WWII Snapshots by Emily Kennedy - 2008

Eunice Louise (Severns) Bradley, WAVES

Eunice Bradley was in her early 20s and pursuing a teaching degree at Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State University) when she decided to enlist in the WAVES in August 1945. WAVES was an acronym for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services.

This self-described "country girl" grew up in Richmond, Kan. and currently lives in Manhattan. She was always interested in history, cared about the military and enjoyed keeping up with current events.
"My parents seemed to be proud of me and accepting of my decision to join, but they definitely were not overly excited," she said.

It affected them, but they trusted her to make her own decisions.
,br> "I really don't know why I enlisted, I was really naive about it all," she said.

Bradley remembers where she was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

"I remember I was playing bridge when I heard it over the radio, but that wasn't the reason why I decided to enlist," she said.

During World War II, Kansas State Teachers College had a community on the campus called Vet City. By January 1946, KSTC had 288 veterans who were enrolled on the GI Bill and needed housing, according to the Emporia State University archives. Vet City was a housing unit for students with families; however, Bradley lived elsewhere because she was single at the time.

In August 1945, she left KSTC for Kansas City and then went to Hunter College in the Bronx, N.Y. for boot camp.

Bradley said as soon as they arrived in New York, they were taken to a building where they could sign up for various positions. She signed up at the nurse's aide station in the WAVES. Mildred McAfee, who was the first female commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, first directed the WAVES. This program became very popular.

During training, Bradley and the others learned basic biology, chemistry, and some physics. Bradley said she always enjoyed those subjects so the training was not very difficult for her.

She spent about four months in New York, but training was not the only thing this group of people did. When on breaks, they were able to explore many different sites. One of the perks of being in the Navy, Bradley said, was that they were able to have free tickets to just about anything. She visited Times Square, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park and the Bronx Zoo, and attended an Army/Navy football game. Bradley also participated in the WAVES chorus.

"One memorable experience from New York was when a girl that I met from Detroit took me to visit her relatives who lived in Brooklyn, which was a lot of fun," she said.

After her training had ended in December 1945, she was sent to Idaho to work as a nurse's aide. She worked in what was called a clean surgery ward. Some of her job duties included giving baths and medications and changing beds.

I do remember one particular case when a young Nebraska man was burned badly all over his body so we had to apply salt water on him," she said.

Bradley also recalled another case where an older man from Pennsylvania had a serious wrist wound and he lost all use of his left hand. She said that it was sad to see how these physically fit men lost some of their abilities from being injured in the war.

In the spring of 1946, the hospital in Idaho closed. Bradley was then sent to Seattle.

In June 1946, she left the Navy. Her entire experience lasted about 10 months.

"My mom wrote to me every day so I never felt homesick," she said. "It was a very short time in my life, but it is something I will remember forever," she said.

Bradley described her overall experience as a good one, but it was a little bit of a culture shock for her.

"Your world is so small when you live in a small town, and this experience just expands your world so much," she said.

Bradley walked away with an even greater appreciation for the military than she had before she enlisted. She said that actually being there and experiencing all of the hard work that everyone contributes showed how important the military is.

"I would give advice to any girl who graduates high school and is not sure what she wants to do with her life to try something similar to my experience," she said.

After the Navy, she returned to Emporia to finish her teaching degree. She received her teaching certificate in three semesters, graduating in December 1947. She began teaching third and fourth grade in her hometown of Richmond for about two years. It was not long after she ended her teaching career in Richmond that she received a job at Kansas State University, then called Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, where she taught a beginning education course in Holton Hall.

K-State is where Bradley met her future husband, Howard, who taught vocational agriculture. The couple married in 1958. She had two step-children: Nancy, who is now deceased, and Russell, who is a retired physician.

Bradley said her nurses' training was valuable, as she grew older. Her husband was in a serious car accident and she was able to aid him in his recovery because of the training she had received. Not long after his accident, he was diagnosed with cancer. She said that her training really helped her take care of him during his illness.

"I would say that this whole experience made me into a well-rounded person and I would not have done anything differently," she said.

Since her WAVES experience she has not been back to New York, Idaho or Seattle.

"I did go to Vancouver for a weekend a while back, but I'm not much of a traveler," she said.

Bradley's military experience runs in her family. She is proud she currently has a grandson in Afghanistan and a great grandson in Iraq. Her brother-in-law was also in the Air Force.

"I really see the value of military life, but I have very mixed feelings about the war today," she said.

Bradley is currently a member of the American Legion and is proud of her work during World War II.

Left: Bradley in 1947 in her junior year of college; right: Bradley as a WAVES

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