Stories


Indiana Women Veterans have served in the American Revolutionary War to the present.  In the early years and in some cases in WWII these women were not recognized as military, such as the WASPS or Red Cross nurses who cared for the wounded in war time.

The stories I have posted are from women that were gracious enough to provide me with their photos, uniforms, letters, emails and a variety of other military material that will get posted as time goes on.  I realized how much it meant to them to have someone share their story  As you read, you can hear how proud they were for being able to serve their country




June (Meng) Cook
WWII WAVE
June was born in Sullivan, Indiana on June 26, 1925, and lived with her parents in Carlisle. They moved around quite a bit, and after graduating from Clinton, H.S. in 1943, she went to Indianapolis to work for RCA. RCA sent her to Purdue to learn engineering drafting and worked in the mechanical engineering department until her 20th birthday. June's dad gave her permission to join the WAVES that day, and on July 12, 1945, she boarded a train for New York City. She went to boot camp at Hunter College in the Bronx and lived in a 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with nine other WAVES. "What a time we had using the bathroom-we each had a "partner" that we took a shower with in order to get it together before lights out each night."
June had been in boot camp when the war ended in August 1945. She was in a singing platoon and they were taken on the subway down to Times Square to join the celebrations. "What a wonderful experience." They also appeared on a television program that evening.
June says the most memorable experience she had as a WAVE was a trip with the the singing platoon to the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut. The platoon had been asked to appear as "assisting artists" at the Summer Pops with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. Of course the songs were: "We are the WAVES," "Here comes the WAVES," "WAVES of the Navy," and "Anchors Away." The concert was held on a Wednesday evening, August 29, 1945, just days after World War II ended.
June had another four weeks of boot camp before she was sent to her next station of her career, but says the concert was certainly the highlight of her short WAVE careeer and one that will always be remembered.
June married a sailor, Paul Cook, June 7, 1946, and is still happily married (almost 61 years). She served from July 1945 until August 1946. She still has her WAVE navy blue dress uniform and can still get into it. June wears it for the Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs. She is a charter member of the Women in Military Service for America.

(Janet's comments)  I cannot locate June's contact information.  If anyone knows her or her family, I would appreciate having them know about the Blog.  Feel free to contact me as well.




Naomi Holt
Gas City resident Naomi Holt, 85, (Jan 12, 2004) was an Army X-ray technician during World War II and continued to serve her fellow veterans.  Since moving to Indiana in 1989, Holt, the only female honor guard in the county, attended hundreds of veterans' burial services, carrying a bugle which plays a tape of Taps.  In 2003, 241 Grant County veterans were buried with military honors.  "We broke the record", Holt said.  "I did all except the last two because I fell and hurt my knee.  We do one some days or sometimes up to four and five a day.  We don't only go to the VA, we go all over the county.  I enjoy it because I feel like I'm doing something for someone else.  I'm very patriotic.  It's all volunteer work.  The families compliment us all the time.  They're grateful for what we do."  Her brother, 80 year old Gas City resident Clarence Allen (Jan 12, 2004) served alongside her on the honor guard.  During WWII, Holt was in an x-ray technician class led by Harvard doctors at Camp Atterbury and her skills were so exceptional that her films were chosen for publication in a medical book.  "I x-rayed Dwight Eisenhower," Holt said.  "He came in in a robe.  He was sick.  He sat down at the end of the hall and waited.  He didn't call ahead and say "I'm coming" like a lot of them do.  The men didn't know him."  She also x-rayed some movie stars such as Van Johnson and Donald O'Connor.  "They were getting out," Holt said.  "We x-rayed them for their outgoing physicals.  They danced with us at the NCO (non-commissioned officers) club.  They were my age."  Holt has two children, four grandchildren and three great grandsons.  Her only grandson, who was 19 (12 Jan 2004), served in Baghdad, Iraq since the start of the war.  Holt is an inspiration to her daughter, Gilda Cordell.  She's very much of a hero," Cordell said.  "She represents the females WACs, the people who did a lot during WWII and Korea, that really didn't get the credit that they needed."  (Chronicle-Tribune, Grant County, IN)  Naomi Holt died in 2006.






