Out of the nearly 6000 U.S. military officers who were trained to be weather forecasters during World War II, there were approximately 100 women. They were recruited into the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) by the U.S. Navy and underwent training with the military men in the so-called cadet program. Letters of reminiscence from six WAVES forecasters are combined with official navy correspondence, archival information from universities, and newspaper articles of the period to reconstruct the recruitment, training, duty assignments, and postwar careers of these women.

With limited information, an effort has also been made to document the training of civilian women in the cadet program, and to estimate the number of women who served as forecasters in foreign countries during the war. The status of women in meteorology prior to the United States' entry into the war is examined as a backdrop to the study. Principal results of the study are as follows:

  • The recruitment of WAVES forecasters was in response to extreme shortages of weather officers at the Naval Air Stations (NAS) in early 1943 as the war escalated.

  • Those recruited to be WAVES forecasters had previous experience as math/science teachers and had a lower than average attrition rate in the demanding cadet program.

  • The WAVES were assigned as NAS forecasters stateside, and there is some evidence that they were differentially treated in comparison to the male naval forecasters.

  • In addition to the women forecasters in the WAVES, approximately 50 civilian women were trained in the cadet program under the sponsorship of the Civilian Aeronautics Administration and the U.S. Weather Bureau; England also recruited an estimated 50 women into weather forecasting during the latter stages of WWII.

  • Of the 200 women who were trained to be forecasters, it is estimated that less than 10% remained in meteorology.

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Footnotes

*Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.