Women Marines in World War II

Colonel Julia E. Hamblet, an early director of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve

Colonel Julia E. Hamblet, an early director of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve

On February 13, 1943, the first women to sign up for non-clerical duties enlisted in the Marine Corps Women Reserve.  The Women’s Reserve was formed in 1942 when plans were put in place to build a women’s cantonment area at Camp Lejeune, consisting of several barracks, mess halls and other support facilities. Unlike other branches, the Marine Corps did not drastically relax its training regimen or admissions policies for females.

About 3,000 women trained elsewhere while facilities were being prepared at Camp Lejeune. The base remained the primary source of female Marines during World War II. During the course of the war, more than 23,000 women enlisted and nearly 1,000 held commissions. By the war’s end, almost 18,000 women who trained at Camp Lejeune were on duty, including Eugenia Lejeune, daughter of the general for whom the base is named.

Enlistees were inducted into specialties ranging from cooks and clerks to transport personnel and mechanics. One-third of the women served in aviation-related fields, particularly at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point. After the war the female Marines were considered expendable and scheduled for elimination. The women’s schools were disbanded in September 1945 and the entire reserve was discharged in March 1946.

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