth? And then (now this is the really strange bit) how did they win that independence in 1782 when the Royal Navy was stronger, even, than it had been at the very start of the war? That is the question that, five years ago, first set me off on this path of research that has culminated in my latest work, The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution. As an idea it seemed perfectly incongruous. Nothing motivates me more as an historian than such a mystery, and I believe it is that mystery that makes this the most exciting and fascinating story in all of naval history.

From first gasp to last whimper the war lasted a decade it was the longest war in American history until Vietnam two centuries later it involved no fewer than 22—yes! 22—different navies and thousands of privateers from tens of different nations and was fought on five different oceans as well as on landlocked lakes and majestic rivers and ankle-deep swamps. It involved more large-scale fleet battles than any other naval war of the century, one of which was the most strategically significant naval battle in all of British, American, or French history. This was the Battle of the Chesapeake of 1781—sometimes known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes—in which a British fleet intent on rescuing British General Charles Cornwallis, who was stranded at Yorktown, failed to withstand a French attack and was forced to retreat. Without naval support, Cornwallis had no choice but to surrender, thus altering the political landscape in Britain, directly leading to the appointment of a government committed to ending the war and granting the rebellious colonies their independence.

Many fine historians have studied numerous maritime and naval themes of the war, and numerous excellent histories are now available on such various factors as the role of the French, Spanish, American, and British navies the maritime economy privateers fishermen shipping and logistics. Added to these valuable books are many hundreds of scholarly articles that touch on unique aspects of the war, and there is a bustling scene of international scholarship. All of these activities draw on an ongoing project of astonishing scale run by the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command to publish significant documents pertaining to the war at sea. This, the Naval Documents of the American Revolution series, has been running since the mid-1940s, represents knowledge accumulated over several lifetimes, and has become an interesting historical document in its own right. It now stands at 11 volumes, each well over 1,000 pages, and the works include forewords from several generations of U.S. Presidents, from Kennedy to Obama.

And yet it is not until all of these themes and primary sources are brought together, and a few more are carefully added, that one can sense just how significant this war at sea actually was and begin to see answers to some of those crucial historical questions.

Forward Presence, Panicked Populace

There are various ways to think about the relationship between sea power and the war, but here is one of the most important that reveals itself by sustained study: The obvious military narratives concern fleet battles, invasion, and blockade, but consider also the arrival of the British fleet off New York in 1776. Before it fired a single shot or unloaded a single soldier, its mere presence terrified the rebels, gave hope to the loyalists, and dramatically altered the situation in New York.

When Admiral Molyneux Shuldham’s small vanguard of 40 ships was spotted on 29 June 1776, Manhattan erupted into chaos. Alarm guns were fired and bells were rung, triggering a mass exodus, “the sick, the aged, women and children, half naked, were seen going they know not where.” 1 They certainly ended up leaving New York. By the time the British finally attacked, its population was reduced to 5,000. A matter of weeks before it had been 27,000. 2 “My God, may I never experience the like feeling again,” wrote Continental Army Colonel Henry Knox to his brother before disguising his fear by shouting at his wife, Lucy, telling her off for not having left before. 3 British sea power could disrupt marriages.

The presence of the Royal Navy in New York also triggered violence by awakening dormant pro-British supporters. New York was a hotbed of Tories who had been well aware that a strike would shortly fall on their city and who had been waiting to act until the British masts were visible. They immediately started sending supplies and intelligence to the Royal Navy fleet. There were even well-founded claims that, as soon as British warships anchored in the harbor, Royal Governor William Tryon would distribute pardons to defectors. A group of Tories planned to use the arrival of the fleet as the moment to spike rebel guns in return for pardons and bonuses. The presence of the fleet even sparked dastardly plots to kidnap and poison General George Washington. 4

The rebel response to this loyalist muscle-flexing was sudden and savage, colored and determined by the presence, rather than the action, of the British fleet. American boats patrolled the coast around Manhattan and Long Island to prevent Tories from getting across to the Royal Navy ships. Tories suspected of spying, aiding the British, or somehow threatening the Americans were caught and tortured. Washington had one suspected traitor hanged in public as a warning 20,000 people witnessed it—almost all of New York. 5

The British fleet therefore brought with it a sense of apocalypse. “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves . . . the fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage . . . of this army,” wrote Washington. 6

Time and again the presence, or even just the anticipated presence, of a naval fleet had such an effect, and the war was particularly sensitive to it. In 1778 and 1780 just the rumor that the French were sending a major fleet to America dramatically changed the war.

