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A WWII Navy woman tells her story through her vivid letters home recounting her enlistment, training, and service in Washington, D.C.
A WWII Navy woman tells her story through her vivid letters home recounting her enlistment, training, and service in Washington, D.C.
A WWII Navy woman tells her story through her vivid letters home recounting her enlistment, training, and service in Washington, D.C.
80 backers pledged $7,575 to help bring this project to life.

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I'll Be Seeing You: Letters Home From a Navy Girl

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This campaign is raising funds to publish my book, "I'll Be Seeing You," the story of Lucy Berkey's experience as a Navy WAVE in WWII.

In 1943, Lucy Berkey was a young, overworked school teacher. Frustrated with a career she did not like, she enlisted in the Navy WAVES–Women Activated for Voluntary Emergency Service. Over the next two and a half years, she chronicled her story in letters home. Her letters describe her disappointment with teaching, her decision to enlist in military service, her training at Hunter College in New York City, and her assignment as a lithographic draftsman at the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office in Washington, D.C. Hers is a story of personal and professional transformation told against the backdrop of the momentous war years. Through Lucy's letters we understand what it was like to be a young military woman in WWII, receiving the same rank and pay as a man for the first time in history.

Excerpts from the book appear below. Lucy's story is supplemented with over 80 period photos and footnotes that explain and illustrate her experience.

EXCERPTS:

September 21, 1942

I’m so tired I can’t see straight. Boy, I’ve never worked so hard in all my life! If I thought college was wearing, I take it back–at least most of it. I work all day, every day with no hours off. They said the art teacher used to have three hours and one afternoon per week to plan her work, but there is certainly no time off for me. Mildred and I plan constantly with just about 15 minutes off for lunch. At noon on Mondays I have to walk from McKinley to Garfield because I can’t make bus connections and it’s 15 blocks! Tuesday noon I have to walk 12 blocks from McKinley to Jefferson. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons I am at Wilson, the junior high in the same block as the high school, so I ride the bus from McKinley to Hook’s Nook, where I eat, then walk three blocks home and then two blocks to school. Friday I’m at McKinley all day, thank goodness. Every morning at McKinley I have junior high–7B and 8B–and one grade school class, so my afternoons are worse with five classes one after the other. It’s always after 4:00 before I can get home. Bus fare amounts to at least 50¢ per week, and this morning when it was so cold I thought the bus would never come!

May 7, 1943

Betty Patty and I walked downtown after supper tonight to see the Navy “Cruiser.” I’ve never seen anything like it before, kind of a trailer with a large canopy that rolls out on one side. Girls were actually being sworn in right there under the canopy! Inside the Cruiser, they were showing newsreels and had brochures about joining. We talked to a lieutenant who’s been in the WAVES since they started and a couple of other WAVES answered our questions. They were all such lovely girls and looked so sharp in their uniforms. Maybe Jonas was right in December–the WAVES could be the best choice for me.

Courtesy of the Salem Leader
Courtesy of the Salem Leader

September 12, 1943

We arrived in Jersey City about 1:30 Thursday afternoon, and took the bus from Jersey City to the subway. Ruth and I both thought the subway hard on the ears, but a nice way to go for a nickel. We came straight from the subway across the street to the Armory. There were hundreds of girls going through lines to tables, just like college. We had to turn in unused meal tickets and be assigned to buildings, etc. Also, we were issued two pairs of lisle hose and a blue hat with a blue crown. This hat is worn until we graduate. We have to have it on at all times, except when indoors and at ease. The worst thing of all was carrying our suitcases three blocks to our building, and uphill at that! I was so tired I could hardly stagger, but I finally made it. Of course, I’m on the 5th floor! Steps really wear you out around here. I have discovered that there is a 6th floor and an attic, so I feel better.

