WOMEN IN THE NAVY
* A HALF CENTURY CHRONOLOGY*
The following is drawn from Crossed Currents: Navy Women from WWII to Tailhook by Jean Ebbert and Marie-Beth Hall. Brassey's, Inc., 1993.
26,000 WAVES serve in naval aviation.
The WASPs or Women's Airforce Service Pilots ferried 12,650 fighter and bomber
planes all over the US and Canada, and overseas when needed, instructed Air
Corps pilots, and towed targets for combat pilots to practice shooting at. The
record shows their accident rate was about the same as men's.
Lower than expected turn-out of women personnel prompts Secretary of Defense
George Marshall to convene a group of distinguished civilian women to consider
what might be done to improve female recruitment. The group is named the
Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS) and still exists
Congress opens the path for women to become admirals.
Zumwalt becomes CNO at a time when ERA seems likely to pass, and he is
prepared to make changes accordingly. As part of a larger effort to update
personnel policies, he convenes two groups of women in 1971 who conclude that
female talent is being underutilized.
NavSec John Warner authorizes a pilot program providing Navy scholarships
(NROTC) for 17 women.
Zumwalt issues Z-116, one of many Z-grams, i.e. messages from the CNO to the
entire Navy on policy. The measure is designed to give women greater
opportunity and thus improve retention at a time when the Navy was moving to an
all-volunteer force. Z-116 informed all hands that efforts would be made to
"eliminate any disadvantage to women resulting from either legal or attitudinal
restrictions." Actions taken included: women were authorized limited entry to
all ratings; women were assigned to the USS Sanctuary, a noncombatant;
the NROTC program would be opened to women in 1974; qualified women would be
considered for promotion to the rank of rear admiral; women could be selected
for study at the joint-service colleges.
John Warner announces the Navy will soon open flight training program to
The first fully integrated class graduates from OCS.
The first 6 women in any branch of the armed services earns their wings.
Congress mandates that women enter the Naval Academy and in July 81
women are sworn in as midshipmen along with 1,212 men. Over the next 4 years,
32% of the women and 27% of the men dropped out. Over the first eight
classes, voluntary attrition of women (24%) was twice that of men (12%).
Midshipmen were not taught about the historic contributions made by women to
Six Navy women file suit claiming a 1948 law which allowed the Navy to put
women only on transport and hospital ships was unconstitutional and was
restricting their careers.
A federal judge rules the 1948 statute unconstitutional. Section 6015 's bar
against assigning women to ships "was premised on the notion that duty at sea
is part of an essentially masculine tradition ... more related to the
traditional ways of thinking about women than to military preparedness."
This ruling also opens new opportunities for women pilots on carriers; though
only temporary assignments up to 180 days were allowed, women gained valuable
experience and were able to prove themselves.
High ranking women officers testified to the House Armed Services Committee
that military women were subjected to sexual harassment "probably at every
The same year, Navy declares a formal policy against sexual harassment, though
it is not formalized as an offense until 1990 in article 1166 of Navy
sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical
conduct of sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either
explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a person's job, pay, or career;
(2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by a person is used as a basis
for career or employment decisions affecting this person; or (3) such conduct
has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual's
performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
Ten years after Z-116, Navy women still occupy only
one third of the Navy's ratings, most of them administrative, medical or
dental. ( By 1990, however, 60% of all rated women serve in nontraditional
Prompted by harassment complaints against the commander of the USS
Safeguard, DACOWITS tours Navy bases in the Philippines finding sexually
oriented entertainment prevalent throughout service clubs condoned and
supported by the Navy. A report is released on women in the Navy which
concluded that sexual harassment ranging from
verbal abuse to molestation pervaded the Navy and many commanding officers were
unaware of the extent to which these problems existed in their own commands.
The report recommends that the Navy, from the CNO down, must commit itself to
rooting out harassment. It calls for better training, more effective reporting
of violations, and formal inquiries by the Navy IG.
