WWII WAVES Meets Eleanor Roosevelt

During WWII, Rosemary Russell Schmidt served in the Navy at Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Today is President’s Day in the United States. On this national holiday we celebrate the birthdays of two great men – George Washington, the father of our country and first president, born February 22, 1732, and our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln (b. February 12, 1809).

They are recognized for particular traits of leadership during difficult periods of our nation’s history.

The holiday was established in 1971 on the third Monday in February.

Funny story: My mother was an elementary school teacher. Her birthday fell on Washington’s birthday – February 22. Each year students asked her if she was as old as George Washington. They then roared with laughter.

Actually, when Mom told the story, she was not laughing.

Here is a photo of Mom on a recent birthday. She was a great role model for me and I look forward to celebrating her birthday with her again this year.

Born To Be Soldiers: Those Plucky Women of World War II is available in paperback and Kindle.

In commemoration of President’s Day, I’m presenting a segment of a story from my new book, Born To Be Soldiers: Those Plucky Women of World War II.

As far as I know, none of the women in this book met a United States President. But one did meet a First Lady and saw someone who would later live in the White House.

Born To Be Soldiers: Those Plucky Women of World War II is available on Amazon. Please purchase a copy for yourself and a friend, librarian, homeschool parent.

It will boost patriotism across this country!


(excerpt from Born To Be Soldiers: Those Plucky Women of World War II)

In early 1943, Rosemary Russell of Quincy, Illinois, enlisted in the Navy. She had graduated from North Central College where she majored in biology in 1942. Rosemary thought about furthering her education in pre-med.

Then her mother made a suggestion – why not join the Navy? During the war, this branch of the American military had organized a group for women called WAVES: Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

This was not the only branch to implement women into its ranks – Army, Coast Guard and Army Air Corps would all recruit women during the war years for help in filling vital roles while men went overseas to fight.

As a college graduate, Rosemary would be one of more than 8,000 officers in the WAVES. The enlisted women would number 80,000.

Rosemary trained for three months at Smith College in Massachusetts. At the end of this time of learning Navy regulations, policies and practices, she and the other Navy recruits were called ’90 Day Wonders’. She then received further training in communications, specifically working with codes. 

At Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, Lieutenant Rosemary Russell was assigned as Communications Watch Officer. She and others in the communications (comm) department worked with coding and decoding messages sent between military installations around the world.

Each day the department received a new code which looked garbled. Code books in the office helped with translation. Messages received different levels of priority depending on content, sender, and recipient. Top priority received the most attention.

Rosemary Russell and all of the military personnel assigned to her department received strict instructions about confidentiality. Never could they talk about their work to anyone. When Russell wrote to her parents, she filled her letters with information about what it was like to live in New York City.

From her window at the ship yard Rosemary watched happenings around the docks. Once she saw Margaret Truman christening the USS Missouri. Margaret was the daughter of Senator Harry Truman of Missouri. In 1944, he would be President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate for his fourth term.

When the pair won, Roosevelt would become the only United States president to be elected for four consecutive terms.

Upon Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, Truman would be sworn in as president.

Eleanor Roosevelt served as First Lady during her husband Franklin’s four terms.

At the ship yard Rosemary Russell had the rare opportunity to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. In typical fashion, the First Lady, known for studying Americans’ work environments, asked Russell what her military training had been like.

Rosemary gave a brief explanation. The encounter inspired her. She thought First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was charming.


Rosemary Russell Schmidt is also part of the Women of WWII Coloring Book. This book includes picture pages to color, as well as biographical info of each woman.

Have you ever met someone really famous – maybe even someone who had lived in the White House? Leave a comment below.

Thank a vet today for his or her service!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: