Another “Rosie” Story

Ruth & Ben Reise

When Ben Reise went to enlist in the military in 1942 during World War II, his future wife, Ruth Fern Gibb, went with him. The two had grown up together in Chicago, meeting in grammar school.

Ben Reise tried to enlist in the Navy, but they told him that he was too short at 5 feet, 4 inches, Ruth Reise said. Next, he went to the Army, which “took him right away.”

At the same time Ben enlisted, Ruth was also offered a job. Her height – 5 feet even – made her the perfect size to climb into airplane gas tanks to secure the rivets. Soon after, she began working at the Douglas Aircraft manufacturing plant, on the site where O’Hare International Airport is today.

From 1942 to 1945, Douglas manufactured 655 C-54 Skymasters, a military transport aircraft, at the Chicago plant. A photo from the Chicago Tribune’s archive shows that the opening of the gas tank on the C-54 was just 13 inches tall and nine inches wide.

“I told [the recruiters], ‘I don’t have any claustrophobia so that will be fine,’” Ruth Reise, now 92, said.

Each day, 15-year-old Reise would go to school, take two streetcars and arrive at her job at 2:30 p.m. She would work until 10 p.m. and head home on the same two streetcars. It was only as an adult that she realized just how young she was when she began working on the planes. Despite her age, she enjoyed the work she did at Douglas, and felt as if she was contributing something to the war.

Although she was called a “Rosie the Riveter” by many – representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II – she said she was part of a two-person team. While the person on the outside of the tank used a rivet gun to shoot the rivet through the metal, she would secure the rivets from the inside.

“I had someone working on the outside of the gas tank, and the lady that was on the outside was a riveter,” Reise said. “I had a little block and gloves and as soon as she started drilling, I had to catch the rivet and make it absolutely perfect. They would come in and inspect, because if I didn’t get it perfect, it had to come out and they had to do it over. They never had to do mine over again,” she said.

While Ben Reise was in Paris, he would send her letters, photos and other pieces of memorabilia. He included photos of the gliders that he flew as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces, a picture of his bunk that included a portrait of her, and a photo of him doing a handstand on top of a plane.

She said he was “the most remarkable handstand person,” and before the war started, the two of them would enter gymnastics contests around Chicago on weekends. “We would do our act and we would always win.  It would be $10, so we thought we were millionaires,” she said.

In 1943, he sent her a cartoon that had been published in Yank, the Army’s weekly magazine that ran during World War II. The cartoon was part of George Baker’s series “The Sad Sack.”

Ruth Reise said that his friends would make fun of his dedication to her while he was overseas. “They had made a joke of the fact that he never dated at all when he was there.

On Sept. 2, 1945, the day World War II ended, she was still working in the gas tanks of planes at Douglas Aircraft. “They blew all the whistles and thousands and thousands of us were out on the grounds. I wish I had been taking photographs of it,” she said.

Throughout the war, she saw patriotism all around her. At school, she said, patriotism was encouraged among students, and with a job so closely connected to the war, she found that “somehow or other, it was acceptable to be that patriotic.”    The fact that people around her were drafted or enlisting in the military heightened her dedication to the United States’ cause.

“It was acceptable to be that patriotic, not just because [Ben] was gone, but my stepfather had the six of us and he was next on the roll,” she said. “We didn’t know what we would do if he went in.”

After Ben returned home safely in 1945, the two began making plans for their future. “When he got off the train it was just like I had said goodbye to him,” she said. “Right away, we knew that we were going to decide where we were going to get married.”  On Feb. 10, 1946, they got married at her aunt and uncle’s house in Illinois.

The two eventually settled in Wheaton, Illinois, where Ruth Reise still lives today. Ben Reise died in 2012 at the age of 89.

This story is partially from: “Stars and Stripes” magazine

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

While he was overseas in 1943, Ben Reise sent Ruth Reise a clipping of this comic strip by George Baker which had been published in Yank, the Army’s weekly magazine that ran during World War II. Ruth said that Ben’s friends would make fun of his dedication to her and compared him to the character in this comic strip.
COURTESY OF RUTH REISE

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Arsers – New Ulm, MN; US Merchant Marines, WWII

Frank Bennetti – Butler, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQS/187/11th Airborne Division

William Burr Jr. – Champagne, IL; US Army, WWII, West Point Class ’44, 101st A/B / Korea, 25th Infantry Div. / Vietnam, Col. (Ret. 33 y.)

Renaldo Jenson – Arco, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, air mechanic / National Guard, Sgt.

