Monday, November 14, 2016

The Military Bride Bigamy Racket in 1943: Reported by Ruth Reynolds

FULL TEXT:  New York, Oct. 30. – THE “Victory girls” lovely ladies who are making careers of marrying servicemen say they are prompted by love and patriotism. Sniffing Federal prosecutor’s charge that the sole motive of the Victory girls, so named by one of them, is greed for government allotment checks. No matter whether they marry for love or money, Brig. Gen. H. N. Gilbert, director of the Office of Dependency Benefits, wants no part in trying to tell a faithful wife from a Victory girl.

While wayward wives are certainly exceptions in the long list of mates who are receiving checks from Uncle Sam, enough of them have been picked up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that they can’t be ignored any longer. They have, in fact, succeeded in making Congress Victory girl conscious.

That threw a scare into Gen. Gilbert. For, from the way some members of the House Military Affairs Committee were talking at a hearing on allotments, it appeared that the Dependency Bureau might be voted the responsibility of checking on the behavior of all wives and to cut off the monthly allotments for those who were unfaithful. Gen. Gilbert promptly objected to any plan to turn his bureau into a domestic relations court.

He admits that the Victory girls are a problem, but he argues that “the Army can do nothing but consider it a personal one which can be settled only by the soldier himself in the civil courts when he returns.”

Grace Vivian Reinert of Washington, D. C, who is one of the girls, says it’s really much simpler than that.

“The girls figure’ that they’re making the boys happy and that ‘ before the war is over the husbands will either be killed or glad to forget about their marriages.”

Grace speaks with authority for in her 22 years she has managed to be married four times, thrice to sailors. She married her first love, a Kansas City policeman, when she was 14. They were divorced. Her second, a West Coast seaman, C. F. Corn, was killed at Pearl Harbor. (But he had made his $10,000 life insurance payable to his mother.)

And if Nos. 3 and 4 – Machinist’s Mate Kenneth Reinert and Seaman James McKinney – wish to get in touch with her she can be found in Federal prison.


GRACE was picked up when Reinert and McKinney happened to meet and compare notes – and wives – in Washington. Each found that his allotment check was going to Grace. She was picked up and lodged in Galinger Hospital.

Before she escaped from that institution she explained the activities and motives of the Victory girls.”

“Its patriotism – for they give each husband a little happiness before he’s shipped. They don’t worry much about having more than one hundred because the sailors are at sea most of the time, and the other servicemen are shifted from camp to camp.

“When one of these girls gets into San Diego or Norfolk (big naval bases) she gets a job in a tavern first thing. That way she meets a lot of sailors, and those young kids off the farms for the first time are easy pickings.”

In spite of their preferences for “easy pickings,” Grace insists most of the Victory girls marry for love. She did, anyway. She also practiced what she preached. After her escape from Gallager Hospital she was found in San Diego – working in a taproom.

Grace was returned in Washington declaring her undying devotion to husbands. But Federal judge Matthew M. McGuire was unmoved by her emotion. He sentenced her to from one to three years for bigamy and from six to 18 months for escaping.

Grace’s claim on love, marriage, and allotment checks is as nothing compared to that of Vivian Nelms Eggers, 34, who so adored her seven Army mates that she divorced none of them. She sought to prove she was not marrying for money by pointing out that she received checks from only two of the seven.

The roster of her husbands includes:

Pvt. Thomas Knapp, married May 30, 1935, Columbus, O.; Pvt.Clifford Mayhew, May 28, 1939, Louisville; First Sgt. William R. Eggers, Oct. 30, 1939, Louisville; Pvt. Gordon H. Campbell, Dec. 17, 1942, Yuma, Ariz.; Pvt. Clarence Corsett, Jan. 17, 1943, Yuma; James D. Lucas, Feb. 25, 1943, Yuma; and Lt. Fred Donilson, June 2, 1945, Louisville.

Her case, like those “allotment wives,” came to the attention of the Dependency Bureau when someone noticed that checks for Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Eggers were being sent to the same Cincinnati address. It is conceivable, of course, that wives of two men in uniform may live at the same address, particularly in crowded cities near large posts. Nevertheless, an investigation is made to see that the two names don’t represent one and the same person. In Vivian’s case they did.


UPON her arrest and her ready confession to seven marriages and no divorces, she was whisked off to Arizona to be tried for bigamy because of her marriages to Pvts. Campbell and Corsett.

“You just get to drinking and having a good time, and you meet some one that’s kinda nice and that’s the way it happens,” is Vivian’s alibi.

But Federal Judge Dave W. Ling of Phoenix was unsympathetic.

He sentenced her to 18 months in prison for marrying Campbell, and granted her five years probation for marrying Corsett.

Pretty Doris June Shensky shows no special preference for Army, Navy or Marine Corps. She drew allotments from a soldier husband and a sailor husband and misappropriated the allotment check of a Marine lieutenant!

The busy life of this pretty 21-year-old came to light after the harried Dependency Bureau opened a branch office in Philadelphia to handle cases in that district.

