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SPARS on parade in dress uniforms with the U.S. flag and that of the USCG
SPAR recruitment poster used during World War II

SPARS was the authorized nickname for the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Women's Reserve. The nickname is an acronym fashioned from the USCG's motto, "Semper Paratus"—"Always Ready" (SPAR).[Note 1] The Women's Reserve was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 23, 1942. The law authorized the USCG to accept women into its Women's Reserve as commissioned officers and at the enlisted level for the duration of World War II plus six months. Its purpose was to release male officers and enlisted men for sea duty by replacing them with women at shore stations. This same month, Dorothy C. Stratton was appointed director of the Women's Reserve and given the rank of lieutenant commander. She was later promoted to captain.

Officer candidates for the Women's Reserve needed to be age 20–50, and they were required to have a college degree or two years of college and two years of professional or business experience. For enlisted personnel, the qualifying age was 20–36, and they were required to have completed at least two years of high school. At first the USCG would not accept African American women, but in February 1945 five African American women were accepted and served in the SPARs. Officer candidates received their indoctrination at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and later at the USCG Academy in New London, Connecticut. Enlisted personnel first received training on several college campuses. Later, their training took place at Palm Beach, Florida, in the Biltmore Hotel that was remodeled for use as a training center. Toward the end of the war, training of enlisted personnel was transferred from Palm Beach to Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, New York.

At peak strength, the Women's Reserve had approximately 11,000 officers and enlisted personnel in its ranks. Except for the territory of Puerto Rico, the SPARs served in every USCG district, including the then territories of Hawaii and Alaska. Most officers were general duty officers, and most enlisted women performed clerical duties. Nonetheless, a select group of officers and enlisted SPARs were chosen to work with LORAN (Long Range Aid to Navigation); it was a secret land-based navigation system developed during World War II at MIT to monitor the location of ships at sea or aircraft in flight.

Following the Victory over Japan (V-J Day) in August 1945, the demobilization of SPAR personnel began. By 1946, nearly all reservists had been discharged, and in 1947 the Women's Reserve was officially inactivated. But on the eve of the Korean War in November 1949, the Women's Reserve was reactivated—this time as the USCG Women's Volunteer Reserve. Throughout the conflict in Korea (1950–1953), the USCG actively recruited former SPARs for the volunteer reserve with approximately 200 of them reenlisting. In 1973, Congress enacted legislation ending the Women's Volunteer Reserve, and allowing women to be officially integrated into either active-duty or reserve service.


Prior to World War II, the United States Coast Guard was the smallest of the U.S. military branches and had operated under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.[1] This changed on November 1, 1941, when Executive order 8929 directed the Coast Guard to operate as part of the Navy; placing it under the supervision of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy.[2] Following its transfer, the Coast Guard began expanding with personnel needs increasing exponentially, and it sought to allow women to serve in the USCG Reserve. [1] In November 1942, the USCG Women's Reserve Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 23. The law amended the USCG Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941 in order to expedite the war effort by providing for releasing officers and men for sea duty and replacing them with women in the shore establishment of the Coast Guard and for other purposes. The new law established the Women's Reserve as a branch of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.[3] It gave the Women's Reserve the authority to enlist and appoint women to serve during World War II and for six months thereafter (or until "such earlier time" when Congress, or the president, might choose to end this authority). All women reservists would be trained and qualified for duty at USCG continental shore stations, and the Coast Guard was forbidden from using women reservists to replace civil service personnel. The USCG legislation was similar to an earlier law that created the Women's Naval Reserve, better known as the WAVES.[4]

Initially, women serving in the USCG Reserve were only to be stationed in the continental United States, but in 1944 they were allowed to deploy to Hawaii and Alaska (then U.S. territories).[5]

The director[edit]

Dorothy C. Stratton, Director of the SPARs, in dress uniform seated at her desk
Captain Dorothy C. Stratton, Director of the SPARs (1942–1946)

