Guess Who Wears Combat Boots?

Ruth Klein

You remember that old playground taunt, yo’ momma wears combat boots? It reminds me of this description of WAVE Ruth Klein: No doubt there were a few raised eyebrows in 1942 when newly enlisted Navy sailors showed up for machine gun training and discovered that their instructor wore high heels with her dress blues. 

Ms. Klein worked out of North Island Navy Air Station in San Diego and has an interesting story to tell. Especially the part on the USS Franklin tragedy.

5 thoughts on “Guess Who Wears Combat Boots?

  1. My Mother was once a ‘Jenny Wren’ (Women’s Royal Navy Service), some thing I only found out after I joined The Royal Marines.

    Her role was that of WRN Writer (scribe). Things started to make sense after that as her personal admin was always spot on.

    (Perhaps she also represented the Navy Boxing Squad as her right hook stopped me and my siblings arguing more than a few times).

    Yours Aye

  2. I love stories like this of amazing women doing what they could for their country. My grandmother was a riveter (she was married with a baby by the time the war started) building airplanes. Although she was not any taller than I am, she was one strong country girl. With five brothers, she had to be tough.

  3. Lou

    True story.

    Prior to joining the RM’s I served my apprenticeship in the steelyards of WHESSOE Engineering in the North East of England. Every aspect of engineering was encountered, the hardest of which was ‘heavy duty riveting’ and chipping & caulking.

    I was tall, very fit and found the work hard, until one day I discovered that the ‘wind gun’ (pneumatic hammer) had to do the work, and not the person holding it. It was not my discovery, it was that of a very special person who passed on the trick of the trade…

    Each lunch break I would use the works canteen, which was quite a set up as it catered for over 250 working men (though the real men crossed the road and sunk a few pints in the ‘Bowesfield Lane’ Pub)!

    The head of the staff canteen was a formidable woman called Gwyn, who was in her late 50’s, she always had a soft spot for the apprentices as they shuffled through the queue, and cracked on with lots of friendly banter as she stacked the food ‘upon high’ on our plates.

    I must of looked worn out one lunchtime as Gwyn commented on it, I explained I had been wrestling with a 14″ hammer gun, and it was winning, to which she replied “Son, let it do the work, not you”! I laughed and ignored her advice and continued the wrestling match all afternoon, failing miserably.

    The following day just as I was leaving the canteen; Gwyn called me over and took a couple of pictures out of her ‘pinafore’ pocket. On the first was a beautiful 23 year old woman, dressed in dark cotton dungarees and a pigskin leather toledo ‘shoulder’ jacket; cradling a 14″ wind hammer gun in her arms?
    On the second the same beautiful woman was knocking down a sparkling 4″ rivet, while the female ‘holder-upper’ on the other side was struggling with the brace gun!

    She laughed at my expression and again said “let it do the work, not you”.

    I was amazed, (‘and fell in love’) LOL.

    Gwyn was of course absolutely right, and the next day she took some gentle ribbing from the apprentices (I couldn’t ‘not’ say something could I)? Needless to say my plate remained stacked high until the day I left.

    I often wondered why the ‘old and bold’ male iron fighters held Gwyn in the highest regard; they knew her from the War years when women held their own (which they still do here in the North-East)…

    Your Aye

  4. I like these anecdotal entries; it puts a more personal touch for those of us hearing them later…thank you…k

Comments are closed.