Dorothy Schmidt Cole, oldest living Marine, dies at 107

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KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (AP) – Dorothy Schmidt Cole, recognized last year as the oldest U.S. Navy, has died at the age of 107.

Beth Kluttz, Cole’s only child, confirmed on Friday that her mother died of a heart attack at Kluttz’s home in Kannapolis, North Carolina on January 7.

The Charlotte Observer reports that Cole enlisted as one of the Navy’s first female reservists following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She had moved from her Ohio home to Pittsburgh, where she hoped to volunteer for the Navy, but because she was only 4 feet 11 inches tall, she was deemed too short to meet Navy standards.

Intrepid by her rejection, Cole decided to learn to fly a plane and persuade the Marine Corps to let her be a pilot.

In July 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve into law, giving women the chance to fill positions left open by men heading into combat. The Corps delayed the formation of the branch until February 1943, and Cole enlisted five months later at the age of 29, becoming one of the branch’s first volunteers.

Although he spent 200 hours in the cockpit of a Piper Cub, Cole completed six weeks of training camp at Camp Lejeune with the First Battalion of the Female Reserve and found himself “behind a typewriter at the place of an airplane ”.

Cole’s husband Wiley was in the Navy and served on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, which sailed both the Pacific Theater and the Solomon Islands Campaign during World War II before it was torpedoed and sunk in October 1942.

Cole moved to San Francisco after the war to be with Wiley. They married and had their only child in 1953. The couple were both hired by the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California before Wiley Cole died of a heart attack in 1955.

Kluttz moved from California to North Carolina in 1976 and Cole followed her to the region around 1979.

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