The Navy Reserve volunteer contributed to World War II as a member of the WAVES unit.
“I said I was going into the Navy, not the Army,” Evelyn Doss said. “I made sure they understood that.”
So she did, enlisting in 1944 in the WAVES — Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service — the women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
“I don’t really know why I enlisted,” said the Altoona, Pennsylvania, native. “I just thought it sounded like something interesting to do at that time. I joined the fighting.”
Doss, then 21, was an office secretary, and she was hoping to find something more fascinating than sitting and typing on a manual typewriter all day.
After enlisting, she was sent to Hunter College, in the Bronx, New York, a female college that had been taken over by the Navy as a training facility in both Naval protocol and in their new military jobs. Doss was issued two sets of military uniforms with the Navy insignia.
As a member of the WAVES, she continued her role as secretary, working under three lieutenants in the contract termination division of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts.
Doss, now 95 and living in Windermere, remembers them as being kind to her.
“It was an interesting experience for me, and I met some nice people,” she said.
She encountered life in the barracks and meals in the mess hall.
“I lived the life of a service person,” she said. “It was very GI; it wasn’t anything fancy at all.”
She considers herself lucky that her barracks roommate didn’t show up, so she had the entire space — albeit small, with only a bunk bed and dresser — to herself.
Following her service, she was honorably discharged and returned to life as normal. She held secretarial positions throughout her life.
Doss’ first husband, Jack Hopper, also was in the service, and the two dated in high school before getting married. They had one son. They both attended a state teachers college, she said, but he was the only one to finish and get a job as a teacher and football coach.
Their union didn’t last, but she found love again with her second husband, Raymond Doss. She now is a widow and making her life in the Sheridan at Windermere senior-lifestyle facility.
Doss said she has never taken her freedom for granted.
“Think about what life would be like in other places that don’t have the freedoms that we do to live the life you want to live,” she said. “I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want to do without getting permission to do these things. My life is my own. … I just lived my life, and (there was) nothing put upon me that I couldn’t do. My life was mine to live.”