Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II

Front Cover, Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II by Evan Buchner, 2008.

Front Cover, Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II by Evan Buchner, 2008. GGA Image ID # 13e87bfd44

Front Cover: "WAVES relax awhile during aviation machinist mate training at NATTC, Norman, Oklahoma." February 1943; Norman, Okla. Lt. Wayne Miller; 80-G-471588

Message from the GG Archives

Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II by Evan Buchner featured outstanding photography throughout the book. Folks interested in WW2, Women in Service, or the WAVES, should strongly consider adding this book to their collection. It captured for all time women in the Navy that expanded the opportunities available to women and helped define the roles that would eventually lead to women serving in the Navy alongside the men. This timeless book deserves to be passed down from generation to generation.

Publisher Description

Counter In the spirit of his successful books At Ease and Men of WWII, Evan Bachner now focuses on the women of WWII. While traditionally female secretarial and clerical jobs took an expectedly large portion of recruits, thousands of WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) performed previously atypical duties in the aviation community—such as Judge Advocate General corps—medical professions, communications, intelligence, science, and technology.

The photography team, headed by legendary photographer Edward Steichen, captured these heroic women at work, rest, and play. All the photos are from the National Archives and most have not been previously published.

Potion of Title Page, Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II, Autographed by Desmond F. Griffiths, R.N. (Rtd), 21 May 2010.

Potion of Title Page, Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II, Autographed by Desmond F. Griffiths, R.N. (Rtd), 21 May 2010. GGA Image ID # 17f9463f4c

From the Inside Cover Flap

During the Second World War, the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit vividly captured the ordinary lives of women at war, both enlistees of WAVES as well as factory workers on the West Coast. Although they did not see battle, the women depicted in these images show the strength, bravery, and determination they shared and demonstrated.

Most of the photographs in this book have never before been published. For the WAVES, they fall into four categories: training, transportation, work, and relaxation. The women portrayed are, by turns, serious and lively.

They instruct naval officers in their responsibilities, are telegraph officers and stenographers, undergo rigorous physical training, drill, and tend and fire weapons. On a lighter side, they also share coffee and letters with friends, join in outdoor recreation, and attend dances.

The somber tone and significance of the women’s work is even more apparent in the section of the book devoted to workers at the Consolidated Vultee aircraft plant in California.

These are workers devoted to the war effort, competently doing their jobs. Rosie the Riveter may have been a fictional character, but what she represented is certainly reflected in the vital work documented by the photographers.

As with the two previous collections in this series, At Ease: Navy Men of World War II and Men of World War II: Fighting Men at Ease, the images in this volume are drawn from a subset of the Navy Records Group at the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The photographs are the work of a group of some of the finest photographers of their day, or any day: the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit headed by Edward Steichen. As in the earlier books, the high level of artistry and composition in the photos is striking, due to the experience and craft of the men behind the camera.

Featuring more than 150 photographs, WAVES offers a different view of World War II. These are not images of men at war; rather they portray the essential work and efforts of the women at home who made the success of the war possible.

About the Author

EVAN BACHNER is a longtime collector of photographs and a photographic historian. He lives in New York City with his husband.

About the Photographer

Soon after the war began, magazine images credited to Horace Bristol stopped, and did not reappear until after the war. I did find several images of Navy life in his distinctive style, attributed to him, with no copyright.

I assumed he was in the military, and set out to find out more. I wrote to the Navy museum in Washington, D.C. and they referred me to the National Archives.

An archivist in the Still Picture Branch wrote back to me with the information that Horace Bristol had been part of the “Naval Aviation Photographic Unit” headed by Edward Steichen.

The archives had all the images taken by the unit, including the one I had seen in Brooklyn. Each image was carefully labeled with an index number.

Simple, except there were two catches: the images were mixed in with about 786,000 other Navy photographs, and they were only spottily cataloged.

Luckily, there was a cross reference, at least giving the short number ranges that corresponded with the unit’s work. I could find them, if I went through every single one of hundreds of boxes, looking for the relevant images among the 200 prints in every box. Determined researchers, given time and patience, could find these “hidden” images.

Back Cover, Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II by Evan Buchner, 2008.

Back Cover, Making Waves: Navy Women of World War II by Evan Buchner, 2008. GGA Image ID #

Back Cover: “Women riveters work on tail fin for B-24 in Consolidated Vultee Plant, Downey, California.” August 1943; Downey, Calif.; LCdr. Charles Jacobs; 80-G-475913

A Note about the Captions

The captions used in this book are derived from the original captions assigned during World War II. They list the original title assigned to each photograph, the date the image was logged in. the location where the photograph was taken, the name of the photographer, and the photograph number later assigned to each image by the National Archives.

The titles are quoted verbatim for the sake of historical interest. These photographs were found in Records Group 80-G. General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1804-1958.

All are housed in the Still Pictures Records L1C0N, Special Media Archives Services Division at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Frontis photo WAVE trainees at Naval Air Technical Training Center. Norman, Oklahoma: Lucille Henderson, AMM, and shipmate on business end of a machine shop hoist." March 1943; Norman, Okla.; PH2 Howard Liberman; 80-G-471681


Bachner, Evan. Making WAVES : Navy women of World War II / Evan Bachner. New York : Abrams, 2008. 160 p. : chiefly ill. ; 28 cm. D769.597 .B33 2008 ISBN: 9780810995239-0810995239

Library of Congress Catalog Listing

  • Personal name: Bachner, Evan.
  • Main title: Making WAVES : Navy women of World War II / Evan Bachner.
  • Published/Created: New York : Abrams, 2008.
  • Description: 160 p. : chiefly ill. ; 28 cm.
  • ISBN: 9780810995239 OR 0810995239
  • LC classification: D769.597 .B33 2008
  • Related names: United States. Naval Aviation Photographic Unit. United States. National Archives and Records Administration.
  • LC Subjects: United States. Naval Reserve.; Women's Reserve--Pictorial works. World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American--Pictorial works. World War, 1939-1945--Photography. War photography--United States--History--20th century. Women sailors--United States--Pictorial works.
  • Browse by shelf order: D769.597
  • Notes: Includes photographs chiefly taken by the Naval Photographic Unit and housed at the National Archives.
  • LCCN: 2007036127
  • Dewey class no.: 940.54/5973082
  • Geographic area code: n-us---
  • Type of material: Book
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