Published: June 1, 2020

WAVES performing airplane maintenanceTHEN: July, 1944

Beginning in 1942, the military accepted a group of women for the Navy at the same rank and pay as men. Throughout WWII, more than 100,000 WAVES — Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service — took positions at 900 stations in the U.S., freeing men to participate in overseas combat. They were key to the war effort, taking jobs training pilots and gunmen, decoding messages, fixing planes and more.

Kathleen M. Ryan, CU Boulder journalism associate professor and documentary filmmaker, has collected 52 oral histories from former WAVES to share their stories publicly.

“When you see stories about World War II, the stories that are told are normally those of men who saw military action,” said Ryan, whose mother was a WAVE. “Equally important are the people behind the scenes who helped the United States and its allies win the war.”

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of WWII’s end, the histories are available at

Photo courtesy of Kathleen M. Ryan/ Homefront Heroines