KANNAPOLIS, N.C. - The oldest living U.S. Marine celebrated her 107th birthday in Kannapolis, N.C., over the weekend, with a happy birthday greeting from the Marine Corps.
Sgt. Dot Cole joined the Marines in 1943, trained at Camp Lejeune, then went to Quantico for an administrative role, the city of Kannapolis posted on Twitter.
Dorothy Schmidt Cole was born Sept. 19, 1913 in Warren, Penn., and currently lives in Kannapolis.
She enlisted following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and was assigned to what had been a male-dominated field – freeing up personnel to fight the war in the Pacific, according to the Marines.
“Everyone was out doing something,” she explained in a video posted to the Marine Corps’ official Facebook account. “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.”
Cole was among 350,000 American women who served in the armed forces during the war, according to the National World War II Museum.
At the start of the war, women only served in the Army or Navy Nurse Corps, but each branch of the military eventually opened up to female recruits, according to the museum.
In 1942, then-Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox authorized a new Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, although the first woman to enlist was actually Pvt. Opha May Johnson in 1918, according to the Women Marines Association.
By 1943, the Marines were welcoming women to their ranks as part of a Reserve force.
Training for the Women Reserves began in New York City in March 1943, then in July moved to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to the association. In its first year, it reportedly grew from four to 15,000 members.
Currently, women make up about 8.4 percent of the Corps.