On Feb. 13, 1943, the commandant of the Marine Corps, Lt. Gen. Thomas Holcomb, announced the formation of the Marine Corps Women Reserve, and 23,000 women flooded the recruiting offices to volunteer to serve during WWII. They had to be 21 years old and their contract was for the duration of the war plus six months.
This announcement from the commandant paved the way for the continuous service of women in the Marines.
The Corps was strictly male until World War II except for 305 Marine Reservists, popularly termed “Marinettes,” who served during World War I. By 1942, unprecedented manpower demands of the two-front war led to personnel shortages. Although General Holcomb opposed recruiting women, he followed the example of the Army, Navy and Coast Guard and began a drive to “replace men by women in all possible positions.”
The public anticipated a catchy nickname for the women and bombarded headquarters with suggestions such as Femarines, Glamarines, and even, Sub-Marines, but Holcomb ruled out the cute titles. In a March 1944 issue of Life magazine, he announced, “They are Marines. They don’t have a nickname and they don’t need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of Marines. They are Marines.” In practice, they were usually called Women Reservists, shortened to WRs.
At the end of World War II in 1945, over 22,000 of the 23,000 women who served were discharged from active or reserve duty and they returned to their homes. Many married and moved, which made it difficult to track those who served and rated the WWII Victory Medal.
The state is looking to the Connecticut and Massachusetts veteran communities in helping locate “A Few Good Women,” who served in the Marine Corps during WWII.
Retired Sgt. Major Jamie DePaola and Sal Sena Jr. have been working on a project to honor all the WWII Woman Marines who served and never received recognition they so deserve.
They have obtained permission from Connecticut State VA Commissioner Tom Saadi to use the facilities at the Rocky Hill Campus and discount the lunch for everyone after the ceremony. The cost of the luncheon is $4 per person. Col. Adele Hodges, USMC Ret., will present the WWII Victory Medal to the WWII Women Marines.
Saadi will also be presenting the Connecticut War Medal to the Connecticut WWII Women Marines.
The award ceremony will be held at noon on Friday, Feb. 9, in the Cafeteria Hall at the Rocky Hill VA Campus, 287 West St., Rocky Hill. Anyone wishing to attend should contact Sal Sena Jr. at 760-614-6188. All assistance that anyone can offer in honoring these great Marines is greatly appreciated.