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Former WWII ‘Code Girl’ Honored for Service, Celebrates 100th Birthday

September 10, 2021, Gilchrist, We Honor Veterans

Gilchrist honored Joan Heslin Moore, 100, with a veteran salute tribute in July to thank her for her service as a lieutenant in the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program during World War II. As part of Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans program, volunteer veterans pay tribute to all patients who have served in the military. Joan’s family attended the ceremony, and one of her great-granddaughters proudly held the American flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

“She was thrilled and thought the ceremony was lovely,” said her daughter Kathy Catzen. “She thought it was cute that she outranked all of the men who were saluting her.”

Lieutenant Joan Heslin Moore

After college, Joan graduated from officer training as an Ensign in January 1943. She immediately began work as a communications officer, or “code girl,” stationed in Boston. She was responsible for coding and decoding cables, tracking German U-boats and sending top secret orders to ships under the Navy’s command. At 21, Joan was the second youngest among the first corps of women to become Navy officers.

Joan recalled in an interview with the Veteran’s History project how during WWII, all Americans made sacrifices to help in the war effort. While she and other enlisted members took part in the war, Americans at home faced rationing of everything from gasoline to shoes, meat and  butter.

“A whole generation literally had to grow up overnight,” Joan explained.

Joan left active duty as a full lieutenant in 1946. After marrying an Army officer, she moved to Japan, where her husband was stationed. In the ensuing years, she raised 14 children and now has more than 30 grandchildren and more than a dozen great-grandchildren. For many years, Joan wasn’t able to talk about her contributions to the war, because her work was classified.

Today, Joan lives at Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Timonium, where she receives hospice services from Gilchrist. To celebrate her 100th birthday, Joan’s family brought her to the family farmhouse in the Poconos, where they have shared many wonderful memories together over the past 50 years. Joan spent her birthday with five of her children and their families, celebrating with fireworks and watching a memory reel of photos. Joan blew out all the candles on her cake in one breath.

Gilchrist is honored to serve one of the trailblazing women whose contributions made history and helped pave the way for inclusion of women in the Armed Forces. Thank you for your sacrifice and service, Joan!

To learn more about Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans program, visit gilchristcares.org/whv. To support our work, visit gilchristcares.org/give.

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