Season 3 Episode 4 – “She's Helping to Win! Women in the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard with Kali Martin"

World War II On Topic Podcast Series

About the Episode

In April of 2021, Research Historian, Kali Martin, discussed the three services, that were all under the Department of the Navy, with each branch incorporating women reservists in a unique way.

In 1942, the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard opened their ranks to most women. Despite more stringent enlistment requirements put on women, compared to their male counterparts, by the end of the war, more than one hundred 15 thousand women had joined the WAVES, SPARS, and Women Reservists.

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Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Genevieve and Lucille Baker
  • Dorothy C. Stratton
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

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Featured Historians

Kali Martin

Kali Martin earned a bachelor's degree in International Studies and German at the University of Miami and a master's degree in Military and Public History at the University of New Orleans. She began volunteering on the PT-305 restoration project as a graduate student and now serves as a crew member aboard the vessel. As a Research Assistant at the Museum she has worked on a PT-305 exhibit housed in the vessel’s Lakeshore Landing boathouse, written a guide to conducting research on individual participation in World War II, and worked on a variety of projects as part of the President Emeritus's Office. She is a member of the Museum's Institute for the Study of War and Democracy.

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"World War II On Topic" is made possible by The Herzstein Foundation.


Jeremy Collins        

Hi, I'm Jeremy Collins, the director of Conferences and Symposia at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and you're listening to World War II on topic. This episode is brought to you by the Museum's Education Department. Back in April of 2021, research historian, Kali Martin, discussed the three services that were all under the Department of the Navy. With each branch incorporating women reservists in a unique way.

In 1942, the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard opened their ranks to most women. Despite more stringent enlistment requirements put on women compared to their male counterparts. By the end of the war, more than 115,000 women had joined the WAVES, SPARS, and Women Reservists

Kali Martin             

People Act of 1916 simply said that a reserved force would consist of among other qualified groups, all persons who may be capable of performing special useful service for coastal defense. Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels used the freedom of the non-gendered word persons to open the naval reserves to women in 1917. They could fill roles as stenographers, radio operators, truck drivers, and other non-combat, chore duty roles.

By the end of World War I, more than 11,000 women had joined the US Navy Reserve becoming what were known as Yeoman X. Yeah, that one's a mouthful. Yeoman X comes from the term Yeoman, which was the Navy rating for those who performed clerical duties. And towards the end of World War ii, 24 African American women were actually admitted into the Navy and listed and worked at the Navy Department building. Now, the Navy was not alone in having women serve. In August, 1918, with consent from Secretary Daniels, the US Marine Corps opened their reserve ranks to women.

This allowed them to serve enroll similar to Yeoman X. Just over 300 enlisted before the end of the war in November of 1918. Seen here is Opha May Johnson, who was a civilian employee with the Marine Corps and the first woman to enlist. Now, women had served officially as light housekeepers with the Coast Guard since as far back as the 1830s. So it seemed only fitting that with women in the Navy, and women serving as lighthouse keepers, that the Coast Guard would open up to women as well.

You see here are the first two women to join the Coast Guard in World War II. This is actually twin sisters, Genevieve and Lucille Baker, and they had transferred from the Navy over into the Coast Guard. I think one thing that's important to remember here is that women who joined the military during World War I, did so at a time when women in most of the country couldn't vote.

They couldn't vote in presidential elections. They could in some state elections. But these women were willing to serve a country that hadn't even given them this right, and the fact that they were willing to do so and that patriotism that they showed impacted the eventual ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. It's also important to note that while when served in each branch of the military, because women did also serve for the Army Signal Corp, these opportunities were for the most part open only to educated white women with the small number of exceptions, as I mentioned, with those who served in the Navy.

Unfortunately, with the end of the war, women weren't needed in the military anymore. We were moving to an era that we thought was peaceful and we didn't need a large standing military. So women had to take their leave. And although the Nursing Corps, for the Army and the Navy, did continue on in the inter war period, it would be not until the World War II started, that women would get to serve in the military again.