To understand the impact of sea power on the conflict, therefore, one must first realize that military commanders and civilians reacted not only to the reality of enemy sea power—measured in soldiers landed or cannonballs fired—but also to its promise and sometimes even to its ghost.The effects of sea power often lingered long after the fleets themselves had vanished.

Another way to think about the nature of a naval war—let’s for now call it a sailors’ war—is to consider the men actually doing the fighting and the terrain involved. It was simply impossible for anyone to travel any distance along the Eastern Seaboard of America in the 18th century without being confronted by a river, estuary, or lake, impassable without a significant maritime component and extraordinary maritime skill. And in the 18th century the problem was worse because of the lack of roads and their generally poor quality. As a result, almost every major operation in this war involved a significant maritime component.

Waterways = Highways

Rivers were to an 18th-century army as railways were to armies of the 19th century, but these were no passive, gently bubbling streams but evil and treacherous tongues of brown water whose currents could create whirlpools big enough to suck down a fully manned cutter. Figures do not survive, but it is safe to assume that during this war hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sailors drowned in rivers, or otherwise died fighting on, in, or near them.

Operating vessels in currents near shore was the ultimate test of seamanship. The slightest misjudgment could endanger the lives of all on board, let alone the success of a military operation. Historians have tended to ignore men who fought in these liminal areas between land and sea, but I have the utmost respect for them. It is often overlooked that, for all of his lack of “naval” experience and knowledge, Washington, being a son of riverine Virginia, was an experienced river boatman.

There are no boundaries between land and sea, and the historian should not construct them in his mind. Naval historians tend to make a false distinction between “inland navies” and those that disputed “command of the sea,” but contemporaries saw no difference. They simply talked of “command of the water,” an excellent phrase that has sadly gone out of use. If you are struggling to see a lake in the same terms as an ocean, stand on the shores of Lake Michigan in a storm. You will not want to go out in a boat.

Colonel Benedict Arnold’s “march” through the Maine wilderness to Quebec in 1775, one of the most famous military operations of the war, is an excellent of example of how we need to apply this mindset, for it wasn’t a march at all but was actually an amphibious operation from start to finish. His troops first sailed from Newburyport in Massachusetts to the Kennebec River in Maine in a fleet of 11 ships and then headed into the wilderness with a fleet of 220 bateaux. You can’t understand that operation nor its influence on history unless you understand the boats, their construction, and the seamanship—boat-handling or boatmanship—involved in such a Herculean task.

This focus on inland waterways, moreover, must be extended to areas far beyond North America if we are to understand how they affected the entire war. There are even direct links between the canal systems of northern France and American independence. In 1779 Britain’s decision to declare war on the Dutch Republic was intimately linked with the constant Dutch smuggling of arms to the American rebels. That year, the British discovered that the Dutch and French had nearly finished a scheme by which the former would be able to continue exporting arms to France and thence to America. A network of inland waterways linked the Dutch Republic, Belgium, and the French Channel ports with Nantes in the Bay of Biscay—a route that would deny the Royal Navy the ability to control that trade via blockade in the English Channel.

Maritime skill in all of its many forms, therefore, was important in the war indeed one of the most important parts of Washington’s army, and on several occasions the most crucial part, was a regiment of mariners from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware is the best example of the importance of maritime skill, because the scale of the challenge is so often overlooked. Its popular title is actually misleading: “Washington’s Crossings” would be far more accurate: He actually crossed the Delaware four times. After his initial retreat across the river to escape Cornwallis, Washington subsequently crossed the Delaware three times: once on the night of 25 December 1776, then back across after the Battle of Trenton on the 26th, and then back again into New Jersey on the 29th prior to the Battle of Princeton. On each occasion the entire American army, complete with horses and artillery, was loaded onto boats and ferries, transported across a swollen river packed with ice, and then disembarked. Each operation was a feat of maritime skill in its own right, and each was made possible by the presence of sailors in Washington’s army, the same men—mariners from Marblehead—who had helped the army escape from the British at Brooklyn the previous summer in a daring and stunningly successful maritime evacuation.