Dorothy C. Stratton (future director of the SPARs) had been the dean of women at Purdue University when World War II began. She earned her M.A. degree from the University of Chicago and her PhD from Columbia University.[6] In her capacity at Purdue, Stratton was asked by the U.S. Army to recommend candidates to become the first female officers commissioned by the Women's Army Corps (WACS). At the same time, a Purdue colleague—who was working with the U.S. Navy in a similar recruitment program—encouraged Stratton to apply for a commission in the newly formed Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES), which was the Women's Reserve of the U.S. Navy. Stratton thought this might be a good way to serve her country, so she applied and was accepted, and Purdue granted her an extended leave of absence. On August 26, 1942, Stratton reported to Northampton, Massachusetts, joining the first class of female officer candidates for the WAVES. Upon graduation, she was commissioned a senior-grade lieutenant.[7]

Stratton's first duty assignment with the WAVES was at the University of Wisconsin. Within weeks of her arrival, however, she received a telegram from the Bureau of Naval Personnel to report posthaste to Washington D.C. Once there, Stratton was ushered to the Coast Guard headquarters. She was informed about legislation pending in the U.S. Congress to form a USCG Women's Reserve; and further informed that she had been recommended to become its first director. The legislation passed in late 1942, and was signed into law on November 23. The following day, Stratton was sworn into the USCG as lieutenant commander, and as the director of the SPARs. She would later be promoted to commander and to captain.[7]

The new director's first official act was to ask Mildred H. McAfee, director of the WAVES, for a core number of WAVE officers to help make Stratton's new USCG program operational. McAfee obliged. The next question on Stratton's mind was what to call the new women's service. In her 1989 oral history article, "Launching the SPARS", Stratton described her inspiration in selecting a name for this new branch of the USCG:

There was no one else to think about this ... so I tossed and turned for several nights contemplating this ... Suddenly it came to me from the motto of the Coast Guard, "Semper Paratus"–"Always Ready": SPAR. I proposed this to the Commandant of the USCG, Admiral Russell R. Waesche, and he accepted it.[7]

There was an informal proposal to call the new women's reserve "WARCOGS", but it was quickly jettisoned for the more nautical nickname of "SPARs".[8] Stratton also noted that the four letters (SPAR) might also stand for the four freedoms of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of religion.[9]

Stratton guided the program through its launching and development. As director, she was responsible for establishing organizational policies—chief among them were procurement, training, and utilization of personnel.[10] In later years, Stratton described her management style as tempered by the task at hand, guided by some advice she herself had been given: "Pick your fights—you can't fight them all—so choose carefully. You can't make an issue out of everything."[7] She retired from the USCG in January 1946, and by June the SPARs had been demobilized.[10] Upon retirement, she was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for her contributions to women in the military. Stratton died at the age of 107 in 2006.[6]


A SPAR posing in dress uniform
SPAR recruitment poster used during World War II

Requirements and prohibitions[edit]

In order to apply for the Women's Reserve, officer candidates and enlisted applicants had to be American citizens who had no children under 18 years of age. Applicants had to present three character references, pass a physical examination, and submit a record of their occupation after leaving school. Officer candidates needed to be age 20–50, and college graduates or to have completed two years of college with at least two years of acceptable business or professional experience. Enlisted applicants had to be age 20–36, and they were required to have completed at least two years of high school. Unmarried women had to agree not to marry until they had completed training. After training, SPARs could marry any man who was not in the USCG.[11] Married women could apply for the Women's Reserve (as either officers or enlisted), provided their husbands were not already serving in the Coast Guard.[12]

General recruitment efforts[edit]

Early on in the planning process, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the USCG agreed to recruit and train their respective women's reserves together at existing Navy facilities.[13] For recruiting purposes, the SPARs would utilize the Office of Naval Officer Procurement. Their recruiting efforts began in December 1942, but they were hampered at first by the lack of SPAR personnel. After the Navy agreed to allow transfer requests for its WAVES reservists, a total of 15 officers and 153 enlisted women discharged from the Navy reserves, and became the first SPARs. Eventually, SPAR officers were assigned to most Naval Officer Procurement sites to facilitate USCG recruitment. SPAR recruitment information was sometime disseminated along with WAVES publicity materials, but it became increasingly apparent that the job of selling the SPARs would include selling the USCG itself.[14]

By June 1943, it was clear that combined SPARs–WAVES recruitment did not favor the Coast Guard's own efforts, so it withdrew from the joint agreement effective July 1. After this point, all USCG applicants would be interviewed and enlisted only at USCG district recruiting stations. The change was met with enthusiasm by SPAR recruiters and yielded positive results overall.[15] But despite this change, competition with the other, better-known women's reserves remained keen. In Three Years Behind the Mast, written by former Women's Reserve officers Lyne and Arthur, they describe some of the difficulties faced by SPAR recruiters:

