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Archive for the ‘I Joined the WAVES’ Category

I had no idea when I joined the WAVES in 1943 that I would be holding so many memories close to me some 50-odd years later.

My assignment, after training at Oklahoma A&M, was with Naval Communications, 3801 Nebraska Ave., Washington, D.C.  I did not know until I left the service in 1945 how important my assignment in OP-20-GZ (Top Secret) was.  Sworn to secrecy upon entering, we were sworn to secrecy even upon leaving.

It was not until 1976 that President Jimmy Carter lifted the veil of secrecy which began an outpouring of intriguing information formerly kept under wraps.  One of the first released books was And I Was There by Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton and Captain Roger Pineau and there, popping out of the pages were the officers I had worked with–they were cryptoanalysts and cryptolinguists.  And further into the book, a number of pages were devoted to information regarding Dorothy Edgers, a civilian codebreaker who occupied the desk right next to mine.  In 1941, in this same office, Dorothy had broken the code that would have possibly stopped the attack on Pearl Harbor but no one paid any attention to her as she had worked in the GZ only two weeks.  I was so proud to have known her.

My job? I was a yeoman and did my job but I cannot remember too many of the details.  I remember something or other about the Japanese telegraphic code KATA KANA but since I was told to forget, I did.  I do remember large books upon a long table filled with code and I remember the linguists using the Japanese language (a little of which I had learned).  The code messages mainly had to do with fleet movements in the Pacific.  It was an exciting–if not mysterious–office to be assigned to.

So much time has passed but the thing I am proudest of is having joined the Navy back in February 1943.  I spent almost three years in one of those buildings [at 3801 Nebraska Avenue] that had been the home of Navy cryptology.  I’ll never forget 3801 though time and a vow of silence taken at that time have taken much of the memory of what we did there.  Vows lifted, but too late–the memory diminished.  I just know I loved what I was doing and felt very important.

By J. Frances Wyckoff, originally published in U.S. Navy Cruiser and Sailor Magazine, Fall 1996

For a fuller account of Wyckoff’s WAVES experience and more photos, visit A WAVE IN OP-20-GZ DURING WORLD WAR II.

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