And when the United States declared war on the Empire of Japan in December, 1941, and then Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, the only women still in uniform were those members of the Army and the Navy Nursing Corps. When Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, Army and Navy nurses were there to tend to the wounded.

Many in the Philippines became prisoners and continued to care for Americans in camps until they were liberated. These two Nursing Corps grew over the course of the war with 11,000 women serving in the Navy Nurse Corps, and 57,000 in the Army Nurse Corps. But it wasn't until 1942 that women were once again allowed to serve as members of the Navy Marine Corps and Coast Guard, because the importance is the Nursing Corps were separate entities and women didn't have the same status in membership in the military with those units.

That year, in 1942, Massachusetts representative Edith Nourse Rogers, had introduced a bill prior to that which created the WAAS, the Women Accepted for Army Service. She approached Secretary of the Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz, and said "We need something similar. We've gotten women into the Army to some degree, we need to get women into the Navy." Rogers herself had served with the Red Cross in Europe in World War I, and she had grown angry that women who had been wounded or disabled in that war were not considered veterans, and thus not eligible for any benefits, or healthcare, or any veteran status.

Her goal was that women would not again, serve in the army without protection men got. And she achieved that in the Army, but she wasn't done. There were still branches that she wanted women to conquer. And Nimit supported the idea and he passed the idea onto Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox.                                

Now Frank Knox was known as a staunch traditionalist, but he did agree within the idea of creating a women's component within the Naval Reserve. After this bill was approved by the House of Representatives, changes were made to create the women's unit within the Navy, and not independent of it, as the army had done with the WAAS. Senator David Walsh, also from Massachusetts, had sponsored the bill in the Senate, agreed to the terms, and it passed on July 21st, 1942. President Roosevelt signed it into law on July 30th. As the Marine Corps fell under the Department of the Navy, public Law 689, as this was known, gave the Marine Corps the authority to establish a reserve for women as well. A second law, public law 773, authorized a women's component for the Coast Guard later that year. Now, a word you've heard me mention several times now is reserve.

And it's important to understand that women were allowed only in reserve forces. What does that mean for them? Creating these units as reserves meant that women were only obligated to serve for the duration of the war, plus six months. The commitment was you served for the wars over and within six months, we'll release you. But it's important to understand that many people were admitted into the reserves at the time.

Most men admitted into the Navy during World War II, were admitted as reservists. And this allowed the military and the Navy to quickly scale down its numbers once the war ended. Because at peace time, large Navy is a very expensive thing to have. And we just didn't need that. But this idea that women were just going to be reservists and as soon as the war was over, we could start sending them home, was one of the things that one, over a lot of men who weren't really thrilled with the idea of having women in uniform.

Let's start talking about the WAVES. These lovely ladies here in their uniforms are Women Accepted for Emergency Volunteer Service. That was the name carefully selected to emphasize that these women were one, volunteers, and two, emergency service meant that they were temporary. To lead the WAVES, Wellesley College president Mildred McAfee was chosen. She was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was the first woman commissioned in the United States Navy. She held the position as director of WAVES for the duration of the war.

Women quickly went to enlist, with more than 25,000 joining the WAVES in the first year. Officers began training in August of 1942, and enlisted women in December of that year. WAVES initial training was taken at several universities, including Hunter College for Enlisted Women. Seen marching at Hunter in this photo below, WAVES learned all the basics of being in the Navy. How, whom, and when to salute. Traditions, aircraft, and ship recognition, and lots of other things.

During training, women were evaluated for possible specialist training. Although many WAVES served in clerical roles, many others took assignments which required additional technical specialized training such as aircraft mechanics, parachute riggers, and even gunnery instructors. And you can see here two women who are learning to do different types of specialized training, a parachute rigger, and an aircraft mechanic.

Although they could learn these specialized things, WAVES could not serve on ships, though they often had to board them to perform their duties. WAVES could not be pilots, though they repaired aircraft, prepared parachutes, and taught men how to fly. They were not allowed to serve overseas until 1945, and then only in US territories like Hawaii.

