The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 6, 2012

'I'd probably re-enlist'

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, had immediate effects on the U.S. military, on American society and on the course of World War II.

The day that would “Live in Infamy” also had effects that far outlived the war, forever changing our culture, our place in the world and the roles women play in our society, our workforce and our military.

More than 16 million Americans answered the call to military service during World War II, including about 400,000 women.

As men flocked to enlist in the service, women filled new roles, performing jobs in offices and factories, that until then had been reserved for men. Other women, like Theodora Marlatt Denning, were among the first large-scale enlistment of women, as the military sought to free up as many men as possible for combat roles.

Denning, whose maiden name was Marlatt, was a senior at Ringwood High School when the Japanese attacked 71 years ago today.

“I was on my way to church, and I was passing a cafe when someone came out and told us Pearl Harbor had been bombed,” Denning said.

The effect of the attack was immediate in America, in Denning’s hometown, and in the Marlatt family of 12 children.

Denning’s brothers were quick to sign up for military service.

“They loved their country and they wanted to fight,” she said. “When Japan attacked us, they were ready to go.”

Seven out of the 12 Marlatt children served in the military during the Second World War, making them a large contingent of the service members hailing from the small town of Ringwood.

With so many children serving in the military during the largest war in history, Denning’s mother carried a heavy burden. Denning said it was faith that carried her and other family members through the long war.

“She was at church and she prayed a lot,” Denning said of her mother. “There were a lot of families that would meet at the church and pray.”

Denning said the desire to serve in the military was a natural result of the Marlatt family upbringing.

“We learned a lot about our country growing up, and we learned we should defend our country,” Denning said. “With our mother and dad, we were raised to love God, family and country.”

Denning’s brother Lesly served as a mechanic for the Army Air Corps in Europe. Brothers Roy, Robert and Orleau all served in the Coast Guard. Grant served “stateside” with the Army, while George served in the Navy.

The oldest Marlatt son, Orville, tried to enlist in the service, but was turned away because so many of his siblings already were serving.

“They told him ‘Go home and take care of your family, we already have enough of your family,’” Denning said with a laugh.

But, Denning had no intention of staying at home while her brothers fought the war.

“The men had signed up to serve, and my brothers had gone into the service, and I wanted to go take care of the enemy with them,” she said.

After graduating from Ringwood High School, Denning signed up for a new program established in 1942 to enlist women in the Navy. The program was called WAVES, an acronym for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.”

WAVES was the Navy’s answer to a manpower shortage brought on by the war. Women also were enlisted in similar programs in the other service branches, including the Women Army Corps (WAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, and the Army and Navy Nurse Corps.

Women had served previously in the military, beginning with the admission of 20 women to the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908, and enlistment of more than 11,000 women to clerical positions in the Navy during World War I.

But, the programs established in 1942 were the largest enlistment of women thus far in American history, and they went far beyond the clerical positions opened up in World War I.

Women serving during World War II were assigned predominantly to clerical positions, but they also served in aviation, the Judge Advocate General Corps, medical professions, communications and intelligence. World War II also marked the first time women were commissioned as officers in any branch of service.

Denning said she enlisted in the WAVES at age 18, just as soon as they would take her.

She faced an abrupt culture shock, when the Navy sent her from Ringwood to Hunter College in the Bronx, N.Y., which served as the basic training facility for all Navy and Coast Guard Women’s Reserves during World War II.

While she was adjusting to the new military lifestyle, the Navy sent an investigator to Ringwood for a background check to see if Denning was suited for a security clearance. They wanted to determine if she “talked a lot,” and if she was apt to disclose secret information.

“They intended to see what kind of personal chatter I got into,” Denning said. “I wasn’t much of a talker back then, so I was OK.

“I don’t think they’d take me now, though” she added with a laugh.

After completing her basic training at Hunter College, Denning was assigned to the Naval Intelligence office in Philadelphia.

