She joined the Navy to See the World… Got New York Instead

November 4, 2008 at 2:18 am Leave a comment

Long before surfing the ocean or surfing the Web became recreational and knowledge pursuits for millions, there was a sprinkling of WAVES surfing the subways of New York.
With the declaration of war on Japan and the Axis Powers following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, millions of men enlisted for duty. Women yearned to contribute as well, and each branch of the armed services scrambled to accommodate them.

The U.S. Navy created Women Accepted for Voluntary Services, or WAVES, enlisting 87,000 women in its ranks. Thousands of single women from skyscraper skylines to silo dotted plains thronged to recruiting offices.

Among them was Harriet Lieber (now Dalton), a then 20-year-old woman as green to the ways of the world as the Wisconsin farmlands she was leaving. Although raised in Milwaukee, she led a self-described sheltered life.

“I was not very worldly and was very naive,” Dalton said.

A family history of military service and a love of country motivated her to enlist. Her parents had met while serving in the medical corps during World War I and her brother had enlisted in the Army Air Force.

Following her enlistment, which, despite her age, her parents had to authorize, she was shipped to Hunter College in the Bronx of New York City. The intense basic training breezed by, and within a few months she watched as her mates were assigned to billets (posts) across the country. Dalton was sent to the Floyd Bennett Airfield in Brooklyn, New York, and joined the ranks of the “Subway WAVES.”

“I lived in a rooming house with several other girls, and we all commuted to work,” Dalton said. “I was assigned to be a storekeeper, which is the Navy’s equivalent of a supply clerk.”

Dalton’s tour of duty lasted just shy of 16 months, cut short by Cupid. Like her mother, she had found the man of her dreams in the armed forces. The only way they could be together was to marry and start a family, Dalton said.

“I love my country, but I was in love with him. It was not that difficult of a choice,” she said.

Following her discharge from the Navy, she settled in to raising a family and eventually became a school bus driver in Long Island, New York. After almost 11 years of “shoveling snow off my car to get to work and then having to shovel my school bus off, I got tired of snow,” Dalton said. She moved to Citrus County in 1972 and relocated to Ocala in 1977.

Citrus County was very small in 1972, with no cultural or shopping opportunities,” Dalton said. “If you did not get your car filled up in Inverness, you were out of luck. Ocala had much more to offer at the time.”

In addition to volunteering for the Veterans Hospital in Gainesville and the Outpatient Clinic in Ocala for 20 years, Dalton is a charter member of the Ocala WAVES Unit #99. She has served twice as president and as treasurer for an eight-year stint. She also enjoys walking and knitting in her spare time.

The group is comprised of former and currently enlisted NAVY female personnel. Their goals include being of service to women veterans and acting as a resource port for them.

The local chapter is affiliated with WAVES NATIONAL, a nonprofit veteran’s organization. There are 121 units with members representing the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

Established in 1979, the national organization awards a college scholarship and promotes service work as well as keeping members informed of issues affecting their lives.

By Ann Sperring
Senior Times Magazine

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Entry filed under: Dive In, Maritime. Tags: , , , , .

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