NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ushered in a new wave of American patriotism.
As men headed off to war at sea, the U.S. Navy put out a call to women. The response was overwhelming.
“We just felt like we had to do something,” said Lin Johnson with the Navy WAVES—or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
Johnson was 25 and living in Los Angeles when the United States declared war on Japan. The fight was on her doorstep.
“We had at least one or two serious attacks,” she said. “We were having blackouts almost every night. It was scary. It really was.”
Hoping to make a difference, Johnson left her insurance job and enlisted in the Navy. She was among the first WAVES sent to boot camp in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“We had to get up about five in the morning and drill in the ice and snow about an hour every day. And we’d have classes all day long,” she said. “We studied at night. We really didn’t have any free time.”
After boot camp, Johnson was sent to the air base in Pensacola to train Navy pilots. She worked on flight simulators that resembled toy airplanes.
She saw air crashes on base but says no one ever talked about them.
But what wasn’t said often left her young students frightened.
“They wouldn’t let you know they were scared, but you could tell. And sometimes it meant, I think, a great deal to them to have a chance to talk one-on-one to a person, and I believe that was the main principal thing that we could do for any of them,” Johnson explained.
WAVES were expected to cease when the war ended in 1945. However, female service in the Navy continued.
In answering the call to duty 70 years ago, Lin Johnson helped lay the foundation for women to navigate new horizons today.