Cotter, John G.

1906-1955 | U.S. Army Signal Corps Radio and Cable Operator

John Gerard Cotter was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 16, 1906, the son of Patrick E Cotter and Johanna Murphy Cotter, who had emigrated from Ireland in 1902. His father was a laborer.[1]

At the age of eighteen, in 1924, Cotter enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Seward from 1924 through 1930 as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, which furnished communications within Alaska and to and from Alaska through a system of military telegraph and cable lines known as the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS). The system later expanded to primarily serve Alaska’s civilian population. He was transferred to Anchorage in 1930 and helped to establish the U.S. Signal Corps office here.

Cotter met Dorothea L. Davis in Anchorage and they were married in 1931. She was born on March 29, 1911 in Parkman, Wyoming, the second of five children and only daughter of Charles and Gertrude Davis. In 1927, her family moved from Sheridan, Wyoming to Anchorage, where Dorothy attended Anchorage High School and played center on the women’s high school and city basketball teams.[2] The family later moved to Hope, Alaska.

In 1934, Cotter was transferred to Seattle, Washington. The Cotter family, by the following year, included a son, John L. (born in Alaska around 1933), and a daughter, Joan (born in Alaska about 1935).   By 1940, the family had returned to Anchorage, where Cotter worked as a radio operator.[3] In 1945, he retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of captain, having completed twenty-one years as a radio operator, cable operator, Morse code operator, and cryptologist.

John and Dorothea Cotter retired in Seattle, Washington. On June 5, 1955, John Gerard Cotter died in Seattle. He was buried in the Fort Lawton Post Cemetery in Tacoma. His widow, Dorothea, remained in Seattle and worked at the Federal Reserve Bank and in retail banking for Pacific National Bank. She then moved to Hillsboro, Oregon and later to Boise, Idaho, to be near her daughter, Joan. In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her only son, John L. Cotter. She was survived by her daughter, Joan Cotter Goodman, of Boise, Idaho. She died on February 5, 2012, at the age of one hundred, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise.



[1] Patrick Cotter, 1910 U.S. Census, Boston, Ward No. 19, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, National Archives Microfilm Publication T624, Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Roll 624, ED 1545, page 13B, United States Federal Census 1910 [database on-line], (accessed July 23, 2016).

[2] Obituary, Dorothea Lucine Davis Cotter, U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], (accessed July 23, 2016); and John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 290-291.

[3] John G. Cotter, 1940 U.S. Census, Anchorage, Third Judicial Division, Alaska, ED 3-21, page 6B, National Archives Microfilm Publication T627, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, Roll 4580, 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line], (accessed July 23, 2016).


No biographical sketch of John Gerard Cotter was published in John Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001). See also the John Cotter file in the Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 2, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.  Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  edited by Bruce Parham and Walter Van Horn, July 23, 2016.

Preferred citation:  Bruce Parham and Walter Van Horn, eds. "Cotter, John G.," Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website,