Senior Houston Woman Shares Her Personal Experience in the Navy During WWII

Clubs and Organizations

November 5, 2015

When we think of those fighting for our country in World War II, we typically think of men overseas on tropical islands or European countries in the line of fire. However, it is estimated that some 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces, both at home and abroad. One of those women is Houston and Parkway Place resident Jeanette Eaton, who volunteered to join the Navy along with her twin sister in 1945 from Tulsa, Oklahoma. When some of her male friends were anxious about whether they would be drafted or should voluntarily join the military, she thought that if they could do it, she could do it too, and the rest, as they say, is history. Eaton thought military experience sounded like an exciting adventure, and it didn't disappoint her expectations. She recalls the memories with fondness and especially thinks about her time in the military around Veterans Day each year. Parkway Place senior living community is proud to be home to 64 veterans who have fought for our country's freedom and will honor all veteran residents at their community with a special luncheon on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th at 11:00 a.m., with special guest musician Rodney Raspberry, and will share military memorabilia in display cases at the community. After the luncheon, the veterans have been invited to West Briar Middle School, just across the street from the senior living community, where the students will recognize area veterans and thank them for their service.


After enlisting, Eaton traveled to New Jersey for Navy school. There she took aptitude tests to determine the best job for her skill set, and she was assigned to be an aerographer's mate. Eaton, who had already been studying accounting, was interested in this position after hearing of it and excited to get started. It was during her training that an announcement came in: the war was ending.


"I don't think you could really understand how relieved everyone was unless you were actually there," said Eaton. "My brother was on a destroyer in the Pacific, and my sister had met and married a man who was a prisoner of war in Europe. To know that it was finally coming to an end was an amazing feeling."


While it was official that World War II was ending, Eaton still had a job to perform to get the military personnel safely home. She was sent to Jacksonville, Florida, where she fulfilled her role in tracking and observing weather patterns. Providing these accurate details was vital to planes successfully landing and taking off and required four months of tedious training. Eaton and her fellow aerographers took precise measurements of the wind speed and direction, temperature, cloud coverage, humidity and air pressure each hour. These measurements were then circulated to incoming and outgoing airplanes through the Navy's communication system and provided to the military airplanes in the area.


After a year and a half in the Navy, Eaton returned home as an aerographer's mate third class, which is equivalent to a sergeant. She recalls that there were other women who worked around her, and typically at least one of the officers on duty during a shift was female.


"The country needed people, so I did what I could to help in any way," said Eaton. "It was a very positive experience for me and a chance to travel and see more of the world. I think young people should do all they can to get out of their comfort zones and have new experiences. My time in the Navy is something I look back on with great pride and happiness. It taught me how to work with different people and gave me independence and a sense of service. It was a one-of-a-kind experience I wouldn't trade for the world. I wouldn't be the person I am today without it."


After she returned from Jacksonville, Eaton received her master's degree in accounting from Northwestern University and returned to Tulsa, where she worked for national accounting firm Haskins and Sells (now known as Coopers and Lybrand) and was the first female CPA the Tulsa office hired. Eaton still has an active CPA license to this day. She married a fellow World War II veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers who was in Normandy on D-Day.


"We are so honored to count veteran residents like Mrs. Eaton amongst the remarkable residents at Parkway Place," said Sunny Chatagnier, Parkway Place executive director. "All of the residents have individual stories to share of how wars have impacted their lives, and this day is a time to remember and honor those who have sacrificed for our country. While we strive to honor their service daily, we hope they especially feel it on Veterans Day as we take time to thank them for their contributions to our country's history."


Photos Courtesy of Parkway Place:

Photo 1: Parkway Place resident Jeanette Eaton in her Navy uniform during World War II.