During World War II, the number of marriages increased dramatically. With much of the male population pressed into the war effort, a sense of urgency dominated many young people’s lives. The real possibility of death encouraged couples to go ahead and “tie the knot” as soon as the opportunity arose. The “rush to the altar” became typical of the age, with estimates reaching over 1,000 brides a day in the first months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. By the end of the 1940’s, proportionately more women were married than any other time in the century.
The USS NORTH CAROLINA was no exception. Many members of the crew were married during the war, especially in 1944, during the Ship’s first trip home after a two-year tour of duty in the South Pacific. The crewmembers and their wives you will meet in these stories represent a small sample of the crew that were married during the war years. Their stories share much similarity.
With the United States’ decision to join the war, thousands of young men left home shortly after reaching dating age. Separated for months or even years at a time, most couples did not have a chance to develop serious relationships through the traditional means of dating. Therefore, the bonds of intimacy were created through the exchange of countless letters. In some cases, even the marriage proposal and engagement ring came through the mail! Their love was sealed through marriage at the first chance, for it may have been the last time that the two ever saw each other again. Fortunately for all the couples here, they were happily reunited at the war’s end.
Tay and Edward Cope, Electrician’s Mate First Class
“I met my husband, Edward, when I was eight years old and in third grade. Ted was ten and in fifth grade. For me, it was love at first sight. I don’t think Ted noticed me, although we lived on neighboring streets, until later on in that year when we had our school picnic in June. I ran down a long hill and to my surprise, he caught me at the bottom and kissed me. My first kiss!”
In spite of the kiss, the couple did not start dating until 1940. Engaged in May 1942, they planned a June wedding. But NORTH CAROLINA left in June for the Pacific fleet. Their June wedding was postponed for over twenty-seven months!
On August 5, 1944, Tay Cope had returned from a voice lesson in New York City and called her mother for a ride home from the Trenton Railroad Station. “She informed me that ‘my Ted’ was home and on his way to see me, that day. When he walked into my home, it was one of the most wonderful days of my life.”
Tay and Ted Cope married on August 9, 1944, at 9 a.m. on the lawn of Tay’s parish church. Tay traveled with Ted to Bremerton, Washington, where the ship was being overhauled. After the ship left, Tay returned home to await Ted’s homecoming.
Carol and Joe Mikitka, Metalsmith First Class
While in Brooklyn, New York, on Thanksgiving Day, Joe accidentally bumped into a young lady on the corner of Clinton and Loraine Streets. Sparks flew! For the remainder of his leave, Joe and Carol Mikitka enjoyed several dates. The two corresponded faithfully over the next three years.
On May 3, 1943, a package from Hawaii arrived for Carol containing an engagement ring with a note asking, “Will you marry me?” The couple wed on August 13, 1944, at the Dutch Reform Church of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York. Carol’s father, a Seabee in the Navy, could not get leave. He left without permission (AWOL) to give the bride away.
After the wedding, the Mikitkas boarded a train to Bremerton, Washington, where NORTH CAROLINA continued her stay in port for another five weeks. Carol stayed with Joe in Bremerton until the ship departed. This was the first time away from home for 18-year-old Carol. When Joe left, Carol returned home and waited for Joe’s return in July 1945.
Norma and Stanley Sheveland, Firecontrolman Third Class
Norma Peterson and Stan Sheveland both grew up in the town of Clarkfield, Minnesota, where their paths crossed at Clarkfield High School. Norma started high school in the fall of 1939 where Stan was working part time as a hall monitor to earn extra money for his education. Norma recalls distinctly, “I had my eye on him from the beginning.”
Norma graduated from high school in 1943 and began working as the “ration girl” selling gasoline ration stamps to farmers in western Minnesota. While Norma and Stan both ate at the same restaurant daily, but it took a horror movie to bring them together. “One evening I went to a show in town there and happened to sit alongside him. It turned out to be kind of a scary show, so we started holding hands. I saw him the next noon again at lunch and he had enjoyed the idea and we became better acquainted and started having dates.”
Stan left for boot camp right after Christmas in early 1944. He was assigned to the NORTH CAROLINA in May 1944. Through newspapers and radio, Norma kept informed of the latest developments in the war. They also kept in touch by writing letters, which Norma received almost daily.
When NORTH CAROLINA docked in Bremerton, Washington, Stan returned to Clarkfield and proposed to Norma on September 1, 1944. After the war, the couple was married on November 18, 1945 and honeymooned in Minneapolis.