On her 20th birthday, Feb. 1, 1944 – when some of her peers were getting married or having babies – Mary Pomeroy Maser enlisted in the Marines.
Corp. Maser was among the first women Marines, as part of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, which was established on Feb. 13, 1943. With the shortage of men to do jobs on the home front during World War II, women started enlisting in various military branches around 1942, including the WACs (Women’s Army Corps), the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and the WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots).
Maser had worked in Chicago for a company that made Army war bonds, but the company closed shortly before her birthday. Maser recalls deciding to enlist, thinking how she had no obligations and that joining the military might be a good opportunity to try something new.
She trained at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in a unit composed of both men and women, and they all received the same training. “We did the same thing as the boys, crawling under wire and climbing trees,” she said. Maser went on to work in a transportation field. “I had never really driven before, but I tried it in training and I liked it. Pretty soon I was driving buses and Jeeps all over the place.”
Now 89, Maser takes her time entering the living room at her house in Glen Ellen, where she has been living for the last year with her sister who takes care of her. She wears a white T-shirt her sister’s husband had made for her when she went to a women veterans appreciation ceremony last year. On the front is a picture of a beaming 20-something Maser wearing her dress uniform with her name, the years she served and the Marine motto: “Semper Fi.”