Mary McMahon
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Decoded Japanese and German transmissions, WAVE Quarters D

Born Mary Mercer in Marshall, Texas, she came with her family as an infant to Shreveport where her father worked for the railroad. They later moved to a farm near Marshall where she did household work and chopped cotton, among other farm chores. Mary graduated from high school at Elysian Fields, Texas, and then returned to Shreveport. She worked for two drugstores and then at an A&P grocery store before joining the WAVES in 1943. She took her initial training at Hunter College in Bronx, New York, and then was sent to Anacostia Naval Station near Washington, D.C. She lived in the Roosevelt Hotel with five women in two-bedroom quarters until WAVE Quarters D, a barracks for females at Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues, was completed. From the fall of 1943 to August of 1945 she worked eight-hour shifts in a communications office in decoding Japanese and German codes. She traveled to California to be married, flying in any available military aircraft available, including a Navy Helldiver. After the wedding she returned to Washington where she witnessed the VE Day celebration on the Washington Mall. "It was people, people, people out celebrating," she says. She was discharged in August of 1945 and returned to California. She worked in supermarkets for thirty-four years before retiring, and returned to Shreveport in 1993. Late in life she married a love from long ago. "He was my sweetheart when I was eighteen and he was twenty-two," she says. Today she stays in touch with other roommates from Washington. "We call each other just like sisters do," she says.