Rosie the Riveter: Women Working During World War II
The Following is my W.W.II Story:
It was on December 7, 1941 . our family and myself heard on the radio the announcement by President Roosevelt sadly gave the news of Japan ’s attack on Pearl Harbor . I went outside and looked up at the stars with a thought of how can I help? I was 18 years old, I was one of the eleven children of my parents who were farmers in Oklahoma .
In two months I took a bus to California to live with my sister in Clovis California . I worked in a dime store a short time, then I heard that the government wanted women to sign up to be trained to work at ship building and aircraft repairs to replace men who were being called to services. My friend and I went to Fresno and signed up for training.
We were sent to Santa Barbara and lived in a big house with many other women, daily we were taken to a shop and were taught how to use tools in sheet metal work in ship building. We enjoyed our stay there as it was on the beach.
About two months later we were told we were to be taken to Sacramento . We arrived and stayed in old Army barracks. We had an Army cook and lived there and were bussed to the Fairgrounds to learn our trade in a big shop. We took lessons on both sheet metals for aircraft and ship building.
Our instructor, Mr. Lloyd told me and my friend, Maxine Landtrip, he wanted us to go to Mather Field and to do repairs on airplanes, he was boss of all civilian workers there.
After finishing our training we moved to a rooming house across the street from the Governor’s Mansion. The attic rooms were cold and the food and bath water when we got in from work. After getting a few paychecks we rented a furnished apartment.
The guys at Mather pulled many tricks on us such as being sent to a tool room for female and male tools, but we did fine. At first there were only trainer planes, later came the bombers. We wore coveralls and steel toed shoes, our hair covered with a big handkerchief. It didn’t take long before our assignments were out of the shop on the planes it was tightening rivets, also taking dented metal parts off and taking them to the shop and making a new part, then get it heat treated and put it back on the plane. We worked shift work all days and hours. All our work was inspected and approved.
One day Maxine and I were in a B-25 and were told to do a job and had anew guy to train, we were up where the pilot sat, this guy who looked like Lou Costello grabbed the pilot’s relief tube and started talking in it to a supposed crew, we were doubling up with laughter and he kept on. We never did tell him what the tube was for!
We noted the crew would look real anxious when they saw girls working on their plane. They looked like “We don’t know if we will make it to our destination”, sometimes one of the crew would wait and watch what we were doing, we understood! We riveted in many tight spots with space only for a hand and a metal bucking block. It took both of us one to run the rivet gun and one to buck the rivets. The wings were very cold in the winter time.
We worked on B-24’s, B 17’s, and many others. One day we had a meeting of all workers, we were told that Mather had been chosen due being smaller base in Sacramento to receive, check, and work on the new bombers, the B-29’s. We were told it was to be a secret and kept that way for the rest of the war with Japan . If we told anyone other than our people at the base we would be put in jail.
We were very excited one day to see many B-29’s hitting the runways, taxied up and formed a long line. Each plane was assigned a guard with a high powered rifle. When we got assigned a job on a B-29 the guard was to check our tool box and see each tool taken in and out of the plane.
One day the guard asked me to go out on a date with him I said “no” I couldn’t, be got real hyper saying you will or I’ll shoot you pointing the gun at me. I started talking to him to calm him down and we completed our job, we returned to the shop and I told my boss, he said that was very dangerous that gun was very powerful. He reported it to the command before long he was put in jail.
One day I was in the shop working and I looked across the hanger I saw a B-29 taxi up to the hanger and turn around on the side of the plane its name printed as the “Enola Gay.” We talked about the different names the crews had chosen, one of them was “The Lords Sesspool.” We didn’t know at that time the mission of the “Enola Gay” until recently I read a book that said it was to drop the atomm bomb on Nagazacki.
I worked at Mather almost 3 years. I am now 81 years old and as I recall the years at Mather I am glad I could serve our country.Loucille Ramsey Long