Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Women's Air Raid Defense (1941-1945) - Mar. 9th, 2005
Posted on 03/08/2005 10:10:02 PM PST by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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In the dark days after Pearl Harbor, many of the islands' young women joined the Women's Air Raid Defense to help prevent another disaster.
Women's Air Raid Defense (WARD) staffers on the job in Oahu's information and control center in 1943. On the right is the radar plotting board, which displays data received from radar stations around the island. Workers positioned markers on the large "shuffleboard" at the center of the room to keep track of contacts.
The room was nearly filled by a huge table -- a plotting board -- with the familiar outline of the Hawaiian Islands superimposed by a grid pattern. Around it, Signal Corps plotters sat or stood, talking intermittently with distant radar operators, code-named "Oscars," over telephone headsets. Using implements like shuffleboard sticks, the plotters -- known as "Rascals" -- were placing and moving small plastic markers on the board to indicate the locations and status of their Oscars' radar contacts. Overseeing the action from a balcony running around two sides of the room sat the senior controller, the officer in charge. With him were military and civil aviation liaison officers, who correlated the markers with their service's flights. If they could not identify a given track, the senior controller would have the pursuit officer, a fighter pilot, scramble interceptors to visually identify the "bogy," and, if it was an enemy plane, shoot it down.
One by one, during lulls in activity, the young women stepped up to the plotters, adjusted their headsets and waited until they heard, "Rascal, this is Oscar, can you read me?" All around Oahu that night, radar operators were astonished when a self-assured female voice replied, "Oscar, this is Rascal. I read you loud and clear." Women's Air Raid Defense plotters had just taken over the night shift at "Little Robert," the Air Defense Command's information and control center (ICC). For the first time, American women had officially replaced male soldiers in a war zone and were directly participating in the defense of American territory.
Little Robert had been built by Signal Corps troops in the autumn of 1941 as the hub of the Aircraft Warning Service. Radar contacts, ground observers' sightings and Wheeler Field's interceptor status came into the ICC via a buried telephone cable running around the island. The system was tested on September 27, with Army pursuit planes satisfactorily intercepting "attacking" carrier-based Navy aircraft. The radars had detected and tracked both Japanese attack waves on December 7, and even two cruiser-launched scout planes that had reconnoitered Pearl Harbor and the Lahaina Roads alternate fleet anchorage just before the raid, but an effective air defense operations system was lacking. Once the shock resulting from the attack had subsided, the Army created the Air Defense Command to control the 14th Pursuit Wing and the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade, plus available Navy and Marine fighters and anti-aircraft weapons. Brigadier General Howard C. Davidson, the commander of the 14th Pursuit Wing, was appointed Air Defense commander, and the ICC became his operations center.
Davidson also had to give up ICC staff from Oahu -- where air raids were expected at any time -- to create aircraft warning units for Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia. The role of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in Britain's air defense centers was well known, but conservative congressional opposition in 1941 had blocked establishment of an American equivalent. (Created in mid-1942, the Women's Army Corps eventually staffed 27 aircraft warning units.) Davidson appealed to the War Department for an emergency executive order creating a WAAF-like organization for Hawaii. Executive Order 9063 was approved on Christmas Day.
General Davidson telephoned a Honolulu couple he knew, asking for their help in finding some bright, trustworthy and reliable young women. Alexander and Una Walker were kamaainas (lifetime Hawaii residents), and Una knew many local women through her Red Cross work. When Davidson called back an hour later, they had a list of 20 names for him.
The day after Christmas, Davidson met with Mrs. Walker and the 20 young women at the huge pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Being kamaainas like the Walkers, the women shared the trauma of December 7 and had personal as well as patriotic reasons for volunteering. To Nancy Hedemann and others, "It was the defense of our home which came clear, then service to your country." Pat Morgan, from a New England medical missionary family that had arrived in Hawaii in 1828, had found the raid "at once exciting and terrifying" and felt they "were all consumed with an urge to do something violent."