They did difficult, dangerous, and dirty work. As is evidenced by the photograph here. You can see on the left is Lieutenant Commander McAfee, the WAVES director, and she's speaking with storekeeper second class, Dorothy Oats. Dorothy was assigned to Pearl Harbor and you can see she's working, it says behind her carburetors. She's responsible for keeping up with the inventory of carburetors at the base of Pearl. And you can see by the dirt and the grim on her face and her uniform, she was doing pretty dirty work.

And this showed a lot of people that women weren't afraid to get in there and get their hands dirty. And by the end of the war, there were nearly 90,000 enlisted and commissioned WAVES working in a myriad of position across the United States.

What about the Coast Guard? Now the Coast Guard has a unique name for their women's component called Semper Paratus Always Ready, or the SPARS, and that's a play off of the Coast Guard's motto. And they followed closely in the footsteps of the Navy, authorizing their women's reserve in the latter part of 1942. The Coast Guard had expanded very rapidly during the war into a lot of different areas. You've got a lot of Coast Guard helping with amphibious operations, and coastal convoys, atlantic convoys. So they were desperate to get as many men out to sea as possible, thus opening up a lot of positions at home to women. To lead the SPARS was Dorothy Stratten.

Stratten had been a professor of psychology at Purdue University, and had taken a leave of absence in 1942 and joined the WAVES. She had become an officer graduating in the first class trained at Smith College, but upon the creation of the SPARS, Stratten transferred over and became their director and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. This made her the first woman commission into the United States Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard was one of the least known services before and arguably during the war. Although they played a very vital role in the war effort, they were just lesser known than some of the other branches. And this created a lot of challenges in recruiting. Whereas the Navy and the Marine Corps were just about turning women away. Coast Guard recruiters had to really take the extra step to get women to join. They were urged to get out of their offices, go meet prospective applicants, get to know them, and get to just entice them into the Coast Guard and the opportunities that it held. Many of the first women who joined this Coast Guard actually transferred from the Navy.                                

Women who did join underwent training in several locations, including at first with the WAVES and then at Coast Guard specific training facilities like Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Cedar Falls, Iowa. They seem a little far removed from the ocean, but those were some established training facilities they had. Bootcamp was many weeks of learning the basics of Coast Guard life in addition to drills, learning, communications and nautical basics. In June, in 1943, a new training facility opened up in Palm Beach, Florida, where over the next 18 months, 7,000 women became SPARS.

After bootcamp, many went to specialist schools for additional job trainings to become Yeoman, or storekeepers. Those undergoing training as officer candidates for SPARS, were the only women who attended an academy during the war. Undergoing officer candidate training at the Coast Guard's Academy in New London, Connecticut.

Like their Navy counterparts, SPARS held a variety of jobs. Some unique ones include coxswains, air control tower operators, and chaplains assistants. One of the most unusual was a secret assignment for a select few women. They became operators working with long range navigation, known as LORAN, L O R A N. This secret operation was a microwave based navigation system that was used for convoy navigation.                                

An all SPAR LORAN Station was established in Chatham, Massachusetts. There the SPAR operators would record measurements of radio signals transmitted from shore Bay stations, which then enabled ships and planes to calculate their exact position. Around 10,000 women served in the SPARS during the war. It's a small number compared to the other branches, but a high percentage compared to the overall numbers of the Coast Guard.

The idea of women in the Marine Corps was initially much less well received than the Navy and the Coast Guard. Marines were seen as a real fighting force, the Men of Guadalcanal. And then people just really couldn't envision women in this corp of fighters, devil dogs, this really just rough persona that they had developed from the fighting in the First World War and in the Pacific. But the pressure was on to the corp, you've got to admit women, we've got women in the Navy, we've got women in the Coast Guard. It's your turn. And as the war in the Pacific ramped up, as the Guadalcanal slogged on, they realized that we're going to need to free men up to fight.

