The US Coast Guard created the Women’s Reserve known as the SPARS, an acronym for, “Semper Paratus Always Ready,” in WWII.
In WWII, The US Coast Guard utilized the highest percentage of women of any of the services. The SPARS grew to 12,000 women, under the guidance of former Purdue University Dean of Women, Dorothy Stratton. They were a large group of trailblazers, proving that women could excel in physical and technical career fields.
At first, SPARS were brought into service to utilize women’s civilian experience in traditional “women’s career fields” as secretaries and cooks, but as the war continued and women proved to be capable, their roles expanded. SPARS served as radiomen, radarmen, parachute riggers, cryptologists, control tower operators, motor machinists mates, gunners mates, coxswains, boatswains, and surfmen. They also secretly helped pioneer LORAN.
Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) April Killian wrote an article about the SPARS and their contributions. She is back today on the podcast to expand on her passion. LCDR Killian is a graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy and holds a Master of Art in Diplomacy from Norwich University. She was previously a Navy Reserve Officer and served active duty in the Coast Guard as a Marine Inspector. April is currently a Coast Guard Reservist and enjoys researching and sharing the history of women in the Coast Guard.
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Even More About the SPARS
The featured photo of this post is a picture of Beulah Duncan. Duncan coded and decoded classified materials and messages to U.S. ships at sea or to other units in WWII. Through the messages, she learned almost exactly when D-Day was to happen. She said, “Whoever said women can’t keep a secret certainly didn’t know us!” Learn more about Beulah at the University of Kansas archives here.
In this episode, LCDR Killian references some additional resources:
- USCG SPARS Facebook Group
- USCG Historian’s Office
- Foundation for Coast Guard History
- Future National Coast Guard Museum
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The Women Offshore Foundation is an online organization and resource center for a diverse workforce on the water. Its mission is to propel women into meaningful careers through access to a worldwide community and professional development resources, while raising awareness amongst industry leaders and decision makers about issues affecting women on the water. Contact Women Offshore today: firstname.lastname@example.org.