Documentary to showcase history of WW2 women's service - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Documentary to showcase history of WW2 women's service

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate our country's independence and the many people who have fought to preserve freedom.

During World War II, nearly everyone was involved in fighting the war, either from the battle field, or at home—by keeping business and industry going.  One group of women trained with the US Navy to help keep the country's workforce stable.  And some of them trained right here in the Cedar Valley at the University of Northern Iowa.

And now, a new documentary is aiming to keep the history of those women alive.

"I was Korean blood.  We were fighting Japanese.  I was American, raised to love and honor America.  There was no choice.  Why other women didn't do it, I don't know," said Susan Ahn Cuddy, former WAVES member.

Susan Cuddy was one of about 100,000 women, during World War II, who signed up for military service with a branch of the US Navy known as the WAVES, or Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service.  She and many of those women ended up in Cedar Falls at UNI, then called the Iowa State Teachers College.  For the college, the tide of WAVES was desperately needed.

"President Price knew that student enrollment would go down.  But he also knew that at some point, the war would end.  So what he wanted to do was yes, to serve the war effort, contribute to the war effort, but he also wanted a college here when the war was over," said Gerald Peterson, UNI archivist and special collections manager.

And the WAVES were successful in keeping the college alive.  During tough economic times, the WAVES also gave local business a shot in the arm, while boosting the national economy by learning job skills. Many of them trained to be secretaries.  While that doesn't seem too impressive in today's world, these were jobs most women had never held before.  And getting that training through the US military was an added perk.

"I just thought it was the thing to do.  I probably maybe always resented the fact that men could do it and show their patriotism," said Jeanette Schaefer Alpaugh, former WAVES member.

And now, the service the WAVES contributed is being put in the spotlight.  Taylor Cat Productions of Colorado is putting the finishing touches on a documentary about the WAVES.  Back in Cedar Falls, campus archivist Gerald Peterson hopes the film will help keep the important work of these women alive.

"Thank god the battles were not fought here in our country.  But the strength to win those battles often came from places like Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa.  We are a part of whatever makes the great big picture of history.  And this, I think, is especially true of World War II and the WAVES experience here," said Peterson.

The WAVES documentary called "Hometown Heroines" is set for national distribution next year.  No word yet on if it will be screened here in Iowa.  You can view a trailer for the film by clicking here.  Learn more about the documentary here.

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