As the Kingdom of the Netherlands commemorates the end of World War II and celebrates 75 years of freedom, the Dutch Embassy today recognized the contributions of the Rosies during a socially distanced ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Seventy-five years ago, American women answered the call to duty during World War II to work as Rosies, so named after Rosie the Riveter. The Pentagon estimates that nearly 5 million civilian women served in the defense industry and the commercial sector during the war. The Rosies left high schools and homes to build tanks, planes, and ships so men could fight in the armed forces.
Two Rosies attended the ceremony. June Robbins, 94, appeared in person and Mae Krier, 94, appeared via video. Dutch Ambassador André Haspels and Defense Attaché Paul Herber hosted the ceremony.
Robbins became a Rosie at the age of 17 while still in high school. She served the war effort by working at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company in Pennsylvania, where she helped convert a cargo ship into a transport ship. Mae Krier was also 17 when she left home in North Dakota for Seattle to work at the Boeing factory to help make B-17 and B-29 warplanes.
“The Netherlands owes a debt of gratitude to the Allied Forces who liberated the Dutch during World War II. Ladies like Mrs. Robbins and Mrs. Krier were instrumental in that mission,” said Ambassador Haspels. “While the Rosies did not wear a military uniform, their dedication on the American home front helped end the war in Europe.”
Thanks! Plain and Simple, a nonprofit organization headquartered in West Virginia, organized the event with the embassy. Led by Anne Montague, a daughter of a Rosie, “Thanks!” has developed projects that leave lasting records of Rosies as well as guide people to work together. In 2015, the embassy hosted the Rosies for a ceremony to plant a dogwood tree in their honor. The embassy has participated in events with the organization ever since.
“Rosies give us great insight into the strength of women and the effects of war. Yet, to most Rosies, the most important thing they did was to show that people will pull together to do highest-quality work for freedom. Thanks! has worked with Rosies to create many projects to unify people such as bell ringing ceremonies and tree plantings. The work being done by the embassy and the Dutch people to know Rosies and continue their legacy is a statement of unity that the world needs today,” said Anne Montague.
Today’s ceremony included the unveiling of a plaque at that dogwood tree. It reads:
“Rosie the Riveter Tree. This pink dogwood tree honors the women known as Rosie the Riveter, whose invaluable contribution to the World War II effort helped liberate the Netherlands. This tree was planted simultaneously with one at the Freedom Museum in Groesbeek, the Netherlands, on VE Day, May 8, 2015.
This plaque was revealed on September 3, 2020, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.”
“A Ringing Tribute to Honor the Rosies” also featured a speech by Dutch-American historian Dr. Hugo Keesing on the symbolism of the ringing of bells. Ms. Montague spoke on the significance of the pink dogwood tree to the Rosies, while Mrs. Robbins led the guests in a moment of silence to honor the Rosies who have passed away and rang a ceremonial bell to focus attention on the legacy of the Rosies.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands began commemorating 75 years of freedom last October when it announced a project to renovate the Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, Virginia. Other events continued that focused on African American World War II liberators, and Remembrance Day and Liberation Day in the Netherlands.