WWII Marine based at El Toro air station

Times Staff Writer

Ada Dodson, a World War II Marine Corps veteran who was active in the Women Marines Assn., has died. She was 94.

Dodson died of respiratory failure at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Irvine Thursday, said her daughter, Marcida Dodson.

One of thousands of women who served in the Marines during World War II, Dodson was national secretary of the Women Marines Assn. from 1972 to 1974 and Orange County chapter president from 1974 to 1976.

“I joined the Marines because they are the toughest and the best,” Dodson told The Times at the 1998 dedication of an exhibit of the “History of Women in the U.S. Marine Corps” at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, where she served during the war.


Born Ada DiStasio in Montefalcone di Val Fortore, Italy, on May 1, 1914, Dodson was living in Milwaukee and working in a defense plant that built blades for turbines used in submarines when the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established in February 1943.

Dodson enlisted in April 1944 and trained as an aviation machinist with men and other women at a base in Norman, Okla.

“The men didn’t like us girls being there,” she recalled in the 1998 interview. “They didn’t treat us very well, but that made me work all the harder. . . . I ended up getting the third-highest score in the class, better than most of the men.”

Despite her training as a machinist, Dodson was assigned to work in an office at the El Toro air station, where she spent the duration of the war.


“I was on active duty for almost three years, but I never got higher than PFC,” she said. “They just wouldn’t give women any rank. I was doing the work of sergeants, but they wouldn’t promote me. That’s how they used to treat women Marines.”

She was, she said, “glad that things have changed. In my day, you’d never expect to see a woman lieutenant general. But we all stick together, men and women, because when you get down to it, we’re all Marines.”

She was discharged in 1946, the same year she married Marcus Dodson, a fellow Marine who had fought on Iwo Jima. They were married 60 years and had four children. Her husband died last year.

Dodson flew the Marine flag in front of her house in Cypress on special occasions.

“Even if it was on TV, if she heard the Marine Corps hymn, she stood; and if the American flag went by anywhere, she stood and saluted,” Dodson’s daughter said. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

In addition to her daughter Marcida, Dodson is survived by sons Marc and Rocco Dodson; daughter Rita Cossette; brother Rocco DiStasio; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 5101 Alton Parkway, Irvine. Burial will be at Riverside National Cemetery.