Sharing My Stories: My Mother the Marine

In 1942, “war work” was popular with all young women, and my mother, at age 21, was no exception. Three evenings a week, she volunteered at the Civil Air Patrol, where she was a “runner.” This meant she moved tiles around on a huge map of Seattle that covered the entire wall of the basement in a run-down office building, as directed by men who were charged with protecting the city in case of attack. Mom’s other war work was going to USO dances at Fort Lewis, where she danced and practiced her flirtation skills with young servicemen. The boys were far away from home and lonely, and soon to be even further away and scared. She felt it was her patriotic duty to let them fall in love with her.  

But then one night she went to the movies and saw a newsreel clip of Eleanor Roosevelt proudly commending the women who joined the women’s services. Mom was so lit up by patriotic fervor that she decided to join the WACs. However, she made the mistake of telling her current boyfriend about her plans. He was horrified and forbade it, saying that the service was no place for a woman. She wanted to marry him eventually, so she didn’t join the WACs.  

Later they broke up, so Mom decided to join the WAVEs. But her new boyfriend also had opinions on woman’s proper place, and she was forbidden again. So she didn’t join the WAVEs.  

The next time patriotism hit she was on boyfriend #3, but this time she went down and joined the Womens Marine Corps and told him nothing until the deed was done and she proudly showed up for their next date in uniform. This strategy worked, because not only did she get to serve her country, this was the man she married.