Denning said she enjoyed working for Naval Intelligence.

“I enjoyed every bit of the service, but I did get a little homesick,” she said. “I got to make a lot of new friends and see a lot of new places.”

She quickly rose to the rank of yeoman first class, one rank below chief petty officer.

Denning said it felt good to know she was helping in the war effort, especially since so many of her loved ones were in the service.

In addition to her six brothers serving during the war, Denning’s fiance, Marvin Denning, was shipped overseas to serve with the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. The 45th Infantry served under Patton in Sicily and in the Third Army’s drive across Europe.

Through it all, Denning said she didn’t worry about the safety of her fiance and brothers.

“I felt at peace,” she said. “I felt they were capable, and they had been trained well. I just felt they would be OK, and they would come home.”

Denning’s six brothers and her fiance all did return unscathed from the war, a blessing she attributes to faith and prayer.

“Everyone who was put on the prayer list in church came home safe,” she said.

When the war concluded, Denning said she was happy to turn in her Navy blues and return to her pre-war life in Ringwood.

“I was anxious to get back home,” she said. “Back then, that was it. Back then we didn’t even think about staying in the service after the war.”

Of the 400,000 women who enlisted to help win the war, almost all outside the nursing corps were discharged after VJ Day. It wasn’t until the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 that women were allowed to sign up and serve in the regular service branches, as opposed to the Reserve, and remain on duty in peacetime.The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, had immediate effects on the U.S. military, on American society and on the course of World War II.

The day that would “Live in Infamy” also had effects that far outlived the war, forever changing our culture, our place in the world and the roles women play in our society, our workforce and our military.

More than 16 million Americans answered the call to military service during World War II, including about 400,000 women.

As men flocked to enlist in the service, women filled new roles, performing jobs in offices and factories, that until then had been reserved for men. Other women, like Theodora Marlatt Denning, were among the first large-scale enlistment of women, as the military sought to free up as many men as possible for combat roles.

Denning, whose maiden name was Marlatt, was a senior at Ringwood High School when the Japanese attacked 71 years ago today.

“I was on my way to church, and I was passing a cafe when someone came out and told us Pearl Harbor had been bombed,” Denning said.

The effect of the attack was immediate in America, in Denning’s hometown, and in the Marlatt family of 12 children.

Denning’s brothers were quick to sign up for military service.

“They loved their country and they wanted to fight,” she said. “When Japan attacked us, they were ready to go.”

Seven out of the 12 Marlatt children served in the military during the Second World War, making them a large contingent of the service members hailing from the small town of Ringwood.

With so many children serving in the military during the largest war in history, Denning’s mother carried a heavy burden. Denning said it was faith that carried her and other family members through the long war.

“She was at church and she prayed a lot,” Denning said of her mother. “There were a lot of families that would meet at the church and pray.”

Denning said the desire to serve in the military was a natural result of the Marlatt family upbringing.

“We learned a lot about our country growing up, and we learned we should defend our country,” Denning said. “With our mother and dad, we were raised to love God, family and country.”

Denning’s brother Lesly served as a mechanic for the Army Air Corps in Europe. Brothers Roy, Robert and Orleau all served in the Coast Guard. Grant served “stateside” with the Army, while George served in the Navy.

The oldest Marlatt son, Orville, tried to enlist in the service, but was turned away because so many of his siblings already were serving.

“They told him ‘Go home and take care of your family, we already have enough of your family,’” Denning said with a laugh.

But, Denning had no intention of staying at home while her brothers fought the war.

“The men had signed up to serve, and my brothers had gone into the service, and I wanted to go take care of the enemy with them,” she said.

After graduating from Ringwood High School, Denning signed up for a new program established in 1942 to enlist women in the Navy. The program was called WAVES, an acronym for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.”

WAVES was the Navy’s answer to a manpower shortage brought on by the war. Women also were enlisted in similar programs in the other service branches, including the Women Army Corps (WAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, and the Army and Navy Nurse Corps.

