Tuesday, 27 December 2011

United States Army Nurse Corps

It's hard to find sources which outline the involvement of American nurses in the Great War. A few served with the British Expeditionary Force in France from as early as 1915, but the majority arrived with the entrance of the US into the war in 1917, and worked with the American forces in areas outside of those controlled by the British. Recently a friend came across a brief history of the US Army Nurse Corps and bought it for me (thanks Harry!). Below is an extract which describes the activities of American nurses during WW1. It surprises me that considering the short period that the US were involved overseas, and the small numbers of both troops and casualties, relative to the other Allied nations, that there was such a high number of American trained nurses taking part in some capacity or another. I can only wonder at how so many women were kept fully employed.


30 June 1918
Of the 12,186 nurses on active duty, 5,350 were serving overseas

9 July 1918
The Nurse Corps (female) was redesignated the Army Nurse Corps by the Army Reorganization Act of 1918. The 1918 Act restricted appointments to women nurses. Base pay was increased to $60 per month.

11 November 1918
Armistice Day. During World War 1, the peak strength of the Army Nurse Corps reached 21,480 on 11 November 1918. More than ten thousand nurses had served in overseas areas in France, Belgium, England, Italy, and Serbia, as well as in Siberia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Included were ten Sisters of Charity who served with Base Hospital No.102 in Vicenza, Italy. Army nurses were assigned to casualty clearing stations and surgical teams in field hospitals as well as to mobile, evacuation, base, camp and convalescent hospitals. They also served on hospital trains and transport ships. Following the Armistice, nurses served with the occupation forces in German until the American forces were returned in 1923.

Several nurses were wounded, but none died as a result of enemy action. There were, however, more than two hundred deaths largely caused by influenza and pneumonia. The Distinguished Service Cross (second in rank only to the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration in combat) was awarded to 3 Army nurses. The Distinguished Service Medal (highest decoration in noncombat) was awarded to 23 Army nurses. In addition to other United States Army decorations, 28 Army nurses were awarded the French Croix de Guerre, 69 the British Royal Red Cross, and 2 the British Military Medal. Many Army nurses were named in British Army dispatches for their meritorious service.

Nurses who remained in the United States served with distinction in busy cantonment and general hospitals, at ports of embarkation, and at other military outposts. Many were cited for meritorious service.

Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps
Edited by Carolyn M. Feller and Constance J. Moore
U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1995

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