The USMC Women’s Reserve was established so women could fill the stateside jobs and duties being vacated by the men needed for combat duty. This was not the first time, however, women were found in the USMC service. Back in 1918, women were granted permission to enlist to fulfill clerical positions that were being vacated at that time as a result of WWI. Some 300 women enlisted at that time.
The USMC Women’s Reserve was first organized in February of 1943. The first group of women received no formal schooling; they were commissioned based strictly on their abilities and their expertise. They received immediate assignments to jobs such as control tower operator, photographer, radio operator, auto mechanic and even aerial gunnery instructor. More conventional assignments included positions as a stenographer, laundry operator, cook and baker. At the end of WWII, close to 85% of all USMC enlisted personnel, assigned to the Headquarters, were female.
Post war – in June of 1946 – the Commandant of the Marine Corps approved some of the women from the reserve – though a small number – be retained for active duty in the event of mobilization emergencies. By September of that same year, the entire Women’s Reserve organization was disbanded. Within two years, however, the Marine Corps officially changed their stance and accepted women into their service.
From their official entrance into the reserves back in 1918, to current day active duty and combat training, women have made great strides in their military roles. Their participation, throughout the wars and since, has resulted in a tremendous contribution to the United States Marine Corps. The accomplishments would most probably have taken a different path had it not been for the WWII USMC Women’s Reserve.