Somewhat reluctantly, the Marine Corps opened its ranks to women. It was not until late 1942 that this happened. And there were attempts then, as they're setting this up to come up with a cute, catchy name. We have the WAVES, we have the SPARS, we have the WAAS. Well, what will we call our female marines? And some of the suggestions are a little interesting, nicknames like Glamarines, the Dainty Devil Dogs, but the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Major General Thomas Holcomb said "We're not having any of that." He's quoted as saying "They are Marines, they don't have a nickname, and they don't need one. They inherit the traditions of Marines. They are Marines." And so with that, the women who joined the Marine Corps were known as Women Reservists.                                

To direct these women reservists was Ruth Cheney Streeter. Streeter had no previous experience in doing anything of the type, but she was selected after she had attempted numerous times to join the WAAS. I think it took five times before Jackie Cochran finally personally told her "You're too old for us, we're sorry." So looking for something to do in January, 1943, she turned to the Marine Corps. She was selected to head up the Corp as a director, and commissioned a Major in the Marine Corps, and served as their director for the duration [00:17:30] of the war.

That next month, in February of 1943, enlistment began for the Marine Corps. The response was overwhelming and many women rushed out to join, including this woman, who might be a familiar face, if not a familiar name. This is Bea Arthur, one of our favorite golden girls. And she was in the first group in February of 1942 that went out to enlist.

Women Marines made use of preexisting Navy programs, as with their male officer candidates, female officer candidates went through Navy Midshipman School. For women at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Enlisted women began training at Hunter College with the WAVES, undergoing the same training for a month, before moving to a second phase, which was specific to the Marine Corps. This setup lasted until mid 1943 when enlisted training, moved to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

One of the reasons for this was that it was believed that moving the women to one of the largest marine training bases would help build this esprit de corps as the Marine Corps felt it was. This unique identity that the core had, but it was also allow women to observe weapons demonstrations, be trained in firearms themselves, see field exercises, and get to see the Marines that they were in effect freeing up to fight.

As with the WAVES, many reservists were placed in clerical roles, but selected women were sent to specialist training. And by the end of the war, women Marines had attended more than 30 specialist schools, preparing them to be aviation mechanics, motor transportation specialists, and link training instructors.

As you can see in this photo here, this is a Link Trainer, and it was an early flight simulator used to teach pilots how to fly by instruments. And by August of 1944, all Link Instruction courses that were held at the Marine Corps facility at Cherry Point, were taught by women Marines. They weren't allowed to fly, but they could train all marine aviators. And by the wars end, more than 20,000 women had served in the Marines. As with the US Navy, they weren't allowed to serve outside the United States until 1945, and were likewise restricted to service in Alaska and Hawaii.

You might have noticed, as I've been going through all of this, that you've seen some pictures of African Americans, but mainly with the Coast Guard and the Navy. And there's a reason for that. Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, refused to allow African American women to join any of the reserve organizations. Knox had deterred the advancement of African American men in the Navy, keeping them relegated to the Stewards Branch where they were resigned to serve in servant roles as Mess men, and Officers Cook, serving officers aboard ships, in roles that they found demeaning, and very disappointing. But through the continued work of the NAACP, and support of others like First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Knox was finally pressured to allow African American men into the officer Corps in the early part of 1944. It was a first step in opening up more opportunities. However, he still denied entry to the WAVES for African American women.

Individuals and groups continued to pressure lawmakers, and activists worked with the head of the WAVES, Lieutenant Commander McAfee, who was a steadfast supporter of bringing African American women into the organization. The major hurdle to achieving this was Secretary Knox, who in April of 1944, died suddenly of a heart attack. With his death. Pressure was put on President Roosevelt during the 1944 election to open up the WAVES, make it accessible to all. And on October 19th, 1945, President Roosevelt finally authorized the inclusion of African American women in the WAVES.

The Coast Guard followed suit shortly after, and the first American women began joining two organizations in the fall of 1944. In December of that year, the first two African American WAVES Officers graduated from Midshipman school, Harriet Pickens and Frances Wills. Now it should also be noted, they were the first two, but the only two during World War II. The program began to wind down shortly after that and there wasn't time to train additional African American women as officers. And by the time the Coast Guard allowed African American women to enlist, they had closed their officer training program to civilians, which meant African American women could not apply as officers, but they did join the enlisted ranks. Once they had served a certain amount of time they could and did apply for officers training.                                