After another public sex harassment incident, Sam Nunn calls again for an
investigation: " That such behavior is not dealt with more seriously than
documented in the IG report suggests that there may be institutional problems
in the Navy and its treatment of women." As a result of the uproar the Navy
accelerates its planned update of the 1987 report, bringing it out in 1990
instead of - as planned- 1991. Boorda announces that training policies
instituted in 1987 were beginning to show results. Of the women surveyed for
the 1990 report, 76% believed the Navy was taking steps to address the
By this time--fall 1990--theNavy has a total of 173 women pilots and 80 women
NFOs on active duty flying more than a dozen types of aircraft. (However, as
of 1992, women constitute only 1.5% of its pilots and NFOs.)
House passes a bill removing the legal barrier against women serving as
pilots, navigators, or crewmembers in Airforce, Navy or Marine combat aircraft;
but it did not require the services to assign women to such aircraft.
Tailhook '91 Convention in Las Vegas takes place.
Navy strengthens zero-tolerance policy toward sex harassment. By September
every Navy employee is required to have attended a day-long seminar on sexual
harassment which included discussion, a video presentation and a taped message
from acting SecNav Howard.
A commission appointed by President to study the issue -- in an
eight-to-seven vote--recommends that Congress reverse its decision and again
prohibits assigning women to combat aircraft. It votes however to allow women
to serve on all ships except subs and amphibious ships.
A pilot program begins of integrated training including bootcamp.
April 29, 1993
Defense Secretary Les Aspin orders the service chiefs to drop restrictions
that prevents women from flying combat missions. CNO Kelso is the first to act
on this order, putting the Navy ahead of the other services, though women are
still excluded from permanent assignment on carriers.
May 18, 1993
Lts. Pam Lyons and Brenda Scheufele the first women aviators to be tapped for
combat billets begin fighter training on the F/A-18. Both were former flight
instructors and had logged over 1,400 hours. They were expected to be deployed
by late summer 1994 aboard two carriers, the Eisenhower and the
Lincoln. By April, 1994 more than 60 female pilots receive orders to
The Navy gives Congress the required 30-day notice that it intends to assign
women to combat ships. By 1999 they predict women would constitute 40% of the
crews of a few of the most powerful combatants.
Lt. Shannon Workman completes 12 daytime and 4 nighttime landings in an EA-6B
Prowler jet aboard the Eisenhower and becomes the first women to to be a
part of a combat squadron aboard an aircraft carrier.
March 6, 1994
Navy permanently assigns the first large group of women (63) to an aircraft
carrier, the Eisenhower. Among the officers are three pilots.
That same month, four women, one from each service, testify to a House
Subcommittee about the reprisals they faced when they reported having been
NOTES & POLICY
Article 133 - an officer may be charged with conduct "unbecoming an
Article 134 - prohibits all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good
order and discipline... and all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the
FRATERNIZATION - any personal relationship between an officer and enlisted
member that is "unduly familiar and does not respect differences in rank and
grade where a seniorjunior supervisory relationship exists." As chief of
naval personnel, Mike Boorda was principal author of this policy.
PREGNANCY - current Navy policy (as of 1994) removes a woman from her ship in
the 20th week of pregnancy. Navy estimates between 1989-1990, 5% of women on
ships were pregnant at any given time. The Navy requires that women return to
their ships to complete their sea duty no later than four months after
delivery. Navy pilots are grounded during pregnancy due to unknowns about the
risk to the fetus.
Gulf War reports showed that 1.5% of men and 5.6% of women could not deploy
with their units -- in the case of women, primarily due to pregnancy.
On mechanical and technical aptitude tests for entry into a Navy "A" school,
fewer female than male recruits score high enough.
ANNAPOLIS - Male and female midshipmen wear virtually the same uniform and
must fulfill the same requirements with the exception of some adjustments on
the physical tests. According to 2 Navy reports issued in 1987 and 1990, male
midshipmen resented female midshipmen because they were not expected to face
Following the Gulf War, most Americans supported expanded combat roles for
Almost 90% of female NFOs have remained on active duty.
At present, on any given day, 55% of the Navy's men are assigned to ships
and 22% of its women.
Uniform requirements for men and women on ships have been made virtually