1st Women Marines Overseas

"1st Women Marines Overseas - Hawaii: 165 smiling women Marines arrive to relieve 165 Marines for fighting duty," includes scenes of 1st contingent of 165 women arrive by plane in Honolulu. Universal Newsreel 18-374 (1945/02/19) from National Archives
Free A Marine To Fight: Women Marines in World War II. (quote from Marines in World War II Commemorative Series):

"With sideline help from Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Navy bill, Public Law 689, was signed on 30 July 1942, establishing the Navy Women's Reserve (WAVES). The same law authorized a Marine Corps Women's Reserve (MCWR). . . While some members of Congress, uncomfortable about American women so close to combat, argued for restrictions, there were military men like Marine Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith who insisted that women Marines could be used at Pearl Harbor to release men for combat. His view was shared by Navy Secretary James V. Forrestal, who told Congress that an estimated 5,000 naval servicewomen were needed in Hawaii. The outcome was new legislation, Public Law 441, 78th Congress, signed on 27 September 1944 which amended Section 504, Public Law 689, 77th Congress, 30 July 1942 by providing that: 'Members of the Women's Reserve shall not be assigned to duty on board vessels of the Navy or in aircraft while such aircraft are engaged in combat missions, and shall not be assigned to duty outside the American Area and the Territories of Hawaii and Alaska, and may be assigned to duty outside the continental United States only upon their prior request. . . .'

A staging area was established at the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, where the women underwent a short but intense physical conditioning course that included strapping on a 10-pound pack to practice ascending and descending cargo nets and jumping into the water from shipboard. In the classroom, they learned about the people of Hawaii, how to recognize Allied insignia, shipboard procedures, and the importance of safeguarding military information.

On 25 January 1945, with Captain Marna V. Brady, officer-in-charge, the first contingent of five WR officers and 160 enlisted women, with blanket rolls on their backs, marched up the gangplank of the S.S. Matsonia to sail from San Francisco to Hawaii. Their shipmates were a mixed lot of male Marines, sailors, WAVES, military wives, and ex-POWs, and because of the lopsided ratio of men to women, the WRs were restricted to a few crowded spaces on board ship.

Two days out to sea, they changed to summer service uniform, and on 28 January, they disembarked in Honolulu as the Pearl Harbor Marine Barracks Band played "The Marine's Hymn," the "March of the Women Marines," and "Aloha Oe." The WAVES went ashore first -- dressed in their best uniform. Then came the WRs -- astonished that their no-nonsense appearance in dungarees, boondockers, and overseas caps seemed to please the crowd of curious Marines who had gathered to look them over and welcome them to Hawaii.

The majority was quartered in barracks recently vacated by the Seabees at the Moanalua Ridge Area adjacent to the Marine Corps Sixth Base Depot and Camp Catlin. The large, wooden, airy barracks were already very comfortable, but needed modifications for female occupants, so a small number of Seabees remained behind to do some reconditioning. Major Wing, the commanding officer, ". . . had a fine way of treating men" according to Colonel Streeter. No Seabee could pay for a coke. As many cokes a day as he wanted and he couldn't pay for them. We got more work out of those Seabees than you could ever imagine.

In Hawaii, the women worked much the same as in the States, with most assigned to clerical jobs. More than a third of the women at Ewa came from the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, and lost no time before picking up their tools and working on the planes. At Pearl Harbor, the WRs ran the motor transport section, serving nearly 16,000 persons a month. Scheduled around the clock and with a perfect safety record, they maneuvered the mountainous roads of Hawaii in liberty buses, jeeps, and all types of trucks carrying mail, people, ammunition, and garbage. Marines easily became accustomed to the sight of women drivers, but never quite got used to grease-covered female mechanics working under the hood or chassis of two-and-a-half-ton trucks. . . .

By the summer of 1945, there were 21 officers and 366 enlisted Women Reservists at Ewa, and 34 officers and 580 enlisted women in the Women's Reserve Battalion, Marine Garrison Forces, 14th Naval District. Some stayed to process the men being shipped through Hawaii on their way home for demobilization, but they were all back in the States by January. Because women serving overseas accumulated credits for discharge at the rate of two per month, compared to one per month for those in the United States, most were eligible for discharge soon after V-J Day."


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