Mar 7

First Women Assigned to a Combat Ship

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 1:00 AM


March 7th, 1994

The U. S. Navy issues first orders for women aboard a combat ship: the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69)

The U. S. Navy issued the first set of orders to women for duty aboard a combat ship, the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69) on March 7, 1994. 

By June 25th, when this photo of a watertight door proudly labeled “FEMALE OFFICERS COUNTRY” was snapped as ‘A Sign of the Times’ eighty-seven women were aboard the ship as crew members, and approximately 500 women were expected aboard (as ship’s crew or members of an embarked air wing) by the following October for the next scheduled deployment.

  • Sharon Olson

    Proud to be part of the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower crew from 1994 to 1998.

  • Eric Cable

    I am investigating this further. I was a crew member of the USS Coronado (AGF-11) and we got our first wave of women in FEBRUARY of 1994 and therefore the Coronado, not the Eisenhower, was the first combatabt to embark women as part of it’s regular, full-time crew.

  • Doshy Ellison

    There’s a matter of designation. She was designated as an Auxiliary Command Ship at the time, as such she was technically not a “Combat ship”.

    Let us know what you find though.

  • randydutton

    The USS Tuscaloosa (LST-1187) had two female USMC officers officially embarked as crew in 1979 for the transit to Okinawa. Supposedly there was a photo-op for the event in Okinawa when the women detached and disembarked, but our ship had gone back out to sea. They used the USS Schenectady as a prop.

    Randy Dutton
    CDR, SC, USNR-Retired

  • randydutton

    The USS Tuscaloosa LST-1187 had two female USMC officers officially embarked as crew in 1979.

  • Jerry

    Women in the U.S. Navy: Historic Documents

    Press Release Announces that Navy to Begin Assigning Women to Ships

    News Release
    Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
    Washington DC

    No. 557-78
    Oxford 73189 (Copies)
    Oxford 75131 (Info)

    October 24, 1978


    The Department of the Navy announced today that it will begin assigning women to duty aboard ships. The action is in accord with Navy-sponsored changes to legislation governing the assignment of women contained in the recently enacted Fiscal Year 1979 Defense Authorization Bill. The action is also in accordance with the applicable judicial decision.

    Navy women will be assigned permanently to selected non-combatant ships, and may be assigned on temporary duty (180 days or less) aboard any ship that is not expected to become involved in a combat role while women are aboard.

    During Fiscal Year 1979, 55 officers and 375 enlisted women will be assigned to 21 ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, with the first officers reporting aboard their respective ships on November 1, 1978. The first enlisted women will report in December.

    Of the ships listed below, only the first four have both officer and enlisted women ordered to them at this time. The ships, homeports, and the numbers of officer and enlisted women to be assigned are as follows:

    SHIP TYPE HOMEPORT OFF ENL USS VULCAN (AR 5) Repair Ship Norfolk, VA 3 62 USS L Y SPEARS (AS 36) Submarine Tender Norfolk, VA 2 102 USS SAMUEL GOMPERS (AD 36) Destroyer Tender San Diego, CA 4 102 USS NORTON SOUND (AVM 1) Missile Test Ship Port Hueneme, CA 4 70 USS DIXON (AS 37) Submarine Tender San Diego, CA 3 USS PUGET SOUND
    (AD 38) Destroyer Tender Norfolk, VA 3 USS HARKNESS
    (TAGS 32) Surveying Ship Norfolk, VA 1 USS PIEDMONT (AD 17) Destroyer Tender Norfolk, VA 3 USS SHENANDOAH
    (AD 26) Destroyer Tender Norfolk, VA 2 USS AJAX (AR 6) Repair Ship San Diego, CA 2 USS HECTOR (AR 7) Repair Ship San Francisco, CA 3 USS PROTEUS (AS 19) Submarine Tender Guam, M.I. 3 USS YOSEMITE (AD 19) Destroyer Tender Mayport, FL 2 USS JASON (AR 8) Repair Ship San Diego, CA 2 USS SPERRY (AS 12) Submarine Tender San Diego, CA 2 USS HOLLAND (AS 32) Submarine Tender Holy Loch, Scotland 3 USS CANOPUS (AS 34) Submarine Tender Rota, Spain 2 USS HUNLEY (AS 31) Submarine Tender Charleston, SC 2 USS SIMON LAKE
    (AS 33) Submarine Tender Charleston, SC 3 USS PRAIRIE (AD 15) Destroyer Tender San Diego, CA 2

    The twenty-first ship in the program will be identified later.


