FREE A MARINE TO FIGHT: Women Marines in World War II
by Colonel Mary V Stremlow, USMCR (Ret)
Some stories sound too contrived to be true, yet are repeated too often to be dismissed as mere folklore. One such tale was rescued and restored to its rightful place in history when Mary Eddy Furman confirmed that, yes, the portrait of Archibald Henderson, 5th Commandant of the Marine Corps, crashed from the wall to the buffet the evening that Major General Commandant Thomas Holcomb announced his decision to recruit women into the Corps. Mrs. Furman, then a child, was a dinner guest at a bon voyage dinner party given for her father, Colonel William A. Eddy, and the Commandant’s son, Marine Lieutenant Franklin Holcomb, on 12 October 1942 when the Commandant was asked, “General Holcomb, what do you think about having women in the Marine Corps?” Before he could reply, the painting of Archibald Henderson fell.
We can only surmise how Archibald Henderson would have reacted to the notion of using women to relieve male Marines “for essential combat duty.” On the other hand, General Holcomb’s opposition was well-known. He, as many other Marines, was not happy at the prospect. But, in the fall of 1942, faced with the losses suffered during the campaign for Guadalcanal — and potential future losses in upcoming operations — added to mounting manpower demands, he ran out of options.