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We don’t send out Net Tender stories monthly anymore, but if we come across something that might be of interest we will do so.
Recently my brother, from Maple Grove, MN a suburb of Minneapolis sent me a story about a WWII Navy Wave woman and the Net Tender Passaconaway AN-86. He came across the information in the Minnesota American Legion Publication.
Passaconaway was built and commissioned in Duluth, Minnesota. I don’t believe we have had any contacts from anyone who served on her.
Many people refer to Minnesota as a place that has a lot of mosquitoes and North Dakota with North Pole winters and prairies. In fact while I was attending Navy Radio Operator School in 1943 a fellow gave me the nickname of “Prairie Dog.”
Actually we are only about 300 miles from Duluth, on Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes. It is a ;place where most of us have visited at one time. In addition to the large local ships on the Great Lakes, there are many foreign ships that visit her ports.
The Great Lakes are connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the St Lawrence Seaway and is the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth.
21 Net Tenders plus many Navy and Coast Guard Small Craft vessels were built on the Great Lakes during WWII.
USS Passaconaway AN-86 was to be commissioned on April 27, 1945 at the dock of Marine Iron and Shipbuilding Co, Duluth Minn. Elizabeth Hughes a 2nd class Petty Officer Radio Operator was stationed at the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville, Florida, when she received a letter from James Forrestal, the Secretary of the Navy inviting her to go back to her hometown of Duluth and christen Passaconaway. Elizabeth said that this was the biggest moment of her navy career
The rest of the Net Tenders at Duluth were christened by wives of prominent men, so it was certainly fitting to have a female member of the armed forces to christen Passaconaway.
Elizabeth Hughes was born and educated in Duluth. . In 1942 she heard that the Navy was accepting women to serve in the newly formed Waves. With the help of a nice Chief recruiter named Ben Brady she enlisted. She was the first women in Duluth to serve in the military. She ended up serving at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida during the entire war. First as a radio operator and later an air traffic controller. While still serving she married another radioman, John Gersey. She feels that her old friend Chief Brady was behind her selection.
She makes her home in Minnesota.
Passaconaway was commissioned too late to see World War II action, but she did serve at Iwo Jima and the Admiralty, Caroline and Marcus islands before being decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet. In the 1970’s she was turned over to the Dominican Republic.
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