Tess Garber, who enlisted in the Marines in 1943, was...

Tess Garber, who enlisted in the Marines in 1943, was assigned to work as a teletype operator under a War Department plan that recruited women for noncombat roles to free men for the battlefront. Garber, of Jericho, seen here at her home on March 25, 2015, said she endured the resentment of male co-workers. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Life was a challenge for women who served in the Marines during World War II, according to Tess Garber, who enlisted in 1943 and reached the rank of sergeant.

Assigned to work as a teletype operator under a War Department plan that recruited women for noncombat roles to free men for the battlefront, Garber endured the resentment of male co-workers.

Garber, who worked alongside men at the Navy Annex in Arlington, Virginia, said female Marines were ordered to make coffee and empty ashtrays -- duties that were never asked of her male peers.

"The men we were there to replace, they were not happy with us," she said.

"When they established that [working arrangement], they didn't stop to think they were creating a situation that was untenable for the women."

Garber, of Jericho, said she would calm herself after days of slights by taking nighttime walks to the Lincoln Memorial.

"They would ask us to do jobs they would never ask the men to do, but you had been given an order so you couldn't question it," said Garber, 91. "So I would sit on the steps and have a talk with Abe, and that would usually make me feel a little better."

Garber was among a WWII generation of women who, prodded by the need for wartime workers, began filling jobs once thought of as exclusively men's work.

It was a groundbreaking trend that forever broadened the role of women in America from that of mostly at-home wives and caregivers, to that of self-accomplished individuals.

Garber married and started a family immediately after her discharge in 1946.

But when she and her husband found a home in Jericho 10 years later, whose $19,400 price tag was more than he could handle on his own, she took a job with the Nassau County library system. She worked there for 30 years.

About 350,000 women served in various capacities in the U.S. military during World War II, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. They worked as military analysts, lab techs, clerks and radio operators. Some flew as test pilots, or shuttled military planes between bases within the United States. Others trained on anti-aircraft guns.

Another 18 million women worked in defense industries, assembling planes, rigging parachutes, outfitting ships, driving trucks and filling other jobs left vacant as men were drafted and sent off to war.

"The contribution of the women of America, whether on the farm or in the factory or in uniform, to D-Day was a sine qua non of the invasion effort," the historian Stephen Ambrose wrote in "D-Day."

A year before the D-Day invasion, Garber decided she wanted to enlist.

Her parents refused, rejecting military service as unladylike. She said men she dated told her they would never marry a woman who had served in such a masculine institution as the U.S. Marines.

But she said an older brother, who was serving as a captain in the signal corps, said he would be proud if she enlisted. She finally persuaded her parents to relent.

Once in uniform, Garber worked as a teletype operator in the Navy Annex headquarters building in Arlington. Her duties included receiving the names of dead GIs as they were transmitted from the battlefront.

Then, one day, she recognized one of the names of the dead -- a young soldier who had been a childhood playmate.

"It was someone I knew from Cleveland, the son of my mother's close friend," she said. "Once that list came in, I couldn't do that anymore, and I asked for a transfer."

She said her WWII contributions as a Marine ranged from operating office machines at military installations to helping shorthanded farmers bring in crops.

Long-ago retired, she said the wartime contributions of women like her helped open unimagined opportunities for today's women.

During an interview, she noted that a female postal worker was coming up her walkway.

"Women serve in all kinds of fields today that they never would have," Garber said. "Our service changed the outlook for a lot of people."

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