In 1943 at the age of 21, Georgia Todd joined the WWII effort, becoming a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves for women known as WAVES, an acronym for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. She was sent to Indiana University where she became a Storekeeper 2nd class. She returned home to El Sobrante and served at the Richmond shipyard where she was able to view ships being built. Later she moved over to the Mare Island base where she saw the building of submarines and the continuous repair of combat-damaged vessels.
Like many of those who served, her service was filled with moments that ranged from heart warming (like the time officers overlooked her going AWOL to return her parent’s car after borrowing it) to tragic (hearing the explosion that rocked Port Chicago Naval Magazine and killed and injured hundreds). Here are more details.
Since George lived close to her assigned detail, her parents allowed her to take their car to and from the base. One Friday in particular, it was announced that all weekend passes were revoked, which meant nobody was to leave the base for any circumstances, which caused her obvious concern. She approached her superior officer and asked, “Permission to go to shore?” so that she could return her parents car. Unfortunately, he denied her request.
Determined not to inconvenience her parents, Georgia decided she should return the car anyway. The car was parked close to the fence and that night when she saw her chance, she went AWOL and took the car home. The next morning she returned to the base and was approached by another officer who had said that they had been looking for her. She simply shrugged and reacted with, “Oh! Really!?” The officer sent Georgia to her next assignment and fortunately for her, they all turned a blind eye to the incident and she never heard another word regarding the matter.
On July 17, 1944, Georgia (and everybody on base) heard a large explosion while on duty at Mare Island. For the next few hours officers and MPs were scouring the base and all the vessels to find the source but nothing turned up. Finally they learned that 20 miles away, a ship docked at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine had a massive explosion and it had leveled the base, killing 320 sailors and civilians and injuring 390 others. The terrible disaster was obviously a shocking piece of local history and Georgia still displays a sense of disbelief over the fact they all were able to hear it so clearly.
Today, Georgia walks across the parkway to visit our lunch program at the Rohnert Park Senior Center a few times a week. We find her often with a smile on her face and she is one of the bright lights in our crowd, socializing with any who will take the time to stop and talk. She is always a delight to see and we all look forward to her visits!
by Jason Whitworth
Rohnert Park Dining Site Manager