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Today in World War II History—Oct. 20, 1943

Irena Sendler, 1942 (public domain via Wikipedia)

Irena Sendler, 1942 (public domain via Wikipedia)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 20, 1943: United Nations War Crimes Commission is established.

Germans arrest Polish social worker Irena Sendler for smuggling 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto; she will be saved from her death sentence when Polish Resistance members bribe the guards to release her and mark her off as already executed.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 19, 1943

Chemical structure of streptomycin (public domain via Wikipedia)

Chemical structure of streptomycin (public domain via Wikipedia)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 19, 1943: Third Moscow Conference begins: Allies agree to strip Germany of territory acquired since 1938; Stalin agrees to demand Axis unconditional surrender.

Scientists at Rutgers University in NJ isolate streptomycin, the first aminoglycoside antibiotic—in clinical trial in March 1946, future Senator Robert Dole becomes the third patient treated with the medication.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 18, 1943

Recruiting poster for RAF Bomber Command, WWII

Recruiting poster for RAF Bomber Command, WWII

75 Years Ago—Oct. 18, 1943: Germans send first Roman Jews to Auschwitz; of 1200 Jews arrested in Rome, only 16 will survive the war.

On a mission to Hannover, Germany, RAF Bomber Command suffers its 5000th loss out of 144,500 sorties, 3.5% loss rate.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 17, 1943

“Bridge over the River Kwai” by Leo Rawlings, depicting four prisoners of war building bridge on Burma Railway, 1943 (Imperial War Museum)

“Bridge over the River Kwai” by Leo Rawlings, depicting four prisoners of war building bridge on Burma Railway, 1943 (Imperial War Museum)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 17, 1943: Japanese complete Burma-Siam “Death Railway,” 93,000 Allied POWs and natives were killed in its construction.

Germans begin evacuating art from the Abbey of Monte Cassino to the Vatican for protection as the Allies approach; most of the monks, nuns, orphans, schoolchildren, and refugees go to Rome as well.

Last German auxiliary cruiser in Pacific, Michel, sunk by sub USS Tarpon off Chichi Jima.

German troops unloading art treasures from the Abbey at Monte Cassino in the Vatican for protection, late 1943 (German Federal Archive: Bild 101I-729-0003-13)

German troops unloading art treasures from the Abbey at Monte Cassino in the Vatican for protection, late 1943 (German Federal Archive: Bild 101I-729-0003-13)

Today in World War II History—Oct. 16, 1943

Patch of the US Ninth Air Force, WWII

Patch of the US Ninth Air Force, WWII

75 Years Ago—Oct. 16, 1943: After transfer from Italy, US Ninth Air Force is re-formed as a tactical force at Sunninghill, England under Lt. Gen. Lewis Brereton (Eighth Air Force to be a strategic force).

US-built Lend-Lease destroyer escorts, transferred to the Royal Navy (which calls them frigates), enter combat for the first time, escorting an Allied North Atlantic convoy.

Italian Air Force begins to fly with Allies in Italy.

New song in Top Ten: “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”

Army Nursing in World War II – Uniforms

US Army Nurse Corps in World War II, part 3 - UniformsDuring World War II, members of the US Army Nurse Corps took care of the sick and wounded throughout the world, often in dangerous and difficult conditions. These brave women inspired four of my novels (A Memory Between Us and the Wings of the Nightingale series), so I’m sharing a four-part series on US Army nursing during the war. Earlier we looked at who could serve in the Army Nurse Corps and the training the nurses underwent and rank in the Army Nurse Corps. Today, we’ll look at uniforms, and next week at general nursing practices.

Ward and Dress Uniforms

At the beginning of the war, nurses wore a white ward dress with the white nurse’s cap on the ward. For outdoor use, they were also issued a set of “dress blues,” a dark blue service jacket and a medium blue skirt, a white or blue shirt, black tie, black shoes, and a dark blue garrison cap or service cap. This uniform is pictured on the cover of my second novel, A Memory Between Us. A dark blue cape lined with red and an overcoat were also used for outdoors wear.

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, WWII, showing the white ward dress, and the blue-and-maroon cape.

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, WWII, showing the white ward dress, and the blue-and-maroon cape.

A Memory Between Us, by Sarah Sundin, showing the US Army Nurse Corps dress blues uniform from WWII

A Memory Between Us, by Sarah Sundin, showing the US Army Nurse Corps dress blues uniform from WWII

Starting in July 1943, the blue uniform was replaced with an olive drab service jacket and skirt and cap, khaki shirt and tie, and brown shoes—but implementation was slow and sporadic. It was first issued for overseas use, and later for stateside use, with conversion complete by June 1944.

