Women's History Month — Elleen Wheatley

9 Mar 2021 2:09 PM | Anonymous

Happy Women's History Month! Each week during this month we will highlight and learn about women from Shelby County and their life experiences.

This week we will learn about Elleen Wheatley.

"With her husband and twin brother serving overseas in the U.S. Army during World War II, Elleen Wheatley wanted to join the war effort, too.

"Though she had been working in munitions plants, first in Burlington and then in Ankeny, the 24-year-old felt the calling to enlist in the military. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943, serving until the war's end in 1945...

"'I'm proud to say I'm a Marine,' she said. 'Most Marines are proud of our job and what we were doing.'

"After enlisting in the Marine Corps on July 1, 1943, Wheatley attended basic training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., before being assigned to Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station Mojave in Mojave, Calif. as a quartermaster.

"She was a native of the Leslie, Iowa, a town razed by the construction of Interstate 35. She worked as a transportation manager, coordinating trains for everything from soldiers heading out for training to ensuring soldiers' remains were sent home.

"While in Mojave, Wheatley and the other Marines met Bob Hope on the one of the first stops of his tours of military bases. However, she said, Hope performed only for the male Marines, leaving her and her fellow women behind.

"In that era, the Marine Corps didn't send women into overseas service, she said. The farthest place she could have been assigned was in Hawaii, but she resisted that. Instead, she hoped to stay on the mainland for when her husband, who was serving the European theater, would come home.

"And that he did. Both were discharged late in 1945... Wheatley said. 'I just wanted to do my part in the service.'"

"Living Heroes, Elleen Wheatley" written by John Schreier.

The Shelby County Historical Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1964. This four building complex is located at 1805 Morse Avenue Harlan, Iowa 51537.

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