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NEWS | March 8, 2024

The Radar Women of World War II

By Sgt. Perla Alfaro

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii- The Women’s Air Raid Defense (WARD) stands as a testament to the resilience and dedication of women during World War II. Formed in response to the Pearl Harbor attack, WARD was a civilian organization comprised of women who played a crucial role in air defense.

Volunteers for WARD, primarily military spouses, underwent rigorous training. Criteria for recruitment included an age range of 20 to 34, no children, and the successful passage of an Army intelligence test. These women became skilled in plotting airplane positions using experimental radar technology, showcasing their adaptability and commitment during a time of innovation.

After completing their training, WARD recruits worked tirelessly, staffing the air defense center 24/7 from a tunnel known as “Lizard” or building 1492 at Fort Shafter.

These women faced the challenges of wartime uncertainty. As they monitored updates about their husbands through communication channels, they formed bonds and a sisterhood that became essential in navigating the stresses of the era.

Understanding the historical contributions of these women is crucial in recognizing the contemporary importance of military spouses.

WARD, active until the end of World War II in 1945, witnessed some members transitioning to civil service roles in Hawaii. Despite the unfortunate loss of official records in a 1973 fire, the legacy of WARD endures through works like "Shuffleboard Pilots," a book by Kam Napier and Candace Chenowith that documents the history of the organization based on personal experiences of the women who served as WARDs.

The story of WARD is one of adaptability, sacrifice, and resilience. These women, through their pioneering work in radar technology and their unwavering dedication, played a pivotal role in the defense of our nation during a consequential time in history.