Sailors on Shore

As a naval historian the most fascinating discovery was that, on more than one occasion, “land” battles were contested entirely by sailors firing naval guns. The finest example of this happened at British-held Savannah, Georgia, in October 1779 when a French fleet under the comte d’Estaing unsuccessfully besieged the city. The French did so with guns deployed ashore from their warships and manned by sailors. The guns of the British defenses, moreover, were also under the control of sailors who were renowned and respected for their extraordinary skill and endurance under fire. This stage of the battle, therefore, was contested between sailors firing naval guns, but fought on shore between trenches rather than afloat between warships.

The presence, and perhaps even more so the absence, of sailors at crucial moments in crucial theaters set this war hurtling off into unexpected directions. Two British operations make this point clearly. It can be strongly argued that the surrender of the British army at Saratoga in 1777 was largely caused by the significant lack of naval command experience and personnel in what was, at the start, a naval operation down Lake Champlain. And the campaign should have been a naval op at its end, when the force could have sailed to the Hudson via Lake George rather than exposing itself in the woods of Saratoga to American soldiers. The exact opposite of this was the outstanding British attack on Charleston in 1780 when the army and navy shared command knowledge, experience, and decisions, and the personnel worked hand-in-hand to inflict the worst defeat on an American military force until 1862, when more than 12,000 Union troops surrendered to Stonewall Jackson at Harper’s Ferry.

Above all, however, a study of the American Revolution emphasises just how difficult it was to wage naval war of any type in this period and the different ways in which it was possible to experience that difficulty. Naval warfare, for example, raised unique problems at the level of strategy and inter-theater operations simply because of the slowness of communication. It would usually take at least a month for a message to travel across the Atlantic, and obviously twice as long to receive a reply, and this was not just about communication but propaganda. Often after crucial engagements, the British and Americans found themselves in a race to get news across the Atlantic, and any advantage in this contest was crucial.

The idea of a naval “strategy” as we know it was also nonexistent. In fact, there was no such word. This was not an era of men leaning over huge chart tables moving little model ships around so many here to meet this threat,so many there to put pressure on that government, so many here to defend our trade. Quite to the contrary, war planners had only a loose understanding of exactly how each theater would affect the other, and capability was so limited and unpredictable that, when combined with the slowness of communication, any real planning was far more likely to fail than succeed.

If there is one prominent theme running through the naval operations of the Revolutionary War, it is that, with only a handful of exceptions, none of them worked out as planned. The weather played an immense part. Naval warfare in the Age of Sail was always influenced by the weather, but it seems to have been particularly so, and particularly severe, for this war. All of this meant that sea power was hardly a surgical instrument of war—more of a heavy blunt club wielded by a blind and drunk weakling.

At the level of tactics, naval operations were confounded by limitations in signaling and the fact that there was no shared interservice doctrine. In essence, this meant that a fleet under one commander in one part of the world would operate with different signals, tactics, and doctrine from another fleet, though from the same nation, elsewhere in the world. It is, in fact, more helpful to think of a navy not as one navy but as numerous different navies that worked in different ways. This did not make for reliable performance. Fleets working in international alliances suffered particularly severely from this type of arrangement. It was almost impossible to get different fleets within a single navy to cooperate with each other, let alone different fleets from different navies—a very serious problem when the French allied with the Americans in 1778 and then they were joined by the Spanish in 1779.

From the point of view of the economist and administrator, navies were enormously expensive to run and very difficult to maintain at any level of strength. Men had to be found to man the ships, and they had to be bedded, clothed, and kept healthy. In some theaters, such as the Caribbean, this was a horrific task and one at which almost everyone failed, but most did so even in the comfort of home waters. In the early years of the war the Royal Navy repeatedly sent “fresh” fleets to sea from major British naval dockyards, bound for America where their weight was expected to shift the balance of the war. But with inadequate infrastructure in home waters, the fleets’ sailors departed British shores sick as dogs. The French and Spanish were simply unable to keep their men healthy for any significant period of time at all.

Old established navies like the British and French faced the same problems, but at a different scale from new ones such as the Continental Navy, which faced its own unique challenges. While the British, for example, were struggling with the problem of getting 5,000 sailors aboard a fleet's warships without them infecting each other, and the French with how to source sufficient nails to secure sheets of copper to their ships’ hulls, the Americans struggled with problems specific to fledgling navies: What rules and regulations should the men abide by at sea? How were prizes to be distributed and administered without prize courts? Even the most basic questions took up time: Who was going to design the uniform?

