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Ridgefield’s Dorothy Dwyer, a WWII veteran who worked for Eisenhower, dies

Ridgefield’s Dorothy Dwyer, who worked for Gen. Dwight Eisenhower as one of the first women shipped overseas during World War II, died July 3. She was 98.

An online obituary says Dwyer’s family will remember her for her loving, adventurous and humorous spirit, as well as for her love for gardening and serving her country.

In an interview with The Columbian in 2009, Dwyer shared a few of her photographs and memories from her military service, including a snapshot of Winston Churchill and the time she literally ran into French Gen. Charles de Gaulle in a hallway.

Dwyer was part of the first step in the offensive against Hitler’s European fortress, when the Allies moved their forces into North Africa in 1943.

At that point, she was working in the nerve center of the Allied effort in Europe and Africa.

“Churchill was there a lot to meet with Eisenhower,” she told The Columbian. “I was going around a corner and walked into the stomach of Gen. de Gaulle,” who stood about 6-foot-5.

“I saluted and left.”

Back then, she was Dorothy Grassby, and had enlisted Oct. 1, 1942, in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps — forerunner of the Women’s Army Corps (WACs).

Dwyer was previously part of the Boston area’s aircraft warning system, where she would listen for airplane engines and report anything that didn’t sound like an American plane. She also registered military-aged men for the draft. That’s when she started thinking about joining herself.

“I was four months short of 21, but they needed us,” she said in 2009. “Dad said it was too dangerous. I went anyway.”

She completed basic training at a former Army cavalry post, Fort Des Moines, Iowa. In the summer of 1943, Dwyer’s unit boarded the SS Santa Rosa, an ocean liner that had been converted into a troop ship. They landed at the Mediterranean port of Oran, Algeria, on Aug. 21, 1943, then boarded a train for Algiers.

Later in her career, Dwyer joined the staff of Gen. Benjamin Chidlaw, deputy commanding general of the 12th Tactical Air Command. Her job was to write letters home to the families of people killed or missing in action.

“No two letters could be the same,” she remembered. “It was a hard job. Another GI and I did that.”

Dwyer served until June 1945, according to her online obituary.

In a phone interview Friday, Bryan Laycoe, a friend from Ridgefield American Legion Post 44, said listening to Dwyer talk about her experiences was enjoyable. He said Dwyer was an active veteran as recently as last year, when she participated as the grand marshal at a parade in Ridgefield.

“She has been an amazing woman, remaining so patriotic,” he said.

She leaves behind her four children: Leslie “Sandy” Long, Timothy David Dwyer, Terrence Thomas Dwyer and MaryAnn Holbert, along with six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

A memorial and celebration of life will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Covington House, 4201 Main St., Vancouver, for family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, Dwyer’s family is asking for donations to be made to Ridgefield American Legion Post 44 for the Sgt. Dorothy (Grassby) Dwyer scholarship, P.O. Box 1566, Ridgefield, WA 98642. The scholarship will support future female military cadets in training.


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