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World War II hero honored by Westerly DAR chapter

Erna Schoen Bentley of Norwich was recently honored with the prestigious Women in American History Medal, awarded by the Rhode Island Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and local Westerly chapter. The award was developed at the national level to recognize women who have made significant contributions in their community and country

Bentley enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves in March 1943 and reported to training that April. As a cryptography specialist, she was stationed at the Naval Communications Annex in Washington, D.C., decoding secret messages from the Japanese and German governments alongside a team of 4,000 women. During her service, the Naval Communication Intelligence Organization was commended for its contributions to the war effort.

Bentley was discharged in November 1945 as a petty officer first class. In addition to the World War II and American Campaign medals, she also received the ribbon bar of the Navy Unit Commendation, a merit award to the Naval Communication Intelligence Organization.

Bentley’s family recently donated her World War II uniform to the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade, Md. She was inducted into the Phebe Greene Ward chapter of the Rhode Island Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, joining her daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter and great-grandson.

“The DAR Women in American History Medal is one of the most special awards we have the pleasure of presenting,” Jacquelyn Smith, Rhode Island state regent, said in a release. “We are truly humbled and honored to have Mrs. Bentley as part of the RI DAR and to present her with this well-deserved honor.”

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