Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Wartime Wednesday: Nurses in the Army and Navy Medical Corps

Wartime Wednesday: 
Nurses in the Army and Navy Medical Corps

Fewer than 1,000 nurses comprised the Army Nurse Corps when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The Navy Nurse Corps had only 800. Both corps had been created in the early 20th century as auxiliaries to established branches, but were not officially part of the armed forces, nor were their ranks equal to those held by men in service.

To serve in the Army Nurse Corps, women had to be 21-40 years old (later in the war this would be raised to aged 45), unmarried (married nurses were accepted beginning in October 1942), a high school graduate, a graduate of a 3-year nursing training program, licensed in at least one state, and a U.S. citizen or citizen of an Allied country. Interestingly, there were height requirements, and nurses could only be 5’0” to 6’0” tall. Applicants must also have a physician’s certificate of health. And as with many of the women’s organizations during the war, the individuals had to provide a letter testifying to moral and professional excellence.

The Cadet Nurse Corps was created during the summer of 1943 and allowed women ages 17-35 to
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receive free nursing education, room and board, and uniforms. Applicants had to hold at least a high school diploma. The program’s accelerated curriculum aimed to get nurses into hospitals to fill the shortage in public facilities as well as army and navy facilities. The program lasted from July 1943 to December 1948 and trained nearly 125,000 nurses.

Army and Navy nurses served in all types of hospitals from field stations to evacuation and convalescent hospitals as well as on ships, trains, and aircraft. They also served in every theater of the war, some of whom were taken prisoner, such as those in the Philippines and Guam.

It was not until the summer of 1942 that nurses in both the Army and Navy Medical Corps received full military service recognition. A Congressional act gave them pay and allowances equal to that of male officers. Additionally, Congress authorized the promotion of nurses to relative ranks of Major and Lt. Colonel (previous advancement was limited to Captain). Two years later, on June 22, 1944, nurses were granted full officer status which included full retirement privileges, dependents’ allowances, and equal pay.

National Women's
History Museum
Unfortunately, discrimination played a large role in the Corps. Male nurses were not allowed in the Army National Corps, and only a small quota of African-American nurses was admitted. Fewer than five hundred were allowed to service, and then only to care for black patients or POWs. The quota was lifted in July 1944.

More than 59,000 women served in the Army Nurse Corps and 11,000 in the Navy Nurse Corps. Through their diligence, the mortality rate for Americans wounded in action was less than four percent. With the Army-Navy Nurses Act, the Army Nurse Corps was made a full branch of the regular U.S. Army, and the Navy Nurse Corps a full branch of the Navy on April 16, 1947.


War’s Unexpected Gift (part of A Merry Heart anthology)

Love and war don’t mix. Or do they?

Eager to do even more for the war effort, nurse Gwen Milford puts in for a transfer from a convalescent hospital outside of London to an evac hospital headed across Europe. Leap-frogging from one location to the next, nothing goes as expected from stolen supplies to overwhelming numbers of casualties. Then, there’s the handsome doctor who seems to be assigned to her every shift. As another Christmas approaches without the war’s end, can she find room in her heart for love?

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1 comment:

  1. My WIP has a navy nurse at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7. I had a steep learning curve before starting this book.