Women had served previously in the military, beginning with the admission of 20 women to the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908, and enlistment of more than 11,000 women to clerical positions in the Navy during World War I.

But, the programs established in 1942 were the largest enlistment of women thus far in American history, and they went far beyond the clerical positions opened up in World War I.

Women serving during World War II were assigned predominantly to clerical positions, but they also served in aviation, the Judge Advocate General Corps, medical professions, communications and intelligence. World War II also marked the first time women were commissioned as officers in any branch of service.

Denning said she enlisted in the WAVES at age 18, just as soon as they would take her.

She faced an abrupt culture shock, when the Navy sent her from Ringwood to Hunter College in the Bronx, N.Y., which served as the basic training facility for all Navy and Coast Guard Women’s Reserves during World War II.

While she was adjusting to the new military lifestyle, the Navy sent an investigator to Ringwood for a background check to see if Denning was suited for a security clearance. They wanted to determine if she “talked a lot,” and if she was apt to disclose secret information.

“They intended to see what kind of personal chatter I got into,” Denning said. “I wasn’t much of a talker back then, so I was OK.

“I don’t think they’d take me now, though” she added with a laugh.

After completing her basic training at Hunter College, Denning was assigned to the Naval Intelligence office in Philadelphia.

Denning said she enjoyed working for Naval Intelligence.

“I enjoyed every bit of the service, but I did get a little homesick,” she said. “I got to make a lot of new friends and see a lot of new places.”

She quickly rose to the rank of yeoman first class, one rank below chief petty officer.

Denning said it felt good to know she was helping in the war effort, especially since so many of her loved ones were in the service.

In addition to her six brothers serving during the war, Denning’s fiance, Marvin Denning, was shipped overseas to serve with the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. The 45th Infantry served under Patton in Sicily and in the Third Army’s drive across Europe.

Through it all, Denning said she didn’t worry about the safety of her fiance and brothers.

“I felt at peace,” she said. “I felt they were capable, and they had been trained well. I just felt they would be OK, and they would come home.”

Denning’s six brothers and her fiance all did return unscathed from the war, a blessing she attributes to faith and prayer.

“Everyone who was put on the prayer list in church came home safe,” she said.

When the war concluded, Denning said she was happy to turn in her Navy blues and return to her pre-war life in Ringwood.

“I was anxious to get back home,” she said. “Back then, that was it. Back then we didn’t even think about staying in the service after the war.”

Of the 400,000 women who enlisted to help win the war, almost all outside the nursing corps were discharged after VJ Day. It wasn’t until the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 that women were allowed to sign up and serve in the regular service branches, as opposed to the Reserve, and remain on duty in peacetime.

Looking back on her time in the Navy, and the patriotism that led her and her brothers and fiance to enlist, she said Americans today don’t seem as inclined to serve.

“I don’t think people are as patriotic today as they were back then,” Denning said.

But, she said, those who do choose to serve in the military today bear a special distinction.

“You have to give them credit, because none of them are drafted,” Denning said. “They’re all volunteers today, and they’re the ones who truly want to be there.”

Denning said she still doesn’t agree with women serving in combat. But, now almost 91 years old, she said she’d go back and serve again if given the chance.

“If I was younger,” she said, “I’d probably re-enlist.”

Looking back on her time in the Navy, and the patriotism that led her and her brothers and fiance to enlist, she said Americans today don’t seem as inclined to serve.

“I don’t think people are as patriotic today as they were back then,” Denning said.

But, she said, those who do choose to serve in the military today bear a special distinction.

“You have to give them credit, because none of them are drafted,” Denning said. “They’re all volunteers today, and they’re the ones who truly want to be there.”

Denning said she still doesn’t agree with women serving in combat. But, now almost 91 years old, she said she’d go back and serve again if given the chance.

“If I was younger,” she said, “I’d probably re-enlist.”