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Oldest American female veteran Lucy Coffey dies at 108

Lucy Coffey, the oldest living female veteran, died earlier this week at the age of 108. In 1943, the Indiana native enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps, and later, she served in the Pacific Theater, earning two bronze stars and rising to the rank of sergeant before being discharged in 1945. After the war, she did civilian work in the army in Japan and Texas for another 26 years. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Lucy Coffey died earlier this week at the age of 108. She had been the oldest living female veteran.

    The Indiana native was 37-years-old this when in 1943 she enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps, which performed support tasks for the army.

  • GEN. GEORGE C. MARSHALL:

    These women are to take over the jobs of soldiers behind the lines here at home.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Coffey served in the Pacific Theater, earning two bronze stars and rising to the rank of sergeant before being discharged in 1945. After the war, she did civilian work in the army in Japan and Texas for another 26 years.

    Last July, Coffey traveled to Washington D.C. from her home in San Antonio and met with both Vice President Biden and President Obama.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    It's so nice to meet you.

  • LUCY COFFEY:

    Thank you.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    You're welcome.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Vice President Biden joked about being upstaged by the president.

  • VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:

    I'm Vice President. The president comes in everybody drops everything you know what I mean.

  • LUCY COFFEY:

    Yeah.

  • VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:

    But I'm the guy that loves you.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Coffey also visited the women's memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and the National World War II Memorial, where she met fellow veteran and former Senator Bob Dole.

    Coffey was one of about 400,000 women who served in uniform during World War II.

    The jobs that women have been allowed to do have dramatically changed since then.

    In January of 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta formally lifted rules that excluded women from ground combat — a change that recognized the danger that many women have faced in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

  • SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA:

    They are fighting and dying together. The time has come for our polices to recognize that reality.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Today, women represent about 9 percent of living veterans. By the middle of this century, that percentage is expected to nearly double.

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