MOTHER WAS A GUNNER'S MATE by Josette Dermody Wingo


World War II in the Waves
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 Wingo rather frothily admits that, like ``all good sea stories,'' her reminiscence of her stint in the WAVES has been ``embellished.'' Now a retired teacher and a Santa Monica community activist, Wingo remembers feeling like Joan of Arc at her enlistment in the WAVES (Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service) in 1944 at the age of 20. An Irish Catholic raised in Detroit, she attends boot camp at Hunter College in the Bronx, where the ``barracks'' are a five-story apartment building. Recruits are called Ripples (``Little Waves, silly''), and Wingo says that ``boot camp is like a harder Girl Scout camp'' where you learn that a ``misbegotten granny knot could screw up the whole war.'' Her bunkmates (the characters are composites) include Coralee Tolliver, a chunky ``hillbilly'' whom she despises (though Wingo later serves as her maid of honor), and Barbara Lee Corman, who calls everyone ``honeychile'' and juggles five ``fian-says.'' The trio gets assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago where they train on guns. Following a Navy Day parade in which Wingo, in full dress, rides astraddle a torpedo, she and her buddies are shipped out to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay to train the men in the Armed Guard for at-sea duty while they, as women, will remain ashore. Wingo falls for a tattooed sailor named Blackie (he calls her ``Toots'') until he admits he visits prostitutes because it ``saves the nice girls for when we want to marry them.'' She describes a chaotic V-J Day celebration and a whirlwind tour of New York City; and she offers an entire chapter about getting drunk and sick aboard a Russian ship anchored in San Francisco Bay. Jocular and occasionally appealing, this suffers from an almost complete lack of hard information or historical perspective on the very real contributions of the WAVES.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1994
ISBN: 1-55750-924-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Naval Institute Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1994