To attract enlistees, and avoid the issues that the Army had with WAC uniforms, the Navy employed fashion designers to create the WAVES uniform smart navy blue uniform.
The Navy accepted Enlistees between 20 and 36 years of age to serve only in the continental US for the duration of the war. The WAVES were to be discharged within six months after the war. (Full Enlistment Information as of 1943). Interestingly, initial regulations prohibited them to marry Naval personal, although there were no regulations against marrying Coast Guard or other Services personal. This regulation was later relaxed, however, the wives of US Naval officers were prohibited from joining the WAVES. The WAVES performed the following roles within the Navy:
The Coast Guard’s SPARS were closely related to the Waves, and wore the same uniforms with minor changes in insignia to show USCG instead of USNAVY. They too served only in the continental US. There were 12,000 SPARS when the program was disbanded shortly after WWII.
In addition to the WAVES and SPARS, the Navy also had Navy Nurses. For more information on the WAVES uniform, or in starting a WAVES living history impression, please visit the reenactor’s guide.
Recommended Reading on the WAVES:
- Angel of the NAVY, 1943- 1st person recruiting
guide for the WAVES and SPARS
- Making Waves: A Woman in this Man’s Navy
- Mother was a Gunner’s Mate
- Way of the Waves: Women in the Navy