August 20, 2016 10:17:45 PM
We are reminded every now and then that the veterans of World War II are leaving us. Time does march on, and many of these now old soldiers are falling on that battlefield instead of in war. Tom Brokaw called them "the greatest generation," and we hate to see them pass on.
There is another group of WWII heroes who are passing on as well. They are the unique group of women who were also a great part of that war effort, the ones we referred to as "Rosie the Riveter."
My sister Margaret visited me for about a week after a family wedding. She brought with her a magazine from her hometown of Albany, Georgia, that had a feature story honoring the women who contributed to the American success in WWII by becoming workers in the factories that made planes, vehicles and munitions for the war. One of those from Albany was 92-year-old Vera Parker Hambley. Hambley and her late husband, William (Bill) O. Hambley, were married for one year when he was sent to India. Their separation lasted five years.
Hambley went to work in a factory supporting the war effort. She was one of the women affectionately and collectively called "Rosie the Riveter." By the end of the war their number was 16.5 million. Their salaries averaged $31.21 a week.
Hambley says now, "It shouldn't be surprising that women could fill the needs of the nation. Sacrifice and hard work are what women are known for. It was a bittersweet employment opportunity. No one wanted war; we were just answering a call to service. It made me feel connected to my husband."
Hambley worked at a high-security military facility in Birmingham, Alabama, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress plant. Her task was correcting faulty wiring bundles and making them more fireproof. Of the 14,000 employees at the plant, 40 percent were women. They played a huge part in the war effort. By the end of the war, the Birmingham plant had modified nearly 50 percent of all B-29s.
"The Rosies on our crew were a close-knit group; we worked with passion and kept high spirits by keeping each other going," Hambley says. "We had a good work ethic, and we were proud to be doing something patriotic.
"We formed a very tight bond. We cried together, we prayed together, we laughed together. We even lost tempers together. Were were so supportive of one another. I really don't know how we would have made it without each other or without God's grace."
There were some memorable incidents. Once, Hambley fell out of a B-29. It was on the ground, though. Nevertheless, she was sent to the hospital. Not many people can report falling out of a B-29.
Hambley says, "My grandchildren are proud of what I did during the war. They call me a feminist and they appreciate what Bill and I did for our country." America, too, appreciates what those brave and hardy men and women did when our country was threatened.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in and lives in Columbus.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.