SIOUX CITY | When Roberta Pendleton earned Lt. Senior Grade with the U.S. Naval Reserve, she blacked out the words "Jr. Grade" on the nameplate that sat on her desk.
More than seven decades later, she still has the nameplate, a reminder of her military service.
Now 99, Pendleton winked and gave a knowing nod. "I was no longer Junior Grade," she said.
Roberta Pendleton, then known as Roberta Stock, carried a confidence into military service when she enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942. The 1935 Central High School graduate had gone from Iowa State University, where she graduated in March 1940, to Chicago, immediately, in search of work.
After working for Sears and Roebuck for a couple of months, Pendleton found a better job as a proofreader with the U.S. Gypsum Co., of Northern Illinois, where she worked for two years, traveling throughout Illinois while adding duties that involved teaching classes in nutrition to school groups and women's clubs.
"Inasmuch as World War II was engulfing our country, our company services were changing and I felt the time had come to be more involved in the war effort," she said.
She signed with the U.S. Naval Reserve in the WAVES, which represented Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. She was sent to Smith College at Northampton, Massachusetts, to be trained as an officer in October 1942.
"We were enlisted as 'apprentice seamen' and after completing a month of indoctrination we were then reserve midshipmen in the Women's Reserve Midshipmen School," she said.
Training meant marching drills that covered three miles per day, marching to the mess hall, marching to class, marching to just about everywhere.
"Our Naval clothing included a smart-looking navy blue $25 uniform plus hat, plus raincoat, plus overcoat," she recalled, laughing about how she preferred the Navy's blues over the Army's browns.
Pendleton served as the commander of her company, which meant she made announcements, directed drills and communicated with other officers. Her commission as Ensign dated Dec. 31, 1942, included orders to proceed to a U.S. Naval yard at Washington, D.C., one attached to the U.S. Marine Corps.
"We were there to supplant some of the men officers as these men had to go to sea," she said, disclosing how she was soon working to code and decode military messages, exciting work, but duties that required her to fill one of three 8-hour shifts each day.
"Many were reports of shipments of munitions, ordnance parts and some were weather reports," she remembered. "Messages classified as SECRET or CONFIDENTIAL or PRIORITY were handled by officers only."
In September 1944, she requested a change of duty from her role in communications to the Bureau of Ordnance in the Ford Instrument Co., on Long Island, where a fellow WAVE had been transferred. "The hours were much better and I hoped to see a different aspect of the Navy as well as a new area -- New York City."
She was in New York City when the war ended. She recalled the "crammed" conditions of the celebration, a country ready to put four years of bloodshed and tears behind.
In August 1945, she was promoted to Lieutenant Senior Grade and remained the only WAVE assigned to a company at Sperry Gyroscope, serving in personnel as Naval Inspector of Civil Service employees' records. She resigned that November and was officially discharged from the Navy on Dec. 22, 1945.
She came home to Sioux City and landed a job working with World War II veterans at Morningside College, conducting psychometric testing.
"I did that for a year and then met Don Pendleton, an attorney who later became a judge," she said.
Don Pendleton, who died in 2005, had served with the FBI during World War II.
The couple married in August 1946 and raised five children in Sioux City, adults who now work and reside in Tennessee, Michigan, Washington, Des Moines and Sioux City.
Roberta, a grandmother to four and a great-grandmother to five, occasionally gave talks to civic groups about her work during World War II. She said she enjoyed every aspect of her Navy "career."
"All the offices I worked in were congenial places with no dangerous experiences and interesting personnel," she noted. "It was a fascinating world in Washington, D.C., and in New York City at that time. I never suffered in any way and I hope I helped my country in some way in those war years."
When asked if she ever joined the American Legion, Pendleton smiled and shook her head. "I didn't join the American Legion," the mother of five said. "I had a legion at home."