Putnam’s Women of World War II – WACS and WAVES
During these final days of Women’s History Month, the Putnam County Historian’s Office and the Putnam Veterans’ Museum is proud to build on the role of women in the military and remember some late, great female heroes.
Over the years, the Historian’s Office has had the privilege of honoring former Mahopac resident Corp. Gertrude Cassetta (nee Pearson), who trained at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and served in World War II as a cryptographer in the Signal Corps of the Army Air Corps as a WAC (Women’s Auxiliary Corps) in England and France. In a 1994 article in the Courier Trader, Cassetta remembered June 6, 1944, a.k.a. D-Day, “It was a bright sunny day in England. I awakened to hear the thunderous noise of planes. The sky was literally darkened with planes going to France.” This was just one of her many memories of serving in Europe during the war. Cassetta gave Putnam County an ever-lasting gift through an oral history that is now housed in the Historian’s Collection (HC802, A16).
The Putnam Veterans’ Museum Photo Archive at the Putnam County Historian’s Office houses an entire photo album of Brewster’s own Rosemary Lally’s experiences with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II. She trained at the U.S. Naval Training School, Women’s Reserve at Hunter College, in the Bronx, N.Y. and served 1 ½ years in Washington, D.C., and achieved rank of Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd class.
Lastly, Dolores Beal Stephens penned a wonderful book in 2003 entitled Those Who Served, Those Who Waited, WWII Experiences as told by the Veterans and Civilians of Brewster/Southeast, NY, (included in the Research Library of the Putnam County Historian’s Office) where she paid tribute to many local WWII veterans including her own sister Joan Ross Beal Peckham, of Brewster, who was likely influenced by their father William Ross Beal who served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and returned to serve as a Captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. Joan joined the U.S. Naval Reserve (WAVES) and was trained at the Great Lakes Naval Base, served at St. Alban’s Naval Hospital on Long Island, and then at Alameda Naval Hospital in California as a Corpsman. Involved in nursing work, Joan was responsible for taking care of badly burned and maimed sailors. One of her patients was John “Butch” Santorelli of Brewster, N.Y., whose tank landing ship was struck by a torpedo at Normandy in June 1944.
During Women’s History Month, it is a particular honor to remember these women and their service.
- U.S. Navy’s John “Butch” Santorelli and Joan Ross Beal, WAVES, of Brewster, N.Y.
- June 2, 1994 Putnam Courier-Trader article on Gertrude Cassetta
- WAVES’ song book from the Rosemary Lally Collection of the Putnam Veterans’ Museum
- WAVES Parade at the U.S. Naval Training School, Women’s Reserve at Hunter College, in the Bronx, N.Y. from the Rosemary Lally Collection of the Putnam Veterans’ Museum
- WAVES in service in Washington, D.C., from the Rosemary Lally Collection of the Putnam Veterans’ Museum