‘The Promise of Sea Power’

This is one of the most important themes of the American Revolution. More than anything else, the story of this war is the story of the struggle for sea power and how the difficulty of wielding it shaped the modern world. Yes, the Battle of the Chesapeake turned the conflict toward America and its allies at a crucial moment, but in many respects this example is the exception that has been used to prove the rule. It has been used time and again as an example of how the magic wand of sea power could simply be waved to bring nations and empires to their knees, but nothing could be further from the truth. By 1781 sea power had already achieved extraordinary things in the war and yet, if there was one abiding lesson, it was that any plan of any complexity was destined to fail. The conflict by then had become a maze without any exits.

And yet with every dead end, with every failure and disappointment, expectation of success achieved via sea power remained unaffected. It was almost as if the enormous investment expended on sea power gave navies the right to get away with anything and prevented any significant critical analysis. It remained the case in every country where, in spite of staggering naval expenditure, politicians who made policy had no detailed knowledge of naval affairs and few expert advisers. Chance and the weather could ruin everything as easily as bad planning. The idea of a “chain” of events is almost completely unhelpful. Events in this war were not strong and joined to each other by iron links but were flimsy, like a house of cards. There was an almost constant sense of apprehension and drama from 1774 right up until the Peace of Paris in 1783, and throughout this enormously long period, there was an almost total absence of realistic expectation attached to sea power. Its promise remained far more powerful than its reality. In a curious way, therefore, this story is a tale about blind faith—in the god of sea power. And in the subsequent decades—when Britain really began to dominate the sea in a way it had simply not been able to in the 1770s and American sea power rose phoenix-like from the fire of the Revolution—events simply cannot be understood unless one considers, carefully and in detail, exactly what had happened in the 1770s between Britain and America. It is a story that is scarcely believable even now, and at the time we know that the countries involved also struggled to come to terms with all that had transpired.

Washington himself believed that, in the future, the story of American independence would actually be considered a work of fiction: “For it will not be believed that such a force as Great Britain has employed for eight years in this Country could be barred in their plan for Subjugating it by numbers infinitely less, composed of Men oftentimes half starved always in Rags, without pay, and experiencing, at times, every species of distress which human nature is capable of undergoing.” 7

1. David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 106.

2. Richard M. Ketchum, Saratoga: Turning Point in America’s Revolutionary War (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1997), 7.

3. North Callahan, “Henry Knox: American Artillerist,” in George Athan Billias, ed., George Washington’s Generals and Opponents: Their Exploits and Leadership (Boston: Da Capo, 1994), 243. Andrew O’Shaughnessy, The Men Who Lost America: British Command During the Revolutionary War and the Preservation of the Empire (London: Oneworld Publications, 2013), 92.

4. James Thacher, A Military Journal During the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783 (Boston: Richardson and Lord, 1823), 64. Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life (New York: Penguin, 2010), 232. David McCullough, 1776 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), 133.

6. W. W. Abbot, ed., The Papers of George Washington (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993), Revolutionary War Series, vol. 5 (June–August 1776), 180.


In May 1941, Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress to establish a Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). As auxiliaries, women would serve with the Army rather than in it, and would be denied the benefits of their male counterparts. Opposition delayed the passage of the bill until May 1942. [Note 1] At the same time, the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics felt the Navy would eventually need women in uniform and had asked the Bureau of Naval Personnel, headed by Rear Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, to propose legislation as it had done during World War I, authorizing women to serve in the Navy under the Yeoman (F) classification. Nimitz was not considered an advocate for bringing women into the Navy, and the head of the U.S. Naval Reserve expressed the view that the Civil Service would be able to supply any extra personnel that might be needed. [3]

On December 9, 1941, Representative Rogers telephoned Nimitz and asked him whether the Navy was interested in some sort of women's auxiliary corps. In her book Lady in the Navy, Joy Bright Hancock quotes his reply: "I advised Mrs. Rogers that at the present time I saw no great need for such a bill". [4] Nevertheless, within days Nimitz was in touch with all Navy Department bureaus asking them to assess their needs for an equivalent to the WAAC. With few exceptions, the responses were negative, but Congressional inquiries about the Navy's plan for women continued to increase. [5]