 Margaret (Maggie) (R. Von Eute) Nash

(I have transcribed the article here as it is hard to read from the article itself. The article was written by Don Moore, Senior Writer at the Sun-Herald, dated May 5, 2002)

Braving the WAVES
Punta Gorda woman deciphered Morse code during World War II

Maggie Nash loved the WAVES.  It was an exciting time being 21 and in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services) during World War II.  Her job was to decipher Morse code and type what she heard in code on a Teletype machine.
It was summer of 1943.  She had just turned 20 and was spending the summer at her aunt's home in Evansville, Ind.  Maggie and her cousin got summer jobs working in a defense plant making fighter planes.
"One day as we were working, a plant supervisor came in and said, 'You people are coming down to meet  the president.'  He explained that they couldn't have too many people meeting President Roosevelt.  Since there were six of us in our section they decided we were the ones to meet him," she said.

Meeting with FDR

"The plant doors opened and his train rolled in and stopped.  They lifted President Roosevelt from the train into an open car.  That was the first time I knew the president was paralyzed. The six of us got to shake his hand," Maggie said.  "I'm real proud of that."

"Every day we walked by a naval recruiting place to get the bus,"  Maggie said.  "One day there was a bulletin up in the window saying the Navy was going to start accepting women for the WAVES.  My girlfriend and I decided we'd sign up.  But she was only 20.  You had to be 21 to enlist in the WAVES unless you received your parents permission.  She did a lot of talking before she convinced her mom and dad."

The pair needed two years of college to be eligible.  They met that requirement.  But Maggie and her pal each had a black mark.

"My friend had bad teeth.  She had to go home and have her teeth fixed before they would take her," Maggie recalled.

"I have flat feet.  They weren't going to take me.  I cried and told them they never bothered me.  They let me in," she said.

In the WAVES 

She was proud to be a WAVE.  She was even prouder when the town of Evansville gave her a going-away party.  "I was the first woman from the town to join the WAVES,"  she said.

After graduating from radio school at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, she was detailed to the Norfolk, Va., headquarters of the Atlantic Fleet.  She served as a member of a unit that transcribed military messages in Morse code around the clock.

One of her service friends said, "Maggie is the only one who can take code, type and carry on a conversation all at the same time."

Most of her time was spent in the radio shack at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.  They got a lot of visitors.

Visit from Red Skelton

"Red Skelton stopped by the radio shack one day.  He's from Vincennes, Ind.  He had a cup of my coffee.  'Who made this stuff?  It's terrible,' the comedian complained."

"Another time, a boy I had been in radio school with was serving on the carrier USS Franklin.  He stopped by the shack and wanted to show me his ship,"  she said.  "I was a roller skater, and I brought my skates along on the ship.  I got to skate on the deck of the Franklin."

A sad aspect of her job was seeing all the planes that crashed at the air station while she was on duty.  Part of the time she was in the tower taking code and she could watch the airplanes coming and going.

"You were never allowed to speak of the plane crashes if you went off base,"  Maggie said.

Glenn Miller missing

On Christmas Eve 1944, she was taking code.  "In the wee hours a message came across:  'Glenn Miller's plane's missing.'  I told my crew working with me:  Look at this message, Glenn Miller's plane's missing."

The wildly popular band leader was on a flight from England to Europe when his plane disappeared.  He was never heard from again.

His loss had special meaning for Maggie.  By then she was singing in the Navy Dance Band at Norfolk.  She sang lots of Miller's songs.

A celebrity

One night the chief radioman who ran Maggie's section came through and said, "Does anyone want to go to a show on base?" she said.  "I took him up on his offer."
"When you went to a show and you were a WAVE, you stuck out like a sore thumb among all those sailors,"  she said as she smiled.  "Five or six of us WAVES sat down front."

What they discovered was that this show was a live radio broadcast of "Double or Nothing."  They needed a handful of contestants, and Maggie was picked to go on stage.

