Joy Asuncion, a retired Navy chief petty officer, hands a certificate of appreciation to Jane Case, who served as a Code Girl in the Navy WAVES during World War II. Case was honored for her service on Dec. 7, the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, at Piper Shores in Scarborough. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

SCARBOROUGH — Jane Case of Scarborough, a World War II Code Girl, was honored for her service on the 80th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7.

Joy Asuncion, a retired Navy chief petty officer and part of the  Maine State Ambassador for Women in the Military Service for America Memorial, presented a certificate to Case during a ceremony that was held at the Piper Shores Retirement Community in Scarborough where Case currently resides. Master Chief Petty Officer Sandra Turner and Chief Petty Officer Alyssa Sasnett also flew in from Maryland to attend the ceremony.  

Case was presented with a certificate from the U.S. Library of Congress, named an honorary Enlisted Information Warfare Specialist, and was given a quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Case said she was overwhelmed and shocked by the recognition she was given.  

“I hadn’t the vaguest idea,” Case said, “I couldn’t have been more stunned that I was being honored. It is only fair as far as I am concerned that it’s because I am 98 and I am still alive,” Case said laughingly. “I really only feel it’s fair for the people that have gone before me. There were just so many of us that went in, I don’t feel it’s for me, I feel like it’s for everybody that went. I really have not gotten over the fact that this happened to me. I am representing all the people that were working,”  Case said. 

Case served as a Code Girl in the United States Navy WAVES for two years after she had turned 20 years old.  

“The only time I could serve was starting when I was 20 years old because it was the first time the Navy was taking women in, and they weren’t really thrilled with the idea in the beginning,” she said, “but they need us because the men needed to go to sea and do other things. It was the beginning of women going into the Navy and you couldn’t go unless you were 20 years old.” She said she graduated high school in 1941 and enlisted in 1943.


After her stint in the Navy , Case married and had three children.  

The United States Navy began recruiting college women as “Code Girls” before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor the efforts for recruitment increased due to the United States joining the Allied Forces. “The Army had already taken the women earlier so that put a lot of pressure on the admirals to give in and finally let the girls come.” 

Everyone she knew was joining the service, so when she was eligible, she decided to join, Case said. 

Case said she joined the military without telling her family as she wanted to serve her country.

“I didn’t let them know I was about to do it,” she said.. My parents had just gotten divorced, and I was living in New York with my mother, and I knew she wouldn’t like it, so I didn’t tell her about it, I just went and signed up. After I went home and told her I had signed up because I was waiting for the call to go and there was nothing, she could do about it. She didn’t say anything about it. In the end she was a good sport about it. I couldn’t see any of the women in my family that thought that it was a good idea. Young girls didn’t do that then, they were starting to, but there were people that didn’t approve of that.” 


Case discovered later in life that she became a Code Girl due to her attendance at a music school.   

The women were asked several different questions including if they were good in math, proficient in different languages, if the enjoyed crossword puzzles and if they were engaged to be married. The women that were able to join the Navy as Code Girls and were sworn to secrecy. Case has still held to their oath. She said she hasn’t even told family members things she had done during her time in the Navy.

“I haven’t and I won’t,” she said. “When you take an oath of office that’s it you don’t decide to just tell people, no you don’t do that. Most of us have kept quiet.”

More than 10,000 women served as cryptographers and cryptanalyst each serving two years or more.  

The Japanese Navy tried to transport several messages each month. In 1944, the Code Girls intercepted around 30,000 messages. This eventually led to the U.S. Navy sinking almost all Japanese supply ships that were heading to the Philippines or the South Pacific, helped shoot down a plane that carried the architect of Pearl Harbor and helped arrange the invasion of Normandy. Their day-to-day tasks included operating code-breaking machines, analyzing and breaking enemy codes, gathering resources on enemy operations, intercepting radio signals, and testing the security of American codes.

“The last thing I read in the code book,” Case said, “was that 50,000 people that were doing it, but each group doesn’t know what the other person is doing. You were there to crack down and to learn what was going on in Japan or Europe.” 

Leona Wright 97 of Cornish was also honored in a private ceremony at her home.

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