Theodore Masterson – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII, ETO, 11/5th Infantry Division

James Miller – Oakland, CA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pvt. C Co./1/24, Purple Heart

Dale Stoner Sr. – York, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Military Police, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

John Turnley – Martin, KY; US Navy, WWII

Donn C. Young – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Major, 90th BS/3rd BG/5th Air Force, KIA (New Guinea)

Jack Van Zandt – Danville, IL; USMC; WWII, Co, A/1/6th Marines, Pfc, KIA (Tarawa)

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 10, 2019, in Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 164 Comments.

  1. A story that needs to be told and retold

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a marvelous story, GP. It sweetened my coffee as I read this morning. As always you add fascinating history tidbits. I never knew they required very petite women to go *inside* the gas tanks for manufacture. Ruth’s personality comes through in these words.
    Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. When my mother was riveting airplanes, she was part of a team, as well. She was the ‘catcher,’ and she and her partner took a lot of pride in their work. I love that she started so young. That’s not really so perplexing, when you consider how many young kids expected to begin working on farms as soon as they could, and the entreprenurial eight-year-old used to be a commonplace, before (lazy?) government bureaucrats began denying youngsters the right to work. (Grump, grump…)

    Liked by 5 people

  4. These personal stories of WWII are the best.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a beautiful story! This is the America that I know and love and it saddens me to watch it disappear. Thank you for sharing this story!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I know what you mean!! I so wish people would revert to this type of upbringing for their children and then maybe one day we could have another Greatest Generation!

      Like

  6. That’s a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. An inspiring pair, I’m happy they got their happy ever after. Many weren’t so lucky.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Great story, and love the sad sack cartoon. 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Thank GP, I enjoyed it very much! What a woman!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. That’s a very nice story. I’m not claustrophobic, but the idea of working in gas tanks every day wouldn’t make me want to bounce out of bed and get to work. I liked the cartoon, as well.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Great story, really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. A beautiful story, it makes the heart smile.♥️🥴

    Liked by 3 people

  13. As always, GP — you show the human side of the story. Kudos to all the Bens and Rosies out there and any/all other unsung heroes.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Loved the story GP and the sad sack cartoon 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  15. What a wonderful story about patriotism and a great love story! They are truly the greatest generation!

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    Do you know the story of Rosie the Riveter?

    Liked by 2 people

  17. These are important stories to tell and share. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. What a wonderful story! So if my math is right, Ben was born in 1923, Ruth in 1927, meaning he was 19 when he enlisted and she was just fifteen. So young, and yet their relationship not only survived the war but lasted until Ben’s death in 2012. That is quite a love story.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. I love this story. It really captures a time and period and two very special people. Another fantastic job. I’m reblogging this too on eQuips.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. That was a wonderful story.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Awwww what a nice story!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  22. What a fine story this is, GP = and what a contrast that generation is to the current one.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. A lovely story GP. Brightened my day. Thank you..

    Liked by 4 people

  24. What a wonderful personal story. Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Terrific post and I loved learning about Rosie. I very personable account of her life. A fifteen-year-old girl scuttling around inside a gas tank is incredible to think in today’s world – what a life!

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Makes me sad that there seems to be no spirit of pullng together in our societies now.

    Liked by 4 people

  27. A true love story, GP!

    Liked by 4 people

  28. In today’s divisive times, I have hopes that someday we can all be American patriots again!

    Liked by 4 people

  29. A great post….an inspiring story….chuq

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Wonderful story and delightful cartoon. My dad had a book of Sad Sack cartoons. I wonder where that went?

    Liked by 4 people

  31. Thank you for sharing. It was good to read about them.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. I’m surprised the navy wouldn’t take Ben for service in submarines. His height would have been ideal in one of those. 🙂
    I can see why they teased him with that humorous cartoon, and well done to them both for being so dedicated to each other. A lovely story, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 4 people

  33. That was a wonderful read!

    Liked by 4 people

  34. What a great backstory to a famous person! I had no idea. Sure wish we still had that strong patriotism today. Well, some of us do!

    Liked by 6 people

  35. Reblogged this on Guam Christian Blog and commented:
    Thanks for bringing us another homefront heroes story

    Liked by 5 people

  36. Wonderful story. Character, integrity, honor… quite a person.

    Liked by 5 people

  37. Thank you for sharing this story!!

    Like

  1. Pingback: Another “Rosie” Story – e-Quips

  2. Pingback: Another “Rosie” Story- Pacific Paratrooper – Guam Christian Blog

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