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What did WAVES stand for in World War 2?

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June 18, 2013 7:26PM

The WAVES were a World War II-era division of the U.S. Navy that consisted entirely of women. The name of this group is an acronym for "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service" (as well as an allusion to ocean waves); the word "emergency" implied that the acceptance of women was due to the unusual circumstances of the war and that at the end of the war the women would not be allowed to continue in Navy careers.

The WAVES began in August 1942, when Mildred H. McAfee was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander, the first female commissioned officer in U.S. Navy history, and the first director of the WAVES. This occurred two months after the WACS (Women's Army Corps) was established and Eleanor Roosevelt convinced Congress to authorize a women's component of the Navy- the WAVES. Within a year the WAVES were 27,000 strong. A large proportion of the WAVES did clerical work but some took positions in the aviation community, Judge Advocate General's Corps, medical professions, communications, intelligence, storekeeper, science and technology.

The WAVES did not accept African-American women into the division until late 1944, at which point they trained one black woman for every 36 white women enlisted in the WAVES.