The important role of 'Rosie the Riveter' during WWII

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- America and its allies could never have imagined the magnitude of events unleashed during WWII.

Most of America's young men went off to war. But very little has been spoken about the roughly 16 million women at age 17 and 18 years old who went to work back home in support of the war effort.

Ninety-three-year-old Mae Krier was one of them.

"We had to defend our country. And our men needed equipment, and we made everything they needed, everything," said Krier.

She was one of the women fondly remembered as "Rosie the Riveter," symbolized in the iconic 1943 poster with the phrase, 'We can do It.'

They were the American women who stayed behind and flooded factories to build the planes and ships the men would need.

"I built B-17s and B-29s, that's the huge bombers during WWII at Seattle," said Krier from her home in Levittown.

She was one of the women who drilled some of the one million rivets from the nose to tail of the 99-foot-long B-29 aerial giant, spreading 141-foot long wings, 65-tons of fighting fury, the biggest, fastest and most powerful bomber in the world. On one of the first such planes they built at the Boeing factory in Seattle, they all signed their names on the fuselage.

"We heard later that the pilots fought over whose gonna get to fly it so it must have made such a hit," she said laughing.

Krier remembers that Adolph Hitler said early on that he wouldn't have any trouble defeating America because American women couldn't build anything.
"He said we spent too much time on stockings and cosmetics, foolish things. I think we showed him what American women were made of," said Krier.

To this day, she and her fellow Riveters have never been properly recognized. Krier continues to push for the Congressional Gold Medal. Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams, the last Marine survivor from Iwo Jima, has written a letter to Congress in support of that effort.

Mae spends some of her spare time making Rosie the Riveter bandanas to give away free to others. They serve as a reminder of the important role women played during WWII.

"The men will tell you they couldn't have won the war without us, and it's amazing, they have to put a statue or something in there honoring Rosie," said Krier.

She is one of nine surviving Rosie's who raised $30,000 to travel to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day this week. She knows it will be emotional and she also knows this.

"You know about until 1941, it was a man's world, they didn't know how capable American women were. And they are, I look back, I'm just amazed. I'm so proud to have been a part of it."
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