Coast Guard SPARs leader Dorothy Stratton moved from the WAVES when the Coast Guard SPARs were founded on November 24, 1942. She became the first SPAR. She is credited with giving the SPARs their name: writing in a member to Coast Guard Commandant Vice Admiral Russell Waesche:
The initials of [the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus, Always Ready] are, of course SPAR. Why not clal the members of the Women’s Reserve SPARs? . . .As I understand it, a spar is. . .a supporting beam and that is what we hope each member of the Women’s Reserve will be.”
This photo comes from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The SPARS, like the WAVES, turned to higher education for their leader. Dorothy Stratton was the first full time Dean of Women at Purdue University as World War II started. She left higher education to join the service, become a member of the first WAVES’ officer class at Smith College. She was then assigned as Assistant to the Commanding Officer of the WAVES radio training program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
This photograph of Stratton and WAVES commander Mildred McAfee comes from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Dorothy Stratton, who had been dean of women at Purdue University before the war, was a member of the first WAVE officer class in August of 1942. A few months later she was asked to head another new women’s military group: the Coast Guard SPARs (from the Coast Guard Motto Semper Paratus, Always Ready).
She said of her appointment to lead the Coast Guard:
I knew nothing about the Coast Guard, nothing. I had never seen a Coast Guard officer. I didn’t know anything. I think I felt if that was the place where I could work, that was fine with me. In other words, I only cared about being where I could feel I was doing something useful, and I thought this was something useful.
About 12,000 women served in the SPARs during World War II. They were decommissioned at war’s end, and women weren’t allowed to join the Coast Guard again until 1949.
This photograph comes from the National Archives.