Anna Der-Vartanian

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Anna Der-Vartanian
Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Anna Der-Vartanian (left) shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, USAF (right).
Born (1920-12-06)December 6, 1920
Died August 4, 2011(2011-08-04) (aged 90)
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1943 - 1963
Rank Master Chief Petty Officer

Anna Der-Vartanian (born December 6, 1920) was the first female promoted to Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9), the highest enlisted rank in the United States Navy. Her promotion to Master Chief Yeoman made history as the first female in the U.S. Armed Forces promoted to the rank of E-9.[1]

In 1959, while serving as assistant to the Global Strategy Officer at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, Der-Vartanian received her promotion to Master Chief Petty Officer. With that promotion, she made history as the first woman in the Armed Services to be promoted to the rank of E-9.

Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Anna Der-Vartanian died August 4, 2011 at the age of 90 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Early life[edit]

Anna Der-Vartanian was born December 6, 1920. Raised in Detroit, Michigan, she attended Southwestern High School from 1936-1939. She attended Detroit Business University from 1941-1942. Shortly after the outbreak of World War Two, at the time of Anna Der-Vartanian's enlistment, her sister, Jeanne Oliver, was serving in the U.S. Navy while her brother, Andrew, served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific theater of war. Der-Vartanian's mother wanted to join the Navy, but opted to stay home and serve the American Red Cross.

Navy career[edit]

After attending Detroit Business University, Der-Vartanian enlisted in the Army Women's Auxiliary Air Corps (WAAC), later called the Women's Army Corps (WAC), on December 18, 1942. She elected to leave the WAAC on August 31, 1943, joining the U.S. Navy as an Apprentice Seaman in the women's unit known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

After completing basic training, Der-Vartanian held administrative positions in Great Lakes, Illinois and Washington D.C. at the Bureau of Naval Personnel where she met celebrities Robert Taylor, Gene Markey, and Eddie Albert, as they passed through her office from 1943-1946 with many other enlistees.

Her next assignment was Naval Station Treasure Island in San Francisco, California from August 1946 - June 1947. While there she was promoted to the rank of E-7, Navy Chief Yeoman (YNC). By 1951, she was writer for Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), Vice Admiral Matthias B. Gardner.

Between March 1952 - December 1953, Der-Vartanian was assigned to the Public Information Office (PIO) Pearl Harbor, then in the Territory of Hawaii. Her Executive Officer was Capt. William J. Lederer and the office conducted tours to the USS Arizona Memorial, including notable visitors such as James Michener, Margaret Bourke-White, and John Wayne. In 1953, President Harry S. Truman passed through PIO Pearl Harbor and autographed a picture of himself for Der-Vartanian, signing the photo with the inscription: "Glad to sign it. HST."

Der-Vartanian's next assignment, from July 1954 - June 1956, she served in the Personnel Office of the Parachute Rigger and Aerograph Schools at Lakehurst, New Jersey. In 1957, she was promoted to the rank of E-8, Senior Chief Yeoman (YNCS), and worked at the Public Information Office in Boston, Massachusetts.

In July 1959, she was detailed to the Global Strategy Office of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. There she met Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison and obtained his signature in her copy of his book, John Paul Jones. While serving at the Naval War College, Anna Der-Vartanian was selected and promoted the first female Master Chief Petty Officer (YNCM) in the United States Navy on December 16, 1959.

Following her promotion, she was transferred as the first female Chief Clerk in the Office of United States National Military Representative, SHAPE, in Paris, France. She served in Paris until 1962, meeting President John F. Kennedy before her last assignment at the Legal Office, Naval Station Washington D.C.[specify].

Der-Vartanian retired from the U.S. Navy on July 16, 1963.[2]

Later life[edit]

Anna Der-Vartanian joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1964 as a junior analyst, later becoming a counterintelligence specialist and received assignments in Paris, France; Bonn, Germany; and Madrid, Spain. Der-Vartanian was fluent in English, Armenian and French, and knew some Spanish and German. She officially traveled to Cairo, Egypt; Tunis, Tunisia; and Algiers, Algeria. Though retired from the CIA in 1991, she remained a contractor there until May, 2007.

She gave speeches and attended numerous military events, was a member of the WAVES National, Women of the Sea Service, registered at the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) as charter member 23774, and participated in yoga for seniors. Residing in McLean, Virginia until the time of her death on August 4, 2011, she enjoyed visiting family in Michigan, Louisiana, and with her niece whom she sailed the Chesapeake Bay and the Virgin Islands.

She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, Site 9833.

Awards and honors[edit]

Der-Vartanian's personal awards include six Good Conduct medals. She received the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and National Defense Service Medal for service in World War Two, also earning GI Bill education benefits.

Upon departure from the Office of the U.S. National Military Representative, SHAPE, on May 22, 1962, YNCM Der-Vartanian received a letter of commendation from Col. John R. East, USAF, praising her superior performance as the Chief Clerk. She coordinated administrative procedures for the United States Military Activities and personnel of the fourteen NATO nations within that command, earning her Col. East's strongest endorsement for the Navy's Limited Duty Officer Program.