"I got up to $8 and going for $16", she said.  "I failed it.  My aunt in Evansville heard me on the radio and she called my mom, and she heard me, too.  My chief and all the crew back at the radio station were listening, also."

She and Ray (her husband) grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana.  They've been married 58 years (as of the article date) and now live in Punta, FL.  Ray was a Seabee.  He spent his time building bases on the Hawaiian islands and elsewhere during the war.  In 1944, his unit was sent to the Phillippines, where it constructed more bases.

In the movie

At one point during his service career, Ray ended up back at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where John Wayne and Susan Hayward were making the movie "The Fighting Seabees."  Ray was one of the extras in the film.

"One day we were civilians and the next day we were Japanese," he said.  "We were down in the dirt crawling around while John and Susan were  sitting up on a nearby hill sipping their mint juleps, watching every scene."

"They got a pack of cigarettes with a Red Cross stamped on it for their efforts," Maggie said somewhat disgustedly.
She said the high point in the family's military history is not what the couple did during WWII, but what their son, Stephen, accomplished decades later.

After dropping out of college in his junior year and enlisting in the Army, Stephen went to Officers Candidate School and graduated in 1969 as a 2d lieutenant.  He was sent to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot with the 1st Air Cavalry Division.

The Old Guard

During most of his 30 years in the Army, Stephen was a front line infantry officer.  He capped off his service career as the colonel in command of the "Old Guard" stationed at Fort Meyer, VA.

It's the Army oldest active military unit, dating back to 1783 and the Revolutionary War.  The Old Guard is the outfit that guards the Tomb of the Unknowns and handles funerals at Arlington National Cemetary in Arlington, Va.

It's the Old Guard that greets foreign dignitaries when they come to Washington.  The guard also has a band and a well known fife and drum corps attired in Revolutionary War uniforms.  Members are often seen on television doing the hesitation step as they march along in their period uniforms.

Commanding colonel of the Old Guard, the U.S. Army's spit and polished ceremonial outfit, was a far cry from being a copter jockey in Vietnam with the 1st Air Cavalry.  Stephen succeeded at both posts brilliantly, according to the articles written about him in official publications.

The Nashes also have a daughter, Pamela Firestone who works as an X-ray technician with the Veterans Affairs hospital (at time of article).

Looking back on it all, Maggie Nash said of her WWII days:  "I had a fabulous time."

(Janet's Comments 22 Dec 2012)  Maggie and I corresponded through email for about a year and she and her husband Ray re-located back to Terre Haute.  Ray had passed away before I had a chance to meet them.  I hadn't had a chance to meet Maggie after moving to Arizona in 2007 and I just found out from her daughter that Maggie had passed away last year.  I am honored the time she gave me to share her story.



Judy Ward (no photo available at this time)

WO-1 US Marine Corps

Judy was born and raised a Hoosier farmgirl just outside Richmond, Indiana, a little town call Williamsburg on Hwy 35.  After service and living in South Carolina for 12 years she returned to Indianapolis in 1992 to attend medical school and have been there since.  Judy served for 8 years with "incredible" Units and Squadrons to include, serving in Okinawa with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) and with the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) in Beirut in 1983 as part of the Public Affairs Office (PAO).  Judy was honorably and medically discharged in 1988.  Semper Fi!




  

 Zitajean Meier
WWII WAVE
Aircraft Mechanic

Following her father's footsteps as he served in WWI, Zitajean was born in South Bend, Indiana and served from December 1942 until discharged in November 1945.  She served in the Navy Reserves and was discharged when disbanded and then served in the Navy WAVES.

Zitajean (as of 2007) lives in Sebring, Florida and enjoys volunteering at the Elks Club waiting tables.  She has donated her military items to the WAVES Museum located in the Chicago/Great Lakes area.  Zitajean is the fourth lady from the left or as she says, "the tallest in front."

(Janet's comments)  Anyone knowing how to contact her or her family I would greatly appreciate them knowing about the blog so she/they know she is remembered.






