FREE A MARINE TO FIGHT: Women Marines in World War II
by Colonel Mary V Stremlow, USMCR (Ret)
June Richardson models a "new" uniform at a Parris Island fashion
show. Photo courtesy or Sarah Thornton
In most cases, men supervised women Marines on the
job, but routine matters of discipline were left to the women officers.
When male officers had serious problems with the women at work, they
generally turned to the senior woman on board. This unusual idea of
shared responsibility was certainly alien to Marines and caused more
than a few problems, but in most instances it worked.
Ordinarily, women Marines were organized into
battalions or squadrons with women line officers in command. If a WR did
not perform her work satisfactorily, or arrived late, her male work
supervisor did not discipline her but reported the problem to her
commanding officer for action. On the other hand, if a WR requested
leave, her commanding officer did not grant it without first clearing it
with the work supervisor. It often happened that unit obligations in the
barracks area, such as mess duty, training, parades, "field days," and
inspections conflicted with work schedules, and this created some
animosity between female commanders and male work supervisors.
There was genuine ambiguity, as well, about the
authority invested in women officers and NCOs. The stated policy said
that it was limited to the administration of the Women's Reserve and to
be exercised solely over WRs. Someone had determined that the
relationship of women officers and noncommissioned officers to enlisted
men was akin to that of a civilian teacher in a military school
senior women could give instructions, but matters of discipline and job
performance were to be referred to the man's commanding officer.
In time, the Commandant found it necessary to provide
some clarification. "It appears that the services of officers and
non-commissioned officers of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve are not
being realized to the fullest extent due to some doubt as to the scope
of their authority," he wrote in March 1944. Explaining that the matter
had been considered by the Navy Department he continued, " . . . it is
concluded that it is entirely proper for a woman officer to be assigned
to duty subordinate to a commanding officer and her directions and
orders in the proper performance of such duty are the acts of the
officer in command, even though such orders are directed to male
personnel." This simple statement allowed women to become adjutants,
personnel, and mess officers.