General Howard C. Davidson, 1942
General Davidson addressed them in an upstairs meeting room, overlooking white beaches strung with barbed wire. Due to tight security, there was little specific he could tell them, only that they would be doing critical secret work for the Army, replacing men for duty in forward areas. They should be between 20 and 34 years of age and childless, be able to pass a physical examination and an Army Intelligence background investigation, be willing to work any shift and abide by special regulations. They would be appointed to the civil service, with pay of $120 per month, and would be furnished uniforms and quarters at Fort Shafter, with officers' mess privileges. "[We] would be considered officers," Hedemann recalled, "so that in the event of capture by the enemy, [we] would be treated according to the international law regarding prisoners of war."
For an organizational name, Davidson suggested Women's Air Defense. The women inserted the word Raid to make a more euphonious acronym, and thus the WARD was born. Administratively, it was known as the WARD Detachment, Company A, 515th Signal Aircraft Warning Regiment (Special), reporting to the commanding general, 7th Fighter Command (formerly 14th Pursuit Wing). The WARD was transferred to the Army Air Forces in 1943. The WARDs-to-be were to report to the Army-requisitioned Iolani Palace on January 1 for formal induction and training, and were asked to bring any interested friends who met the standards.
Davidson soon realized that the population of eligible kamaainas was too small. He also learned, however, that some military wives wanted to stay in Hawaii, in spite of air raid alarms and invasion rumors, and he obtained authority to take anyone going into the WARD off the evacuation lists. About half of those who gathered at Iolani Palace on New Year's Day were military wives. Many had witnessed the horrors of the December 7 raid close up. Joy Shaw, wife of a captain at the Marine barracks, remembered driving behind "a truckload of bodies stacked to the top like logs, naked, blackened by oil, smoke and blood, boys from the various ships." To Kathy Cooper, 19-year-old Navy daughter and wife, Hickam Field had looked from her parents' home "like a great sea of flame about a mile long." She felt at that moment that "If a Japanese pilot had walked into the house, I would have tried to kill him."
Lieutenant Ardie Konkle led them through their first training session. Nancy Hedemann recalled that, once they had plugged their telephone headsets into stations around the board, they "practiced receiving radar readings from Oscars' who were conveying messages to us, the Rascals.' To place a reading on the plotting board, we took a colored arrow and with a pokerlike, rubber-tipped implement placed the arrow at the reading transmitted by Oscar. The arrows were red, blue and green; the color designated the five-minute interval of a quarter-hour in which a reading had been received."
The sense of urgency was palpable. "During that first two-week period in January 1942," Hedemann remembered, "frequent air raid alarms were heard and, on each occasion, the possibility of a repetition of December 7 became fresh." After 10 days of two-hour training sessions, Lieutenant Konkle felt they were ready for Little Robert.
On the first day of February, 104 WARDs moved into quarters at Fort Shafter and took over plotting duties on all four 6-hour shifts. A few Honolulu women were also trained as substitutes; called "town reserves," they lived at home and reported on call. During February, the SCR-271 fixed-site radars at Mount Haleakala on Maui, at Kokee on Kauai, and at Pahoa on Hawaii came on line, adding more plotting positions. The WARDs quickly became familiar with the characteristics of each radar and its environment. They learned to substitute the intersection of range arcs from multiple radars for the inaccurate azimuth readings. They took over filtering -- "cleaning up" the plot by consolidating apparently separate tracks. As they became familiar with aircraft speeds and turn rates, they took on interceptor vectoring. Senior WARDs began conducting in-house training.
The mysterious aircraft could not be identified as friendly, and the senior controller scrambled interceptors from Wheeler. On a moonless, rainy night they had little chance of visual contact, but the ICC managed to cue searchlights. "When the searchlights cut on," Captain Sam Shaw wrote, "they had in their beams a large flying boat. Later, there were garbled accounts that it had set off photo-flash bombs for night photography. No anti-aircraft guns opened fire. All hands were determined to have no more trigger-happy misfortunes such as there had been immediately after the [December 7] attack."
