On the right is Josephine Sarah Brong, a.k.a. my Great Aunt Jo, working as a parachute rigger at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, 17 miles west of Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
My mom has dozens of Aunt Jo’s photos from this period. Most of them were taken during leisure time (many picnics and luaus on the beach), but there are a few of her working, like this one. I think she was 28 when this was taken.
Riggers specialized in packing and repairing parachutes. Marine Corps Air Station Ewa was attacked by the Japanese on their approach to Pearl Harbor. When America entered WWII, the base became a center of aviation activity destined for combat in the Pacific Theater.
Aunt Jo enlisted in mid-1943, beginning with basic training in Georgia and continuing to Hawaii. She was in the “Marine Corps Women’s Reserve”, but, as a child, my Mom was always told that Jo was a “Lady Marine.” Mom says Aunt Jo used to talk about riding home to Ohio from California on a “troop train” that was so crowded she had to sit on her foot locker the first few days.
After the war, Jo went to Chicago and studied at Vogue Design School on the GI Bill. She remained there until 1961, then returned to Ohio after her parents died (my great grandparents) to be near her sister (my Great Aunt Helen), living and working in Cleveland.
She finally retired in 1982 and moved back to her childhood home in North Canton, Ohio, to live with Helen. As a child, I visited them a few times. Aunt Jo passed away in 2003. I wasn’t close to her, so now I feel grateful to know about her life and her participation in the war effort, belonging to a very meaningful period in the history of women in this country. My Mom and I really treasure her photos. ~shared by @annamowry
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