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SPARS. The Women's Reserve of the Coast Guard was created by an act of Congress signed into law on 23 November 1942. It was modeled on the one the U.S. Navy had created a few months earlier, with similar restrictions: women could not (a) serve in combat; (b) be stationed outside the continental United States; or (c) be given command authority over men.

Capt. Dorothy C. Stratton, former dean of women at Purdue University, served throughout the war as director of the Coast Guard Women's Reserve. She suggested that its official nickname—SPARS—be based on the Coast Guard motto: “Semper paratus—Always Ready.”

During World War II, the SPARS recruited about 12,000 women, including 955 officers. SPARS and female civilian employees did most of the clerical work in the Coast Guard's Washington headquarters. Other specialties gradually were opened to enlisted SPARS, who eventually held forty‐three ratings from boatswain's mate to yeoman. Twelve SPARS staffed the Chatham, Massachusetts, LORAN station, part of a highly secret electronic navigation system. In September 1944, Congress lifted the ban on stationing women outside the contiguous states; about 200 SPARS were sent to Alaska and 200 more to Hawaii.

SPARS enlisted for “duration plus six”—the length of the war plus six months. After the surrender of Japan in August 1945, the women's reserve branches of all the services were disbanded, though the label SPARS continued to be applied informally to female Coast Guardsmen. In 1956, twenty‐one women were serving in the Coast Guard Reserve. Though it continued to accept a few female recruits, the service made no further systematic effort to recruit women until the 1970s when women were admitted into all of the U.S. armed forces.
[See also Women in the Military.]


U.S. Coast Guard Public Information Division , The Coast Guard at War, Vol. 22: Women's Reserve, 1946 (one of a series of unpublished monographs available through the Coast Guard Historian's Office, Washington, D.C.).
Mary C. Lyne and and Kay Arthur , Three Years Behind the Mast: The Story of the United States Coast Guard SPARS, n.d.
Malcolm Willoughby , The U.S. Coast Guard in World War II, 1957.
Jeanne Holm , Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution, 1992.

John A. Tilley

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