The flying boats were four-engine Japanese Kawanishi H8K "Emilys." With a range of 4,460 miles, they had flown from the Marshall Islands without refueling. Their crews had no more success locating blacked-out Pearl Harbor that rainy night than the interceptors had finding them. Each plane apparently carried two 550-pound bombs, which were supposed to be dropped on an American aircraft carrier. The Japanese airmen dropped their bombs blindly. One pair exploded off the entrance to Pearl Harbor, the other on the outskirts of Honolulu.
Before the raid there had been speculation about whether the air defense system could go beyond detection and tracking into successful interception. The interceptors' failure to find the raiders left the question unanswered. The WARDs, however, felt they had vectored in the fighters as close as the technology permitted, and they could have intercepted the intruders with better illumination or with airborne-intercept radar, then unknown in U.S. service.
| But by late 1942 many of the original WARDs were leaving. For Hedemann, "the war [had] moved on and we felt safer in Hawaii" following Midway. Married, she became a town reserve early in 1943. When she became pregnant, she recalled, "They moved me out of the WARD with a rapidity that suggested I might have the plague." Lornahope DeClue felt that "the urgency of serving was over" and resigned to continue her education. Chief supervisor Mary Erdman resigned to accompany her evacuated daughter to the mainland; she came home to Hawaii but rejoined the Red Cross. Dottie Beach resigned to pursue her flying and join the Women's Air Force Service Pilots. Joy Shaw left when her husband was transferred to the mainland. "Perhaps I should have stayed with the WARD," she later mused, "as during his three years' absence he was in and out of Pearl a number of times. [But] I had to sign a release with the stipulation that I not try to return for the duration of the war."
Bill and Ruth Cope -- now married for 62 years -- served during World War II. Bill was a bomber pilot and Ruth was a Women's Air Defense volunteer on Oahu.
At the same time, new radar stations were coming on line. "Every new station or job meant one more girl for each of the four shifts," wrote Bertha Bloomfield-Brown, and "it was not long before all recruiting efforts struck rock bottom in the islands, where the employment situation was critical anyhow." The age limit was officially lowered to 17 to qualify girls just graduating from high school, special shifts were arranged for some University of Hawaii students, and the list of town reserves stretched to 25. But by January 1943, WARD still counted about 110 employees, while the number of positions had increased to 33, for each of four shifts. The 7th Fighter Command reluctantly decided to recruit for the WARD on the mainland.
Mainland recruiting started in San Francisco, where Colonel Lorry Tindal of the 7th Fighter Command had gone to see the Air Defense Wing's recruiting officer. Tanya Widrin, who had previously served in the Los Angeles air defense filter center, met Tindal through a friend while on her way to join the Women's Army Corps. She later said, "When Colonel Tindal told me that the WARDs operate a filter center and do the same type of work as the Women's Auxiliary Air Force in England I was on my way [to Hawaii] within ten days." The Army still classified air defense top-secret, however, and later recruits experienced cloak-and-dagger meetings, loyalty tests and FBI background investigations. But one Army personnel specialist in the Presidio was able to process her own application. "As I shivered in the fog," wrote recent Stanford graduate Jean McKellar, "I thought about what I told young women in my recruiting work for the WARD; Hawaii is so beautiful, so warm; the work is vital to our security.' Hawaii seemed to offer several solutions in one!"
Pearl Harbor veterans Ruth and Bill Cope speak to an Advanced Placement American history class in North Canton, Ohio, via a videoconferencing link from Hawaii.
The first 34 mainland recruits arrived in Honolulu in February 1943 aboard a crowded U.S. Navy transport after a stormy passage in a zigzagging convoy. They had signed a one-year contract, renewable for another year. With 143 women, plus four to eight replacements arriving each month, Hawaii's WARD had adequate strength for the first time. By early 1944, with the war distant from Hawaii, and Oahu's operations center able to cover the whole territory, the Army closed down the neighbor island centers -- first the Kauai unit on January 15 and then Maui's and the Big Island's on April 1.
