OCEAN CITY — Doris Barnes had never left the tiny upstate community of Norwich, New York, when she boarded a train to Buffalo to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
“It seemed the patriotic thing to do,” she said in a recent interview in her Ocean City home.
It was early in 1944. Several of her friends had already been drafted, with a number of them sent to the Pacific theater. The 22-year-old wanted to do what she could for the war effort that cost so many of her friends and classmates so much.
“I had some friends that died,” she said. She also cited a sense of adventure for her decision.
Best known as Doie, a nickname she said she has had since childhood, Barnes turned 100 over the summer. She is one of the members of the Greatest Generation, a term popularized by journalist Tom Brokaw.
From Buffalo, she was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, built in 1941 as the latest Marine boot camp, joining Paris Island and San Diego. In a recent interview, she said she chose the Marine Corps because she saw it as the best branch of the service. Still, the adjustment was difficult.
“I was very nervous. But when they played taps, all of a sudden I knew it was going to be OK,” she said. The bugle call, best known for its use at solemn events and military funerals, also marks “lights out” at military installations in the United States.
As a child in the late 1920s, Barnes came to Ocean City for two-week summer vacations. She described it as a typical beach town, much quieter than it is now, with fewer cottages and fewer stores. She also remembers Ocean City’s famous Blue Laws, a remnant of the city’s religious roots that required some businesses to be closed on Sundays and limited what others could sell. The Blue Laws remained in effect in Ocean City until 1986.
Barnes has lived year-round in Ocean City for several years. Her daughter, Susan Anderson, said the family came to the resort for summer vacations for years, buying property there in 1987. Barnes was vacationing in the town when she broke her leg in 2015.
Her doctors were in the area and that was where she did her rehabilitation.
“From that point on, she stayed here,” Anderson said.
Barnes is a regular at veteran events in Ocean City, including the Memorial Day and Veterans Day services, held at Veterans Park or inside at the Ocean City Tabernacle.
This year, she plans to attend the Veterans Day observance at Osprey Point in Upper Township, set for 10 a.m. Thursday at 1731 Route 9, and then attend the Veterans Day Ceremony held at the Saracini-O’Neill 9/11 Memorial at Jackson Avenue and the Boardwalk at 1 p.m. in Atlantic City.
She gets around inside with the help of an aluminum cane, but Barnes is often seen around town making use of a bright red scooter, with the Marine Corps emblem and her name in gold, a familiar sight at multiple events. She has a cut-out image of herself, close to life size, against the white fireplace of her home.
She often wears a baseball cap with the Marine seal, with the words “Woman Veteran” across the brim.
She is joined in the interview by her daughter’s two genial golden retrievers, Beach Boy and Breaker Boy. Her daughter said they are careful around Barnes to avoid knocking her over.
From basic training, Barnes was assigned to the Marine Air Station at Cherry Point, also in North Carolina. She wanted to work on aircraft, but the Marines valued her skills as a stenographer.
Barnes’ duty was to carry documents between Marine officers on base. She said she used a small vehicle and kept the files in a case that was handcuffed to her wrist.
“I handled confidential, secret files,” she said. “I took them around the base to different officers.”
Her son-in-law Jerome Anderson, who said he is far better known as “Doc,” said she always maintained the secrecy of those files even decades after the war.
“She’s always held that line that she couldn’t say (what the files contained),” he said.
“I wouldn’t know what they were about. They all had to do with airplanes,” she said.
Barnes worked closely with several generals. She said the officers were all business, especially when speaking with women in the corps.
“They were cold,” she said. “They were very professional. They were very careful when they were with women.”
When the war ended, first in Europe and then in the Pacific with the surrender of Japan in September of 1945, she said the airbase erupted in joy.
“Oh, boy. The whole base celebrated for three days,” she said. Most of the men got drunk. She said she did not. “They raised holy hell.”
No one was allowed off base at that time, she said.
Barnes left the Marines on Dec. 10, 1945, ending her service as a sergeant. She received an honorable service lapel pin and an honorable discharge pin, which are both in place on her hat. She said she loved the Marines’ attention to detail, their discipline and the sense of camaraderie.
“I missed the Marine Corps. That seems silly, but I did. I got married when I was in the Marine Corps,” she said.
According to her children, her husband was a radio operator in the Pacific. His duty was to collect casualties from islands. They met during martial arts training for women in the Marines. They described the marriage as short-lived.
Her second husband, Harold A. Barnes Jr., served in the Navy. He died several years ago.
She remains involved with the Morvay-Miley-Cruice American Legion Post #524 and the Ferguson-Foglio American Legion Post 6650 in Ocean City, as well as the Fleet Reserve Association in Mays Landing.
Her children said she enjoys the daily flag raising ceremony on the Ocean City Boardwalk in the summer.
At one of the daily ceremonies in July, city officials and American Legion members celebrated Barnes’ 100th birthday after one of the flag-raising ceremonies, presenting her with proclamations and other honors in recognition of her service.
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