A Stateside Wedding

A third wedding dress in the Collection, though not made of parachute silk, tells the story of a war bride who served stateside. In May 1943, 26-year-old DeLois Swoboda received orders from the Chief of Naval Personnel, directing her to report for duty as an ensign in the Navy Nurse Corps.4 While serving at US Naval Hospital Memphis, TN, the Indianapolis native fell in love and planned to marry. Like some other service brides, this young nurse dreamed of saying her vows in a formal gown.

Donated to the Foundation by Barbara Hyde in 1994, DeLois’ circa 1945 dress is made of white rayon silk and features a chapel-length train, a sweetheart neckline filled with white net edged in satin and braid scrolls, and long sleeves with points extending over the backs of her hands. The bride wore a crown-style headpiece accented with pearls and a fingertip veil.

Unlike her sisters in the Army Nurse Corps, DeLois left the service soon after her wedding. World War II-era marriage policy for military members varied greatly from service to service, but marriage while serving in the Navy Nurse Corps during this time brought immediate dismissal.5 DeLois was honorably discharged in March 1945. The DeLois (Swoboda) Woodard Collection also includes her Navy Nurse Corps uniforms, service papers, a USN compact, a scrapbook and a photo album.

4ENS DeLois Swoboda orders, DeLois (Swoboda) Woodard Collection, Gift of Barbara Hyde, Women’s Memorial Foundation Collection.

5Women’s Memorial Register, DeLois (Swoboda) Woodard, Registration #199563; Godson, Susan H., Serving Proudly: A History of Women in the U.S. Navy(Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2001), 142.