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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!