Navy WAVES - Photo #26 - Hunter College, Bronx NY

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Inspecting a Grumman Wildcat engine on display at the U.S. Naval Training School (WR) Bronx, NY, where she is a "boot" is WAVES Apprentice Seaman Frances Bates, 1945*. The WAVES was the first branch of the USA military to be truly integrated and the only one before the end of WWII; this happened in 1944 after most of the photos in this gallery (besides this one) were taken. Other service branches allowed African Americans to serve, but only in separate "colored" units, or (in the case of the Coast Guard and the Navy) to occupy only certain positions, such as cooks, waiters, or steward's mates... "seagoing bellhops". True integration means that blacks and whites lived and ate together, had access to the same training and jobs, and the same access to promotions. After a prolonged and bitter struggle at high levels of the Navy and in the Roosevelt administration, the President ordered the full integration of the WAVES enlisted ranks and officer corps in December 1944. The first two African-American WAVES officers, Ensign Frances Wills and Lieutenant JG Harriet Pickens, graduated from Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School on December 21, and the enlistment of black women began a week later. By July 1945 the Navy had trained 72 African-American WAVES at Hunter College in a fully integrated and routine manner**.
* Women of World War II website.
** MacGregor, Morris J. Jr., Integration of the Armed Forces 1940-1965, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington DC (1981). US Government Printing Office.