Bea Arthur is more commonly known as Dorothy Zbornak on the TV sitcom “Golden Girls. She is also known for playing Maude on “All in the Family.”
However, a less commonly known role was one of great importance. Arthur was a member of the United States Marine Corps.
Women in the Military
The Marines began allowing women to enlist in 1943. They were the final branch of the United States military to do so. Their enlistment slogan was “Be a Marine… Free a Man to Fight.”
Women joined the service taking over administrative roles. The men who used to hold those roles were sent to the frontlines. Arthur enlisted five days after the campaign began. Since she was not 21, Arthur had to ask her parent’s permission.
Since it was a brand new program, the Marines did not have their own system up and running yet. All the women who signed up filled out Navy forms and followed the Navy’s exam guidelines.
According to her initial interviewer’s notes, Arthur was noted as being “frank and open” along with “argumentative” and “over-aggressive.”
The processing person also wrote that she would “probably a good worker if she has her own way!” Arthur began her stint in the Marines in February of 1943.
Arthur’s Time in the Marines
She worked as a typist in Washington D.C. However, she requested to be transferred to the Motor Transport School. Here she worked as a dispatcher and a truck driver.
Over her two years in the Marines, she worked in D.C. and on two bases in North Carolina. She was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant in September of 1945.
After she left the military, she studied to be a lab tech and interned at a hospital, but she did not like the profession and decided to go to drama school.
She began performing in off-Broadway shows in the late 1940s, blossoming into her career on Broadway. She won a Tony for her role as Vera Charles on “Mame.” Her notoriety peaked in the 1970s through the 1980s as she became a famous television actress.
Oddly enough, Arthur denied her military service in multiple interviews. Her denials were as recent as a 2001 interview, eight years before her death.
After she died in 2009, her records were publicly released. No one knows why she never admitted to being in the Marines.