Marine Corps Women's Reserve, U.S

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Marine Corps Women's Reserve, U.S. The Marine Corps Women's Reserve (MCWR) was authorized by Congress in July 1942 to relieve male Marines for combat duty in World War II. However, Maj. Gen. Comm. Thomas Holcomb delayed until October, when mounting losses, an order to add 164,273 Marines, and a plan to include draftees (viewed as a threat to the Corps' elite volunteer image) forced him to consider joining the other services in accepting women in uniform.

In January 1943, the MCWR swore in its first director, Maj. Ruth Cheney Streeter, forty‐seven, wife of an attorney and mother of four. The MCWR officially began on 13 February 1943. In March, the first 71 officer candidates arrived at the U.S. Midshipmen School at Mount Holyoke College; 722 enlisted women entered boot camp at Hunter College in New York City.

Although the public wanted an acronym like the WACs and WAVES, the commandant refused any catchy name for Marines. The formal title remained, but informally they were called Women Reservists, shortened to WRs.

More than half of the WRs performed clerical work; the others were assigned various duties, including radio operator, photographer, parachute rigger, motor transport driver, aerial gunnery instructor, link trainer instructor, control tower operator, automotive mechanic, teletype operator, cryptographer, laundry manager, and assembly and repair mechanic. At the end of the war, the MCWR had 820 officers and 17,640 enlisted women. They worked in 225 specialties, filling 85 percent of the enlisted jobs at Marine Corps Headquarters and comprising nearly two‐thirds of the permanent personnel at all large posts and stations.

Demobilization began in June 1945, and the office of the wartime MCWR closed June 1946. However, the need for clerks to process separation orders and transportation, and settle the accounts of thousands of combat Marines, plus a growing sense of the inevitability of a permanent women's military organization, prevented total disbandment. Several hundred WRs were retained at headquarters until June 1948, when President Harry S. Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act giving equal status to women in uniform. Women then became part of the regular Marine Corps.
[See also Marine Corps, U.S.; Women in the Military.]


Jeanne J. Holm , Women in the Military, 1982.
Mary V. Stremlow , Free a Marine to Fight: Women Marines in World War II, 1994.

Mary V. Stremlow