65th Anniversary of the ‘WAVES’ Remembered at Lehman College

BRONX, N.Y.— Lehman College is helping to commemorate the sixth-fifth anniversary of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), a reserve force of the U.S. Navy during World War II, by posting a recent video interview with four surviving WAVES on its website (www.lehman.edu).

The WAVES have a special place in Lehman’s past because 80,000 of the young women trained on its campus, which at that time was part of Hunter College.

Responding largely to severe manpower shortages in strategic areas, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the corps into existence on July 30, 1942. The WAVES were the first women to be official members of the Navy, as opposed to auxiliaries. Five months after the legislation was signed, on February 8, 1943, the Bronx campus was officially commissioned the “U.S.S. Hunter” by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. To commemorate this historic period, the Navy later installed a ship’s bell from the U.S.S. Columbia on the campus.

Lehman Mass Communication major Tanisia Morris interviewed four WAVES, who all now live in New Jersey:

  • Nancy Castellano, originally from Belleville, N.J., and now a resident of Morristown, N.J., was in college when she joined the WAVES. She instructed the recruits in naval history and procedures. Later, she taught English in junior high school for over 40 years. Ms. Castellano may be reached at 973-539-1131 or at nancast@aol.com.
  • Olive Fraser grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and was a secretary before the war. In the WAVES, she performed similar work, including the transmission of confidential messages. She stayed in the service for several years after the war and was stationed in Washington, D.C., at the Bureau of Ships. She left the Navy when she married and currently lives in Florham Park, N.J.
  • Lenore Libbey, originally from Des Moines, Iowa, was a telephone operator before joining the WAVES. While stationed in the Bronx, she managed the “Ship’s Store,” where necessities, as well as ice cream sodas and other items, were sold. She married while still in the WAVES and currently lives in Madison, N.J.
  • Janet O’Connor, originally from Morristown, N.J., was also a secretary before she war. After training in the Bronx as a member of the first regiment —”Boots at Hunter” in 1943—she was stationed in Washington as a de-coder of Japanese messages. After the war, she returned to secretarial work and currently lives in Califon, N.J.

Contact: Keisha-Gaye Anderson / 718-960-8013