Woman Marine returns to Lejeune for 1st time in 60 years

2 Aug 2004 | Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker

There were thousands of men who served in the Marine Corps during World War II, compared to the smaller number of women who served with distinction.

The former Martha Butler of Kingsport, Tenn., recently visited her old stomping grounds here with a few friends for the first time in 60 years. The former Marine took a tour of the base and viewed specific places she remembered.

"I knew we were coming here, but the tour was a total surprise," said Butler. "I loved the tour, it was so exciting!"

Butler enlisted in 1944 and served the Corps for two years. She flew up through the ranks very quickly, leaving the Corps as a technical sergeant, a current equivalent to staff sergeant.

Butler and the rest of the women Marines endured recruit training here at the area now known as the base football field.

Butler was a member of the United States Marine Corps Woman's Reserve unit, and resided in building 54. Once a barracks during her time here, the building is now part of the Reception Center. Her old dining facility is now where the LCTV-10 television studio is based.

She used to work in building 315, now the headquarters for 2d Dental Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group. It was once the home of the Special Training Regiment.

She worked under a colonel she said was really a hardworking, motivated Marine.

"His name was Col. Puller," she said. "Have you ever heard of him?"

First Lt. Clark Carpenter and Cpl. Helen Prickett, the tour organizers opened their mouths in shock, and they began to tell her of all his accomplishments. She was amazed to hear Marines today know who he was.

From there, the tour continued as they drove around trying to find the places in the photographs she had of Camp Lejeune from the 1940s. They visited the II Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters building, which used to be the Naval Hospital.

Butler's friends, retired Army colonel, Jim Brumit, and his wife Carolyn, and her sister, Janet, whose husband was a retired Navy captain, accompanied her through the tour and witnessed her emotions as she relived her memories.

She visited the base theater, which was still the theater on base then. As she saw the theater, her memories began coming back as if the events she remembered had happened yesterday.

"I remember going to the movies and standing in line, when they announced over the loud speaker that Ernie Pyle had been killed," said Butler. "Another time I was at the movies when they announced that President Roosevelt had died."

Overall, many historical events occurred while she was in the Corps. She served her country during a very important time in history, and was a part of one of the early female units in the Marine Corps. Butler, and the other females who served in WWII, helped set the bar for female Marines who serve the country today.