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'For the various meanings of "spar", see Spar (disambiguation).
A member of the SPARS during World War II.

SPARS or SPARs was the nickname for the United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve, created 23 November 1942 with the signing of Public Law 773 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The name is the contraction of the Coast Guard motto: Semper Paratus and its English translation, Always Ready. The name also refers to a spar in nautical usage.


Captain Dorothy C. Stratton, Director of the SPARS during World War II

The U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve act was passed by the 77th Congress as Public Law 773, and signed into law by the president on 23 November 1942. It amended the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941, providing for the releasing of officers and enlisted men for duty at sea and replaced by women in shore stations. It was established as a branch of the Coast Guard Reserve, with authority to enlist and appoint women to serve during World War II and for six months thereafter. The reservists were to be trained and qualified for duty in the continental shore stations of the Coast Guard. They were not to be used to replace civil service personnel. The act was similar to that of the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Dorothy C. Stratton was appointed the director; she had been the Dean of Women on leave from Purdue University and an officer in the WAVES. Stratton is credited with creating the nautical name of SPARS. [1] The name was fashioned by taking the first letters of the Coast Guard's Latin motto, Semper Paratus, and the first letters of its English translation, Always Ready. [2] Each of the four SPAR letters stands for one the of the Four Freedoms; Speech, Press, Assembly, and Religion. Soon after passage of the law, a core group of Coast Guard personnel was formed to advise and work with Coast Guard officers on recruiting, training, and utilization of the women reservists. [3]

Yeoman Third Class Dorothy Tuttle became the first SPAR enlistee when she enlisted in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve on 7 December 1942. The first five African-American women entered the SPARS in 1945: Olivia Hooker, D. Winifred Byrd, Julia Mosley, Yvonne Cumberbatch, and Aileen Cooke. Also in 1945, SPAR Marjorie Bell Stewart was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal by Captain Stratton, becoming the first SPAR to receive the award. SPARS were assigned stateside and served as storekeepers, clerks, photographers, pharmacist's mates, cooks, and in numerous other jobs during World War II. More than 11,000 SPARS served during World War II.[4]

The U.S. Coast Guard SPARS closely followed the U.S. Navy's WAVES model, with officer training at the Coast Guard Academy. Their goal was 1000 officers and 10,000 enlisted. Hunter College's trained 1,914 women at a boot camp located at the Bronx campus [5]

The SPARS program was inactivated on July 25, 1947.[4]


The U.S. Coast Guard has named two cutters in honor of the SPARS program; USCGC Spar (WLB-403) was a 180-foot (55 m) sea going buoy tender commissioned in June 1944 and decommissioned in 1997,[6] and USCGC Spar (WLB-206), a 225-foot (69 m) seagoing buoy tender commissioned in 2001 and currently home-ported in Kodiak, Alaska.[7]

Although the SPARS no longer exist as a separate organization, the term is sometimes informally used for a female Coast Guardsman; however, it is not an officially sanctioned term.[Note 1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The term Coast Guardsman is the official term used by the U.S. Coast Guard to refer to a member regardless of the person's gender. In an ALCOAST message effective 1 December 2011 the Commandant, Admiral Papp, directed that the language of the Guardian Ethos be superseded by the Coast Guard Ethos in an effort to use terminology that would help with the identity of personnel serving in the Coast Guard. The term Coast Guardsman is the correct form of address used in Title 14 USC and is the form that has been used historically.[8]
  1. ^ A Preliminary Survey of the Development of the Women's Reserve of the United States Coast Guard, pp 3-5
  2. ^ Yellin, p 142
  3. ^ A Preliminary Survey of the Development of the Women's Reserve of the United States Coast Guard, pp 5-7
  4. ^ a b Women & the U.S. Coast Guard
  5. ^ Munch, pp 1–15
  6. ^ Spar, 1944
  7. ^ CGC Spar (WLB-206) History
  8. ^ Shipmates 17 - The Coast Guard Ethos
  • "A Preliminary Survey of the Development of the Women's Reserve of the United States Coast Guard" (PDF). The Coast Guard at War, Women's Reserve. US Coast Guard Historians Office. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  • "Moments in History". Women & the U. S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  • "Shipmates 17 - The Coast Guard Ethos" (txt). CGMS General Messages. 30 November 2011. ALCOAST 554/11. 
  • "Spar, 1944". Cutters, Craft & U.S. Coast Guard Manned Army & Navy Vessels. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  • "CGC Spar (WLB-206) History". U.S. Coast Guard District 17. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  • Ebert, Jean & Hall, Mary-Beth. Crossed Currents (1993 ed.). McLean, VI 22102: Brassy's (US). ISBN 0-02-881022-8. 
  • Lyne, Mary & Arthur, Kay. Three Years Behind The Mast (1946 ed.). Washington, DC: Private. 
  • Munch, Janet Butler, "Making Waves in the Bronx: The Story of the U.S. Naval Training School (Wr) At Hunter College", Bronx County Historical Society Journal, March 1993, Vol. 30, Issue 1, pp. 1–15.
  • Yellin, Emily. Our Mother's War (2004 ed.). New York, NY 10020: Free Press. ISBN 0-7-432-4514-8. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Litoff, Judy Barrett, and Smith, David C.; "The Wartime History of the Waves, SPARS, Women Marines, Army and Navy Nurses, and WASP's." in A Women's War Too: US Women in the Military in World War II ed. by Paula Nassen Poulos.(Washington: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996) pp 49–56

External links[edit]