    Note: USS Vulcan (AR-5) was the first US Navy ship on which women were deployed (with the exception of nurses on hospital ships).

  • Jan Silva Hamby

    The distinction is whether there were TAD or PCS orders involved. Lots of women were embarked in combatants either with extended TAD orders or as parts of units embarked (helo sets, air wings, technical specialists, but were not officially assigned to the ships because of the law. IKE’s embarkation was the first that was official. I reported in very early February, the 4th if memory serves, but Deana Reiber was the first woman to officially be assigned PCS orders to come aboard in March. I was on TAD orders that we converted to PCS orders, so technically I was there before Deana, but she is the first woman to be permanently assigned to a combatant. I’m okay with it, no single woman or single ship made integrating women at sea a success. We all did.

  • USS Ainsworth 1992

    There was a pilot program for frigates well before this. 1992

  • Shawn Adams

    I was stationed on the IKE at that time, I remember all the media attention received because of it as well. My aunt who was a Captain at the time often told me how proud she was of the Navy for “Catching up to the times”. My other favorite memory of the Eisenhower during that time frame was when we were in dry dock and hosted a live tapings of the Wheel of Fortune, got to see Vanna White in person…woot.

  • Kimberly R. Blunt-Richardson

    I was one of those women who was assigned to the mighty Ike in 1994.

  • Kimberly R. Blunt-Richardson

    We were the first to go on a full deployment. This is why we made history.

  • Kimberly R. Blunt-Richardson

    I remember you Sharon Olson

  • James Kohl

    I was the ship’s nurse during this evolution!

  • Barbara Spivey

    I didn’t get there until after the deployment in 1995 to 1999. I was on the 1998 deployment.

  • disqus_6npiJ7fVP4

    Why are my comments ‘held, pending approval’? don’t you believe in protecting my 1A RIGHTS???

  • Sir I am the moderator for the blog. All comments are held for approval before posting. We have a set of guidelines for comments which I will post here for your reference:

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  • disqus_6npiJ7fVP4

    so if my experiences don’t fit into your little version of what you believe is true, it gets deleted? FACT: women filed harassment claims against men who simply watched them walk up the steep ladders that are on ships. The command, believing the woman, often took a stripe and fined the guy. FACT: some women did ‘sell themselves’ and walked off the ship with thousands of dollars after a period at sea. AT1-USN-RET

  • You misunderstand me. My job as moderator is not approve only the comments that fit my worldview, but to maintain a basic standard of discourse and to provide some gentle steering so that the discussions can continue reasonable. If someone disagrees with or even wishes to lower him or herself with some remarks it isn’t my place to stand in the way of his or her dreams or right to make such comments.

  • Dion Callan

    The FIRST women in the U.S. Fleet to be permanently stationed aboard a Man-of-War or combat vessel was in 1977 aboard the USCGC Morgenthau(WHEC-722). The Coast Guard is one of 5 branches of the Armed Forces. CGC Morgenthau was classified as a 378′ Destoyer-Escort, ASW, with 5″ cannon, 40mm grenade launchers, 6 torpedo tubes, helo pad.

  • Mary E. Sobray

    I received orders to USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA 3) in Sasebo, Japan in March of 1994. After en route training, I reported aboard 29 May 1994 as the Intelligence Officer and was the only female for approximately ten months.

  • Tatterhood

    Wow. Completely warped perception, likely due to resenting any women serving in the Navy. I ran into plenty of men who harbored tremendous resentment toward female sailors. And FYI…Your comments are extremely offensive and demeaning toward loyal, dedicated female sailors.

  • A USCG ship is NOT a combat ship.. never has been.

  • Esther

    Hi, My daughter served on the pilot program for women serving on a combat carrier, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
    Her name was Dya M. Patton. Do you remember her?

  • The Coast Guard does not fall under the Department of Defense so no, it’s not a branch of the armed forces @dioncallan:disqus

  • Would you care to elaborate sir?