During the day, we made speeches, distributed posters, decorated windows, led parades, manned information booths, interviewed applicants, appeared on radio programs, and gave aptitude tests. By night, we made more speeches, prayed women would be drafted, and went to bed dreaming about our quotas.[16]

The primary recruitment phase ended on December 31, 1944. During the two-year-effort, over 11,000 women signed enlistment contracts to join the Women's Reserve, though many more women were interviewed.[17] Of those applicants who otherwise met the requirements, one-fourth were rejected for failure to pass the medical exam.[18]

In her 1989 oral history article, "Launching the SPARS", Dorothy C. Stratton revisited the recruiting practices during her tenure as director:

At first we were going for perfection in our recruiting effort. As we were falling behind in our numbers, modifications to physical requirements were made. It was ridiculous to make the same physical demands of women when they weren't going to be manning ships at sea. If we hadn't been so inflexible in our standards at the beginning—if we'd set more reasonable ones—I'm sure we'd have been better off.[7]

Dorothy Tuttle had the distinction of being the first woman to enlist in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve, on December 7, 1942. As a newly enlisted SPAR, her rating classification was that of a Yeoman Third Class (YN3).[19]

Minority recruitment[edit]

African American Women[edit]

Olivia Hooker & Aileen Anita Cooks, two African American SPARS, pause on the ladder of the dry-land ship U.S.S. Neversail
Olivia Hooker (front) with Aileen Anita Cooks (behind), at "boot" training, Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn

The SPARs like the WAVES would not open its enlistment door to African American women until October 1944;[20] both reserve branches were under the supervision of the Secretary of the Navy.[2] Frank Knox, the secretary, was vehemently opposed to the acceptance of African American women into the naval services. When Knox died in April 1944, he was replaced by James Forrestal. The new secretary proposed that African American women be accepted, but under some apparent discriminatory conditions. President Roosevelt decided to delay any decision on the matter until after the 1944 United States presidential election, which would be held on November 7. Meanwhile, the Republican candidate for president, Thomas E. Dewey, criticized the administration for discriminating against African American women during a speech in Chicago. On October 19, 1944, Roosevelt instructed the Secretary of the Navy to accept African-American women into naval services.[21]

During the same month, the Secretary of the Navy ordered the WAVEs and SPARs to begin accepting black women recruits into their ranks. [8] In February 1945, four months later, five African-American women entered the SPARs: Olivia Hooker, Winifred Byrd, Julia Mosley, Yvonne Cumberbatch, and Aileen Cooke.[19] They received their basic training at the Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, New York Training Center.[22] Hooker (a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race riot) was the first to enlist and became the first African American SPAR. After boot camp, the former elementary school teacher received training as a yeoman and then spent the remainder of her service time at a USCG separation center in Boston, Massachusetts. While there, Hooker served as a Yeoman Second Class (Y2C) and was awarded the Good Conduct Medal. Hooker was discharged from the Women's Reserve (SPARs) in June 1946.[8][23][24]

In 2015 the U.S. Coast Guard honored 100 year old Olivia Hooker (now a retired university professor) by naming two facilities after her: a dining hall at the Staten Island, New York, station and a training facility at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.[25] Hooker died in 2018 at 103 years of age.[23]

Hispanic and Latino American Women[edit]

Christine Valdez—according to the USCG—enlisted on November 8, 1943, and she is identified as the first Hispanic female to have served in the SPARs.[19] A Utah native, Valdez served at the Seattle SPAR Barracks as a Pharmacist Mate Third Class (PM3C). Several other Hispanic women enlisted during 1943, including: Hope Garcia—Yeoman Second Class (Y2C)— who served in New Orleans; Maria Nunez—Storekeeper (SK)—served in Cleveland, and Nora Lopez—Radioman Third Class (RM3C)—who served in Washington, D.C. and New York. The following year, Olga Perdomo—Storekeeper (SK)—and Maria Flores—Seaman First Class—also enlisted. Perdomo served in the supply office in New York and Flores used her bilingual skills at the District Office in Long Beach, California. Mary Elizabeth Rivero—Lieutenant (junior grade) (Lt. (j.g.)—joined the SPARs on December 4, 1943, and was the first Hispanic American female to become a commissioned officer in the USCG. Her duties included overseeing the identification office and the barracks in Long Beach, California. [26]

