Mary Bacon Hale
(Leisure Village, Camarillo CA) Just touching the life led by Mary Peterson Bacon Hale was a unique event. Mary was born at Fort Sheridan, IL, into the family of Adolph Peterson, US Army. Born of noble birth, her father escaped Russia as did his brothers just prior to the Russian Revolution.
Arriving in America alone, he joined the US Army to serve his new country. His extensive knowledge of European languages and motorized engine design brought him to the attention of General John Pershing. SgtMaj Peterson remained on Pershing’s staff until Perishing’s retirement. Mary’s pride in her father’s military career never diminished.
Following high school and business school, Mary worked as a model for the illustrious Marshall Field’s store in downtown Chicago. In early 1944, Mary was leaving her modeling job when she spotted a United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve recruiting booth in the lobby of Marshall Field’s. She enlisted that day and after completing boot camp at Camp Lejeune, NC, Mary was assigned to Camp Pendleton, CA, (Area 16) and the First Marine Division. Mary spent months reviewing photos taken by the Marines and news photographers in the Pacific theatre to unsure that families, and especially mothers, would not see their sons either dead or terribly wounded in the photos. Mary was then assigned to the Staff Judge Advocate as an administrative clerk and Court Reporter, thereby utilizing her business school training. In 1945 Mary was selected for duty in Hawaii; only 1500 women out of some 23,000 women Marines met the qualifications for duty in the territory of Hawaii. Mary was on a troop transport en route to Hawaii when Japan surrendered.
While serving at Camp Pendleton, CA, Mary met the Marine she knew she would marry. MSgt Edward “Frosty” Hale had met. Months later when Mary arrived for duty at Manoa Ridge Oahu, she learned that Frosty’s unit had returned to Hawaii. Neither had any doubts about their love of each other and they were married at the Women Marine Chapel, Manoa Ridge on Oahu. The ceremony was conducted by the base chaplain and witnessed by both their respective commanding officers and Marine friends.
Frosty had presented his bride and the other women Marines attending with lush Hawaiian orchid corsage. War time regulations required that Frosty receive special permission, in writing, authorizing the women to wear corsages while in uniform.
Frosty was soon returned for mopping up duties in the Pacific Islands. Mary was notified months later that Frosty was returning by hospital ship having become extremely ill. Mary was discharged in Hawaii and placed aboard the hospital ship with Frosty since he was in a serious condition.
Frosty recovered and was selected to be commissioned as a Marine officer. During their early married years Mary held civil service jobs as an executive assistant to multiple senior officers at the bases and commands where Frosty was stationed. Retiring as a Captain, Frosty worked for IBM and Xerox with great success. Mary and Frosty enjoyed life in a number of cities, but San Francisco and Hawaii remained their favorite places. Sailings on San Francisco Bay on their sailboat were some of their happiest times during a marriage Mary frequently said “was meant to be”. Mary and Frosty’s love affair never ended even with his passing.
Mary continued before and after Frosty’s death as a vital, active woman. She opened one of the first recognized protocol schools teaching government and business officials needed skills. Mary then undertook teaching acceptable manners and social skills to younger generations. Mary was active in early beautification projects for her beloved Camarillo.
In 1980, Mary joined the Women Marine Association to once again be with women who shared the pride and traditions of the United States Marines. Mary served as a chapter president, area director of WMA’s largest area (the state of California); she founded ten new WMA chapters and then became head of Plans and Policies for the Board of Directors of WMA. Mary wrote three books on Women Marines which told the personal stories of the women Marines from World War One through the beginning of the Global War on Terror. This massive project was truly an act of love of “Corps”. Mary was recently involved in early planning discussions of the possible development of a Book 4 of the series, willing to step up and assume the role of consultant at the time of her passing.
In 2002 Mary Hale provided financial and personal support to a developing effort to preserve not only the personal histories but also the memorabilia and artifacts of the women who served the United States Marine Corps, past, present and future. Her enthusiastic and continuous support has led to the Women of the Corps Collection, the largest existing collection on the history and service of women who have served as United States Marines. The Women of the Corps Collection provides exhibits, historical information, and articles for publication, preservation of uniforms and artifacts as well as a graduate program for master and PhD candidates and an undergraduate intern program on history. Mary was also instrumental in the development of the Women of the Corps Foundation whose mission is to provide financial support for the Women of the Corps Collection. Her support and guidance was unwavering from the inception of both Collection and Foundation until her passing.
Mary was also a major contributor for the creation of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Being humble, she was rather embarrassed when she learned her name appears on the wall in the lobby of the Museum. She also provided early and continued support to the Women in Service to America Memorial (WIMSA) built in Washington DC and opened by President Bill Clinton during his presidency. This memorial honors all women who have served in the United States military and is located at the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery.
She was an American who served her country proudly and the United States Marine Corps faithfully. Semper Fidelis, Mary.
Excerpted from an article published in the Ventura County Star
Listen to her story in her own words from the Veteran History Project. LISTEN HERE