You see here in the photos, two African American women who joined the Coast Guard, Olivia Hooker, and Aileen Anita Cooks, and they were some of the first women to join. The Navy during World War II was highly segregated, as I've mentioned. And although there were big strides made during the war to integrate the male fighting force, and things begin to change in '44 and '45, for most of the duration, African American men were not allowed the same opportunities as white sailors.

But things were different in the WAVES. Not only would African American women be allowed in, but the idea was that they would be fully integrated. And this is a major difference from the experience of their male counterparts. This was advocated for by the new Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal.                                

In fact, the WAVES had a zero tolerance policy for racism. And this is something I've been learning about recently that's been very interesting to learn about. Women who couldn't get along with this. Women who had a problem, who refused to serve alongside African Americans, were given psychological discharges. Especially those who just, you were told you're going to serve together. And if they refused to do it, they were psychologically discharged. Francis Wills recalled that, while she did encounter some individuals who were very clearly not thrilled that she was there serving with them, she said she experienced no major problems while in the WAVES, and she lived and worked alongside white officers. But she did say she couldn't speak for all African American women who had served.

But the Marine Corps, despite falling under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy, was not the same. They never had a clear directive banning African American women from the Corps, but they knowingly never enlisted any. And the first African American to joined the Marine Corps was Annie Graham, who joined at 1949.

Women of different races and ethnicities did serve in very small numbers in the seagoing forces. From what I've read, there tend to be more Japanese American women in the WAAS, than in the Navy, the Coast Guard, or the Marine Corps. But there are some exceptions. You see here Susan Ahn was a Korean American woman from California, joined the WAAS, I mean, I'm sorry, the WAVES. And that she's pictured here with her brothers, who both joined as well. Although the Marine Corps wouldn't accept African American women, they did accept Minnie Spotted-Wolf of the Blackfoot Tribe. And you see her pictured here, was a Native American woman who served with the Women Reserves.

All these things are happening, women are going to the forces, but they faced a lot of challenges. Bringing women into a man's world of the military in the early 1940s was filled with them, filled with challenges. The overwhelming mindset of the time was the women were needed at home. They needed to keep house and raise children. What would happen if they left? Women were called leaving for a boot camp without family to wave them off. Parents had a hard time accepting their daughter's choice to serve. That feeling was widespread and many women were treated with disdain, not only by other service members, but by service members families. Throughout the war, a major recruiting theme that you've seen is freeing a man to fight. And many women chose to join a service branch because they truly felt it would help bring a loved one home sooner.

But for those men and their families who were serving, and the families who had men serving state side, the idea that they would be free to fight was not necessarily one that was alluring to them. Not every man was gung-ho about going into combat. And many would've preferred to stay stateside in a safe job. The idea that they were to be replaced by a woman so that they would be put in harm's way, made many men and their families dislike women in uniform.

This spilled over into and got the rumor mill going, and negative feelings and publicity were often a major issue. First in service, the WAAS, had born the brunt of such negative press, but the rumors got so bad. Many believed women in the service were government sanctioned women to be there for men. Put it politely. Naturally, with these false perspectives and bad rumors, many families did not want to see their daughters put in a uniform.

They thought they would start to lose their femininity. And so you see here in these recruiting posters, the attempt to show families proud of their daughter serving, attractive young women, pretty in a uniform, and parents proud of them because it was just a challenge for them to overcome this idea that, I don't want my daughter in uniform. That's a masculine thing, that's a manly thing to do.

And so when it came to uniforms as well, many considered it very masculine. So clothing designers were actually hired to design uniforms that were very feminine. See there's some baggy uniforms, working uniforms, not necessarily something that would be considered neat, feminine, and attractive. But all of the uniforms for office work, or the dress uniforms are very neat, nice lines, very feminine. And also women were actually encouraged to wear makeup, paint their nails, keep their hair trendy in a neat military style. And the Marine Corps actually had a favorite shade of lipstick called Montezuma Red.

