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Home Grown

Oldest living Marine veteran is a Warren native

Photo at left by the U.S. Marine Corps. Photo at right courtesy of Warren County Historical Society Dorothy Schmidt Cole, a native of Warren, Pa., is the oldest living U.S. Marine veteran. At right is Dorothy Schmidt’s senior photo from the 1932 Warren High School yearbook.

Dorothy Schmidt Cole was 28 when she joined the effort in World War II.

“After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she enlisted,” according to information from the Warren County Historical Society. “She took a bus to Pittsburgh to enlist in the U.S. Navy.”

“Everyone was out doing something,” Cole said in a recent interview with the U.S. Marine Corps. “Women helping the Red Cross or even in churches they were knitting things.”

Cole was born on Sept. 19, 1913, in Warren.

She grew up in Warren County and graduated from Warren High School in 1932, carrying the nicknames “Smitty” and “Dort.”

Cole had gone to the Kalbfus Club with her father and brother. She knew her way around guns, according to the historical society.

She played basketball, hockey, and track at Warren High, according to the yearbook.

She had worked at the YWCA as a secretary and knew that a desk job was not her goal.

And, according to the historical society, she had a secret dream.

“After taking a local 25 cent plane ride, (Cole) had a secret desire to fly, a dream frowned upon for women at the time,” according to the historical society.

That ride was in an open biplane.

“I decided that I wanted to do something” to help the war effort, she said in the Marine Corps interview.

She wasn’t interested in knitting.

She took that bus to Pittsburgh but was told she was too short to pass the Navy physical. On of the descriptions of her in the yearbook was “petite.”

Not deterred, “I would go into the Marine Corps,” Cole said in the Marine Corps interview.

She earned her private pilots license after she enlisted “to prove her worth to her superiors in hopes of being sent overseas as a pilot,” according to the historical society.

She didn’t get to fly, but she did serve her country.

“Dorothy was a part of female integration in what was considered male-dominated career fields within the Marine Corps during WWII which allowed the Marine Corps to free up personnel to fight the war in the Pacific,” according to the video.

“She was stationed in Virginia where she proudly served through the remainder of the war,” according to the historical society.

On Saturday, Cole celebrated her 107th birthday in North Carolina.

The Marine Corps video was created for the occasion of her birthday and can be found online. In it, Cole sings along to ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart.’

She is the oldest living Marine, according to the Marine Corps. “Happy Birthday, Dot!”

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