 












Arlene (Benson) Prentiss
WWII WAVE
Yeoman 1/C
1944-1946

Arlene was from Valpraiso, Indiana.  Arlene is a member of the WAVES National Association. 
(Janet's Comments)  I received Arlene's picture and card in 2007 for my exhibit.  Arlene at that time was 83 years young. She was living in New York.  She had remarked that she has always been a true Hoosier at heart.  I would appreciate her or her family knowing she is remembered so please pass the blogsite on to them if you could.

  






  


 BettyLu (Hilton) Scheer-Dennis
WWII WAVE

BettyLu was born in Aurora, Indiana but lived in Lafayette at the time of her enlistment.  She had to go to Chicago, Illinois to enlist in the Navy.  BettyLu had been singing professionally and was sent to Hunter College in New York for "Boot Camp".  Upon completion of training, she was sent to Storeskeeper School at Indiana University.  BettyLu arrived only to be told she was sent to the wrong place, so she was sent back to Chicago to join a Navy Recruiting Show that was rehearsing.  There were three women singers and she was assigned to join them and form a quartet.  They were with an orchestra and traveled around the country with the recruiting show.  From time to time the show picked up celebrities like Audie Murphy, Caesar Romero, etc.  They would talk about their careers and the recruiting show would entertain them with songs, talk about going to military bases, hospitals and auditoriums in large cities.  After the show closed and recruiting ended, BettyLu was sent to Bainbridge, Maryland, where she was the solo songer with the Navy Orchestra, broadcasting on NBC from coast to coast.  She was the entertainment for the veterans who were at Bainbridge Hospital for rehabilitation.  That was the most heartbreaking experience for her.  BettyLu's said her experiences in the U.S. Navy left her with wonderful memories.

(Janet's Comments)  BettyLu Scheer-Dennis sent me her pictures in April 2007.  Her and her husband had been living in D'Iberville, Mississippi at that time.  I would appreciate her or her family knowing she is remembered so please pass the blogsite on to them if you could.




Janette Marie (Shaffer) Alpaugh
Lieut (jg), USNR
This is transcribed from the articles as they are hard to read (on the left, from the local Kingman, Indiana newspaper, dated Dec 1942):  Kingman H.S. Taecher Enlists in WAVES.  "Kingman, has the honor of having the first Fountain County woman to enlist in the WAVES, which is the women's division of the U.S. Navy.
Miss Janette Shaffer, Kingman High School home economics and physical education instructor, enlisted in the WAVES and was sworn in at the Office of Naval Procurement at Indianapolis Saturday afternoon.
Miss Shaffer will resign her position here soon and will await official call to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she will receive her basic training.  She expects to report within the next few weeks.
Miss Shaffer came to Kingman in June 1941 and has taught in the local high school since that time, where she has been very successful.  While here she has made many friends and is considered one of the best teachers Kingman has ever had.  She is a graduate of Arcadia High School and was graduated from Purdue University, Lafayette , with the highest distinction in 1939.  Prior to her teaching here she served in the same capacity for two years at Petroleum High School.  She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe E. Shaffer, Arcadia.
She has held the position of Fountain County Director of Physical Fitness for Women for the past year.  She was also an instructor of the Kingman Red Crosss class last June, and she has been the Milcreek Township 4-H director for the past two years.
The community as a whole, her many friends and students regret to see such a fine teacher leave but their congratulations and best wishes are extended to her for her success in the WAVES."
(On the right (above) from the Noblesville Ledger, dated 1943):  Miss Shaffer and Instructor.  Hamilton County Girl is Giving Uncle Sam Some Valuable Service.  Janette M. Shaffer, Sp. TU 3-c U.S.N.R. has been a link trainer instructor at the U.S. Naval Air Station at pensacola, Fla. for four months, and likes her work.  She is a petty officer with a rating of specialist technician, third class.  She received her boot training in February 1943, at the WAVES school at Iowa State Teacher's college in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  After five weeks she, one of 75 chosen from 1050, for the Link Trainer school at the U.S. Naval Sir Station in Atlanta, Ga.
A link trainer is a device used by the Air Corps which remains on the ground, but simulates actual conditions of flying by instruments.  The instructor sits at an instrument chart board nearby and communicates with the Navy flying cadet by radio telephone, regarding his course.  This is commonly known as "blind flying."
Miss Shaffer is enjoying her recent flight immensely and while in the air is given voice procedure and watches the pilots fly "in on the beam."
She reports that women instructors are as efficient as men, and the pilots do not resent being taught by women.  A few of her students at Pensacola included a Free French flyer, of high rating, English pilots and an American flyer who is a veteran of war in the Pacific.
Miss Shaffer is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Shaffer of Arcadia.  She graduated from Purdue University in 1939.  She has taught in the high schools of Petroleum and Kingman, Indiana.

