Dorothy Schmidt Cole, recognized last year as the United States’ oldest surviving Marine, has passed away at the age of 107.
Beth Klotz, Cole’s only child, confirmed that her mother died of a heart attack at the Klotz home in Canapolis, North Carolina.
Cole enlisted as one of the first Marine Reserve soldiers after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She had left her home in Ohio to head to Pittsburgh, where she was hoping to enlist in the Navy, but since she was only 4 feet 11 inches tall, she was considered too short to meet Navy standards.
Bravely rejected, Cole decided to learn how to fly a plane and convince the Marine Corps to let her be a pilot.
In July 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marines’ Women’s Reserve into law, giving women the opportunity to fill the positions left by men heading into combat. The Corps delayed the formation of the branch until February 1943, and Cole joined five months later at the age of 29, becoming one of the branch’s first volunteers.
Despite spending 200 hours in the Piper Cub cockpit, Cole completed six weeks of boot camp at Camp Lygon with the 1st Battalion of the Women’s Reserve and ended up “behind a typewriter instead of an airplane.”
Cole’s husband Willie 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 being blown up and sank 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 appointed by the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, before Wiley Cole died of a heart attack in 1955.
Klotz moved from California to North Carolina in 1976, followed by Cole to the area around 1979