Doris, the daughter of Samuel Ruckstool, a Philadelphia street car motorman, married Arnold S. Shensky, a South Philadelphia butcher, in February, 1941. They lived with the Ruckstools until Arnold became Pvt. Shensky of the 113th Infantry, stationed at Woodbine, N. J.

Pvt. Shensky, who loved Doris devotedly, made an allotment for her benefit. He bragged around camp about the way she was helping the war effort by volunteering constantly for hostess duties in Philadelphia canteens.

“Most men have inherent faith in their wives,” says Brig. Gen. Gilbert. Shensky was one of the trusting husbands.

He didn’t dream that Doris was already making merry with Seaman Russell E. Tracy of Barre, Vt., stationed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Tracy spent many a jolly evening in the Ruckstool home. Apparently Doris’ parents thought that she had told Tracy her marital status. Anyway, they never mentioned it.

Then Tracy was transferred to California. The separation was more than he could stand. He wrote pleading letters to Doris to come to California and marry him. Doris agreed. She became Mrs. Tracy in Los Angeles on April 24, 1943

Shortly thereafter Tracy was sent to sea. He directed that a monthly allotment check be sent to Doris. She settled down for a time, in a Los Angeles rooming house. Lonely for Tracy, she decided that being near Shensky was better than nothing. But in other to get back to Philadelphia she had to have more money than she could find in her purse.

Among the letters piled on a table in the front hall of the rooming house was one addressed to Mrs. Ida L. Coleman, containing an allotment check for $170. Doris took it, cashed it, and returned to Philadelphia.

She was picked up there after Mrs. Coleman complained to the Marine Corps Allotment Office at Arlington, Va., that she hadn’t received her check.

On Dec. 13, Doris will have to appear for a hearing in Los Angeles on charges of forgery and larceny of a Government check. However, she hopes for leniency because she has repaid Mrs. Coleman’s $170, has made restitution for the allotment checks she received as Mrs. Tracy and has had her second marriage annulled.

In addition to problems posed by bigamists, the Dependency Benefits Office and the F.B.I, are now investigating servicemen’s wives who pretend motherhood in order to get additional benefits for children.

This new twist to the allotment racket was uncovered in Washington, D. C, and as a result Myrie M. McGuire is facing an appearance before a Federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to defraud the Government.

Mrs. McGuire, 25-year-old wife of a Navy warrant officer stationed at Seattle, is charged with arranging for pre-natal care and delivery of a child purportedly hers and her husband’s.

The child, according to Washington police, is that of Catherine Samoza, 23-year-old unmarried mother, with whom, they say, Mrs. McGuire made a deal. She arranged for free hospital care at Government expense for Catherine in return for the privilege of calling the baby hers. Then she claimed dependency benefits for the child.

Records of the Navy Clinic and Hospital show that Catherine was treated as “Mrs. McGuire” and that the baby was born under the name of McGuire.

Police say that the frightened and unfortunate Catherine Samoza, who is to testify against Mrs. McGuire, will probably not be prosecuted in the conspiracy.


MOST of the servicemen are blithely ignorant of the behavior of these wives who become entangled with the law. Of the 20 women so far convicted, and the many now under investigation, husbands are involved in only a few cases.

One such husband was Cpl. Ramon Bruce Jarago of Denver.

Cpl. Jarago applied for a family allowance for “Mrs. Hope Rita Jarago,” representing her as his wife and offering as evidence of the relationship a photostatic copy of a marriage certificate for Hope Hurley and Ramon Bruce Jarago. Inquiry developed that Hope Rita and Hope Hurley were two different people.

Both the soldier and Hope Rita pleaded guilty before Federal Judge J. Foster Symes In Denver. Cpl.. Jarago was sentenced to two years in Leavenworth Prison, while Hope Rita was sentenced, to serve six months in the Denver County jail.

With such cases as these to worry Brig. Gen. Gilbert and his staff, it is little wonder that he wants civilian courts to handle the wayward wife situation.

Still another side to this question of these here-today-and-gone-tomorrow marriages for servicemen, according to a subcommittee of the House Naval Affairs Committee, concerns the number of child brides who are rushed into marriage by soldiers, sailors and marines and are then deserted on their honeymoons.

Two of these youngsters, Erma Sitler, 12, of Hillside, Md., and Betty Lou Parsley, 14, of Norfolk, wound up recently under the protective wing of New York juvenile welfare agencies.

“These are only two of the many tragedies which occur here every day,” says Mrs. Mabel P. Grange, Norfolk secretary of the Travelers Aid Society. “Something should be done to punish these men who marry children and then go away and forget about them.”

All too often these’ deserted brides, robbed of their childhood, grow up too suddenly, and take their places in the rapidly growing lists of “Victory girls.”

[Ruth Reynolds, “The ‘Victory Girls’; Bigamy Is Their Racket, Though They Claim Marriages to Servicemen Are Prompted by Love and Patriotism- Government Calls it Greed for Allotment Checks.” The Everyday Magazine (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, (Mo.)), Oct. 31, 1943, p. 1]





For more cases of this type see: “War-Marriage Vampires”& “Allotment Annies"


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