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, showing the olive drab dress uniform worn starting in 1943

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, showing the olive drab dress uniform worn starting in 1943

Field Uniforms

In combat areas, white ward dresses and skirted suits were absurdly impractical, but the Army was slow to provide appropriate clothing for women. In 1942 during the early campaign in North Africa, the women resorted to wearing men’s herringbone twill fatigues and boots—in men’s sizes.

The Army then provided brown-and-white seersucker ward outfits. Although seersucker is easily laundered, the nurses didn’t care for it, since seersucker was traditionally worn by nurse trainees. The wraparound dress was unpleasant to wear in windy conditions, so a skirted outfit and a trousers outfit in seersucker were provided by August 1943. A matching jacket was issued to convert to outdoor use. The seersucker uniform was worn with brown shoes and hat.

The nurses were eventually issued WAC (Women’s Army Corps) field uniforms and the popular Parson’s field jacket, which were better accepted.

US Army Quartermaster supply catalog QM 3-2, 7 October 1943, showing the olive drab and blue dress uniforms, the seersucker jacket, and the cape of the Army Nurse Corps (Source: US Army Service Forces)

US Army Quartermaster supply catalog QM 3-2, 7 October 1943, showing the olive drab and blue dress uniforms, the seersucker jacket, and the cape of the Army Nurse Coprs (Source: US Army Service Forces)

The service and dress uniforms worn in the US Army Nurse Corps in WWII (US Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History)

The service and dress uniforms worn in the US Army Nurse Corps in WWII (US Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History)

Insignia

The dress uniforms had maroon piping on the garrison cap, epaulettes, and cuffs. The rank insignia (a single gold bar for second lieutenants, the vast majority of nurses) was worn on the epaulettes. A gold “U.S.” pin was worn on each collar, and a gold caduceus with a red N was worn on each lapel.

For fatigue uniforms, ward dresses, or whenever the service jacket wasn’t worn, the rank insignia was pinned to the right collar, and the caduceus on the left.

US Army Nurse Corps Caduceus, WWII

US Army Nurse Corps Caduceus, WWII

Sources:

http://history.amedd.army.mil/ANCWebsite/anchome.html (The official website for Army Nurse Corps history.)

Brayley, Martin. World War II Allied Nursing Services. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2002. (Detailed description of military nurses’ uniforms).

Today in World War II History—Oct. 15, 1943

Portrait of Gen. William Slim and the badge of the Fourteenth Army, 1945 (public domain via National Archives, United Kingdom)

Portrait of Gen. William Slim and the badge of the Fourteenth Army, 1945 (public domain via National Archives, United Kingdom)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 15, 1943: British Fourteenth Army activated in India under Lt. Gen. Sir William Slim.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 14, 1943

Map showing US Eighth Air Force mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, 14 October 1943 (Source: US Air Force)

Map showing US Eighth Air Force mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, 14 October 1943 (Source: US Air Force)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 14, 1943: Schweinfurt mission: US Eighth Air Force sends 291 B-17s (plus 29 B-24s flying a diversion) to bomb ball-bearings plant at Schweinfurt, Germany, 60 B-17s lost; heavy losses lead to temporary suspension of daytime bombing without fighter escort.

Luftwaffe Oberleutnant Walter Nowotny becomes the first fighter pilot in the world with 250 victories.

Prisoners at Sobibor concentration camp destroy extermination facilities; 350 escape, 100 are recaptured, about 50 join partisans.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 13, 1943

US self-propelled 105-mm howitzer on a pontoon treadway bridge at the Volturno River, Italy, 1943 (US Army Center for Military History)

US self-propelled 105-mm howitzer on a pontoon treadway bridge at the Volturno River, Italy, 1943 (US Army Center for Military History)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 13, 1943: US Fifth Army crosses Volturno River in Italy, securing beachhead and valley.

Italy declares war on Germany.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 12, 1943

Low-flying US bombers dropping parachute bombs on Vunakanau airfield at Rabaul, 1943 (US Army Center of Military History)

Low-flying US bombers dropping parachute bombs on Vunakanau airfield at Rabaul, 1943 (US Army Center of Military History)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 12, 1943: Portugal allows Allies to use air and naval bases in the Azores.

US Fifth Air Force & Royal Australian Air Force begin major assault on Rabaul, New Britain, key to Japan’s South Pacific defense; 349 bombers strike, sinking 5 ships.