Palmyra veteran speaks to Haddonfield Middle School students about time in Naval Reserve WAVES

Jane Elizabeth “Betty” Schopp, one of the few remaining women alive who served in the Military Naval Reserve WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, spoke to the students about her time in the military as a woman and helping to support the men of the war from the United States.

By BRIGIT BAUMA

At Haddonfield Middle School’s 20th Veterans Day program on Nov. 3, the students were honored with a speech from a special veteran.

Jane Elizabeth “Betty” Schopp, one of the few remaining women alive who served in the Military Naval Reserve Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, spoke to the students about her time in the military as a woman and helping to support the men of the war from the United States.

“It was a privilege to serve. Knowing we would work together, military and civilians hand in hand, everyone was working toward that same goal at that time,” Schopp said.

Schopp grew up in Palmyra and attended Palmyra High School. She was high school sweethearts with her future husband Edgar. In a performance where Schopp was the female lead, Edgar worked the spotlight and she said the spotlight was on her more than it probably should have been.

She graduated in 1943, and not long after, Schopp started to notice posters being put up recruiting women to help serve in the military in a program called the WAVES.

According to the Women of WWII website, the WAVES program was created in August 1942 in response to the need for additional military personnel. From the very beginning, the WAVES were an official part of the Navy, and its members held the same rank and ratings as male personnel, also receiving the same pay and being subject to military discipline. At the end of WWII, there were well more than 8,000 female officers and some 10 times that many enlisted in WAVES. However, that made up for only 2 percent of the military at the time.

When Schopp expressed interest in enlisting, Edgar, who was in the Army working on roads in the Middle East as an engineer, told her he would not marry her if she enlisted; despite this Schopp signed up for duty in December 1943 and started active duty in January 1944.

“At that time, there was war in Germany. When I got out of high school, I thought the best thing I could do to serve God and my country was go into the military, which I did,” Schopp said.

Schopp was sent to Hunter College Campus, the U.S. Naval Training Center, Women’s Reserve in The Bronx, N.Y., and Milledgeville, Ga., to learn military training, the parts of a plane and other expected duties.

“I thought we would never learn (the parts of the plane), but we did. At one point, I knew all of the parts,” Schopp said. “We had to know the parts to know what to give the mechanics or else there could be an accident.”

Schopp graduated as storekeeper third class and was assigned to the Mercer Naval Air Station in Trenton. She handled underground storage tanks and handing out and taking inventory of airplane parts, as well as unloading the trucks. She earned the title of storekeeper second class and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Long Island Electronics Center.

During the 18 months Schopp served, she said there was only one accident, which only resulted in a reporter on a plane getting a broken arm.

While the military wasn’t all fun, as Schopp said she “marched, and marched and marched,” she had a wonderful time, having the opportunity to “hitchhike” on planes for free, sing in a glee club trio entertaining the troops in Fort Dix, and get free tickets to shows in New York.

On Nov. 28, 1945, Edgar returned home to the United States and, despite what he had said previously, married Schopp only a few days later on Dec. 16. Schopp left the military in January 1946.

Schopp received an American Theater Campaign Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal and Sharpshooter during her time serving.

The Schopps settled in Haddon Township and had three children, Lois, David and Paul, who all went to Haddonfield Friend School. Schopp went back to school to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education and worked as a speech therapist for 16 years before she got macular degeneration, making her legally blind.

However, she said that doesn’t hold her back. Now in her 90s, she is as busy as ever, giving speeches about her time in the WAVES all over South Jersey.

“I feel like I’m in my 50s. I always try to be busy and I am,” Schopp said.

Schopp hopes the children really learn what WWII was all about and have respect for the veterans and military members who serve today.

“I want them to know that this country was always a great country, and it was an honor to serve it and help reach the goal of winning the war,” Betty said.

The HMS Veterans Day Program is held each year to honor veterans and active military members and educate the students by having veterans come to speak to students about Veterans Day and share their experiences in the military.