WARNER ROBINS — Her children sometimes call her Ruthie the Riveter.
That’s because Ruth McGee of Tucker worked in an aircraft plant in Marietta during World War II. Her job was riveting the metal skin on B-29 bombers, the type that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
McGee’s stint at the Bell Bomber plant began in 1943 and ended with the war. She and her husband settled in Tucker, where she worked as a homemaker and raised a daughter and three sons.
McGee, 84, has eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Her husband died a few years ago. She has seen a lot in 84 years, but until Saturday she had never seen the inside of an airplane. She has never flown anywhere and, during her plane-building years, she never had the opportunity to inspect the finished product.
Her children gave her that opportunity Saturday, with help from the Museum of Aviation. McGee’s son Bruce knew the museum had a B-29 on display, so he e-mailed a request for a special visit.
That visit took place Saturday. Ruth McGee arrived with three sons, two daughters-in-law and a granddaughter to climb inside a B-29 for the first time.
The family was treated to a guided tour by museum marketing director Bob Dubiel and a personal welcome from museum director Ken Emery.
“We make special arrangements for special people,” Emery told the family.
When Ruth McGee laid eyes on the museum’s B-29, she immediately recognized the part of the plane that she was responsible for: the section of fuselage behind the bomb bay.
“That’s what I worked on,” she said. “It started right there and ended right there. That was about as far as I could go.”
McGee needed little assistance climbing a steep ladder and entering the cramped interior of the plane.
“It was a lot roomier back then,” she said. “Before it got to us, it would just be ribs.”
McGee, who was 18 when she started at the bomber plant, said her job was to work inside the frame of the plane. She inserted rivets through holes in the outer covering, braced the rivets with a special tool while another young woman on the outside pounded them into position with a power tool.
As anyone who visits the museum can see, there are a lot of rivets in a B-29.
“We would get our rhythm a-goin’ and we would go,” McGee said. “My job was easier than hers because she had to flatten ’em and make ’em nice.”
McGee said she often saw images of B-29s in news reports and was always curious if the plane pictured was one she had helped build. (They were also manufactured in Washington state, Kansas and Nebraska.)
Asked if she was proud of her contribution to the war effort, she said, “We certainly were, because we certainly didn’t make any money.”