A real-life “Rosie the Riveter” spoke with members of the military during a Leadership and Professional Development session hosted by the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Construction and Equipment supply chain Feb. 20 in Philadelphia.
Mae Krier, a 94 year-old “Rosie” who worked on B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress bombers during WWII, spoke candidly about her life and experiences as a riveter in Seattle, Washington during the war.
Krier grew up in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, on a farm near Dawson, North Dakota. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, men from all around the United States, including Dawson, enlisted in the military and headed out to the Europe and Pacific theaters as the country joined the war efforts.
“I remember we were coming home from a matinee, and when we got home my parents were listening to the radio and looked very upset,” Krier said. “I asked what was wrong, and they said that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. I didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was. I was a teenager and wasn’t that sophisticated at that time, but we sure learned where it was pretty quick. As well as all the other islands that were involved in the war.”
Krier said as the men left for war, the women also started to travel, and in the summer of 1943 she took a trip to Seattle with her sister and a friend. They ended up staying in the area, and Krier got a job with Boeing as a riveter, becoming one of the millions of women who stepped up and did the work the men left behind.
“We loved it so much out there, we stayed through the war,” Krier said. “We all got jobs and became Rosies. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with riveting, but they took us to downtown Seattle for two weeks of training. They put a piece of metal in our face and taught us how to drill, how to rivet and how to buck that rivet, and two weeks later we were in the factory working on these huge bombers. We loved every minute of it.”
Navy Capt. Jacqueline Meyer, DLA Troop Support C&E director, said there are similarities that run through DLA Troop Support’s mission and the support Krier and other women provided during the world war.
“At DLA Troop Support, our number one line of effort in our campaign plan is Warfighter Support,” Meyer said. “The primary effort in our mission is to relentlessly satisfy Warfighter requirements. Rosie the Riveter represents a group of women who also had a mission to support the Warfighter. I consider these women to be national treasures. They paved the way for many of us who are here today.”
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ed Windas, C&E Heavy Equipment Procurement Program contract specialist and event emcee, put the women’s war efforts into perspective.
“About 6 million women joined the workforce, with half of them joining the defense industry,” he said. “To give you an example, in the aircraft industry, during pre-war years, women only occupied about 1% of the workforce. During the war, that surged to more than 65%. Just to give you a few production points of what these women accomplished, they created more than 44 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition, 47 million tons of artillery and 297,000 aircraft. It’s safe to say, if it wasn’t for them we’d all be speaking German right now.”
Windas said the labor force the “Rosie’s” provided laid out a foundation for future generations of women in both industry and the military.
“Rosie and the generations that followed her, knew what was possible,” he said. “The long range significance of what happened in the war, and what the Rosie’s did, formed the foundation for the modern day women’s movement.”
Because of their significant impact, Krier has been campaigning Congress to make sure their legacy will not be forgotten. She recently led a successful campaign to make March 21 National Rosie the Riveter Day and is currently campaigning for the Congressional Gold Medal to be presented in honor of the women supported the war effort.
She said one of the best things about supporting the war effort was the pride that it instilled in her.
“We didn’t have a lot of things growing up and then all of a sudden we were earning a living. We were getting self-respect,” she said. “In 1941, it was a man’s world. They didn’t realize how capable American women were. And we sure showed them didn’t we?”