When male officers and chiefs visited WAVES' barracks for inspection, the women would call out, "Man aboard!"
Women became a permanent part of the military in 1948 with the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, which Hancock, now a captain and director of the WAVES, helped write. In October 1948, Hancock became one of the first women commissioned into the regular Navy. Non-nurse Navy women continued to be referred to as WAVES until February 1972.
In the early 1950s, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class JoAnne Sylvester sailed five transatlantic round trips on transport ships, making her one of the first WAVES to serve at sea, decades before women could officially do so.
Lieutenant Elizabeth G. Wylie arrived in Vietnam in June 1967, becoming the first non-nurse female officer assigned to the country. She worked in the Command Information Center at Commander Naval Forces Vietnam in Saigon. Eight female officers would serve in country over the course of the war, but the Navy never assigned enlisted women to Vietnam.
Congress passed Public Law 90-130 in 1967, ending restrictions on the number of women who could serve in the military, which had previously been capped at 2 percent. This law also ended rank limitations and allowed women to be promoted to flag officer rank. In 1972, CNO Adm. Elmo Zumwalt further expanded opportunities for officer and enlisted women and announced an ultimate goal of assigning women to ships at sea. (Women were first assigned to sea duty billets on support and noncombatant ships in 1978; they began serving aboard combat ships in 1994.)
Sources: Dr. Regina Akers, Navy History and Heritage Command; "Lady in the Navy" by Joy Bright Hancock; "Our Mother's War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II" by Emily Yellin.
Editor's note: To read more about the establishment of the WAVES and the evolution of women's service, read "Navy Women in World War I: A Legacy of Service"
on All Hands. To read more about Navy women, visit the Navy History and Heritage command website