U.S. Nurses During World War I

When the United States entered the war in 1917, there were 403 active duty nurses in the Army; by June 1918, there were over 12,000 serving nurses (Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps, 8). They operated at times under horrendous conditions, in many instances assuming the roles of physicians. One such example is found in A History of Base Hospital 32 in which overwhelmed medical officers could not provide the anesthetic work that was necessary, so nurses and orderlies were called in (141).

A fuller history of the Army Nurses Corps is found in volume 13, part 2 of the Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War. Also, please consult Answering the call : the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, 1917-1919 : a commemorative tribute to military nursing in World War I. Contemporary histories, letters, and postcards can be found here including the oft-referenced The training camp for nurses at Vassar College (more on this camp is here as well).

There can be no doubt that nurses were among the bravest of the brave: “…three received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest award; twenty-four were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal; sixty-nine received the British Royal Red Cross; twenty-eight were given the French Croix de Guerre; and two received the British Military Medal.” (Army Nurses of World War One: Service Beyond Expectations)


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