Julia Parsons

By Paula Green 

       Patriotism is prevalent in July since we commemorate the birthday of our nation. This month, we’ll introduce you to a local woman who did her patriotic duty and served in the Navy during World War II. Julia Parsons of Forest Hills, who turned 100 on March 2, held a vital position. 

      Julia was 21 years old when she graduated from Carnegie Tech. She was searching for a job when she read about the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She volunteered for this military unit and was sent to the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College. “I went unknowing to D.C. and was thrilled to land in a great job,” Julia said.       

      Since Julia took two years of German in high school, she was placed in a sector to decipher enemy codes. Julia ended up earning the rank of LTJG (Lieutenant junior grade). 

      She was assigned to work on one of the first computers called the “Bombe.” Julia’s job was of critical importance. “We had to decode radio traffic messages that were sent from German U-Boats. There were numerous operative messages that were transmitted daily; we used an Enigma machine for the decoding process,” said Julia.  

       Essential operations, such as decoding and trying to stay one step ahead of the Germans, played a pivotal role in helping the Allies win the war. “I loved my job! I liked the uniforms, the work was exciting, and I enjoyed being in Washington. It was such a satisfying time in my life,” Julia said. 

      While Julia was in the service, she met her husband, Donald, who was serving in the Army. Even though he was in the military as well, Julia never discussed her classified information with him or anyone else. “The Enigma was declassified in the 60s. I did not know that until I visited the NSA (National Security Agency) Museum in the late 90s. I saw the Enigma machines on display, and then I told my husband about it,” noted Julia. 

       When the war ended in 1945, Julia found herself out of a top-secret position and right back into the kitchen. She and Donald eventually ended up back in Pittsburgh, where they had three children, Bruce, Margaret, and Barbara. Julia is a grandmother and a great-grandmother. She enjoyed staying in touch with others. 

        Julia is a member of the Veterans Breakfast Club (VBC) of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit dedicated to sharing veteran’s stories. The pandemic did not stop Julia or her fellow members from sharing their stories. VBC had Zoom calls which Julia attended and kept up with the accounts from other veterans. Northern Connection magazine salutes Julia Parsons for her years of naval service during World War II.