As Marjorie Reeb waited for a streetcar in front of the post office on Main Street in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1943, she saw a large sign that read, "Join the Marine Corps. Free a man to fight."
She read that sign a second time, paused for an instant and then went inside to sign up. A month later, in September 1943, she and a handful of women from all over the country entered basic training at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"The men didn't seem to know what to do with us," Marjorie Reeb Gallun, 92, said. "They didn't send women overseas or anything. They taught us their jobs and then they went to fight."
Six months earlier, as World War II raged, the Marine...