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Ruth L. Wood: Proud to be a U.S. Marine

The month of March has been designated as national “Women’s History Month.” This year the Ticonderoga Historical Society continues a four year commemoration commitment to make aware and inform this generation, through program and events, the many decades of women’s struggle for rights and suffrage. With this in mind, we share Ruth’s story:

Ruth L. Wood, (1916-1986)  a native of Ticonderoga, on 7th January 1966 entered the U.S. Marine Corps history records by becoming the first Woman Marine Chief Warrant Officer.

Ruth was the only child of Joseph and Mary (Rickert) Wood. She graduated from Ticonderoga High School in 1934 and with the financial assistance of her aunt graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1938. She taught school for one year and later moved to New York City where she worked for REA (Railroad Express Agency) and graduated from Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School.

Joseph & Mary Wood

At this time in NYC, with WWII fully engaging the city and nation, Ruth became a volunteer Air Raid Warden and noticed women in uniform and decided that she would like to join the armed forces.

We now share Ruth’s story with the U.S. Marine Corps by using excerpts from her own career recordings.

“Applied for officer training in MCWR (Marine Corp Women Recruits (?) … Interviewed – turned down for lack of leadership experience – wanted schoolteachers with 10 yrs. Experience (I had 1) – or been supervisor of an office force for 6 or 8 yrs… went back to work, thought it over for a month, — heard Boot Camp for Women Marines was being moved from Hunter College in NYC to Camp Lejeune, NC – huge Marine Base – wrote my parents asking what they would think of my enlisting….also asked my Aunt who had put me through Mount Holyoke – – she said the same thing – my life, etc. – wanted me to do what I wanted to do.” Enlisted on 19 June ((1943)) – for duration of the War plus 6 mos.—Sworn in –officer told us to raise our right hand – then said “Are you sure you want to do this??”

“On 24 Aug I left home for Boot Camp — by train from D.C. on a troop train – 235 of us on “sleeper” – arrived at Camp Lejeune, NC for 6 weeks.”

“A busy 6 weeks – beginning with a new vocabulary! – Ex. We “hit the deck” at 0545, swabbed the deck immediately, had chow in Mess Hall, lectures on: Classification – History of Mar Corps, Customs & Courtesies, Organization of Navy & MarCorps, care of the uniforms, drill every day (all loved that) had male D.I.s, First Aid, physical training, Training Films, chemical warfare & use of gas masks – everything done “on the double” – know what that means?? Marched to church on Sunday in 2 lines – Catholic or to Protestant Chapel. – Watched Parade and Review by Regiment – graduating every 2 weeks and new one starting training.”

PFC Ruth Wood – December, 1943

“50% to receive promotion to PFC. Stood on drill field in Bn formation – 125 degrees in sun! Some fainted – taken into shade & revived – (I wasn’t worried about fainting – just worried about being a “W” – afraid would run out of promotions before getting to me! Made it, the Impressive procedure – but took so long for 260 ( I was #254!)

“ Sent 2nd HqBn, HQMC, Washington, D.C. – Jobs: … assigned to Fitness Report Section of the Personnel Dept. in the Navy Annex….. Barracks Henderson Hall…opened up 4th barracks – brand new and much nicer… even had a full length mirror in squad bays….92 to a bay… eventually 2,500 at Hen Hall.”

“Marine Corps – last of the services to take in women – didn’t want them – “Island Hopping – Tarawa, Iwo Jimo, Saipan, Tinina, Guam, Peleliu and on and on — no place for women out there – but had been losing men over there & needed to take them from offices stateside. It was the oldtimers who thought women would ruin the Corps – skirts & powder puffs!! So WR’s did not receive a warm reception by formerly all male posts. So we had to prove ourselves & it wasn’t long until our usefulness was realized and the word went out – “Send us more Women Marines.” In the Navy Annex the fellows were eager to leave – they hadn’t volunteered to join the MarCorps to sit in an office & run a typewriter!

