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A ‘Rosie The Riveter’ Remembers Her Work Inside The Tiny Gas Tanks Of World War 2 Planes

By Emma Swislow
Stars and Stripes

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In 1942, Ruth Fern Gibb stood just five feet tall which made her the perfect size to climb into airplane gas tanks to secure the rivets. Gibb shares how she met the love of her life and became a “Rosie the Riveter” during the war.

Stars and Stripes

When Ben Reise went to enlist in the military in 1942 during World War II, his future wife, Ruth Fern Gibb, went with him. The two had grown up together in Chicago, meeting in grammar school.

Ben Reise tried to enlist in the Navy, but they told him that he was too short at 5 feet, 4 inches, Ruth Reise said. Next, he went to the Air Force, which “took him right away.”

At the same time Ben enlisted, Ruth was also  offered a job. Her height — 5 feet even — made her the perfect size to climb into airplane gas tanks to secure the rivets .Soon after, she began working at the Douglas Aircraft manufacturing plant, on the site where O’Hare International Airport is today.

From 1942 to 1945, Douglas manufactured 655 C-54 Skymasters, a military transport aircraft, at the Chicago plant. A photo from the Chicago Tribune’s archive shows that the opening of the gas tank on the C-54 was just 13 inches tall and nine inches wide.

“I told [the recruiters], ‘I don’t have any claustrophobia so that will be fine,'” Ruth Reise, now 92, said.

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