Sp(V)1 Barbara Stuvengen US Navy (Served 1945-1959)
Read the service reflections of US Navy Sailor:
Sp(V)1 Barbara Stuvengen
Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/81837
WHAT PERSUADED YOU TO JOIN THE SERVICE?
With the wisdom of age, I firmly believe my Navy connection throughout my lifetime was set in stone the day that little 7-year old girl saw her idolized big brother in the uniform of a United States Sailor. It lay dormant until December 7, 1941 when my 17th birthday dinner was interrupted by radio newscasts from Pearl Harbor. It was still another 3 years before I was able to convince a Navy Recruiter, that I was finally eligible to enlist and follow in my brother’s footsteps. This was against my mother’s wishes, but with my father’s signature, definitely against said brother’s wishes, although he later relented. I entered Boot Camp at Hunter College on February 22, 1945. My own career was brief because of restrictions in those days, but I went on to marry a man who finally retired as a BMC with 43 years of service, a younger son who retired as a BTC after 20 years, an older son, now an EMC who left and then re-enlisted, and an IT2 grandson.
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?
Because of my “Boston accent” they wouldn’t consider my wishes to be a Control Tower Operator or Link Trainer Instructor, but because of my business experience I was sent right from Hunter to Naval Communications in D.C., where I ultimately became Yeoman to the Legal Assistant to the Chief of Naval Communications. Our enlistment at that time was for “the duration and six months”. By the time my name came up on the list, they were desperate to fill the rate of Specialist V (Flight Orderly), and I extended for a year, went to school at Patuxent River, and was assigned to fly with Naval Air Transport Service between Moffett Field, CA and Honolulu. Between flights I was duty PO on the crew scheduling desk. I was discharged in 1947. When I met my husband in 1956, I re-enlisted in the Reserves and served with him in a unit at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, until I became pregnant with our first son.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?
During that time period, women in the Navy were never sent into combat. I do, however, feel I had a part in it by serving as a crew member on the “hospital flights” when we brought back wounded men being transferred to hospitals in the States. I also count two reminders of how dangerous our lives were when the crew I assigned to one flight died in a crash shortly after leaving Moffett, since the Flight Orderly was one of my Shipmates in FO training. The second one was the return flight from Honolulu when we lost one engine and nearly the second one after passing the “no return” point. Obviously, we made it back safely, but it was a scary situation.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
Obviously, in a long lifetime, there could be no end to the list. Strangely enough, the one I have never forgotten was the awful experience of marching to morning chow over walkways lined with angle worms which came out after an overnight rain. The more serious memory, of course, was joining in the celebration in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, the night Japan surrendered and the war was over. A more recent memory has to be the looks on the faces of the 4th grade students holding my dog tags and listening to my “sea stories” of women in the military.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU…AND WHY?
It would have to be my brother, whose 32-year career in the Navy continued to be such a factor in my life, and whose Remembrance Page is on my NTWS Profile. I can’t forget, however, the Commander, who calmed down the WAVE LtCdr who was irate that the scared-to-death S2c was not respecting her rank; or the Captain, who having been at sea throughout the war, realized his WAVE Yeoman was listening to him turn the air blue, and said “Oh Hell, you’re a sailor too”, and continued to ball-out whoever was on the other end. Nor can I forget RADM Dirk Debbink, who chose to follow his CNO’s orders for community service by spending Memorial Day in our small town. Now VADM Debbink, CNR, returned two years later and spent a couple of hours personally helping to lower the 128 Veterans’ flags in our Memorial Park.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?
After my discharge in 1947, I went to work at California Research Corporation, a subsidiary of Standard Oil Company of California in San Francisco, first in Personnel, then as Secretary to the Vice President, and later as Head Clerk in the Patent Department. After I married and had my children I formed my own secretarial service, working from home from different law firms. In 1965 we moved to my husband’s home town in Wisconsin, and I continued working from home for another law firm in a nearby city. We both joined The American Legion, and thereby started yet another career for me. I became the first Woman Post Commander, and held other offices up to and including the National level, being appointed as National Historian in 1996. I have since remained active at all levels of the organization. I have also been active in my church and the community, among other things having served two terms as Village Clerk, and for the past 16 years as a member of the Library Board. Should I just say that I am “retired”?
HOW HAS SERVING IN THE NAVY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU NOW APPROACH YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
My answers to all the previous questions should pretty much tell the story of how the military, specifically Our Navy, have influenced my life, and will continue to do so until my flag rests on my casket.
HOW HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU TO MAINTAIN A BOND WITH THE SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
NTWS has been a lifesaver toward preserving my sanity during some very stressful times in our lives when the dreaded Alzheimer’s has taken over a hard-charging BMC, who gave 43 years of service to the Navy, and 52 years to our marriage. I have never before felt so much love and caring from so many people who never had heard of me, nor I them. The strongest effect though has been learning just how far the women have come from “back in my day”. I have been honest in stating I still have mixed emotions about them serving on the ships, but I have the deepest respect for all they have done and are doing.
Note from the Editor: Our dear friend Bobbe passed away on May 23, 2016. While we are sad that she is no longer with us, we rejoice in knowing that she is with her dear BMC again.