Vet recalls service as a WAVES member

T-R PHOTO BY CHUCK FRIEND Barbara Prusha poses for this picture in the dining area at the Dack Care Facility at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. She was a member of the WAVES during World War II at Ward Island in Texas near Corpus Christi.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

For Chelsea resident Barbara (Parzek) Prusha, serving in the WAVES (Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) near Corpus Christi, Texas, gave her the unique opportunity of working for nearly two years in the office of the Junior Officer of the Day at the Naval Radar/Radio Training Base on Ward Island.

Prusha joined the U.S. Navy on Nov. 30, 1943 and traveled by bus from Des Moines to the Bronx, N.Y. for basic training.

“I was scared to death upon arriving in the Bronx, and also did not like being asked to learn to swim — in fact I didn’t,” Prusha said. “But our unit became the ‘singing platoon’ and we did many performances including one at the Waldorf Astoria which was very enjoyable.”

After basics, Prusha went by train to Ward Island and was assigned as secretary to the Junior Officer of the Day, who happened to be from Wisconsin.

One day, while working in her office, she became the first person on the base to receive the news of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“I was the person who made the announcement on the public address system for all on the base to hear,” Prusha said.

Her duties as secretary included getting the troops off to school; making announcements and delivering important messages and helping with accepting new students and sending troops to the east coast to prepare to be sent into active duty abroad during World War II. She also said that she did a lot of typing while at the base.

“All of the trainees were men at that time and mostly all from the Navy,” Prusha said, “But we did have a few Marines at the base and the Naval Air Station was only a mile away from our base so we worked closely with their personnel as well.”

“When the war was finally over and surrender was announced, we had big parties at the base,” Prusha recalled.

Thinking of Corpus Christi today and Hurricane Harvey, Prusha said while on the base the units received hurricane threats and were told where to go for protection, but she could not remember being hit by any major storms

Coincidently, Parzek’s neighbor in Chelsea, Bob Prusha, served in the U.S. Army during the same time she was at Ward Island. After her discharge in Sept. 1945 (and his almost at the same time) the couple were married on Oct.24, 1945. They were married 63 years before his death in 2008.

Prusha said the women on the base were close, and that up until a year or so ago she stayed in touch with another member of the WAVES from one of the southern states, but has now lost contact with her as well.

Prusha is currently a resident of the Iowa Veterans Home, and has been so since February 2016. She will celebrate her 95th birthday this month.

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Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: jhutton@timesrepublican.com or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: iapost46commander@gmail.com