18 Comments

Lucille Ellen McClarren The FIRST woman Marine 1943

Recently I have had the great pleasure to be exchanging emails with Betty Harper the niece of Lucille McClarren. In her quest to know more about her Aunt and her illustrious career she has shared a bit with us in hopes that others who knew her will share memories of Lucille with her. Below are her recollections.

By Betty Harper

My aunt was Lucille McClarren, the first private enlisted on February 13, 1943.  She passed away in 1990, but prior to that time she told me some things about  her Marine experience. I have a copy of the Klondike Bulletin, Masontown, PA,  dated March 4, 1943, that provides some of the more personal information about her swearing in. But when checking the internet, although her name comes up many, many times, there is nothing beyond a reference to her as the first enlisted Marine. Years ago, while hospitalized at the Washington DC Vet Hospital, my aunt told me she had been the model for the uniform, a poster girl,  and had shared the podium with Eleanor Roosevelt, recruiting other women. She went to Hunter College and became the first female drill Sargent. (Her death certificate notes her as S/Sgt.) She told me about traveling by train to Camp Pendleton where she was responsible for dispatching soldiers home from the Pacific Theatre. I don’t know her career progression after the war, but she did finish her career as Secretary to the Secretary of the Navy in the Pentagon. I know she was there during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missle Crisis as she mentioned JFK and Bobby being in her boss’ office. In the late 50’s or early 60’s she married William Desmarais, an employee of the FBI. (I believe he was an FBI fingerprint specialist.) Growing up, I adored my aunt; but my family didn’t
talk about her unique career. I am now 64 and eager to know more. I would appreciate any direction you could send me that might fill in the gaps.

Below is the article that was printed in the local newspaper.

Article from the newspaper showing Lucille and the first enlistee in 1943.

Klondike  Bulletin

Masontown, Pennsylvania

Thursday,
March 4, 1943

Private Lucille Ellen McClarren, attractive 20-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Danniel E. McClarren of Nemacolin, has won the distinctive honor of being the first private of the United States to join the U. S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserves.  Miss McClarren has been employed as a stenographer in the war department at Washington D.C. since March 1941 and made her home at 404 Oakwood Street, S. E. that city prior to her enlistment Tuesday, February 16, 1943.  (This is inaccurate.  She was enlisted Saturday, February 13, 1943.)

The popular district girl enjoyed a short visit with her parents last week and reported in Washington for duty, Monday morning of this week.  Born at Graceton, Pa., the first girl Marine private in the country attended the Nemacolin grade schools and is a graduate of Cumberland Township high school, Carmichaels, Greene County, in the Class of 1940.

Following her enlistment, Private McClarren was sworn in by Captain H. W. Branson, of the Marine Officer Procurement Unit.  Now a reserve, she will be transferred to active duty with a starting salary of $50 a month plus a $200 allowance for uniforms.  She
expects to be ordered to report for training at Hunter College.

Despite her transfer of allegiance from the Army to the Marines, fellow-workers in the War Department entertained Pvt. McClarren at the swank Lotus Club in Washington Friday evening, December 19.  Attending the affair were two other Nemacolin girls: Mildred Wilson and Patricia Selvin (should be Slevin), both close friends of the honored guest.

Saturday, February 20, Pvt. McClarren was a guest at the Press Building during the Marine Day celebration.  Upon her arrival the new recruit looked in vain for another member of her sex–but — none were there.  Amid deafening applause she was escorted to
the front of the huge room where many high officers of the Marines had assembled. She was personally congratulated by Brigadier General Robert L. Denig, Public Relations Chief of the Marines.

Called upon for a speech, the Nemacolin girl responded but while here last week confided to friends that she had no more idea what she said than “the man in the moon.

Pvt. McClarren said: “With the Marine band and about 1600 fighting Marines, press reporters and high officials present, and me the only girl in the auditorium, you can imagine my excitement and joy. I was swamped for autographs and finally had to be escorted from the hall by an honor guard. Little did I expect when I left Nemacolin that one day I would receive all this publicity.  But you can tell everyone I’ll give my best and endeavor to emulate the brave men in the Marines by doing every assignment
given me to the very best of my ability.
I am happy and proud to be the first girl Marine private in World War II.”

