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Today in World War II History—Oct. 9, 1943

B-17F of US 94th Bomb Group over Marienburg, Germany, 9 October 1943 (US National Archives)

B-17F of US 94th Bomb Group over Marienburg, Germany, 9 October 1943 (US National Archives)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 9, 1943: US Eighth Air Force sends 378 B-17 and B-24 bombers to bomb Marienburg, Anklam, Danzig, and Gdynia—their longest mission to date, which allows them to surprise the Germans.

Army Nursing in World War II – Training and Rank

The US Army Nurse Corps in World War II, part 2 - how were Army nurses recruited and trained, and what military rank they held.

During 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.

Part 1: Who Could Serve in the US Army Nurse Corps

Part 2: Recruitment, Training, and Military Rank

Part 3: Uniforms

Part 4: General Nursing Practice

Recruitment

The American Red Cross served as the traditional reserve for the Army Nurse Corps. As of June 1940, there were 942 women in the Army Nurse Corps, plus 15,700 in the Red Cross first reserve. In September 1940, the Red Cross called for the reserves to volunteer for active duty with a one-year commitment, and on October 8, the first Red Cross Nursing Service members were sworn into active duty.

The Red Cross continued to recruit nurses for the Army and Navy throughout the war, and posters, magazines, and public appeals let women know of the need. On January 6, 1945, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt proposed a draft for nurses in his State of the Union address, despite the fact that the Nurse Corps never had a shortage of nurses. On March 7, the House of Representatives passed the bill, but it languished in the Senate, and on May 24, President Truman stopped legislative action on the bill.

American Red Cross recruiting poster for nurses in WWII

American Red Cross recruiting poster for nurses in WWII

Training

Nursing schools stepped up the training of graduate nurses as universities and hospitals increased the number of slots for students.

At first there was no formal military training for nurses. On July 19, 1943, the first basic training center for nurses opened at Fort Meade, MD. Training centers were located at Fort Devens, MA; Halloran General Hospital, Staten Island, NY; Camp McCoy, WI; and Brooke General Hospital, San Antonio, TX. The nurses trained for four weeks, learning military courtesy and practices, sanitation, ward management, camouflage, the use of gas masks, and map reading. They also drilled and underwent physical training.

To learn about training of flight nurses in World War II, please see Medical Air Evacuation in World War II–The Flight Nurse.

US poster recruiting nurses, World War II

US poster recruiting nurses, World War II

Cadet Nurse Corps

To raise up an even greater number of nurses, Congress authorized the Cadet Nurse Corps on July 1, 1943. The government paid for women to attend civilian nursing programs in exchange for service in the Army Nurse Corps upon graduation. The women in this accelerated program (two and a half years instead of three) had their own special cadet uniforms.

Recruiting poster for the US Cadet Nurse Corps, World War II

Recruiting poster for the US Cadet Nurse Corps, World War II

Rank

Nurses entered the ANC as second lieutenants, and the vast majority stayed at that rank. The chief nurse of a hospital was usually a first lieutenant, but sometimes a second lieutenant or a captain. The highest rank was held by the superintendent of the ANC, a colonel.

At first, nurses held “relative rank.” They held the title, wore the insignia, were admitted to officers’ clubs, and had the privilege of the salute, but they had limited authority in the line of duty and initially received less pay than men of similar rank. On December 22, 1942, Congress authorized military nurses to receive pay equivalent to a man of the same rank without dependents, and on June 22, 1944, Congress authorized temporary commissions with full pay and privileges to military nurses.

One of the reasons nurses were granted officer status was to “protect” them from the great crowd of enlisted men, and—it was often believed—for male officers to keep the women for themselves. The Army had rules that prohibited fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel.

Sources:

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

Sarnecky, Mary T.A. History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. (A comprehensive history with a thick section on WWII).

Tomblin, Barbara Brooks. G.I. Nightingales: the Army Nurse Corps in World War II. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996. (A wonderful history, including all theaters, full of personal stories).

Today in World War II History—Oct. 8, 1943

Caserta Palace, Italy, WWII (US Army Center for Military History)

Caserta Palace, Italy, WWII (US Army Center for Military History)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 8, 1943: In Italy, US occupies Caserta Palace, future Headquarters of US Fifth Army.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 7, 1943

Memorial for the 98 US civilian contract POWs who were executed by the Japanese on 7 Oct 1943; an unidentified prisoner escaped and chiseled "98 US PW 5-10-43" on this rock before he was executed himself (US Air Force photo)

Memorial for the 98 US civilian contract POWs who were executed by the Japanese on 7 Oct 1943; an unidentified prisoner escaped and chiseled “98 US PW 5-10-43” on this rock before he was executed himself (US Air Force photo)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 7, 1943: Japanese execute all 98 US civilian construction POWs on Wake Island in reprisal for US air raids.

First German time bomb explodes in Naples, in the main post office, leading to 70 casualties; more bombs will explode over the next 3 weeks.