Native American Women[edit]

In April 1943, an active effort was made by the SPARs to recruit women from Oklahoma, nicknaming them the Sooner Squadron (since Oklahoma is known as "the Sooner State"). No less than six women from Oklahoma's Otoe–Missouria, Choctaw, Yuchi, and Cherokee tribal nations joined the SPARs. Seaman Mildred Cleghorn Womack (Otoe), Yeoman Corrine Koshiway Goslin (Otoe), Yeoman Lula Mae O'Bannon (Choctaw), Yeoman Lula Belle Everidge (Choctaw), June Townsend (Yuchi–Choctaw), and Yeoman Nellie Locust (Cherokee) served as enlisted personnel.[27]


Officer training[edit]

Photo of the United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT
United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT

The initial agreement between the Navy and the Coast Guard required that SPAR officer candidates receive their indoctrination at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts—the official Naval Reserve (WR) Midshipmen's School. But in June 1943, the USCG withdrew from the agreement, and the indoctrination for their Women's Reserve candidates was transferred to the USCG Academy in New London, Connecticut.[13][28] Approximately 203 SPARs were trained at the New London Midshipmen's School (for the Women's Reserve),[29] and the U.S. Coast Guard became the only U.S. military service to train female officer candidates at its own academy.[30]

The officer training period was initially six weeks, but later it was increased to eight weeks.[31] The program was designed to provide candidates with an overall view of the Coast Guard, and to help them become good officers. Academically, the curriculum included such subjects as: administration; correspondence; communications; history; organization; ships; personnel, and public speaking.[32] Military regimentation, another part of training was designed to help candidates adjust to military life and their responsibilities as officers.[33] Candidates included women who, in their civilian lifes, had previously been employed as teachers; journalists, lawyers; and technicians.[34] Approximately one-third of all officers received specialized training, either as communication officers or as pay and supply officers. To minimize the need (and time required) for extra instruction, the USCG intentionally recruited candidates whose previous civilian work experience would eliminate the need for further training.[35]

By the end of the program, a total of 955 women—ranging in age from 24 to 40—had been commissioned and trained. Of these, 299 came up from the enlisted ranks. In late 1944, after determining that the number of commissioned officers was sufficient, the Coast Guard discontinued the program.[36] However, when the need arose to replace officers who had been sent overseas or separated from the service, the training program was later reopened. The final class of officer candidates was made up of former enlisted SPARs who had trained at Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, New York.[37]

Enlisted training[edit]

Photo of the Biltmore Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida, used as the USCG training center for enlisted SPARS during World War II
The Biltmore Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida, used as the USCG training center for enlisted SPARs during World War II

The agreement between the Navy and the Coast Guard also required that the USCG's enlisted recruits would receive their basic training at Naval Training Schools located around the country.[38] About 1,900 SPARs received their recruit training at Hunter College in the Bronx, New York.[39] A small number of SPARs received yeoman training at Oklahoma A&M University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. An additional 150 received yeoman training at Iowa State Teachers College, Cedar Falls, Iowa[40][41] But by March 1943, the USCG had decided to establish its own training center, both for basic and for specialized recruit training programs. They leased the Palm Beach Biltmore Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, and the site was remodeled and then commissioned as a training station on May 23, 1943. Beginning in late June, all enlisted personnel began receiving both basic and specialized training at the new facility.[42]

The training period for recruits at Palm Beach was six weeks. Boot camp was designed to bridge the gap from civilian to military life. The training covered instruction on subjects such as: USCG activities and organization, personnel, and current events. The physical component included drill exercises, games, swimming, and education in body mechanics.[43]

Another important aspect of recruit training was the testing, classification, and selection process. This was designed to make the most of each recruit's abilities, background, and interests. Testing results provided a basis for general assignments and the opportunity for further specialized training.[44] Approximately 70 percent of enlisted women (mostly yeoman and storekeepers) received some specialized training. Some recruits attended different Navy schools to be trained as: motion picture sound technicians; link trainer operators; air control operators or parachute riggers. Others attended USCG schools to be trained as cooks; bakers; radiomen; pharmacist mates; radio technicians, and motor vehicle drivers. From the first class (June 14, 1943) to the final class (December 16, 1944), more than 7,000 recruits were trained at the Palm Beach station.[45] In January 1945, the training of enlisted personnel was transferred from Palm Beach to Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, New York, the largest USCG training station for men.[22]


