INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- The women who filled the nation's factories during World War II -- producing weapons, airplanes and ships -- were the backbone of the war effort and the key contributor to the allied victory, a representative of the British Embassy said Saturday at West Virginia State University.
"Without the armories produced by you, we would not have been able to hold out," Maj. Annabelle Janes of the British army told about 20 women who'd worked in factories and in shipyards.
"On behalf of my nation, I'm here to say thank you," Janes said during a ceremony called "Give Thanks to Our Rosies."
Thanks! Plain and Simple, a West Virginia nonprofit group that honors veterans, organized the event.
Women were the "civilian heroes" of the war, Janes said.
"Without your contribution, Britain would have been in terrible peril as the rest of Europe," Janes said. "The United Kingdom is so extremely grateful for your critical role in defending our [borders]."
The addition of the "vast supply of U.S. armories" and allied airpower were the main factors that stopped the German Nazi invasion of the United Kingdom and eventually won the war, Janes said.
There are about 140 Rosies living in West Virginia, but just 20 or so were able to make it to the ceremony.
On Saturday, three shared their experiences.
Garnet Kozielec, 93, of Dunbar, remembers the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the moment she realized her fiancé and her four brothers would be going to war.
Determined to do her part, she quit her job at a department store and enrolled in a defense school set up at Stonewall Jackson High School in Charleston.
She graduated with 28 other girls from the Charleston and Dunbar areas and was sent to a California naval dock, working on F6F Hellcat fighter aircraft.
The day Japan surrendered, she was at work, and the women waited anxiously for confirmation that the war was over.
"The tension was almost overpowering," Kozielec said. "Then a voice came over the intercom and said 'The war has ended, go home. Good job.'"
"The place went berserk," Kozielec said.
She remembers running down the hall sobbing, and then she began to make plans to return home to West Virginia, she said.
"I was so thankful that I could have been a part of that era," she said. "Quitting never entered my mind because, as long as my boyfriend and brothers were in the service, so was I."
Vienna Hurt of Bradley was a junior in high school when she left home to work in the Norfolk Shipyard in Virginia. The second daughter of Italian immigrants, Hurt said she grew up in a very protective and strict family.