Now, women faced a lot of challenges getting into the military and enlistment requirements were just one of those things. The minimum age for women to enlist was 20. But if a woman was under 21, she actually had to have parental consent to enlist. What you see here is actually from Bea Arthur's official personnel file. And this is her parents consenting for her to join. Women were joining so quickly, everything was happening so fast that this paperwork actually is still in the language for male enlistees. It says that he has no other legal guardian. So they were getting women in so fast they didn't even have time to create the appropriate paperwork for them.

Now, some of the requirements that were more strict than existed for men who were enlisting is that men could enlist at 17 with parental consent, or 18 on their own. Enlisted men had to simply be functionally literate. As long as they could get by, they could learn more once they joined. But women had to have two years of high school education. There were no restrictions for men when it came to fatherhood, but WAVES, SPARS, and women reservists could not have any children under 18.

Pregnancy was completely out of the question. Any woman who became pregnant, regardless of her marital status would be immediately discharged. Women did face restrictions on marriage. Women could be married, but at first a WAVE could not be married to a sailor, a SPAR could not be married to a coast Guardsman, and a marine could not be married to a marine. Well, that did change. And women were eventually allowed to marry men in the same service branch.

Physical requirements had a little variation, though the minimum height and wait for women was lower at five feet and only 95 pounds. And there's numerous stories of women eating a whole bunch of bananas to beat that weight requirement, just like young men were known to do.

The last point I want to mention about this is to remind everyone that women were volunteers. There was no draft for women. Every woman who served did so voluntarily.

And with the celebrations of VJ Day in 1945, the future for women in the armed forces became very uncertain. They had served their country well, but very few would be allowed to remain in service. And most branches severely cut back the number of women in their ranks. Some eventually disbanding them entirely, until 1948. That year, the Women's Armed Forces Integration Act was passed, and enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces. But even then, women were severely restricted in how they were allowed to serve. But those who served in the WAVES, the SPARS, and the Women Reservists in World War II set a proud tradition, which carries through the armed forces today.    

With that, we're going to turn it over. Maggie's going to help us with Q and A. So look forward to your questions.

Maggie Hartley                    

Perfect. Thank you, Kali. That was such an interesting presentation. I just want to remind everyone as well, that you can place your questions within the Q and A feature, and we'll be getting to those shortly. And if you're watching on Facebook, you can place them within the comments and we'll be able to see both.                                

So the first one that I have is, did women who served during World War II get the same veterans benefits as men?

Kali Martin             

I think most of them did. The only unit that really didn't get the same was the WAAS. Because they were not officially part of the military, but women were given full benefits. That's why it was so important to pull them in as official unit so that they could get those benefits.

Maggie Hartley 

Absolutely. Another question is, you had mentioned specifically that they were recruiting at colleges. Is that the only place that women were recruited during the war?

Kali Martin             

It was popular because they could recruit women for the Officer Corps. Women did have to have at least two years of college to become an officer, just like men. But they could go to high schools, they could go to just different events. I mean any type of thing where you might recruit males for the military, they could go and recruit women. There's one story of Coast Guard recruiters having to go out to a cotton farm in the South and get consent from parents so that their daughter could join [00:33:30] because they were really upset that she wanted to join. So they would go out and they would sometimes, I think even go door to door just trying to meet women and tell them about the possibilities and the opportunities that awaited them in the military.

Maggie Hartley 

This is a question related to the WAAS. Were the 6888 Postal Battalion the only African American woman to have served in the WAAS?

Kali Martin             

No, There were more women who, African American women who served in the WAAS. That's just a very unique organization that was put together. But they did. There were more women, African American women who served in the WAAS other than that one unit.

Maggie Hartley 

Good to know. How many women were killed while serving during World War II.

Kali Martin             

Overall, out of all of the branches, it's a little over 400 women were killed.

Maggie Hartley 

Oh, wow. And that's interesting considering that they really weren't put into combat situations.