V-J Day seemed to arrive suddenly. Four days before, on August 11, 1945, the Air Defense commander, Brig. Gen. John Weikert, notified the WARD, "It is expected that military personnel will take over all WARD duties within fifteen (15) days after V-J Day and that the WARD as an organization will be completely disbanded within twenty days after V-J Day." The War Department offered the WARDs equivalent civil service positions in the islands. Of approximately 165 on duty, 87 elected to return to the mainland.
Responding to a May 1945 editorial in the Honolulu Advertiser praising the WARDs, General Howard Davidson, their first commander, wrote chief supervisor Kitty Coonley, "I have seen many fighter control [centers], have several under me now, but the one in Honolulu manned by the WARDs is the best I have seen. I understand that the war has moved on and left Honolulu behind ... but you can take great pride in the fact that while it did threaten Hawaii you maintained the best Air Raid Defense system in the world."
Nell Larsen's appraisal of her WARD experience was more personal, yet offers a telling insight into the prevailing attitude toward women in the American workplace in the 1940s. "The most memorable aspect of my service was the respect and admiration for American women I came to have as a result of my total war experience in Hawaii," said Larsen. "We were so often pictured as spoiled, hysterical and shallow. The women I came in contact with disproved all of that in spades."
The WARDs stood their last shift in Lizard on September 27. More than 650 women had served in Hawaii's control centers, representing all the islands' races except the Japanese and nearly all the states in the Union.
For the most part young, hastily trained and not widely appreciated, the "shuffleboard pilots" who volunteered to help protect the Hawaiian Islands by staffing its plotting boards had filled a vital need at a critical time.
To all our military men and women past and present, military family members, and to our allies who stand beside us
Back on the night shift Bump for the Freeper Foxhole
Speaking of Bugles Across America:
High School Student Helps to Meet Need for Buglers
The tunes are lively during the Chippewa Falls High School's "10:30 Jam."
"We're not here to try and create music majors, but to create well- rounded individuals that are going to be future leaders," Band Director Doug Greenhalgh said.
So while many of her classmates put their instruments away after class, Brianna Seidlitz prepares for veterans' funerals and holidays that honor veterans, where she regularly plays "Taps."
"One of my friends was playing," Seidlitz said, "And I got asked to because they wanted to play echo taps, and I had been playing for two years."
The Patriotic Council in Chippewa Falls relies on Brianna to play at veterans' funerals, as they have with Chippewa Falls students for nearly five years.
"The guys are amazing, they're just like another family to me."
She's played at about a half-dozen funerals in the past month, and when she's not available, council member Robert Boettcher fills in with an electronic bugle that the group was given in 2001.
"Previous to that, we used a boombox, which was, to me, not very reverent," Boettcher said.
With a flip of a switch and the touch of a button, a recording of a bugler's rendition of "Taps" at the Arlington National Cemetary is played.
"It works out real well."
Though veterans' families seem to appreciate Brianna's rendition even more.
"You just realize how important that person was and how much they deserve it," she said.
Brianna says she'll go to UW-Eau Claire next year, and the state will pick up $25 of that tab with every funeral she plays, but that's not why she does it.
"It's such a respect and honor to do this, and i will hopefully keep doing it forever, till i can't do it anymore."
That's when another recruit from Chippewa Falls High School will likely honor fallen vets with their own rendition of "Taps."
That was important work.
To bad the ladies hadn't been there for December 7th. And about fifty more P-40s and F4Fs. Would have been excellent practice in vectoring in fighters. Sweet dreams....
Good morning, Snippy and everyone at the Foxhole.
by U.S. Army
February 24, 2005
President Bush thanks Soldiers at Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany, for their service and dedication. This photo appeared on www.army.mil
March 9, 2005
Have you ever locked your keys inside your car? Mailed an envelope without putting the payment check inside? Baked a recipe without adding one of the main ingredients?
