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article number 105
article date 02-21-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Seaman Virginia Churchill Griffith, World War II Naval Intelligence
by Chuck Knox

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of the many interviews conducted by Chuck Knox for his book, The Muted Trumpet’s Call. The Muted Trumpet’s Call and another Chuck Knox book, The Sound of Distant Drums contain writings and interviews of many soldiers from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Viet Nam, Panama and Gulf Wars. They make a great book to leave out for casual short readings. You can type “Chuck Knox, The Sound of Distant Drums” into your search engine to find Amazon and other sellers who carry this book.

From Virginia Griffith Decatur Illinois, July 3, 2003.

I was in Naval Intelligence during World War II. I served from May 30, 1944 through January 31, 1946. I was stationed at Naval Training Station (NTS) (B) Bronx, NY, NTS (Radio) Miami University, Oxford, OH, and assigned to Port Blakely, Washington, USN Radio Station, Imperial Beach, CA, P S C Shoemaker, CA, 609 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA.

I don’t know what to tell you so I’ll just ramble.

I joined the WAVES in San Francisco, California. I came back to Illinois to wait for orders to active duty. When I got the orders I went to Chicago to join the west coast group. Their train was held up by floods. There were 3 or 4 of us and we were told to report to the Yard Master’s Office and he put a Sailor in charge of us and put us on another train. We got off the train in New Jersey, joined a group headed for Boot Camp, took a ferry to New York City and then marched??? Through the streets of New York to the elevated.

Dormitory in San Francisco.

Boot Camp was at Hunter’s College, Bronx. My group went to Basic Radio School at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I was Seaman-In-Charge and the railcar behind ours was carrying German Submarine Prisoners of War. My duty was to stand guard so no girls went beyond the vestibule of our car.

After basic radio school and advanced radio school we went on duty at the radio station at Port Blakely, Washington. The equipment we used in the radio shack consisted of rows of radio receiving equipment, typewriters and ear phones. We copied Morse Code from Japanese sources, in code. We didn’t sign our work and were never told the content of any messages we copied. We were told at one time the code had been broken. The work was interesting even under these circumstances. The goal was to be able to copy complete messages which wasn’t always easy and sometimes impossible.

Graduation Parade.
Graduation Company. Virginia, next to last row, second from right.

While stationed at Port Blakely, Bainbridge Island, 7 miles out in Puget Sound from Seattle, we watched one of our aircraft carriers come through the mine fields laid between Port Blakely and Manchester Island. The carrier had been hit by 7 kamikaze planes and we could see Manchester Island through the ship. The brother of one of the girls was on the ship and we were able to go to Bremerton and go through part of the ship.

Our barracks at Imperial Beach, California were on the Silver Strand, south of San Diego, and were right on the beach. One morning one of the girls yelled for us all to get up. We were being invaded! When we looked out, landing craft were on the beach and more coming in filled with Marines.

We were offered an opportunity to sign up to go to Hawaii but enroute to our point of embarkation, VJ Day happened. We were sent to Camp Shoemaker to await orders. Our orders were cancelled and we were put to work typing up discharges. There were Italian Prisoners of War on base and they did maintenance work in work areas. Some were allowed off base on their own. For a short time the Navy Football Team was on base and those of us lucky enough to know a cook hung around until he signaled and got in on the steak dinner.

We all wanted to go back in Radio work but were sent to WAVE Barracks on Sutter St. in San Francisco. I ended up typing copies of telegramsin the Federal Building on third shift.

We never received ratings. We were told available ratings were being given to men going overseas and were discharged as Seamen First Class Radio Striker. But, when I got my discharge at Balboa Park they offered me Chief Rating if I re-enlisted.

I received the American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal ribbon bar of the Navy Unit Commendation awarded to THE UNITES STATES NAVAL COMMUNICATION INTELLIGENCE ORGANIZATION for service during the period of 7 December 1941 and 2 December 1945.

The girls I met in the service were just like the girls I grew up with, went to school with and worked with in the shipyards in Richmond, California. Most were really great to get to know and we had a lot of fun along with our duties. There was a mixed Glee Club at basic radio school at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, which I jointed and we sang for special occasions on base and even went to Cincinnati and sang for a Navy Day celebration in 1944. I’m still in touch with two of the girls I went all the way through service with.

Ginny Fliedner and me at WAVE Barracks in San Francisco.

Ginny Fliedner and I are signed up for an Alaskan cruise in August of 2003. Finally—traveling on a ship.

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