Oldest Living Marine, Dorothy Schmidt Cole, Dies at 107

by Atlanta Northcutt
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The oldest living Marine has passed away at age of 107. An inspirational woman named Dorothy Schmidt Cole fought for both her country, as well as for gender equality in the United States armed forces. Making you ask the question, “G.I. Jane, who?”

Last year, Dorothy was recognized as the oldest living U.S. Marine. Her ambition was strong as she was one of the first female Marine reservists to enlists following the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.

Dorothy Schmidt Cole Courageously Went for Her Dreams

Originally from Ohio, she left to pursue her dreams and reached Pittsburgh hoping to become a volunteer for the Navy. Although the saying size doesn’t matter isn’t necessarily true, unless you’re trying to join the Navy. With Cole only standing 4 feet, 11 inches tall, she wasn’t accepted due to not meeting the standard height requirements.

However, the determined Cole wouldn’t let rejection crush her dreams. She came to the decision she would learn to fly an airplane instead and show the Marine Corps. her talents in order to become a pilot for that military branch.

Everything changed for women wanting to contribute in protecting their country by fighting in the war.

Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve into law in July 1942. In doing so, the president had given the go-ahead in allowing women to take on positions that were now open since the men were fighting abroad.

However, the Marine Corps was hesitant and took their time in actually forming the branch, not completing until February 1943.

One of the First Women to Enlist in the Marine Corps

An enthusiastic Cole would enlist five months later. She was one of the very first volunteers for the branch when she joined at the age of 29.

Unfortunately, sexism was still a very prominent and accepted ideology.

Regardless of how many hours Dorothy put in to be able to get into the cockpit. Logging 200 hours of flight training, Cole was given the opportunity to complete six weeks of boot camp with the Women’s Reserve’s First Battalion at Camp Lejeune. Although she completed all of the necessary tests required, Cole was placed “behind a typewriter instead of an airplane.”

No one can say that Cole didn’t work hard, if not harder, than the men in the hopes of defending her country by becoming an official Marine.

Finding Success in Both Her Career and Home Life

Dorothy married a man serving in the Navy. His name is Wiley, and he had the same gung-ho attitude to protect America as he served on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The ship sailed in both the Pacific Theater and the Solomon Islands campaign while World War II raged on. The ship was torpedoed and sunk in October 1942.

After the war, Wiley moved to San Francisco, and Cole followed. The couple married and had one child. Both Wiley and Cole were hired by the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley in California.

Sadly, Wiley Cole died of a heart attack in 1955.

The couple’s daughter, Beth Kluttz, moved from California to North Carolina almost 20 years after Wiley passed away. Cole joined her in the move a few years after.

The Passing of the Oldest Marine at the Age of 107

Beth confirmed Friday that her mother died of a heart attack. Dorothy suffered from the fatal attack while at her daughter’s home in North Carolina on Jan. 7.

Cole is a Fighter, Leaving Behind an Empowering Legacy

Cole took on the system with her impressive goals and don’t quit attitude. Even if she wasn’t able to fly, she still received the title of being in the Marine Corps when the thought of a woman in the armed forces seemed unrealistic. She pushed herself to achieve her dreams and obviously continued to do so as she made her mark on this world for 104 years.

Along with her successful career, Dorothy also found success in love with Wiley, and happiness in having a daughter.

Overall, Dorothy Schmidt Cole became a hero. She will continue to carry that title even after death as the legacy of her strength and determination continues to spread.

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