Navy veteran left bank job to serve as medical corpsman during WWII
By GORDON JACKSON | The Brunswick (Ga.) News | Published: April 24, 2019
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — Evelyn Bedell was working in a New York City bank in the 1940s during a time when it was uncommon for women to hold full-time jobs.
“The war was on. The guys were gone,” she said.
It was a job that didn’t give much satisfaction, which led to a conversation with her parents.
“I was the last of 10 kids,” she said. “I told my parents I wanted to do something meaningful.”
She told her parents she wanted to join the military to support the war effort.
“My father brought me to a recruiter the next day,” she said. “They were proud.”
Bedell said she had no idea what she’d be trained to do in the Navy, but she expected she’d pack parachutes or some other task typically assigned to women at the time.
Instead, she was trained as a medical corpsman and was assigned to a WAVES ward treating ailments among female patients. She helped deliver babies and even observed a surgical procedure.
She also was responsible for taking chest X-rays of sailors serving aboard submarines when they returned to port. The sailors were required to take the X-rays for pneumonia and tuberculosis because they worked in such close proximity with each other for extended periods of time.
The toughest part of the job was when Bedell said she and other women heard disparaging remarks from some of the men she served with.
“They thought we were in the military for one reason — to find a husband,” she said. “That’s the way it was back then.”
The doctors she worked with treated her and other women well, she said.
“The officers were all very kind to us,” she said.
After the war ended, Bedell stayed in the Navy another six months until she was discharged.
“We were all glad the war was over,” she said.
She returned to the bank after re-entering civilian life, got married and raised a family, but she has never forgotten her time serving during a world war.
“You learn a heck of a lot about how to get along with people,” she said. “I was the youngest of 10 kids and was spoiled. Everyone caters to you.”
At 95, her only regret is not making the Navy a career.
“I wish I had stayed in and made something of myself,” she said.