(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Mae Krier was on Capitol Hill, hoping to get Congress to recognize March 21 as an annual Rosie the Riveter Day of Remembrance.

Rosie the Riveter was an iconic World War II poster showing a female riveter flexing her muscle.

Krier also advocating that lawmakers award the "Rosies" — as women involved in the war effort at home came to call themselves — the Congressional Gold Medal for their work in the defense industry producing tanks, planes, ships and other materiel for the war effort.


During a visit to the Pentagon March 20, 2019, Krier told Air Force airmen that her lifelong mission is to inspire the poster's "We Can Do It!" attitude among young girls everywhere.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, director of staff, Headquarters Air Force, right, points out a Pentagon display to Mae Krier, center, March 20, 2019. With them is Dawn Goldfein, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(DOD photo by David Vergun)

The spry 93-year-old walked around the Pentagon's Air Force corridors, gazing at pictures and paintings of female airmen who were pioneers, telling every airman she met — both men and women — how proud she is of their service and giving away red polka-dotted Rosie the Riverter bandannas.

Humble beginnings

Krier said she grew up on a farm near Dawson, North Dakota. "Times were hard for us and for everyone else," she said, noting that it was the time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression in the 1930s.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Krier said, she and her sister had gone to a matinee. Upon their return home, they found their parents beside the radio with grave expressions. They had just learned that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

She said she remembers never having heard of Pearl Harbor. "Nobody had," she said.

Mae Krier, an original Rosie the Riveter, arrives at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., for her first-ever visit March 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Call to duty

Young men in Dawson and elsewhere were soon streaming away from home to board vessels that would take them to Europe and the Pacific war theaters, she said.

Among them was her brother. After seeing him off at the train station and returning home, she said, she saw her father crying — something he never did. The war "took the heart out of our small town and other towns across the country," she said. "People everywhere were crying."

Krier's brother served in the Navy and survived a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944. "Our family was lucky that no one was killed during the war," she said.

Adventures in Seattle

As a restless teen seeking adventure in 1943, Krier said, she set off by train to Seattle. She recalls the windows of her train being stuck open, with snow flying in.

The big city life was exciting to the farm girl. She said she loved to listen to big-band music. She also loved to go to the dance hall, and was particularly fond of the jitterbug.

Gwendolyn DeFilippi (left) the Headquarters U.S. Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personal and services, and a Rosebud, takes a moment to speak with Ms. Dawn Goldfein, spouse of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Mae Krier an original Rosie the Riveter during Krier's first-ever visit to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., March 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

While dancing the Jitterbug one day in 1943, she said, she was charmed by a sailor, whom she would marry in 1944. He, too, was lucky, she said. He participated in the Aleutian Islands campaign in Alaska, where the Japanese had landed on the islands of Attu and Kiska.

They would be married for 70 years. He died recently at 93.

Becoming a Rosie

Krier said she doesn't remember the exact details of how she ended up as a riveter, but she found work doing just that in a Boeing aircraft factory in Seattle, where she riveted B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress bombers.

"We loved our work. We loved our flag. We all pulled together to win the war," she said. "It was a good time in America."

Meeting Air Force leaders

Krier said she enjoyed her visit to the Pentagon and meeting dozens of leaders and enlisted personnel. Among those she met were Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and his wife, Dawn.

Lt. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, Headquarters Air Force director of Staff, gives Mae Krier, an original Rosie the Riveter, a tour of the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., during her first-ever visit March 20, 2019. Krier was accompanied by Dawn Goldfein, the spouse of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Adrian Cadiz)

Goldfein gave Krier a hug, and she exclaimed that she could now say she hugged a general. Goldfein replied: "Now I can say I hugged a Rosie the Riveter."

Krier also met Air Force Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, director of staff, Headquarters Air Force, who, along with Dawn Goldfein, led her around to see the various wall exhibits in the corridors. Krier was pleased to hear that Van Ovost was an aviator as are so many other female airmen today.

"Women have come a long ways," she said.