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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.[1] The name is the contraction of the Coast Guard motto: Semper Paratus and its English translation, Always Ready.[2] The name also refers to a spar in nautical usage.


Like the other women's reserves, such as the Women's Army Corps and the WAVES, SPARS was created to free men from stateside service in order to fight overseas.[2]

In 1941 the first civilian women were hired by the Coast Guard to serve in secretarial and clerical positions. In 1942 the Coast Guard established their Women's Reserve known as the SPARS (after the motto Semper Paratus - Always Ready). YN3 Dorothy Tuttle became the first SPAR enlistee when she enlisted in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve on 7 December 1942. LCDR Dorothy Stratton transferred from the Navy to serve as the director of the SPARS; she was the first director of the SPARS, and she is credited with creating the nickname for the organization.[2] 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 CAPT Dorothy 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.[3]

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; 1,914 women were trained in boot camp at Hunter College's Bronx campus.[4]

The SPARS was inactivated on July 25, 1947.[5]

The U.S. Coast Guard has named two cutters in honor of the Spar organization; 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 currently home-ported in Kodiak, Alaska.[7]


Although the SPARS no longer exist as a separate organization, the term is still informally used for a female member of the U.S. Coast Guard; however, it is not an officially sanctioned term.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Preliminary Survey of the Development of the Women's Reserve of the United States Coast Guard, p 3
  2. ^ a b c A Preliminary Survey of the Development of the Women's Reserve of the United States Coast Guard, p 5
  3. ^ "Women & the U.S. Coast Guard: Moments in History". United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  4. ^ Munch, pp. 1–15
  5. ^ "Women's History Chronology". Retrieved 2015-03-19. 
  6. ^ "Spar, 1944". Cutters, Craft & U.S. Coast Guard-Manned Army & Navy Vessels. US Coast Guard Historians Office. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "USCGC Spar (WLB-206)". USCGC Spar (WLB-206). US Coast Guard. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Litoff, Judy Barrett, and David C. Smith. "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
  • 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.
  • "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. 

External links[edit]