On January 2, 1942, the Bureau of Naval Personnel, in an about-face, recommended to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox that Congress be asked to authorize a women's organization. [6] The following month, Knox recommended a women's branch as part of the Naval Reserve. The director of the Bureau of the Budget opposed his idea, but would agree to legislation similar to the WAAC bill – where women were with, but not in, the Navy. This was unacceptable to Knox. The Bureau of Aeronautics continued to believe there was a place for women in the Navy, and appealed to an influential friend of naval aviation named Margaret Chung. [7] A San Francisco physician and surgeon, Chung was known to have had an interest in naval aviation. Many of her naval friends referred to themselves as sons of Mom Chung. In Crossed Currents, the authors describe how Chung used her influence:

Having learned of the stalemate, she asked one of these [sons], Representative Melvin Maas of Minnesota, who had served in the aviation branch of the U.S. Marine Corps in World War I, to introduce legislation independently of the Navy. On 18 March 1942 he did just that. [8]

The Maas House bill was identical to the Knox proposal, which would make a women's branch part of the Naval Reserve. At the same time, Senator Raymond E. Willis of Indiana introduced a similar bill in the Senate. On April 16, 1942, the House Naval Affairs Committee reported favorably on the Maas bill. It was passed by the House the same day and sent to the Senate. [9] The Senate Naval Affairs Committee was opposed to the bill, especially its chairman – Senator David I. Walsh of Massachusetts. He did not want women in the Navy because it "would tend to break-up American homes and would be a step backwards in the progress of civilization". [7] The Senate committee eventually proposed a naval version of the WAAC, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved it, but Knox asked the president to reconsider. [7]

By mid-1942, it was apparent to the Navy that women would eventually be allowed to serve. The quandary for the organization was how to administer a women's program while fashioning it to their own liking. [9] The Navy asked women educators for assistance, first contacting Virginia C. Gildersleeve, dean of Barnard College. She suggested that Barnard professor Elizabeth Reynard become a special assistant to Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, Chief of Naval Personnel. Reynard was well known for her academic work on women in the workplace. She quickly formed the Women's Advisory Council to meet with Navy officials. Gildersleeve became the chairperson, and because of her efforts several prominent women agreed to serve on the council. They included:

    , president of Sweet Briar College , a specialist on efficiency in the workplace , president of Radcliffe College , dean of the University of Michigan , a lecturer from the West Coast
  • Marie Rogers Gates, the wife of Thomas Sovereign Gates, president of the University of Pennsylvania , dean of women at the University of North Carolina , dean of women at Duke University, who served after Elliott's resignation. [11]

The council knew the success of the program would depend on the woman chosen to lead it. A prospective candidate would need to possess proven managerial skills, command respect, and have an ability to get along with others. Their recommendation was Mildred H. McAfee, president of Wellesley College, as the future director. [11] The Navy agreed. McAfee was an experienced and respected academician, whose background would provide a measure of credibility to the idea of women serving in the Navy. [12] The task of convincing McAfee to accept and persuading the Wellesley Board of Trustees to release her was difficult, but eventually she was freed. [13]

Reynard, who was later commissioned a lieutenant in the WAVES and rose to commander, [14] was tasked with selecting a name: [12]

I realized there were two letters that had to be in it: W for women and V for volunteer, because the Navy wants to make it clear that this is a voluntary service and not a drafted service. So, I played with those two letters and the idea of the sea and finally came up with Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – WAVES. I figured the word Emergency would comfort the older admirals because it implies that we're only a temporary crisis and won't be around for keeps. [15]

On May 25, 1942, the Senate Naval Affairs Committee recommended to the president that the legislation to create a women's reserve for the U.S. Navy should parallel that of the original WAAC legislation, which decreed that women would serve with the Army rather than in it. The president called on Knox to reconsider his position, but Knox stood his ground. Advisory Council members Gildersleeve and Elliott each took it on themselves to write to the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, explaining their objections to the WAAC legislation. Roosevelt showed Elliott's letter to her husband, the president, and she sent Gildersleeve's letter on to the Undersecretary of the Navy, James V. Forrestal, a former naval aviator. Within days Forrestal replied, saying that Secretary Knox had asked the president to reconsider. On June 16, Knox informed Rear Admiral Jacobs that the president had given him authority to proceed with a women's reserve. [16]

