Doing Her Part To Serve During War
Born in Maple Hill, (Emmet County) Iowa in 1922
Now lives in Armstrong, IA
U.S. Navy Reserve WAVES World War II Veteran
With a family military history going back to World War I, Iowa native Maxine Brones also wanted to serve her country at a time of need. World War II was heating up and men were needed at the battle fronts, so Maxine put down the scissors, combs and curling irons of her beauty operator career and joined “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service,” or WAVES in April 1943.
“My Dad had been in the Navy during World War I, so he encouraged me to go in the Navy,” Maxine recalls. “My Mom didn't like it, and my brother was too young to go in, but she came to Naval Air Station Norfolk to see me.”
WAVES was established on July 30, 1942 as a wartime division of the United States Navy Reserve that consisted entirely of women. Up until this time, women were not allowed in the military. A large proportion of WAVES did clerical work, but some took positions in the aviation community, medical professions, communications, intelligence, science and technology. WAVES could not serve aboard combat ships or aircraft and initially were restricted to duty in the continental United States.
Maxine was among the first group of women to train and serve as WAVES. “I was 21 years old when my mom and sister put me on the train in Esterville, Iowa and I had orders to stay on all the way to Hunter College in New York,” where she did her basic training. “All the way there we picked up more girls. By the time we got there that train was loaded.”
Maxine spent two and a half years in the Personnel Department at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Air Station, before being transferred to NAS Glenview, Ill. “We relieved the men for sea duty. That was our job. I handled the honorable discharges and transfers of the boys. That was a busy time of the war,” she says.
Maxine says the most memorial part of her time spent in the Navy was the friendship and the bond between the women. “Some were rich and some were poor. It didn't matter.”
After nearly three years in WAVES, Maxine returned home to start up her own beauty shop. Maxine recalls one woman asking her why she didn't get a man while in the service. “I was there to serve my country, not get a man,” she says proudly.