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UNSUNG HEROINES


In Tom Brokaw’s book "The Greatest Generation Speaks," Veronica Mackey Hulick tells of her service during World War II.

Veronica was 20 when she joined the Navy WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service]. She and about 1500 other bright young women worked for hours at the monotonous job of wiring red, yellow, green, and blue wire to small wheels. Later, they discovered they had helped build a set of Navy computers referred to as "the Bombe," even though the word "computer" had not been introduced into the American vocabulary.

Later the group was transferred to Washington D.C. They were all sworn to secrecy with the consequence of being shot if they leaked any information about their project.

It took about 500 women each shift to run the 120 computers that they had helped to build. When they got a printout from a computer, they couldn’t read it. But rather, they ripped off the printout, knocked on a door at the end of the room, and gave it to a hand that came out only long enough to grab the paper.

When the war was over, each young lady was taken into an office and had to swear on the Bible that they would never talk about their work. They were each given a letter instructing future employers not to ask about their activities during the war.

It took 50 years for these women to learn of their noble efforts to end the war.

In 1994, 80 of these women gathered in Dayton, Ohio for a reunion. It was then that a Navy historian told them about the fruits of their labor. They had been responsible for sinking between 750 and 800 German U-boats. They had helped to shorten the war by one, or maybe even two years and had saved countless lives. Veronica was thrilled to at last be able to tell of her work during the war, but grieved for those ladies who died never knowing the huge role they had played in the war effort.

Veronica writes: "...It was a different time in our history. We were patriotic, disciplined, caring, and just so thrilled to know we were doing something special to help end the war. We never sought recognition. I always thought of us as the unsung heroines of WWII."


SOURCE: Tom Brokaw, "The Greatest Generation Speaks." pp. 39-41. New York: Random House, 1999.

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