From high school to aircraft base, 89-year-old Anna “Mae” Krier likes to reminisce about her time working as a 'Rosie the Riveter' in the industrial labor force during World War II. Thursday, the Levittown, Pennsylvania woman will get the chance to share her experiences with fellow 'Rosies' at a nationwide reunion in California.
Krier is thankful for growing up in what NBC journalist Tom Brokaw calls the “greatest generation," as her experiences riveting and constructing B-17s and B-29s cannot be matched.
“People don’t work together like they did back then. We just dug in and did whatever had to be done,” Krier said. “We grew up during the depression era, so everything that we did, we greatly appreciated. As I always say, the things you value most in your life are the things you have to work for.”
With the help of the Twilight Wish Foundation, a nonprofitable organization which honors elderly American veterans, Krier’s dream to attend the American Rosie the Riveter Association’s (ARRA) reunion in Richmond, California became a reality. Events throughout the three-day conference include a boat tour of a former World War II shipyard and a visit to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor shook the nation, American men fled their homes for the war front, leaving their job positions vacant. In 1943, 17-year-old Krier left the familiarity of North Dakota and went to work at the Boeing Company, an aircraft factory that operated in Seattle, Washington.
After undergoing a two-week training program to learn how to buffer a rivet, Krier was sent to the actual factory where she began to build planes. Krier soon became an inaugural “Rosie the Riveter.”
One of Krier’s favorite memories from working at Boeing occurred in May 1944. Along with her fellow “Rosies," Krier helped construct 5 Grand, the 5,000th B-17 produced by the Boeing Company after the start of the war. To commemorate their efforts, the Riveters got to paint their names on the craft and even had the opportunity to push the plane out on the tarmac. Krier still has photographs from the 5 Grand christening, which remind her of the pride and honor she carried on that day.
“When the war took place, the men went to war and so did the women,” Krier said. “They went in the trenches, but we went in the aircraft factories and the shipyards. We did whatever had to be done in order to win the war.”
Her former co-workers still joke about Krier “being in love with her B17." In addition to working in aircraft factories, women lent their talents to shipyards, ammunition plants, or supplied entertainment for the soldiers during wartime. Krier notes the women were humbled by their service and never considered it a duty, but an honor.
After she married a Navy man she met on the dance floor in April 1945, Krier moved with her husband after he was transferred to another base near Spokane, Washington. Until the culmination of the war, Krier worked with Italian prisoners of war in a compound that manufactured materials for the army engineers. She also contributed to the war efforts during the Korean War, but soon moved back to the Trenton, New Jersey-area, where her husband was born.
After almost 70 years of marriage, Krier’s husband passed away on June 2014. They have two children, a daughter, 69, and 67-year-old son.
“The story I love to tell is they said that Hitler said he wouldn’t have a problem winning over America. He said the women couldn’t produce, he said we were too spoiled and soft and we spent too much time and money on cosmetics,” Krier said. “We went to work with a vengeance when we heard that. We sure showed him.”