Days later, Knox informed Senator Walsh of the president's decision, and on June 24 the Senate Naval Affairs Committee reported favorably on the bill. By July 21, the bill had passed both houses of Congress and been sent to the president, who signed it on July 30 as Public Law 689. This created the women's branch of the Navy reserve, as amended under Title V of the U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1938. [16] Less than a year later, on July 1, 1943, Congress refashioned the WAAC into the Women's Army Corps (WAC), which provided its members with similar military status as the WAVES. [2]

The law was enacted to free up officers and men for duty at sea and to replace them with WAVES at shore stations on the home front. Women could now serve in the Navy as an officer or at an enlisted level, with a rank or rate consistent with that of the regular Navy. Volunteers could only serve for the duration of the war plus six months, and only in the continental United States. They were prohibited from boarding naval ships or combat aircraft, and were without command authority, except within the women's branch. [17]

McAfee became the first director of the WAVES. She was commissioned a lieutenant commander on August 3, 1942 and was the first woman officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve. [14] She was later promoted to the rank of captain. [18] In More Than a Uniform, Winifred Quick Collins (a former WAVE officer) described Director McAfee as a born diplomat, handling difficult matters with finesse. [19] She added that McAfee played an important role in the development of policies such as how the women would be treated compared to the men with respect to assignments they would take, as well as their housing conditions, supervision, and discipline standards. [20]

In establishing the office of the director, the Bureau of Personnel did not define the responsibilities of the office, nor establish clear lines of authority. The bureau told McAfee "that she was to 'run' the women's reserve, and she was to go directly to the Chief of Naval Personnel for answers to her questions", but the decision was not made known to the operating divisions of the bureau." [21] No planning had been done in anticipation of the Women's Reserve Act. For guidance, McAfee turned to Joy Bright Hancock, a Navy Yeoman (F) during World War I, and a career writer and editor for the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics. Hancock was asked to examine the procedures employed by the Women's Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which had a complement of 6,000 members. Many of her findings were later used by the WAVES. [14]

By September 1942, another 108 women were commissioned as officers in the WAVES, selected for their educational and business backgrounds. They were drawn to the program by the Advisory Council and McAfee's reputation. Four of these women would later become the directors of the WAVES and the director of the SPARS (U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve). The new officers began their work routine with no grasp of Navy traditions, or training in the service's operating methods, which resulted in some difficulties. On September 16, the Bureau of Personnel issued a memorandum for the organization of the Women's Reserve, specifying that the director would administer the program, set policies, and coordinate work within the bureau's operating divisions. Soon, McAfee was able to bring together a capable staff, building a sound internal organization. [22]

The WAVES officers were first assigned to recruiting stations in U.S. naval districts later they were joined by enlisted personnel with recruiter training. The primary sources of publicity used were radio, newspapers, posters, brochures, and personal contacts. The focus of their advertising campaign was patriotism and the need for women to free up men for overseas duty. McAfee demanded good taste in all advertising, determined to cast the WAVES in a ladylike fashion. She said, "Advertising must appeal to conservative parents, schools, and churches as well as to the young women themselves." At the end of 1942, there were 770 officers and 3,109 enlisted women in the WAVES. By July 3, 1945, their ranks had risen to 86,291, which included 8,475 officers, 73,816 enlisted, and about 4,000 in training. [23]

The age requirement for officer candidates was 20 to 49. They had to possess a college degree, or have two years of college and two years of equivalent professional or business experience. The age requirement for enlisted personnel was 20 to 35. They had to possess a high school or a business diploma, or have equivalent experience. U.S. citizenship was required in all cases. The WAVES were primarily white (and middle class) and they represented every state in the country. The greatest numbers of WAVES came from New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio. [24]

The legislation that established the WAVES was silent with respect to race, [25] but Knox said that black WAVES would be enlisted "over his dead body". [26] After Knox's death in April 1944, his successor Forrestal moved to reform the Navy's racial policies, and on July 28 he submitted to the president a proposal to accept WAVES on an integrated basis. Aware that 1944 was an election year, Forrestal tried to compromise by offering segregated living quarters and mess facilities, but Roosevelt decided to hold it up until after the election on November 7. The Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey, criticized the administration for discriminating against African-American women during a speech in Chicago. [26] On October 19, 1944, Roosevelt instructed the Navy to accept African-American women into the WAVES. [27]

