Nearly a year after the United States entered World War II, the United States Marine Corps authorized a Women’s Reserve, becoming the last of the services to open its ranks to both genders.
When publically announced in February 1943, the Marines had a goal of 1,000 female officers and 18,000 enlisted volunteers, and by the end of the war in 1945, there were 820 officers and 17,640 enlisted female Marines. These women served in non-combat roles – most in clerical positions, although some were parachute riggers, mechanics, radio operators, welders and more – and none served farther west than Pearl Harbor. Marine Corps commandant General Alexander Vandegrift said the presence of female Marines made it possible for the 6th Marine Division to be put to the field.
In 1948, women were integrated into the regular Marines, and in 1950 the Women Reserves mobilized for the Korean War. By the Vietnam War, 2,700 female Marines were on active duty stateside and overseas. During this time, the Corps opened formal career training programs for officers and technical training for enlisted women. From 1975 onward, women could be assigned to all fields except infantry, artillery, armor, pilots and air crew.
In Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991, approximately 1,000 women Marines served overseas.
Margaret A. Brewer was the first woman Marine general when she was promoted to brigadier general in 1978 and made the director of public affairs. Fifteen years later, in 1993, 2nd Lt. Sarah Deal was the first woman Marine to be accepted into Naval aviation training. And five years after that, Carol A. Mutter was the first woman of any service branch to achieve three-star status when she was promoted to lieutenant general; prior to that promotion, she was in command of the 3rd Force Service Support Group in Okinawa, the first woman to command a Fleet Marine Force unit at the flag level.
In 2002, 1st Lt. Vernice Armour became the first black female combat pilot in the Marines – or any other service branch. As of 2006, women made up 4.3 percent of Marine officers and 5.1 percent of the Marines’ active duty enlisted force.
And today, they are no longer referred to as “female Marines.” They are, simply, Marines.
The Marines; Marine Corps Heritage Foundation; Hugh Laughter Levin Associated, Inc.; 1998.
Marine Corps History Division; Web page http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/HD/Frequently_Requested/Women.htm