Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Joint WWII enlistment an Oregon first

The front page of the East Oregonian on July 17, 1944, was all about World War II. American and British troops were besieging the French village of St. Lo in Normandy against five divisions of German soldiers led by Field Marshal Rommel, and Allied troops were crossing the Arno River in an attempt to liberate the west coast of Italy. Back home in Pendleton, Mr. and Mrs. Verlin J. Grover were also front-page news as the first married couple in Oregon to join the same service since joint enlistments were made possible by the Navy.

Mr. Grover, known as Bud, came to Oregon in 1938 from Milligan, Neb. He had resigned his position as district manager for the Woodmen of the World life insurance company of Denver at the beginning of the war, taking a job as a brakeman and switchman for Union Pacific Railroad for the duration of the conflict. He volunteered to be inducted into the Navy.
Mrs. Grover was a Weston-Union High School graduate and earned a teaching degree from Eastern Oregon College of Education in La Grande. She and Bud were married in 1940, and made their home in Pendleton. She taught in Umatilla County for 10 years, and in 1944 was a primary school teacher at Riverside school. She had been offered a position as principal for the coming school year, which she didn’t accept.

Mrs. Grover enlisted in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the U.S. Naval Women’s Reserve established July 30, 1942. According to a Wikipedia article, “The word ‘emergency’ implied that the acceptance of women was due to the unusual circumstances of World War II, and at the end of the war the women would not be allowed to continue in Navy careers, but it or its successors continued for decades afterwards.” The passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in June of 1948 gave women permanent status in the armed forces. Even though the Navy reserve (volunteer) program officially ceased to exist in 1948, the WAVES acronym still was commonly used into the 1970s.

Women like Mrs. Grover paved the way for women like my mother. Mom was born in 1944, the week this article appeared in the EO. When she graduated from high school in the 1960s, her best option for further education and a good job was to join the Navy. Mom has some great memories, and tells great stories, about her time in the Navy as a member of the WAVES. I know she was thankful to have the option of a Navy career.

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