History of Military Nurses in World War II

“When I look back at my service in the Army Nurse Corps, it was like being a butterfly released from a chrysalis. I joined to serve my country. Instead my country served me. It opened a new world to a self-conscious, small town girl and made her feel as though she mattered.”’ 1.

When the U.S. entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 there were fewer than 7,000 army nurses on active duty. There were 1700 navy nurses, both active duty and reserve combined. By the end of the war there were over 59,000 army nurses and 14,000 navy nurses. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than they ever had before.When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, nurses responded treating the first casualties and preventing further loss of life and limb. Within the "chain of evacuation" established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes. Army nurses were” assigned to hospital ships and trains; flying ambulances; and field, evacuation, station, and general hospitals at home and overseas.” .

Army NursesAnzio  2 days after landing.jpg

On November 8 during the invasion of North Africa, a Medical Corp Captain starting down the cargo net into a landing barge, looked to one side and saw an army nurse descending the net alongside him. At that moment, in his mind a paradigm shift occurred – “At that moment, she and the other nurses had ceased to be ‘the women’. We were all comrades in equally dangerous footing, trying to survive the insanity of combat.”

Two evacuation hospitals, with their complement of nurses, landed in Normandy on June 1944, four days after the invasion.

  1. McCall, Susan, Colonel United States Army (1993) Lessons Learned By Army Nurses in Combat: Historical Review DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A:Approved for public release. Distribution is unlimited. USAWC CLASSUSAWC CLASS OF 1993 U.S. ARMY WAR COLLEGE, CARUSLE BARRACKS, PA 17013-5050. (p. 13

  2. http://womenofwwii.com/navy-nurses/

  3. Judith A. Bellafaire History by. The Army Nurse Corps. U.S. Army Center of Military https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/72-14/72-14.HTM

  4. Ibid

  5. Monahan, Evelyn and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee. 2004. And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II. Anchor Books –Division of Random House. pp.458-

  6.  https://e-anca.org/History/ANC-Eras/1940-1950

Meeting the Need For Nurses

At the start of WWII there were approximately 8700 active nurses in the service. In order to meet the wartime need for nurses to care for the military personnel and civilians, a major recruiting campaign started after Pearl Harbor. WWII nurses had to be between the ages of 21 and 40, with no children under 14. The American Red Cross Nursing Service and the National Nursing Council for War Service assisted in managing recruitment. Campaigns aimed at stirring the patriotic inclinations of young nurses swept the nation. Posters and pamphlets urged young women to “Become a nurse: Your country needs you”

Cadet Nurse Corp
Frances Payne Bolton, a United States Representative from Ohio, called for an innovative program to resolve the nation’s shortage of nurses. Backed by over $150 million in federal funds, the Cadet Nurse Corps program was signed into law in 1943 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Cadet Nurse Corps

Memories of my Student Nurse Days
at the Springfield Hospital Training School for Nurses
Springfield, Massachusetts in the Cadet Nurse Corps during and after World War II

February 6, 1945 to February 6, 1948

Cadet Nurse Corps - You Tube Videos

WWII - Cadet Nurse Corps Link to
short video : GOOD AGE: "Don't let the
Cadet Nurse Corps slip away https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCdi9vTwe98#action=share

Memories of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BbxUSq_VRA

Stories and Oral Histories of WWII Nurses - You Tube

Nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes. Army nurses were” assigned to hospital ships and trains; flying ambulances; and field, evacuation, station, and general hospitals at home and overseas.” . Nurses, along with medical staff cared for wounded in hospital ships and were transported via ship, to the field. Several nurses were killed in action (K.I.A.) when their ships were torpedoed or bombed.

U.S.S. Comfort - the story of a KIA nurse in the Pacific during WWII

You Tube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEVkRqEK_nI

Canteens & Lipstick: WWII nurse recalls invasion of Normandy on D-Day

First Lieutenant Josephine Margaret Pescatore Reaves retells her experience surviving D-Day and the invasion of Omaha Beach -- the code name for one of five sectors during the Normandy landings -- on June 6, 1944, during World War II. Reaves worked as an evacuation-hospital nurse in the United States Army Nurse Corps and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for her service. You Tube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfb4T7ao2_4

Experiences of a Female Nurse during World War II

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyJmek20QSA

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