America’s Oldest Living Marine Celebrates Her 107th Birthday
Dorothy “Dot” Cole, the oldest living Marine, was wearing her Marine Corps League attire when she celebrated her 107th birthday in Kannapolis, North Carolina, on Saturday. She's not far behind America's oldest WWII veteran Lawrence Brooks, who celebrated his 111th birthday earlier this month.
Born September 19, 1913 in Warren, Pennsylvania, Sgt. Cole was 29 when she enlisted in the Marines in July of 1943—a time when few women served in the military.
"Everyone was out doing something," she recalled of the start of WWII in a video shared by the Marine Corps on Twitter. "The women helping the Red Cross, or even in churches, they were knitting things. So, I decided that I wanted to do something, and I would go into the Marine Corps."
Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Cole tried to join the Navy, but was told she didn’t meet their physical standards.
“Originally I had chosen the Navy, but they said I was too short,” Cole told the Independent Tribune. “So, I decided to go with the Marines. I even took flying lessons of about 200 hours, thinking it would impress the Marines. But it didn't. They put me behind a typewriter instead of an airplane.”
According to the National WWII Museum’s website, the Marine Corps was reluctant to accept large numbers of women at the beginning of the U.S. involvement in WWII. That changed, however, thanks to the establishment of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. By the peak of the war there were nearly 19,000 members, though most were relegated to administrative roles.
Cole underwent six weeks of basic training with 1st Battalion, Marine Corps Women's Reserves at Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She was stationed in Quantico where she served as a typist until December 1945.
“The military impacted my mother’s life by making her dedicated to whatever she was doing," Cole's daughter, Beth Kluttz told the Independent Tribune. "When she was younger and more able, she would do anything for other people. She loves God and country and feels it is our duty to stand up and protect our country."
Happy birthday, Dot, and thank you for your service!