About the Project

Welcome to Homefront Heroines: the WAVES of Word War II, the interactive documentary following a group of quirky, individual and determined women who decided to go where no woman had gone before – into the Navy and Coast Guard. It tells the story of the more than 100,000 women who enlisted during World War II. In the Navy they were known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES. The Coast Guard used their motto “Semper Paratus, Always Ready” for inspiration; the women were known as SPARs.



Military Firsts

World War II was the first time the military officially welcomed women into jobs other than nursing. Women served in all branches of the military; in the Navy, they took stateside positions, freeing men to head to combat overseas. They served for the duration plus six months. After the war was over, the women were expected to happily return home and their old lives. But instead, when the war was over, they returned home irrevocably changed by the experience. They may not have realized it at the time, but they were riding on the cusp of the wave of the future; a generation which changed the course of American life. As one WAVE notes, they were the “hinges of history.”


Our Approach

This project is grounded in the oral histories of WAVES and SPARs. You can find excerpts of their stories in the “WAVES and SPARs Stories” link in the Menu. Those pages will also link you to full, searchable oral histories from each of the narrators.

In the Exhibits section, you’ll learn about the history and legacy of the WAVES and SPARs. Videos on the pages include interviews with historians, excerpts from oral history interviews, and archival footage.