Photo of enlisted SPAR Dolores Denfield, a parachute rigger, in dress uniform during World War II
Enlisted SPAR Dolores Denfield, a parachute rigger during World War II


Except for the territory of Puerto Rico, the women of SPARS served in every USCG district, including in the then territories of Hawaii and Alaska. They worked not only in the district offices, but also in many of the small district field units. SPARs performed a wide variety of duties, and on the whole performed them well—so well that requests for their services by USCG commanding officers continued increasing with time.[46] However, as the female reservists began replacing men in the workplace, the general attitude of the men toward women reportedly ranged from "enthusiastic" to "open hostility". The authors of Three Years Behind the Mast explain the hostility aspect this way:

We felt that one important factor in determining a man's attitude was his own desire for sea duty. If he were eligible and wanted to shove off, he was not inclined to frown with disfavor upon his deliverer, even if she appeared in Spar [sic] clothing. On the other hand, it was natural that the swivel-chair commando should rail against the presence of the little lady who had come to release him for the briny deep. Fortunately the proportion of the latter was low compared with the Coast Guard as a whole.[47]

Most of the officers served in administrative and supervisory roles in various divisions of the USCG. Others served as communication officers, supply officers, and barracks and recruiting officers.[48] The bulk of the enlisted women had clerical and stenographic civilian backgrounds—and the Coast Guard put them to work using these much-needed skills.[46] As the authors of Three Years Behind the Mast explain, exciting jobs for most could be 'few and far between'. Yet they add that not all SPARs assigned to paperwork found it "boring". Even though some jobs were "humble, humdrum duties", as the authors put it, the women nevertheless could see how their contributions "fit into the overall picture". Though the majority of enlisted women worked in clerical positions—with many of them earning petty officer ratings as yeoman and storekeepers—enlisted personnel were found in nearly every job classification. As the Behind the Mast authors describe, "Spars" did everything from "baking pies to rigging parachutes and driving jeeps".[49]

Women reservists were initially prohibited by law from serving in USCG districts outside the continental United States. But in late 1944, Congress lifted the prohibition, and this allowed SPARs to serve overseas. For those who were in good health and had at least one year of service, the authorization meant they could request a transfer to Hawaii or Alaska (then U.S. territories). The Coast Guard sent about 200 women to serve in Hawaii, and another 200 to Alaska where they performed roughly the same kind of work (and held the same ratings) as at mainland stations.[50]

LORAN–Long Range Aid to Navigation[edit]

The signal from a single LORAN transmitter would be received several times from several directions. This image shows the weak groundwave arriving first, then signals after one and two hops off the ionosphere's E layer and finally one and two hops off the F layer. Operator skill was needed to tell these apart.

LORAN was a land-based radio navigation system—operated by the U.S. Coast Guard—that was developed during World War II at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to monitor the location of ships at sea or aircraft in flight. For instance, radio signals transmitted from two shore stations could be picked up by a ship traveling between them. The signals would be picked up on a ship's LORAN receiver, and then monitoring stations would be able to calculate a ship's exact location by measuring the amount of time each signal took to reach such ship.[51] [52]

The LORAN monitoring stations setup by the Coast Guard were all manned by male coast guardsmen, but by the summer of 1943 it was decided that–within the continental U.S–they would be staffed by SPAR personnel. [53] A select group of officers and enlisted SPARs were chosen to work at LORAN monitoring stations. To qualify for duty at these stations, reservists had to complete two months of instruction at [M.I.T. that focused on the operation and maintenance of the navigation system.[54] During training at MIT, LORAN's secrecy was so intense that each day after class all student paperwork and notebooks were confiscated and secured.[5]

Chatham, Massachusetts–located at the southeast tip of Cape Cod–was the first LORAN monitoring station to be staffed by the SPARs. Lieutenant Vera Hamerschlag was in command of the 12 female unit. On duty, "they had to sit in a darkened room for four hours at a time and watch and receive the LORAN signals every two minutes." The staff was instructed not to mention the word LORAN outside of the station. Lieutenant Hamerschlag said, "The thought that we were participating in a system that was playing such an important part of winning the war gave us a feeling of being as close to the front lines as was possible for SPARs."[5] Chatham was believed to have been–at the time–the only all-female staffed monitoring station of its kind in the world. The unit staff at Chatham received a letter from Coast Guard headquarters commending them for their work at the station. [55]