Transcribed from the fairlawn Flyer, Gresham, Oregon, dated Aug 23, 2004 compiled by Marion Oliver:
"I was born on a farm near Arcadia, Indiana and a few years later there was a younger sister and brother.  My father was assured that girls could do the same work that boys did and my sister and I went along with this arrangement.  We milked, plowed, shocked wheat, etc.  One time I cut the tail off a skunk while mowing alfalfa hay.
Our father loved sports and he was a fanatic about baseball so we had many hours of instruciton playing catch, batting, and fielding practice.  Our Hoosier basketball hoop on the side of the barn enabled us to play on our basketball teams in high school.  The 4H club was an important part of our lives.
My parents believed in the importance of education and for this I am forever grateful.  We found out later that they mortgaged their farm so that we could attend college during the depression years.  I spent 38 years teaching various subjects but mainly health, physical education, and coaching girl's teams.  One of my first jobs was at Kingman, Indiana where I was interviewed bu the school board chairman as I stood on his tractor while he continued to go up and down the field cultivating corn.
In WWII I enlisted in the Navy WAVES where I was trained to be a Link Trainer Operator and was stationed at Pensacola, FL.
After the war I attended the U of Iowa on a GI bill, then taught several years at Madison College in Virginia and later at the U of Nebraska.
I married Charles Alpaugh in 1955.  He was an engineer at Tractomotive Corp. in Deerfield, IL and I taught high school north of Chicago.  Later, he worked for General Electric in Galion, Ohio and I taught at Bucyrus High School.  After several years my husband became ill and could not work.  I taught ten years at Orlando Jr College and then we moved to jacksonville, NC where I taught at Carolina Coastal Junior College.
One class I taught was beginning archery and I still remember going into a dark storage shed and seeing four snakes coiled on the archery targets.  Some sharpshooter Marines enrolled in that class fro their nearby base and they were a real plus as they helped us win at college volleyball on sports day.  Losing was not an option with them.
My knees were telling me it was time to retire so we moved back to Florida to be near friends.  My husband died in 1988 and I moved to Oregon to be near my sister and her family.  One of my projects was searching out ghost towns in Eastern Oregon.
Fairlawn has been my home for five years and I enjoy the friendly atmosphere, the special holiday meals, and restaurant bus trips.  These of course can't interfere with a big game or sporting event on TV.  I'm enjoying the Olympics very much.  See, it's impossible to be bored when you have that next game or tournament coming up!"

(Janet's comments) I would appreciate her or her family knowing she is remembered so please pass the blogsite on to them if you could.











Dorothy Webb
WWII WAVE
Dorothy served in the WAVES for 3 years and she corresponded with me by letter between March 2007 and June 2008.  I was hoping to have met her at the first Indiana Women Veterans Conference held in Indianapolis but she was unable to attend.  She left me with her photos and other memorabilia that will get posted soon and also a list of other Indiana women veterans that I am still chasing down. Please check the names of those women under the events page and contact me if you have any information or contacts for me to post.  Dorothy was born July 21 1915 making her 92 at the time I contacted her in 2007.  Reading her letters, she was still excited to talk of her time in the WAVES and share what she could.  The letter above the Discharge was from the White house in appreciation for her service and signed by President Harry Truman.  Dorothy lived in Muncie, Indiana. 
(Janet's comments) I would appreciate her or her family knowing she is remembered so please pass the blogsite on to them if you could.