Mom’s Experience at Boeing During WWII

Boeing plane signed by Gail Lee McGhee and other aircraft workers who built the plane in 1944.

Boeing plane signed by Gail Lee McGhee and other aircraft workers who built the plane in 1944.

Allen Hauser – “Gail…how long did you work making planes during the war? How did you end up getting involved?”

Gail Martin“Funny you should ask, Allen. The Butler County Historical Society recently video interview me about my work at Boeing in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit “Posters on the American Home Front, 1941-1945” coming to the museum from the middle of May to middle of June. I also found some Country Gentleman magazines from those years that I loaned the museum for display. Wish you could hear & see the tape. I will see if somebody will make copies. Cindy is viewing it now.
I graduated in 1942 and worked one year as a nanny for a woman school teacher then in 1943 I signed up for a government-funded training for women to work in the aircraft field. I had to go to Ark City and when the school lost their funding I went with most of the other girls to Wichita and applied for a job. I choose Boeing because I did not have to join a union to work there. My reasoning for that is a whole different story from Daddy’s experience in the oilfields.
Boeing put me in electrical wiring department because I was small in those days. Couldn’t hold up the heavy rivet guns. A lot on my work was in the tunnel that led back to the tail-gunner in the B-29’s. In May of 1945 the war was over and I quit so homecoming soldiers could have jobs. In June, Clyde & I were married.”

Allen Hauser – “Thanks for the information! That must have been some experience, though I suppose growing up around the oil fields, heavy machinery was pretty familiar. So you mostly worked on B-29’s (or perhaps it was solely on B-29’s). Those were used exclusively against Japan. You said you stopped in May, did soldiers come back so quickly to take over jobs even before the war was over in the Pacific? It’s strange to think where all those planes you helped make went. It is also interesting the role women played overall in the B-29s, from building them, testing them, and flying them to deliver them where the military needed them. It was quite a time.”

Carol Garriott – “My, what memories this photo brings back! Being 10 years younger than Gail, I was of course still at home and in elementary school, and enormously proud and in awe of my big sister. I LIVED for the weekends she would come home.

A time or two she brought a boy a bit older than me, who was, I think, the son of her landlady in Wichita, and had never been to the country. On his first visit, he was wildly excited about the oil field we lived in. A pumping well was adjacent to our house and yard. Everyone had trooped into the house after a cursory tour of the outside. Everyone, that is, it became apparent, except our young visitor. Daddy looked back for him, and saw him astraddle, like riding a horse, of the pumping mechanism on the well. I remember Daddy walking so steadily and calmly out and snatching the boy off the well. He could so easily have gotten his pant leg caught in the mechanism and been drawn inexorably into it! We, of course, had grown up with the understanding of how dangerous they were, and knew, under peril of severe consequences, mechanical or parental, not to mess. As I recall, Daddy had a private discussion with the boy, who never went near the wells again.

An example of a Kansas oil pumpjack at the museum in El Dorado.

An example of a Kansas oil pumpjack at the museum in El Dorado.

(This discussion comes from the Martin-McGhee My Family site, May 2002)

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