The SPARs work with the LORAN might have been the most unique and important of their service, although it was the least publicized.[53]

Women of the SPARs[edit]

The average SPAR officer was 29 years old, single, and a college graduate. She had worked seven years in a professional or managerial position (typically in education or government) before entering the service. The average enlisted SPAR was 24 years old, single, a high school graduate, and had worked for more than three years in a clerical or sales position before recruitment. In most cases, SPARs likely came from the states of Massachusetts; New York; Pennsylvania; Illinois; Ohio or California.[56]

In their off-duty hours, SPARs contributed time and effort to many community and wartime causes. Some became active nurse's aides or rolled bandages for the Red Cross; others donated blood to blood banks; some visited service men in convalescent hospitals, and others collected gifts for the men overseas. Many of them were also involved in the March of Dimes campaigns and war chest or war bond drives.[57] Based on their service, both officers and enlisted were awarded service ribbons and medals, and some were acknowledged for their outstanding contributions to the Women's Reserve and the country.[58]

In reporting on their own personal experience as SPARs, the authors of Three Years Behind the Mast evaluate the overall positive experience had by many who served in the Women's Reserve, describing a sense of kinship that developed between them. Written at the end of the war (just after the demobilization of the Reserve), their "history of the Spars" relates the value of their service in this way: "We were taking away many intangible things that should be of value to us for the rest of our lives—increased tolerance, a new sense of self-confidence, a better idea of how to live and work with all kinds of people, [and] a keener recognition of our responsibility as world citizens."[59]


Photo of enlisted SPARS wearing uniforms of different styles during World War II
Enlisted SPARs during World War II

The U.S. Navy Uniform Board made the decisions regarding uniforms and gear to be worn by the SPARs.[60] Except for service insignias, the uniforms worn by the USCG female reservists were similar in design to those created for and worn by the WAVES. Stratton described the selection process in the following way:

Next we had to decide what the women were going to wear. The WAVES had a very good-looking uniform designed by Mainbocher. Some male Coast Guardsman had proposed a design for the SPARs' uniform. Which would be used? With great solemnity, a whole roomful of admirals debated on this, and finally decided on the WAVES uniform with Coast Guard insignia. I didn't have much voice in choosing what we would wear.[7]

The standard Mainbocher-designed uniform was made of navy-blue wool, and it consisted of a single-breasted jacket, worn with a six-gored skirt, along with a white shirt and dark blue tie. Matching accessories included: black oxfords or plain black pumps; a brimmed hat; black gloves; a black leather purse, and both rain and winter coats.[61] The summer uniform was similar to the standard, but it was made of white Palm Beach cloth, tropical worsted or other light-weight fabrics and the shoes were white leather oxfords or pumps. Work wear for summer consisted of a grey and white striped seersucker dress and a jacket.[62]


End of World War II[edit]

Following the Victory over Japan (V-J Day) in August 1945, the USCG demobilization effort began. SPAR personnel were gradually discharged; they were separated from the service on a point system or on the basis of their jobs. To aid in the process, many SPARs were reassigned to Coast Guard personnel separation centers where they assisted in the demobilization of both male and female reservists. These reassigned reservists were later separated when demobilization was considered complete.[63] By the middle of 1946, nearly all USCG female reservists had been discharged. [5]

Post–World War II[edit]

The Women's Reserve (SPARs) was inactivated on July 25, 1947, but later reactivated as the USCG Women's Volunteer Reserve on November 1, 1949, the eve of the Korean War. During the Korean conflict (1950–1953), the Coast Guard actively recruited former SPARs—both officers and enlisted personnel—for the volunteer reserve. Enlistment was for a three-year period.[19] Approximately 200 former SPARs entered the Women's Volunteer Reserve and served during the Korean War.[64] By 1968, about 158 women remained as active volunteer reservists. In 1973, Congress enacted legislation ending the Women's Volunteer Reserve and allowing women to be officially integrated into active duty or the reserve. Following the change, those enlisted female reservists then serving on active duty were given the choice of enlisting in the regular USCG or completing their reserve enlistments.[19]


