City Life to Marine Life

Serving Stateside

Postwar and Reflections


Marilyn Strelow Groel was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1924 and grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey. Groel moved to Florida when she was 58 years old and married her husband 16 years later. Her husband was an aviator during World War 2. She took advantage of her G.I. Bill benefits and returned to college at Florida Southern. She had one sister who also lived in Florida. During the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: Great Depression; a global economic depression that lasted through the 1930s], her father was a vice president for a bank in New York [Annotator's Note: New York, New York], so they had a nice house and no complaints. Groel was attending college in North Carolina and remembers that she was sunbathing when she heard war had been declared. She did not understand the significance until war production started ramping up. She noticed that everyone was doing whatever they could for the war effort. People were saving lard, her parents grew a vegetable garden, and they began seeing the lists of men killed in action. Everyone's life changed. Sometime later, she dropped out of college and enrolled in a business school. She also got a job with the Family Circle magazine for a few years. Groel stayed up to date with the course of the war and wanted to do her part so in June 1945, after completing business school, she enlisted in the US Marine Corps Women's Reserve. Listening to what was going on in the war was constant. A school friend of hers that she had not seen in years also enlisted as well. They both received orders to report to basic training at Camp Lejeune [Annotator's Note: Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina]. Their parents took them to the station together and waved them off. She thought the training was quite the experience. She was glad to have a friend with her. She followed orders from the time she got off the train to her barracks. She received uniforms and then received very strict orders. The first night in the barracks, she heard several women crying because they were homesick and scared. They were very well taken care of. At training, she learned how to salute and march. After five weeks, everyone was anxious to see where they would be sent. Her rank was a Private First Class. She was assigned to Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia. There, she performed various duties, including 30 days of mess duty every so often. In addition to her responsibilities at Henderson Hall, she was also assigned as a clerk to the Navy Annex in Washington, D.C. where her duties included preparing the paperwork for Marines and sailors who were going on furlough. Every so often, they were required to march, which one time was for the President of the United States. She wore here dress uniform for that occasion [Annotator's Note: a telephone ring can be heard in the background at 0:16:10.000]. She felt that the military parades were very patriotic and enjoyed participating.


Marilyn Strelow Groel enjoyed her boot camp experience, especially the instruction on how to salute, march, and obey orders. She learned how to put up the flag and take it down. It gave her a feeling of patriotism. She did not enjoy cleaning the lavatory, but it was all good training. It developed her confidence and sense of responsibility. She was not the best marksman and was relieved that she did not have to do much of it. She made lifelong friendships with three girls while at boot camp. The drill instructors were dedicated to their duties, but never became close to any of them. She was sent to D.C. [Annotator's Note: Washington, D.C.] for her assignment when she completed bootcamp. She lived at Henderson Hall [Annotator's Note: Arlington, Virginia] with other female Marines. Every morning she would rise at five o'clock, make her bed according to orders, dress in ironed clothes, put on shined shoes. Then she reported to her duty, whether it was in the kitchen for mess duty or going to the office. Groel did not feel she was treated differently than the males. She felt that she received the same respect for her service as the male Marines. She worked hard and always enjoyed her days off at home in New Jersey. Her train fare was free, along with other travel fees. Groel recalls that she was required to wear her uniform everywhere she went, even when she was visiting family on the weekends. She was always surprised and upset to hear when a ship was sunk or someone she knew was killed. So, when the heard the news of the atomic bomb [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 6 and 9 August 1945], she was surprised as well. When she learned the Japanese had surrendered, she was very happy. She went out with her friends and celebrated. Groel continued to serve in the Marines after the war was declared over. Her duties changed and included preparing the paperwork for Marines and sailors who were being discharged from service. In August 1946, Groel was discharged from the Marine Corps at the Navy Annex in Washington, D.C. with the rank of corporal. She and her friends were very excited that they did not have to wear their uniforms anymore. They went to the biggest store they could find to pick out new civilian clothes. Then they went out to dinner to celebrate and say farewell. Groel considered staying in the Marine Corps, but in the end, she decided to be discharged because she did not want to go through the enlistment process again. She took advantage of her G.I. Bill benefits and returned to college. She thought the G.I. Bill was very beneficial to many Americans.


Marilyn Strelow Groel did not feel like she as breaking the gender barrier, she was just happy to be part of the Marine Corps. She considered going overseas to work in an embassy. She attended college for a few years after she was discharged from the service. She found a secretarial job and married. After her husband died [Annotator's Note: a computer dings at 0:34:13.000] she became reacquainted with a male friend. Groel served in World War 2 because she wanted to aid the war efforts. She was prepared to do what she was told to do. When she signed up and took her her oath, she was very nervous. The war changed her life because it gave her a great respect for her country and to those who did their duty as well. She has zero tolerance for people who do not want to serve this country when it gives so many freedoms and opportunities to it citizens. She believes that this country is taken for granted and thinks that everyone should serve some time, so they learn to appreciate how great this country is. Groel feels her service gave her a better appreciation for those who sacrificed for this country. She thinks of the men who serve today and is thankful for what they do. Groel believes you must work for what you get and appreciate what they have. She believes that it is important to have institutions like The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] and to continue to teach World War 2 to future generations. She believes that history is very important and should be taught in this country. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer asks for a Ms. Betsy because the interview ended 0:42:21.000]. Groel asks the interviewer what he does for the museum. The interviewer responds with an answer. She thanks the interviewer for his work and dedication.

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