Rosie the Riveter and Alamogordo Army Air Field

  • Published
  • By Arlan Ponder
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
The direct correlation between an icon in Americana culture and the airfield that had its World War II effort called "just another training base" might seem a hard reach. However, the convergence of the twain is steeped in historical fact.

Today the image of "Rosie the Riveter" is historically synonymous with women in the workplace. The image of Rosie in her overalls and bandana with muscle flexed has appeared on postage stamps, the cover of numerous national magazines, recruiting posters, war bonds advertisements and a Norman Rockwell painting.

A whole new generation of Americans have been introduced to Rosie thanks to recording artists such as Pink, Beyonce and Christina Aguilera striking the pose. And the 49th Wing Public Affairs Office did its part as Senior Airman Veronica Stamps recreated the iconic image in recognition of the 2011 Women's History Month.

During World War II, as U.S. service men headed off to the shores of islands in the Pacific or the hedgerows of Europe, more than six million female workers headed to the factories to help build planes, bombs, tanks and other weapons that would ultimately lead to victory on both fronts. Behind slogans and campaigns like "Women at work," "The more women at work, the sooner we win" and "We can do it," women stepped away from traditional domestic jobs to fill in and help "Win The War" by taking on the roles skilled male laborers left behind.

Though numerous women have been credited with creating the iconic image, there are two specific ones who are believed to have fostered the image of Rosie - Rosalind P. Walter, who worked on the F4U Corsair fighter, and Rose Will Monroe, who worked on the B-24 and B-29 bombers.

"The Rosie character depicted in the widely distributed poster by J. Howard Miller ... was fictional. Mrs. Monroe appeared in a promotional film for war bonds after Walter Pidgeon, the actor, discovered her at an aircraft parts factory in Ypsilanti, Mich. A real Rosie the Riveter proved too good for the film's producers to resist," according to a 1997 New York Times story at the time of Mrs. Monroe's death.

The real-life Rosie apparently never took advantage of her fame and remained "a tireless worker after the war" taking on numerous odd jobs before founding her own construction company, Rose Builders. She serves as a true role model and testament to the "We Can Do It" philosophy.

During the early days of World War II, a small southern New Mexico town of merely 4,000 citizens was helping develop a training base, which was called Alamogordo Army Air Field.

Though originally designed as a British base, the temperate climate, flat terrain and isolation from large population areas made this an ideal spot for the Army Air Corps to build a bomber training base. The open airspace of 38 miles wide and 64 miles long between the Sacramento, Organ and San Andres Mountains also appeared to be an added bonus for the increased training required by the Army Air Forces.

Becoming a "city in the desert" with more than 4,000 officers and enlisted men calling the base home, the sparse facilities soon became overcrowded. During 1942, the base saw more than $4 million spent in construction for housing, operations and infrastructure, while the training tempos increased due to demand on both war fronts.

In his book "Just Another Training Base" retired Master Sgt. Greg Henneman writes, "The airfield served as a training site for 19 bombardment groups and 73 bombardment squadrons flying ... B-24s and B-29s."

The historical archive of Holloman Air Force Base is filled with pictures of B-24s and B-29s sitting static on ramps, flying over the small base in formation or crashed on the dusty White Sands. The historical archive of the U.S. is also filled with pictures of Rosie hard at work in the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Mich., skillfully placing rivets in B-24s and B-29s.

Though no direct correlation has ever been made to link Rosie with Alamogordo Army Air Field, it would be tough to say that none of those planes Rose Will Monroe helped build, while wearing her overalls with hair up in a bandana and muscles flexing, didn't once fly in the skies over the Tularosa Basin.