88-year-old Bay Ridge woman recalls deciphering WWII Japanese code

Ruth Soranno wanted to enlist in the U.S. Navy after Pearl Harbor.

“But the Navy wouldn’t take you until you were 20, so I had to wait a little while,” she said.

She was 17 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the nation was plunged into World War II. She eventually got her chance to serve her country and make her contribution to the war effort.

Soranno served in a U.S. Navy office in Washington, D.C., helping the Allies decipher Japanese code.

“It was mostly about the weather,” she said.

The communications might have been about the weather, but these were not casual conversations. Commanders had to take weather patterns into consideration when planning military operations, she said.

Soranno learned about code in a naval training class.

“I loved it! It was fun,” Soranno said, referring to her military service. She had no qualms about learning complicated codes. “I was always self-assured.”

Those who were serving in the military always knew the Allies would win the war, she said.

“We knew we would destroy the enemy. And we did,” she said.

The mood of the country was confident, Soranno said.

“Everyone was very patriotic. We felt like we were all in this together,” she recalled.

Soranno was born and raised in Park Slope. She is a graduate of Manual Training High School.

“I worked for a couple of years after high school and before joining the Navy,” she said.

She has been living in Bay Ridge for 12 years. Now 88, she is a member of the Shore Hill Center, a program for senior citizens that operates out of the community room at Shore Hill, the housing complex for older adults at 9000 Shore Road.

After the war, Soranno married her childhood sweetheart, raised five daughters, and worked in banking.

“The best job I had in banking was when I worked at Banker’s Trust. I worked in corporation trustee administration. We had a lot of important clients,” she said.

She and her husband Frank had busy lives. The couple had their children in rapid succession.

“I have five daughters. The oldest one was five-and-a-half when the youngest was born. But I always felt healthy. I felt strong,” she said. “I think it’s all the shots they give you in the service!”

Soranno was referring to a litany of vaccinations she underwent when she joined the Navy.

Frank Soranno died 30 years ago at the age of 60.

“He was young when he died. But he did get to see his grandchildren,” his wife said.

Ruth Soranno has 13 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

She loves coming to the Shore Hill Center every day.

“The food is delicious!” she said.

She also enjoys playing Bingo on Fridays.

“It’s more of a social thing. I love being around people. I love to laugh. And I love to smile,” she said. “I remember when I was young, my grandmother used to always tell me, ‘Grow old gracefully.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Soranno is part of the Crochet Club, a group of members who crochet and knit baby blankets that are donated to the Sunset Park Family Health Center to be given to new mothers who can’t afford to buy them.

“It makes me feel good to do it. I feel like I’m doing something nice for someone. And everyone loves a baby,” she said.