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Miriam Miller joins the WAVES

July 30, 1942

On July 30, 1942, the U.S. government established the Navy WAVES, or Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, program. Though Navy women would not be allowed to serve outside the continental U.S., or even to go to sea, the military hoped that the recruitment of 10,000 women, who would work in onshore bases, would free sufficient numbers of men to fight overseas. Although women had served as nurses in the navy as early as the Spanish-American War, and officially in the Navy Nurse Corps since 1908, the WAVES program was by far the largest-scale effort to recruit women to active duty in the Navy. In the WAVES program, thousands of women performed nearly every possible job at over 500 naval stations through the Second World War. As military leaders had hoped, they enabled male officers and enlisted men to staff the ships that were responsible for the Allied victory in the Pacific theatre.

Among the earliest group of women to enlist in the WAVES was Miriam Miller. Although her parents felt that military nursing "wasn't the life for a nice Jewish girl," Miller enlisted soon after her graduation from the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital School of Nursing, in Pennsylvania. She was assigned first to the Great Lakes Naval Station and then to the San Diego Naval Hospital. Later, when the Navy relaxed its prohibition on women serving outside the continental U.S., she went to Guam, where she cared for soldiers injured in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Active in veterans' affairs after the war, Miller was elected President of the Jewish War Veterans National Ladies Auxiliary in 1961.

Sources: National Museum of American Jewish Military History, www.nmajmh.org.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Miriam Miller joins the WAVES." (Viewed on November 28, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/30/1942/miriam-miller>.

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