U.S. Army Nurse Corps: “Courage to Care”

October 12, 2016

Military and women’s history intersect in many ways. For more than two centuries, thousands of qualified women have served America in the Army Nurse Corps in particular. Each military branch has their own nursing corps. GPO makes available U.S. Army Center of Military History’s “Highlights in the History of the Army Nurses Corps.”

Poster encouraging women to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Interested citizens could apply at Red Cross recruiting stations.This booklet chronicles the contributions of women nurses throughout the development of the Army Nurse Corps. Their story begins during the American Revolution when General George Washington asked Congress for nurses “to attend the sick.” In the decades that followed, whenever the military establishment expanded or contracted, medical services followed suit.

The Spanish-American War was a turning point for military nurses. Although not commissioned as a regular part of the Army, more than 1,500 female civilian nurses volunteered to care for the wounded. Shortly thereafter, in 1901, the female Nurse Corps became permanent under the Army Reorganization Act.

Poster encouraging women to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Interested citizens could apply at Red Cross recruiting stations.

Poster encouraging women to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Interested citizens could apply at Red Cross recruiting stations.

If there ever was a time when the Army Nurse Corps was an indispensable part of the American military establishment, it was during WWII. Several pages of the book are devoted to this period. At one point the number of active duty nurses swelled to 57,000. Sixty-six were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese in the Philippines. Many landed in North Africa on the day of 1942 invasion. Others arrived just days after the 1944 Normandy beach landing. Tragically, by the war’s end, 215 Army nurses died while serving.

Be it on base battlefield hospitals in WWII France, in MASH units on the front lines of the Korean War, or among a 6,000 strong crew during Vietnam, Army nurses helped to save tens of thousands of lives. Numbers may have waned in peacetime but standards in training and care never did.

U.S. Army Nurse 1st Lt. Arnelle Lewis takes a Guatemalan boy's temperature during a medical readiness training exercise in Santa Cruz Balanya, Guatemala, on March 10, 2007. Lewis is a registered nurse attached to the U.S. Virgin Islands Army National Guard.

U.S. Army Nurse 1st Lt. Arnelle Lewis takes a Guatemalan boy’s temperature during a medical readiness training exercise in Santa Cruz Balanya, Guatemala, on March 10, 2007. Lewis is a registered nurse attached to the U.S. Virgin Islands Army National Guard.

Today, the Army Nurse Corps is made up entirely of registered nurses. Army nurses are deployed all over the world in support of humanitarian and anti-terrorism missions. According to the Corps’ official creed, members continue to have the “courage to care, courage to connect, and courage to change.”

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Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

About the author: Blogger contributor Chelsea Milko is a Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.


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