Kali Martin            

You get in situations like the WAAS flying, there were a lot of accidents with them.                                

A lot of these, they could have been illness or accidents. Yes, it was 432. There were 88 women taken prisoner. But these women did get put in dangerous situations. There were flight nurses,  just like I said, accidents I think are a large part of that, unfortunately.

Maggie Hartley 

Absolutely. This is an interesting question. This is someone who is trying to find a copy of their mother's consent form from their parents. Where are some places that this person could possibly look?

Kali Martin            

That is a great question. One of the big things that I'm really interested in is researching personal involvement in World War II. You heard me mention Bea Arthur's official person military personnel file. Each individual who served in the military had one of these, anyone who was a civilian employee, has a civilian personnel file. These are all housed at the National Archives location, known as the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Missouri.                                

I've actually written a guide on how to request these records. If you want to, you can email Maggie, you can email education, or you can go online and email the institute. And I'd be happy if you wanted to email to actually send some information over, or you can go to our website, and research a veteran, and download the guide there. But the best thing to do would be to request that file. That piece of paper should be in it, just like Bea Arthur's was. And so that would be, hopefully, you'd be able to locate it and that file. That's something that, these files are really great. They've got a lot of information, and so that should be where it's located.

Maggie Hartley 

Another question that we have is, did the various branches pay women the same per rank?

Kali Martin            

I think it depended. Generally they were given equal status. The pay rate at that time was for a lowly enlisted sailor, about 50 bucks a month. And then a lot of them, it would depend. They may get housing stipends, things like that. But they did work to keep those things equal.

Maggie Hartley 

Absolutely. We have another question. Let's see. Especially during your presentation, were there rumors suggesting that women who were serving in military service glorified escorts?

Kali Martin            

Yeah, that's what I was trying to allude to. Yes. Unfortunately it really started in, I think it was 1943, just the rumor mill got spinning, and the WAAS took some really bad PR. And that's the point that it had come to, because men kind of thought, a lot of men, unfortunately, the mentality at the time, they thought, why else are women here? And unfortunately that rumor, though completely unfounded, did get started. And the different branches had to do a lot of PR work to fix that rumor, put that one to rest.

Maggie Hartley 

Another question, a great one, especially considering how much you enjoy diving into personal records. There was of course, the fire that destroyed many records after the war. [00:38:30] Is there any other place to look where there may be a duplicate copy of those files?

Kali Martin             

Just to clarify about that fire, in 1973, there was a horrific fire at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis. The files that were destroyed were predominantly Army and Air Force files, and it was upwards of 80%. I always tell people, still try. My grandfather's army file survived. It's water stained, but it was survived and restored and I've been able to get a digital copy of it.    

Navy Marine Corps, Coast Guard records were untouched. It should be there. Otherwise, you can sometimes see if they filed copies of any paperwork at a local courthouse.     

I know discharge paperwork, service members were urged to take their official discharge form that showed they had an honorable discharge, and get a copy filed with the local courthouse, just in case they lost it. They may have turned something in there. The other one that's worth trying is if your veteran ever applied for VA benefits, the VA may have paperwork on file depending on when, what. If that's something that is a little trickier to get, a lot of times you need to be next of kin. But that's one I always tell people, it's worth a shot.

Maggie Hartley 

Such great information. So the next question we have is, were women able to reach a higher rank such as corporal, captain, et cetera

Kali Martin             

Definitely women were able to advance through the enlisted ranks. It took a long time for women to reach kind of the upper reaches of the officer ranks, but definitely women could advance, and especially in the enlisted ones.

Maggie Hartley 

Absolutely. Well, that looks like all of the questions that we have for this evening. So Kali, I want to thank you again for joining us. I also want to thank each of you for joining us this evening, whether you tuned in on Zoom or on Facebook. And if you enjoyed this evening's program, I encourage you to like our Facebook page, follow us on our website. We keep it up to date with upcoming programs, and we hope to see you guys again soon here at the National World War II Museum.

Kali Martin          

Thanks everyone.

Jeremy Collins        

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