The first African-American WAVES officers were Lieutenant Harriet Ida Pickens and Ensign Frances Wills, who were commissioned on December 21, 1944. The recruitment of African-American women began the following week. [26] The plan for segregated quarters was impractical, because each recruit company contained 250 women and there were insufficient recruits to form an entire African-American company. McAfee appealed to Forrestal and he dropped the segregation requirement. By July 1945, some 72 African-American WAVES had undergone recruit training. While training was integrated, African-American WAVES experienced some restrictions, such as specialty assignments and living accommodations, which were segregated on some bases. [28] Those who stayed in the WAVES after the war were employed without discrimination, but only five remained by August 1946. [29]

The WAVES' uniforms were designed by the New York fashion house of Mainbocher their services were secured (without cost) through the efforts of Josephine Forrestal, a former fashion editor at Vogue and the wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. [30] [31] The winter uniform was made from navy blue wool, worn with a white shirt and dark blue tie. The jacket was single-breasted and unbelted, with a six-gored skirt. Included were black Oxford shoes and cap and plain black pumps, a brimmed hat, black gloves, black leather purse, and rain and winter coats. The summer uniform was similar to the winter uniform but lighter in weight, made of white material, and worn with white shoes. [32] Later, a gray-and-white-striped seersucker work uniform for summer was added, and slacks and dungarees could be worn when appropriate. [33]

Officers Edit

The Navy chose Smith College at Northampton, Massachusetts as the training site for WAVE officers. The facility offered much of what the Navy needed, and a college setting provided an appropriate training environment. [34] Smith was nicknamed USS Northampton, [35] although the official name of the training station was the United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School. Captain Herbert W. Underwood was recalled to active duty on August 13, 1942, and appointed commanding officer of the School. Underwood had a distinguished naval career and received the Navy Cross during World War I. [36] In Lady in the Navy, Joy Bright Hancock described Underwood as intelligent, enthusiastic, and good humored, and serious of purpose. [37]

Underwood and his staff quickly developed the curriculum that would hasten the transformation of civilian women into naval officers. The curriculum included: organization personnel naval history and law ships and aircraft naval communications and correspondence. A manual specifically for WAVES and their Coast Guard counterparts written by Lieutenant Commander Mary Virginia Harris detailed the military etiquette and naval knowledge that recruits were required to know. There would be two months of intensive training. This was too short a period to produce a fully trained naval officer, but the objective was to prepare the candidates with a basic understanding of the naval environment, while stressing administrative policy. It was the type of work that most officers would eventually be doing. The curriculum did not change much over the life of the training program. [38]

Following their training, the midshipmen were commissioned as ensigns in the women's branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve and in the Women's branch of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (SPARS), or as second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve. The midshipmen included 203 SPARS and 295 women of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve. [Note 2] The school closed in December 1944, after accepting 10,181 women and graduating 9,477 of them. Many of these commissioned officers were sent to specialized schools for training in communications, supply, the Japanese language, meteorology, and engineering. The courses of study were held on the college campuses of Mount Holyoke College Harvard University the University of Colorado the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the University of California and the University of Chicago. The Bureau of Ordnance also opened its schools to WAVE officers, where some of them studied aviation ordnance. Other officers attended the Naval Air Technical Training Command Schools in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Hollywood, Florida, to train as air navigation instructions. Unlike the training on the college campuses, the training offered at these facilities was coeducational. [41]

Enlisted personnel Edit

The Navy selected the campuses of Oklahoma A&M College, Indiana University, and the University of Wisconsin for both recruit and specialized training of enlisted WAVES. The training for the initial groups of enlisted women began on October 9, 1942. It soon became clear that these arrangements were unsuitable for recruit training, because of dispersed training facilities, inexperienced instructors, and the lack of esprit de corps. As a result, the Navy decided to establish one recruit training center on the campus of the Iowa State Teachers College. [42]

