Florence Finch Smith was the first Asian-American woman to don a Coast Guard uniform. In 1995, the Coast Guard honored Finch’s service by naming the administration building for her at Coast Guard Base Honolulu. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 101. Of her wartime activities, she stated “I feel very humble because my activities in the war effort were trivial compared with those of people who gave their lives for their country.”
With that burning passion, she walked up Broadway Avenue, where she had recently seen the Armed Forces Recruiting Office, determined to enter the first service she came to. The recruiting sign “Coast Guard SPARS” caught her eye and, as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”
By the end of World War II, nearly 12,000 SPARs had served in the Coast Guard. They pioneered the role of their gender in the service, the federal government and the nation as a whole. They have since helped shape the Coast Guard into a better institution for all men and women and continue to do so today.
The Coast Guard remembers and honors the memory and legacy of one of our trailblazers – Coast Guard SPAR and Auxiliarist Dorothy Kurtz. After serving her country during WWII, Kurtz decided to continue her service to her nation as a volunteer in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. She passed away Sept. 12, 2016, at the age of 93. Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.
In July of 1957, the Coast Guard was tasked with establishing and charting a successful path through the Northwest Passage in response to defense concerns caused by Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union. In October, 1957, three Coast Guard cutters accomplished what no other U.S. vessels had done before — they transited through the icy seas of the Northwest Passage and circumnavigate the North American continent. Read the full story to learn more!
From its beginning as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790, the Coast Guard’s unique authorities and organizational culture of adaptability have allowed it to make great contributions to intelligence and to important military successes in our nation’s history.
Despite experiencing hatred and racism in her youth, Dr. Olivia Hooker has dedicated her life to serving the needs of her community and her nation, living by her life philosophy, “it’s not about you or me; it’s about what we can give to this world.” Now, at the age of 101, Hooker remains an important member of the long blue line and an example of the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.
Of the thousands of women who have served with honor in the United States Coast Guard, one stands out for her bravery and devotion to duty: Florence Smith Finch.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft dedicated a training center within Coast Guard Headquarters in honor of Dr. Olivia Hooker, the first African-American woman in the Coast Guard.
On Nov. 23, 1942, legislation approved the implementation of the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve. The women who joined were more commonly known as SPARs – an acronym derived from the Coast Guard’s motto, ‘Semper Paratus, Always Ready’ – and formed the foundation for women serving today. On March 9, 1945, Olivia Hooker headed to boot camp. While women had been heading enlisting for months by then, one thing was unique about Hooker – she was one of only five African American females to first enlist in the SPAR program.