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 today.


Congress opens the path for women to become admirals.

June 1970

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.

February 1972

NavSec John Warner authorizes a pilot program providing Navy scholarships (NROTC) for 17 women.

August 1972

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.

October 1972

John Warner announces the Navy will soon open flight training program to women.

November 1973

The first fully integrated class graduates from OCS.

February-June 1974

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 the Navy.


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 military installation."

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 Regulations:

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 ratings.)


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.

Fall 1990

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 problem.

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.)

May 1991

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.

September 1991

Tailhook '91 Convention in Las Vegas takes place.

March 1992

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.

November 1992

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.

April 1992

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 combat squadrons.

February 1994

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.

Feruary 1994

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 sexually harassed.


  • Article 133 - an officer may be charged with conduct "unbecoming an officer."

  • 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 armed forces.

  • 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 combat.

  • Following the Gulf War, most Americans supported expanded combat roles for women.

  • 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 identical.

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