Captain Randall Davis was named commanding officer of the center. He arrived on December 1, 1942, two weeks before the first class of 1,050 enlisted recruits were to start their five weeks of basic training. The training routine began weekday mornings with classes and drill, and repeated in the afternoon. Free time in the evening, followed by study or instruction until Taps. Saturday morning was the Captain's Inspection, with free time the rest of the day. On Sunday, church services and free time until evening, then study hours until Taps. [43] [Note 3] On December 30, 1942, the Navy announced that recruits in training and all future recruits would be trained at Hunter College in the Bronx, New York City. Hunter College was chosen because of its space, location, ease of transportation, and the willingness of the college to make its facilities available. Captain William F. Amsden, also a recipient of the Navy Cross in World War I, was named the commanding officer. On February 8, 1943, the college was commissioned the U.S. Naval Training Center, the Bronx, and became known as USS Hunter. [44] Nine days later, approximately 2,000 recruits began their six weeks of training. [45] The boot camp training objectives for the women were intended to be similar to those of the men. The range of instruction included: Navy ranks and rate ships and aircraft of the fleet naval traditions and customs naval history and emphasis on physical fitness. [46] Between February 17, 1943 and October 10, 1945, some 80,936 WAVES, 1,844 SPARS, and 3,190 women Marines completed the training course. The SPARS and Marine reservists used the Navy's training center until the summer of 1943, at which time they established their own training centers. [45]

Of the graduating classes at Hunter, 83% went on to specialized schools to train as yeomen, radio operators, storekeepers, and cooks and bakers. The enlisted WAVES trained at Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville, Burdett College in Boston, and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The Bureaus of Aeronautics and Medicine opened their doors to the enlisted WAVES. The training in aeronautics took place at naval air stations and training centers the training for medical technicians was held at the National Medical and Great Lakes Training Centers. These facilities were also coeducational. [45]

The WAVES served in 900 shore stations in the continental United States. Initially, they were prohibited from serving on ships or outside of the country. [33] In September 1944, the Congress amended the law by allowing the WAVES to volunteer for service in the territories of Alaska and Hawaii. [47] Hawaii was the only overseas station staffed with the WAVES on a permanent basis. [48] The officers were employed in such professions as doctors, attorneys, engineers, mathematicians, and chaplains. One WAVE mathematician, Grace Hopper, was assigned to Harvard University to work on the computation project with the Mark I computer. Elsa Gardner became the only female nautical engineer in the entire U.S. Navy. Most enlisted WAVES worked in jobs traditionally performed by women, such as clerical work, health care, or storekeeping. A few took over jobs typically held by men, in occupations like aviation machinists, aviation metalsmiths, parachute riggers, control tower operators, radio operators, yeomen, or statisticians. [49]

The WAVES practiced their professions and applied their skills at many naval bureaus and stations in the United States. The Washington, D.C. area had the largest complement of WAVES some 20,000 women made up 55 percent of the Navy's personnel. The WAVES were responsible for 75 percent of the encoding and decoding of messages in the Office of Naval Operations. In the Bureau of Naval Personnel, the women made up 70 percent of the staff. In Postal Affairs, they handled 80 percent of the Navy's mail service. About 13,000 WAVES served in the Navy Hospital Corps, working in naval hospitals, stations, and dispensaries. The Bureau of Aeronautics utilized 23,000 women in Washington D.C. and around the country. The Navy used 100 WAVES as weather forecasters at naval air stations. The Bureau of Aeronautics trained and assigned them to work in gunnery instruction, navigation, and traffic control. The Bureau of Ordnance used them primarily as mathematicians and technicians. Other bureaus utilized the WAVES on a much smaller scale. By the end of the war, 18% of the naval personnel assigned to shore stations were WAVES. [49]

The mission of the WAVES was to replace the men in shore stations for sea duty, which led to some hostility from those who did not wish to be released. Sometimes the hostility was tacit, other times it was out in the open. In Crossed Currents, Ebbert and Hall recount a situation where a male officer upon greeting the WAVES officer about to work for him, told her that she was not wanted. When she asked him where her group was to be quartered, he told her that it was her problem. It was not always hostile behavior that was experienced sometimes the women were assigned roles to which they were not physically suited. Ebbert and Hall provide an example where ". two husky enlisted men reasoned that if the women sent to replace them could not do the job, then the men could keep those jobs and avoid being sent to sea. They told the women, 'get those truck tires stowed properly in the loft, and then went off to lunch, sure the women could barely lift the tires. But they returned to find the tires stowed properly. The women had rigged a pulley." In other cases, due to the contradictory attitudes of their male superiors, the women were underutilized in relation to their training, and often were only tasked out of dire need. Conversely, once the commanding officers found that they had women who proved they could properly replace the men who were not available, their prejudices were often set aside. [50]

Watch the video: Women In Service - The United States Navy - A Short History