Former Navy WAVE, 91, Recalls Her Service
(March 19, 2010)
World War II veteran Dorothy Canty Forsberg, known
as “Dottie,” is part of the legacy of service by the nation's women
that's honored each March during Women's History Month. Courtesy
WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010 – As we celebrate Women's History Month, we reflect
on the past generations that have served. One of those women, Dorothy Canty
Forsberg, fondly referred to as “Dottie,” celebrates her 91st birthday today,
and she recently recalled her experiences in uniform.
Dottie served in World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy's Women Accepted for
Volunteer Emergency Service, known by the acronym, WAVES. She served in
Washington for the Naval Headquarters in 1945, handling highly classified
messages about the war to and from Navy Adm. Ernest J. King, who served as the
ninth chief of naval operations from March 26, 1942 through Dec. 15, 1945.
Dottie entered the service in July 1941 as a commissioned officer, soon after
the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Her first duty station was at Naval Air Station
Jacksonville, Fla., where she served as a communications officer. Her husband,
Gordon Harrington, also a World War II veteran, said that during Dottie's time
at Jacksonville, she'd also served as a “courier on occasion, and the side arms
caused the guys to sing ‘Pistol Packin' Mama,'” a song by Al Dexter and His
Troopers that was popular in that era.
After her first assignment in Jacksonville, Dottie reported to Washington for
what she called a busy and grueling assignment.
“There were eight other girls that were communicators,” she said. “We worked
eight hours on, eight hours off, eight hours on. It was a grueling, difficult
job. Everything had to be in code. So I learned pretty fast how to get it set up
and run the machines.”
Serving in the military was her whole life, Dottie said. “Pearl Harbor made a
big difference to us, to the whole country, not just to the women in the Navy,”
From her time in service during World War II and beyond, Dottie always seemed to
be in the right place at the right time. She recalled meeting Eleanor Roosevelt
at a tea party hosted at Louisiana State University, and meeting her again
during the war. Roosevelt had arrived an hour early to the tea function. “We
were all so frantic, because she was early and we weren't ready,” Dottie
During the flurry of preparation for the event, an accident ensued, and Dottie
saw first-hand the first lady's generosity. “I was going in and out of the
kitchen door. It was a swinging door. I don't know why Eleanor was in the
kitchen,” recalled Dottie, who was carrying a huge punch bowl for the crowd who
soon would be drinking tea with the first lady.
“She came out of one side of the door, and I came through the other side, and
the punch bowl fell on the marble floor and it shattered into pieces,” said
Dottie, noting she was highly upset by the experience.
After the punch bowl shattered, Roosevelt politely escorted Dottie back to her
dorm room to calm her. Little did she know that this chance encounter would lead
to follow-on meetings Roosevelt during and after the war.
“I was on a plane and spotted Eleanor, and she sat right next to me,” she
recalled. “We were landing in New Orleans, and she said to me ‘I will never
forget the time we broke the punch bowl,' and I had no idea that she remembered
After the war ended, Dottie continued to play pivotal roles in later WAVES
functions. She led the WAVES contingent in the funeral procession for President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died April 12, 1945.
Harrington added that after the war, Dottie was recognized for her time in
service and her contributions to the nation. He added that both Army Gen. Dwight
D. Eisenhower and King presented Dottie with gifts which “were very publicly
presented and had minimal monetary value, so it was clear they were personal
recognitions of professional service,” he said.
Harrington marveled that Eisenhower and King had sought out Dottie to present
her with gifts to celebrate the end of the war.
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the New Media directorate of
the Defense Media Activity.
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