Movie premiere of Lassie Come Home, starring Roddy McDowall & Donald Crisp.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 6, 1943

Destroyers USS Selfridge (bow shot off) and USS O’Bannon at New Caledonia for repairs after Battle of Vella Lavella (US Navy photo)

Destroyers USS Selfridge (bow shot off) and USS O’Bannon at New Caledonia for repairs after Battle of Vella Lavella (US Navy photo)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 6, 1943: Naval Battle of Vella Lavella: US fails to prevent Japanese evacuation of the island; US and Japanese each lose one destroyer; last surface engagement in the Solomons and last clear-cut naval victory for the Japanese.

US Fifth Army reaches Volturno River in Italy.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 5, 1943

USS Minneapolis, USS San Francisco, and USS New Orleans bombard Wake Island, 5 Oct 1943 (US National Archives)

USS Minneapolis, USS San Francisco, and USS New Orleans bombard Wake Island, 5 Oct 1943 (US National Archives)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 5, 1943: US Navy Task Force 14 strikes Wake Island, and its aircraft destroy 61 Japanese planes.

US Fifth Army declares Naples secure.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 4, 1943

Pier built by US Army engineers over hull of sunken ship, Naples, 1943 (US Army Center for Military History)

Pier built by US Army engineers over hull of sunken ship, Naples, 1943 (US Army Center for Military History)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 4, 1943: Only US fleet carrier action in north Atlantic: in joint action with Royal Navy, aircraft from USS Ranger attack two German convoys at Bodø, Norway, sink 5 ships.

Free French secure Corsica.

First Liberty ship docks at Naples’s wrecked harbor.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 3, 1943

Map of the Solomon Islands area, WWII (US Army Center of Military History)

Map of the Solomon Islands area, WWII (US Army Center of Military History)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 3, 1943: Japanese finish evacuating Kolombangara, their last air base in the Solomons, after the island had been bypassed and isolated by the Allies.

Today in World War II History—Oct. 2, 1943

Australian transport company unloads supplies at Finschhafen, Oct. 1943 (Australian War Mermorial)

Australian transport company unloads supplies at Finschhafen, Oct. 1943 (Australian War Mermorial)

75 Years Ago—Oct. 2, 1943: Australians take Finschhafen, New Guinea.

Nazis arrest Danish Jews, but 7000 have been safely transported to Sweden and only about 500 remain in Denmark.

NFL season opens with new team, the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Combine, the “Steagles,” since the Steelers and the Eagles had been decimated by the draft.

New song in Top Ten: “Pistol Packin’ Mama.”

Army Nursing in World War II – Who Could Serve

The US Army Nurse Corps in World War II - part 1 of a 4-part series - who could serve in the ANC?

During 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.

Part 1: Who Could Serve in the US Army Nurse Corps

Part 2: Recruitment, Training, and Military Rank

Part 3: Uniforms

Part 4: General Nursing Practice

During World War II, 57,000 women served in the US Army Nurse Corps (ANC), 11,000 in the US Navy Nurse Corps (NNC), and 6500 in the US Army Air Forces. More than two hundred nurses died serving their country.

Requirements

To serve in the Army Nurse Corps, women had to be 21-40 years old (raised to 45 later in the war), unmarried (married nurses were accepted starting in October 1942), a high school graduate, a graduate of a 3-year nursing training program, licensed in at least one state, a US citizen or a citizen of an Allied country, 5’0”-6’0,” have a physician’s certificate of health and a letter testifying to moral and professional excellence.

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, WWII

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, WWII

Discharge

Pregnancy was the main cause of discharge from the Army Nurse Corps, or as the women called it, PWOP (Pregnant WithOut Permission). To discourage pregnancy, the Army had a cumbersome process to gain approval for marriage. To prevent pregnancy, the Army discouraged drinking, encouraged the women to socialize in groups, and took care with the location of nurses’ quarters. The second main reason for discharge was “neuropsychiatric,” also called combat fatigue (now called post-traumatic stress disorder).

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, 1945

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, 1945

Discrimination

Discrimination based on gender and race was rampant in the 1940s. Male nurses were not allowed in the ANC during World War II, just as female physicians were not admitted to the Medical Corps. In October 1940, a small quota of African-American nurses were admitted to the ANC. Despite a large number of black registered nurses in the United States, fewer than five hundred were allowed to serve, and then only to care for black patients or for prisoners of war. In July 1944, the Army removed this quota limiting the number of black nurses who could serve.

African-American US Army nurse Lt. Florie E. Gant tending a prisoner-of-war patient, England, 7 Oct 1944 (US National Archives)

African-American US Army nurse Lt. Florie E. Gant tending a prisoner-of-war patient, England, 7 Oct 1944 (US National Archives)

Sources:

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

Sarnecky, Mary T.A. History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. (A comprehensive history with a thick section on WWII).

Tomblin, Barbara Brooks. G.I. Nightingales: the Army Nurse Corps in World War II. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996. (A wonderful history, including all theaters, full of personal stories).