These are the kinds of things we all do when we don't give careful thought to what we are doing. Careless thinking means we either do something we shouldn't do or fail to do something we should. These wrong actions or irresponsible inactions can be minor inconveniences-or they can have serious lasting consequences.
You would think the people in Haggai's day wouldn't have committed thoughtless mistakes. Just 20 years before, they were living in exile in Babylon because they had disobeyed God. Now they were back in Jerusalem, but they were living as if that whole exile episode had never happened.
So through the prophet Haggai, God told them, "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:7). Then He told them their mistake: They were living selfish lives of luxury instead of completing God's temple. Careless thinking had led to wrong decisions and inaction.
God wants us to give careful thought to our actions, words, and relationships, and make decisions that bring glory to Him. Whatever you do today, give it careful thought. -Dave Branon
Keep your thoughts in line, or they'll lead you astray.
On This Day In History
Birthdates which occurred on March 09:
1454 Amerigo Vespucci explorer
1564 David Fabricius Essen Germany, astronomer (discovered variable star)
1568 Aloysius "Luigi" van Gonzaga Italian prince/Jesuit/saint
1758 Franz Joseph Gall German/French physician (frenology)
1791 George Hayward US, surgeon, 1st to use ether
1814 Taras Shevchenko Ukraine, national poet/painter/professor of Kiev
1824 Leland Stanford (Governor/Senator)/found Stanford University
1839 Felix Huston Robertson Brigadier General (Confederate Army),died in 1928
1839 Modest P Mussorgsky Russian composer (Boris Godunov)
1881 Enver Pasja Turkish General/politician
1885 Ringgold "Ring" Lardner baseball player
1890 Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov Soviet foreign minister (UN)
1902 Will Greer Frankfort IN, actor (Grandpa Walton-The Waltons)
1912 Alan David Melville polymath
1918 Mickey [Frank Morrison] Spillane Brooklyn NY, mystery writer (I the Jury)
1920 Carl Betz Pittsburgh PA, actor (Alex Stone-Donna Reed Show)
1923 André Courréges France, fashion designer (introduced the miniskirt)
1923 James Buckley (Senator-Republican-NY)
1926 Irene Papas Corinth Greece, actress (Moses The Lawgiver)
1930 Ornette Coleman, jazz saxophonist.
1933 Lloyd Price Kenner LA, singer (Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Misty, Just Because, Come to Me)
1934 Yuri Gagarin Russia, cosmonaut, 1st man into space (aboard Vostok 1)
1936 Glenda Jackson Birkenhead Cheshire England, actress (Hopscotch, Touch of Class)
1936 Marty Ingels Brooklyn NY, comedian (I'm Dickens He's Fenster)
1936 Mickey Gilley Ferriday LA, country singer (Urban Cowboy)
1940 Raul Julia San Juan Puerto Rico, actor (Addams Family, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Eyes of Laura Mars)
1942 John Cale Welsh/US bassist/violinist/singer (Velvet Underground)
1942 Mark Lindsay Eugene OR, rocker (Paul Revere & the Raiders)
1943 Bobby Fischer US, world chess champion (1972-75)
1945 Ray Royer rocker (Procol Harum-Whiter Shade of Pale)
1945 Robin Trower London England, rocker (Procol Harum-Whiter Shade of Pale)
1955 Teo Fabi formula-1 Indy-car racer (rookie of year-1983)
1959 Barbie doll (Mattel)
1964 Phil Housley St Paul MN, NHL defenseman (New Jersey Devils, Team USA Olympics-98)
1970 Melissa Rathburn-Nealy US soldier (Iraqi POW)
1972 Sara Nicole Williams Miss Washington-USA (1997)
Good Morning Radu.
Back on nights again?!?!?!
Morning Grzegorz 246.
LOL! We have that picture on our "Critter Crunch" bin.
It seems the very least that we can do
We hit 70 yesterday. Feels like we skipped Spring and went right to Summer.
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