Kauai resident, female World War II veteran, recounts service

HONOLULU – Coast Guard Capt. Joanna Nunan, the Captain of the Port, Honolulu, left, hosts a discussion panel with Coast Guard SPAR veteran Genni Anderson, right, in support of National Women’s History Month, at Base Support Unit Honolulu, March 29, 2011. Anderson served as a Coast Guard SPAR from 1942 to 1944, during which she worked at the recruiting command in Kansas City, Mo. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Angela Henderson.

Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Angela Henderson

HONOLULU – Coast Guard Capt. Joanna Nunan, the Captain of the Port, Honolulu, hosted a panel discussion with World War II veteran Lt. j.g. Genni Anderson at Base Support Unit Honolulu, Tuesday.

The gathering provided a unique opportunity to hear firsthand the experiences of women serving in the Coast Guard during World War II. The SPARs were established during the war and derived their name from the Coast Guard’s motto of Semper Paratus Always Ready. Nunan, who was also commander of Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Kodiak, Alaska in 2000, led the discussion between Coast Guardsmen in the 14th Coast Guard District and Anderson.

“I’m the SPARs’ biggest fan and it’s always an inspiration to be able to speak with those who have had such an influence on our service,” said Nunan.

SPARs filled shore-based military positions during World War II, thereby allowing men in the Coast Guard to serve at sea and overseas. SPARs were under military direction and subject to assignments according to needs of the service. More than 10,000 women volunteered to serve as SPARs between 1942 and 1946.

“Joining the Coast Guard gave me a chance to move beyond myself,” Anderson said. “It opened a lot of doors to things that I would have never thought to do before.”

Anderson was born on December 28, 1917 and has lived in Hawaii for most of her life. She currently resides in Kauai. She served with the SPARs for two years from 1942 to 1944, standing recruiting duty in Kansas City, Mo. and eventually transferring to Columbus, Ohio. She was promoted to Lt. j.g. after one year. She has a bachelor’s in chemistry and earned her pilots license in 1947, which is still valid today.

“What pleases me most about the Coast Guard today is the fact that women are able to be in the Coast Guard and serve as a commanding officer of a boat,” Anderson said. “Something they could have done back then, but were denied the chance.”

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