Elizabeth Read

Lt. Elizabeth Anne (Read) Kenefick
United States Navy
(October 21, 1927-March 21, 2016)

Very often, we think that Veterans of the Korean War all took part in combat situations or served overseas. This is, in fact, a great disservice to those who served domestically and supported troops by different means. Elizabeth Ann Read was one of the unsung support heroes during the Korean War, and her story is one of hard work, determination and sense of duty. She joined the United States Navy, rising to the rank of Lieutenant JG and eventually full Lieutenant. Her work with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), a branch of the US Navy created to free up men for sea duty, continued after her promotion.

Lieutenant Read was a teacher before she joined the United States Navy in November 1949. After completing her training, the young ensign was assigned to be the Assistant Custodian of the Commandant’s Library while also serving as a member of the Telephone Service Audit Board. She took over full custodian duties by October of 1950 while she trained to become a Communication Watch Officer. Her duties grew by November of 1951, when she was listed in official records as, “Top Secret Control, Crypto Board, Custodian Commandant’s Confidential Library, Member Enlisted Examining… and Women’s Personnel Representative.” That same month, she was promoted to Lieutenant and worked in the Communications sections in Norfolk and the “Fifth Naval District”. Part of her duties during the Korean War included archiving, data encryption and decryption.

She was described by her superiors as a “forceful, energetic officer”, “loyal and conscientious”, and as a “vivacious and capable instructor in the area of communications” when she put her teaching experience to use and became an instructor at the U.S. Naval School. She taught Officer and Enlisted alike where she earned the respect of her superiors and those who served under her. While stationed in New Orleans as Director of WAVES Programs, her artistic talents were utilized and her “special talent in drawing has been put to good use…” Those who worked with her became familiar with her sense of humor, her imagination and her complete dedication to any task assigned to her. Her tenacity, creativity and personability was noted in her evaluation from July, 1955:

“As interim director of Enlisted Programs department (recruiting), Miss Read has been little short of outstanding in the performance of administrative duties and work Faced as we were with effective assignment of some 25 additional recruiters, and the opening of branch recruiting stations where none had ever existed before, she planned and directed this effort with minimum supervision from more experienced officers. Largely through her initiative and energy, this district exceeded its June 1955 quota by 105 percent…”

Her talent for working with various people and her love for the Navy can be perhaps summarized best from her superior’s comments from September 1955: “She is cooperative and contributes substantially to the maintenance of high morale. She is devoted to the Navy and her duty. Her ability to handle men while commanding their highest respect is a skill possessed by few women.”
Lt. Read eventually was discharged from the Navy and the Reserves in 1967, but she did not “go gently into that good night”. She married John Kenefick in 1958 and raised their son, Liam, with her sense of duty and dedication. He, like his mother, joined the Navy and fondly remembers her with these words:

“[My mother] was a wonderful person, and a great artist. She loved her husband and her kids unconditionally… She was more than willing to chart her own path…
She was a brilliant – from languages (which I think at last count, she knew 27), to PoliSci Major (if you listened to all her stories she had for that day, you would have insight you most likely would never believe… until you saw it on the news 3-6 months later!), to knowing the best path for just about anything… She was the one that raised her children, her husband was the one that paid for it. She was the one with the where-with-all to try and help her children find their families if they wanted, he was the one that knew the answers (in my case at the least) and refused to tell anyone – even her! She was also the President, and historian (to name a few positions) for the Tampa Realistic Artist, with similar positions in the WAVES, American Legion, and several other clubs…”

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1954 – Provided by Lt. Read’s son

-- Memories provided by Lt. Read's son Liam Colburn-Kenefick and Daughter-in-Law, Jan Colburn-Kenefick

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Korean War - Key Events

September 12, 1950

North Korean troops reach their farthest point of advance. Although thousands of UN troops have arrived to reinforce South Korea, months of fighting have reduced the area under their control to a 5,000-square-mile rectangle centered on the critical southeastern port of Pusan. By the time the North Korean invasion force reaches the “Pusan Perimeter,” its strength has been nearly cut in half and it is almost entirely lacking in armor.

These events are taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica

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