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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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Salute to the Home Front Women of WWII

“Rosie to the Rescue”, Norman Rockwell

In 1943, several major magazines agreed to salute the women war workers of America on their September covers. The Post gave the assignment to Rockwell, who’d already created an iconic tribute to women defense workers with Rosie the Riveter.

For this new cover, he wanted to acknowledge the wide range of jobs that 15 million women had taken up as men went off to war. The result was Rosie to the Rescue, which showed a woman bearing the symbols and tools of several trades hurrying off to her next job. The Post editors claimed 31 different occupations were represented on this cover. Some were jobs traditionally associated with women: cleaning, farming, nursing, and clerical work. Others, indicated by tools such as an electric cable and a monkey wrench, referred to industrial occupations that women were starting to enter in great number.

The cover not only acknowledges women war workers, it also recalls occupations of the 1940s that once employed thousands. Post readers of the day would have instantly recognized the bus-driver’s ticket punch, a taxi-driver’s change dispenser, a milkman’s bottle rack, a switchboard operator’s headset, and the blue cap of a train conductor. The railroad industry was also represented by the railroad section hand’s lantern, the locomotive engineer’s oil can, and that round object swinging on a shoulder strap — a clock used by night watchwomen in railway yards.

Here is what the Post editors had to say about this image in the “Keeping Posted” section of our September 4, 1943 issue:

At least thirty-one wartime occupations for women are suggested by Norman Rockwell’s remarkable Labor Day Post cover. Perhaps you can think of more. The thirty-one we counted, suggested by articles the young lady is carrying or wearing, are: boardinghouse manager and housekeeper (keys on ring); chambermaid, cleaner and household worker (dust pan and brush, mop); service superintendent (time clock); switchboard operator and telephone operator (earphone and mouthpiece); grocery-store woman and milk-truck driver (milk bottles); electrician for repair and maintenance of household appliances and furnishings (electric wire); plumber and garage mechanic (monkey wrench, small wrenches); seamstress (big scissors); typewriter-repair woman, stenographer, typist, editor and reporter (typewriter); baggage clerk (baggage checks); bus driver (puncher); conductor on railroad, trolley, bus (conductor’s cap); filling-station attendant and taxi driver (change holder); oiler on railroad (oil can); section hand (red lantern); bookkeeper (pencil over ear); farm worker (hoe and potato fork); truck farmer (watering can); teacher (schoolbooks and ruler); public health, hospital or industrial nurse (Nurses’ Aide cap). —“Keeping Posted: The Rockwell Cover,” September 4, 1943.

When the war began, quickie marriages became the norm, as teenagers married their sweethearts before their men went overseas. As the men fought abroad, women on the Home Front worked in defense plants and volunteered for war-related organizations, in addition to managing their households.  In New Orleans, as the demand for public transportation grew, women even became streetcar “conductorettes” for the first time. When men left, women “became proficient cooks and housekeepers, managed the finances, learned to fix the car, worked in a defense plant, and wrote letters to their soldier husbands that were consistently upbeat.” (Stephen Ambrose, D-Day, 488) Rosie the Riveter helped assure that the Allies would have the war materials they needed to defeat the Axis.

The National WWII Museum recognizes the contribution that women played in the success of the Allied victory in World War II and explores that contribution in depth in its newest permanent exhibit, The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front. 

Let’s hear about those Victory Gardens and other ways your mothers and grandmothers joined in!!

Click on images to enlarge.

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Home Front Humor – 

WHAT THE HECK DID WE DO EVERY EVENING BEFORE THIS WAR?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ruth Apple – North Dorset, VT; Civilian, WWII, ‘Rosie’, aircraft

Angelina “Betty” Cicatelli – Throop, PA; WWII, Civilian, ‘Rosie’

Angnes Clagg – Ona, WV; WWII, Civilian, ‘Rosie’, weapons

Thelma Cook (104) – Pikeville, NC; WWII, Civilian ‘Rosie’, welder & parachute seamstress

Jacquelin Johns – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; WWII, Civilian, Office of Strategic Service

Lois Lenz – Chicagi, IL; WWII, Red Cross nurse’s aide / US Army, Signal Corps

Wand Elliot Matson – Quad Cities, IA, WWII ‘Rosie’, Grumman Hellcats

Mariemma Nelson – Indianapolis, IN; WWII, Civilian ‘Rosie’

Louise Steinberger – Vallejo, CA; WWII, Civilian ‘Rosie’, shipyard welder

Harriet ‘Jean’ Waltuck – Jordon, NY; US Navy, nurse

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