In his foreword to Three Years Behind the Mast, Commodore James A. Hirshfield saluted the women of the SPARs for their wartime service. In part, this is what he wrote:

The Spars asked no favors and no privileges. They, like most Americans, knew there was a job to be done and they went to work. The amazement of some of their hard-bitten superiors is legendary. With enthusiasm, with efficiency, and with a minimum of fanfare, these young women began to take over[...] The Service was fortunate in having the help of the 10,000 Spars who volunteered for duty in the Coast Guard when their country needed them, and carried the job through to a successful finish.[65]

USCGC Spar (WLB-206)
USCGC Spar (WLB-206)

The USCG has honored the Women's Reserve by naming two Coast Guard cutters after them, using the Spars nautical nickname. USCGC Spar (WLB-403) was a 180-foot (55 m) sea going buoy tender that was commissioned on June 12, 1944. She had a complement of six officers and 74 enlisted in 1945, and in 1966 her complement was four officers, two warrant officers, and 47 enlisted. The cutter was decommissioned on February 28, 1997.[66] The second vessel was USCGC Spar (WLB-206)—a 225-foot (69 m) seagoing buoy tender that was commissioned on August 3, 2001. As of the spring of 2022, she was still in active service with a complement of eight officers and 40 enlisted.[67]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Usage: The acronym describing the USCG Women's Reserve often differs by publication, however, for consistency the standard article usage will be SPARs or SPAR depending on circumstances.


  1. ^ a b Yellin 2004, p. 142.
  2. ^ a b Executive order 8929 1941.
  3. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 3.
  4. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, pp. 3–5.
  5. ^ a b c d Yellin 2004, p. 145.
  6. ^ a b Purdue 2006.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Stratton 1989.
  8. ^ a b c Tilley.
  9. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 5.
  10. ^ a b Women's History Month 2021.
  11. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 15.
  12. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 23.
  13. ^ a b Johnson 1987, pp. 198–199.
  14. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, pp. 13–15.
  15. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 21.
  16. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 18.
  17. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 51.
  18. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 57.
  19. ^ a b c d e Moments in History 2023.
  20. ^ Yellin 2004, p. 216.
  21. ^ MacGregor 2001, p. 87.
  22. ^ a b Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 105.
  23. ^ a b BBC News 2018.
  24. ^ Young 2013.
  25. ^ Thompson 2015.
  26. ^ Vojvodich, Donna (September 23, 2022). "The Long Blue Line: Latina SPARs - Minority trailblazers of World War II". United States Coast Guard. Retrieved May 10, 2024.
  27. ^ Vojvodich, Donna (November 5, 2021). "The Long Blue Line: "Sooner Squadron"—First Native American Women to enlist in the Coast G". United States Coast Guard. Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  28. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 95.
  29. ^ Goodson 2001, p. 118.
  30. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 39.
  31. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 103.
  32. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 105.
  33. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 107.
  34. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 41.
  35. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 107.
  36. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 117.
  37. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 108.
  38. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 63.
  39. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 25.
  40. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. 23–24.
  41. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 65.
  42. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 69.
  43. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 77.
  44. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 78.
  45. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 27.
  46. ^ a b Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 67.
  47. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 70.
  48. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 111.
  49. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 68.
  50. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. 90–93.
  51. ^ Lyne & Arthir 1946, p. 115.
  52. ^ Yellin 2004, p. 144.
  53. ^ a b Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 115.
  54. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. 115–116.
  55. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. 116–117.
  56. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 103.
  57. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. 117–118.
  58. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. 111–115.
  59. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. Foreward, 101.
  60. ^ USCG At War: Women's Reserve 1946, p. 133.
  61. ^ Ebbert & Hall 1993, p. 43.
  62. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, pp. 103–104.
  63. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. 99.
  64. ^ Edwards 2006, p. 53.
  65. ^ Lyne & Arthur 1946, p. Foreword.
  66. ^ Spar 1944.
  67. ^ USCGC Spar (WLB-206) History.


Further reading[edit]

  • National Archives and Records Administration (1996). Pouls, Paula Nassen (ed.). A Women's War Too: U.S. Women in the Military in World War II. United States: National Archives Trust Fund Board. ISBN 1-880875-098.

External links[edit]