The first graduating class

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18 comments on “Lucille Ellen McClarren The FIRST woman Marine 1943

  1. She is from my hometown area, great story and happy to share the same title as her as a Marine. Semper Fi.

  2. GREAT STORY I ENJOYED READING IT VERY MUCH.MY DAYS IN THE MC WERE IN 54TO56 AND I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT WOULD GO BACK IN TODAY IF I COULD. I WAS STATIONED AT CAMP LEJEUNE N.C.IT IS A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE FOR YOUNG WOMEN. I MUST ADMIT IT’S A FAR CRY FROM WHAT IT IS TODAY THE CLOSEST THING WE GOT TO COMBAT WAS A VISIT TO THE RIFLE RANGE AND A TRIP THROUGH THE GAS CHAMBER OF WHICH I WAS SURE I WAS GOING TO DIE.THANK YOU FOR THE STORY ABOUT YOURE AUNT. CPL MARTHA A WILLIAMS

  3. Thank you for your comments. I just today stumbled onto this site. I am still hopeful someone will remember my aunt and be able to tell me more about her experiences.

  4. She was my grams, and an amazing lady indeed!

  5. Thank you for posting this picture, I have not seen it in years. My grandmother Marjorie Harvey Munford is in that photo. I a very proud of her and her service in the USMC. If someone knew her please message me scwreckdiver@aol.com.

  6. Betty, Jenifer, and Michael,
    Our Women Marine Association Curator of the Women Marines Collection is Nancy Wilt. She is currently traveling in Vietnam until about the 9th of April, but would, I know, like to be in contact with you. Her email address is: Historian@womenmarines.org

    Mitzi Manning
    1st Vice President
    WMA

  7. Thank you so much. I will contact Nancy when she returns.

  8. Betty, I’m sorry that I’ve never gotten back to you. I’m Dawn’s daughter, Jenifer. I lived with my mom and Grams in Nemacolin until she passed away. I remember her strong Marine pride. I wish that she would have been alive to really see the path that she helped build for women. I served from April 98-Dec 2009, did a tour in Iraq, visited Korea, and have seen a lot of our great country.

    • I would so love to speak with you. Lucille was my idol–growing up and as an adult. Many times my “spunk” has been compared to her. My email is: bettyharper.7gablesfarm@gmail.com. My cell number is 615-218-4100. Should I assume you were in the Marine branch of the military?

  9. Great story. However, It is Opha Mae Johnson who is credited as the first woman Marine. Johnson enlisted for service on August 13, 1918. More than 300 served as women Marines during the first world war, two decades prior to the establishment of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve during WWII. Lucille McClaren was the first enlisted private to enter the newly established Marine Corps Women’s Reserve in February 1943.

    • Hello Tina you are exactly correct this article is not stated correctly! Lucille E McClarren was my mother. She was the First Enllisted Woman Marine in WWII on Feb 13, 1943.

  10. I would love to be able to speak with any relatives of Lucilles via email. I have been in the process of researching my family history for my 91 year old Grandfather for over 4 years now and Lucille McClarren is part of my families tree. The McClarren side of my family has been quite a challenge. If anyone is willing to email me my email address is jewright@zoominternet.net. I look forward to hearing from someone. Thank you!!

  11. My Mother was also a marine joined Feb 1943, went to hunter college then on to California…but I think she did not go to hunter until May? She also became a Sgt. & married a Marine.

  12. I was in he marine c orps in N> York . I was from w.Va. and we had to go to Penn. to be sworn. We went to Mojave, Calif after millegeville Ga.

  13. My mom was also in the first group that went to Hunter College in New York for boot camp. Dorothy H. Doucette (Armstrong). From Hyde Park, Mass she was working in
    Washington, DC when she enlisted in 1943. We understand she was the sixth woman to enlist. Certainly they would have known each other. My mom is still living and will be 93 in June. To this day other than her wedding ring her most prized jewelry is a necklace with the USMC eagle, globe, and anchor she wears with great pride

  14. AWESOME STORY!!! SEMPER FIDELIS!!! -GYSGT BETH E. ABBOTT

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