Ruth L. Woods’ Exhibit for 2015 WW11 Commemoration

“Authorized strength of Women Marines is 2% of total strength of MarCorps. In one year’s time nearly reach our authorized strength – over 18,000 so that soon women had release enough men to constitute a full fighting Division – responsible for putting the 6th Marine Division in combat.”

“End of War – “Separation Center – large groups going for discharge…by point system…I was eligible on 8/20/45 – signed up for 12 more months… 10/5/45.. Washington’s Victory Parade – up Pennsylvania – honoring Adm. Nimitz. Practiced by marching around and around our big 7 –wing Navy Annex!! .. up Penn. Ave. about 400 Wr’s marched, led by our WR Band from Camp Lejeune. “

“Demobilization proceeded rapidly – until less than 200 WR’s remained – and all at Hen Hall. MarCorps wanted to keep a nucleus in case needed again – did not want to have to start from beginning as in 1943 — & if going to have Marines in uniform, I knew I wanted to be in it. So when my 12 month extension was up, I agreed to stay 8 more months – waiting for congress to do something with the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act – passed in 1948 – discharged and reenlisted for 4 years in the regular Marine Corps – so tired of not knowing how long would be staying!!

For four more years Ruth moved up the enlisted ranks and by 1952 had achieved the rank of Master/Sgt. It was at this time the Marine Corps open the ranks of warrant officers to women. We continue from Ruth’s notes:

“Of course the biggest event for me was being selected for Warrant Officer. On 14 April 1952 we took the 3 hour examination. I believe there were about 57 women applicants, and Lillian Hartley (Disbursing) and I (Administration) were two lucky one selected. We took the same exam the men did, at the same time, which included making decision on question whether to dig a one-man or a two man foxhole, when to retire from an air strip and by whose authority, etc! A couple years later when the Marine Corps decided to select another women warrant, the Testing and Education Unit at Quantico, to say they couldn’t find a copy of the women’s exam and were quite astonished when I told them we took the men’s exam. They proceeded to make a separate exam for the women.

Lillian Hartley was stationed at HQMC so she received her warrant soon after selection. Mine didn’t come so (the) Colonel.. called HQMC to asked about it as she wanted to assign me as adjutant and instructor at the Women’s Officers Training Detachment.. before the next class began….when they told her the delay in my warrant was due to the break down of the “fancy typewriter” she suggested they write it in longhand if necessary…… it soon came typed, but not (on) the “fancy typewriter.”

Lillian Hartley’s and my date of rank was 13 June 1952, but in the “Blue Book” (Combined Lineal List of Officers on Active Duty) I was listed first for some reason, with a man next, and then Lillian…. So I am the senior woman warrant!!

“Three years later made “CWO-2….On 1 Jan 1961, I was the first women promoted to CWO-4, they made a big event of it (alto’ I had been the first CWO-2, and CWO-3 so it was quite logical ).. and I made permanent CWO-4 on 13 June 1967.”

“Another change came in W.O. program in 1975 when for the first time women’s warrant Officers attended the W.O. Basic School with the male counterparts.”

We leave with this comment from Ruth: “The Marine Corps is a fine career for a woman and I highly recommend it.” Her Marine Corps career began on 19 June 1943 and ended on 31 May 1970.

Ruth L. Wood returned to Ticonderoga and was active in several civic organization including the Ticonderoga Historical Society, Ticonderoga Music Festival, Meals on Wheels and presented weekly musical programs at Moses Ludington Nursing Home. She held the position of Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Like her parents she was faithful to the Baptist Church and was for many years an active member of the Hague Baptist Church where she played the organ and was  its treasurer.

For 2013 Ticonderoga Historical Society’s “On Hallow Ground” – A Veterans Memory Walk at Valley View Cemetery – we honored twenty four veterans buried at this location, including Ruth L. Wood.

We are looking for volunteers that have an interest in assistance in cataloging and developing our veterans and military collection.  Please contact us if you fell that you have some time and be part of this project.

3/10/19 wgd

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