July 30, 1942
The WAVES were established on July 30, 1942, authorizing the United States Navy to accept women into the Navy Reserve.
The United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), better known as the WAVES for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, was the World War II women’s branch of the Navy Reserve. Established on July 21, 1942 and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 30 of that year, this authorized the United States Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve both at the enlisted level and as commissioned officers, effective for the duration of the war plus six months. The purpose of this was to release officers and men for sea duty and replace them with women in shore establishments.
The notion of women serving in the Navy was not originally supported by Congress or the Navy, although some members did support the need for uniformed women during World War II.
The WAVES served at 900 stations around the United States and in Hawaii. Many officers entered fields previously held by men, such as engineers and doctors while enlisted women served in jobs from parachute riggers to administrative and clerical work with a peak strength of 86,291 members. Upon demobilization, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Fleet Admiral Ernest King all commended the WAVES for their contributions to the war effort.