CRANE, Ind. - The chance to connect with the heritage of Southern Indiana drew a crowd to Bedford, Indiana, to memorialize the women who ensured America had the ammunition it needed during World War II and the post-war era. At a pavilion located in the middle of town, people gathered for the groundbreaking of a Rosie the Riveter Memorial Rose Garden on March 21 to celebrate the women from this region and across the country who left their homes and entered the workforce during a critical time for the United States.
The ceremony honored Smokey Cummings and Anna Mae Hudson, both Bedford natives, for their work at Naval Ammunition Depot Crane during the post-World War II era.
The base originally was established as a naval ammunition depot in December 1941 on the eve of WWII with the mission of producing and shipping munitions to the fleet. During that time the workforce grew to meet the wartime demands of the Navy, with men and women from surrounding communities like Bedford finding employment. Today the base is known as Naval Support Activity Crane and hosts Crane Army Ammunition Activity, which carries on that important ammunition mission.
Two current employees of Crane Army, Brenda Corey and Betty Wagner, attended the groundbreaking to meet Cummings and Hudson and show them that their hard work has not been forgotten.
"Rosies, from the term Rosie the Riveter, were women who stepped in and stepped up during the war. They entered the workforce in unprecedented numbers when male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force. I feel honored to have been able to attend this event," Corey, an explosives operator supervisor for CAAA, said.
Anna Mae Hudson worked for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in high school during WWII to support the war effort. She used her wages to buy war bonds, which later paid for her to attend the University of Texas. She returned to Indiana and worked at Crane in the 1950's in the transportation and shipping department.
Smokey Cummings started working at Crane in the 1950's, working in the personnel office during her more than 20 years of service.
"I really enjoyed my time at Crane," Cummings said. "There were always such friendly people."
"From its origins as a WWII Naval Ammunition Depot to today's Crane Army Ammunition Activity, women have provided vital support to U.S. troops," Capt. Amy Crane, a Soldier served with Crane Army, said. She was invited at the ceremony to break ground alongside the former Crane employees.
"It is an amazing privilege to meet Smokey Cummings and Anna Mae Hudson today," Capt. Crane said. "I hope they realize what an inspiration they are to me and to all women. I am grateful to continue their legacy of serving this nation and be a part of the effort women started during WWII."
The ceremony would not have been possible without the efforts of Angie Timan, event coordinator from Bedford. A longtime admirer of the working women of WWII and beyond, Timan is determined to enshrine the "Rosies'" place in history.
"This has been a passion of mine for the past 10 years," Timan said. "I wanted to have something continually growing in remembrance of the young women in World War II and as an inspiration for young women now."
Timan explained that the purpose of the Rosie the Riveter Memorial Rose Garden is to ensure that the Rosies' legacy will live on in the young women of today and tomorrow. As a nation-wide initiative, Rosie the Riveter Memorial Rose Gardens are meant to serve as a beautiful reminder of the contributions of women to our country's success.
The Mayor of Bedford, Shawna Girgis also spoke to the importance of the "Rosies" during the dedication part of the ceremony.
"You are an inspiration to young women and changed the way women view their roles," Girgis said to Cummings and Hudson.
Sponsors purchased rosebushes as a dedication to loved ones and various Rosies, both past and present. In total, 20 rose bushes will be planted inside the pavilion, with five more in the community garden. Women broke the ground for the roses on Wednesday, but they will be planted later this spring.
Over time, the Crane base evolved to meet the needs of the U.S. Armed Forces but maintained its close ties with surrounding communities. Naval Ammunition Depot Crane developed into two major mission commands, Crane Army Ammunition Activity and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, which are co-located on Naval Support Activity Crane, the third largest naval base in the world. NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and field activity of NAVSEA with focus areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare.
Crane Army's mission is to provide conventional munitions support for U.S. Army and Joint Force readiness. It is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial bases under the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, activities and ammunition plants.