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

September 18, 1943

Today we witnessed a Regimental Review of the 12th Regiment. It was very short, but very impressive. All of our company stood there and wondered if we’d ever be that good in drill. For me, drill isn’t very interesting so far–probably because I’m so clumsy. All of the girls who’ve been here three weeks tell us we’ll like it after the worst is over. At 11:00 today we had Captain’s inspection and did we ever work. We nearly went crazy cleaning up! Every speck of dust had to be incognito! We even scrubbed one wall that looked fingerprinty. Our gear had to be laid out on our bunks in regulation order. Contrary to what I’d thought, we don’t have to scrub our floors, but we wipe them with damp rags to keep down dust. We do scrub the walls and everything in the head (bathroom) and galley (kitchen).

Regiment 14, Hunter College, The Bronx, New York City – Lucy is in 2nd row, 2nd from left
Regiment 14, Hunter College, The Bronx, New York City – Lucy is in 2nd row, 2nd from left

October 10, 1943

At last I can write you news of where I am and what I’m doing. Of course, from the envelope you can see I’m in Washington, which already has 9,000 WAVES! At first I was quite disappointed about this assignment, because I’d heard so much about how crowded this place is. You see, my work is in the Hydrographic Office and there is only one–in Suitland, Maryland. So you see I’m really in Maryland, although the address is Washington. It takes about 30 minutes to ride the bus into the heart of Washington so it isn’t bad at all. Because Hydro is so new, this place is really in the country with a woods on the left. There is a Census Building, the Hydrographic Building, and our Barracks H. Besides these there is a recreational hall where dances are held every two weeks. Upstairs there is a beauty shop, ping pong table and a craft room. The recreational setup is wonderful! Outside the hall are targets for archery. They have riding, badminton, bowling and swimming, too. To swim we’ll have to take a bus to the new pool at the Anacostia Receiving Station on this side of the Anacostia River.   The barracks is very empty, because the Marine girls just moved to their new barracks in Arlington, Virginia. They had been using this one until theirs was finished. Everyone says we are lucky to have the newest and nicest barracks in Washington. Also, Hydro is an enviable working place because the officers here are more lenient than on most stations. I suppose that is because most people here are artists. You should see the barracks–it’s gorgeous!

Lithographic Team–Hydrographic Office–Lucy is in center with head turned
Lithographic Team–Hydrographic Office–Lucy is in center with head turned

 April 16, 1944

This will amaze you! I visited the White House on 4/4/44–and it was just one of the nicest things in which I’ve ever been included. One of the girls here has “pull” through a lady who is a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. She arranged for 25 of us from here and 25 from another barracks, including officers, to be presented at tea at 5:00 p.m. We stood in a circle in the blue room and Mrs. Roosevelt shook hands with each of us. She was such a surprise to me, for she’s much nicer looking than her pictures show her, and also, more slender. And charming–well, you can’t help liking her. Then we went into the formal dining room and had punch and cookies. The plates were lovely and fragile, with a gold band around the rim and the gold seal. I was scared I’d drop my plate! The room was paneled in wood, and is one of the most beautiful of all, I think. Mrs. Roosevelt talked to us very informally here and we had fun. Then they brought in Fala, the dog, and some of the girls played with him. Not me, of course. I was afraid he’d want to play with me! Soon Eleanor went upstairs for the President was ill with a cold. One of the guards showed us through the rest of the main floor and the basement. As we were going through the front hall, it began snowing and I shall never forget how beautiful it was to look out between those beautiful columns and see those enormous snowflakes floating down. That trip is something I won’t soon forget!

Lucy with other WAVES–Washington, D.C.
Lucy with other WAVES–Washington, D.C.

 

 

Risks and challenges

The book is done and ready for final copy editing. I will use the excellent copy editor and wonderful publishing company I used on "Waiting for Peace." I am anxious to sign a contract with both of them. My goal is to have the book available by July 2018. The only challenge that is keeping me from completing this project is funding for the editing, layout and publishing.

There may be unexpected delays along the way, but I have thoroughly researched the process and understand the time and many steps that are involved to produce the finished book. Based on my previous publishing experience and the lessons learned through that process, I believe I have allowed enough time between copy editing and publishing to fulfill rewards by July 2018.

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Funding period

- (21 days)