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She treated patients exposed to mustard gas. Fairchild fell gravely ill and died three days later.
Her family records indicate that she had been heavily exposed to mustard gas while near the front. (1:9) World War II events provide excellent examples to illustrate the legacy of courage of military nurses. As U.S. entry in World War II approached, by December 1941, the Army Nurse Corps had expanded to 7,000 nurses and the Navy Nurse Corps to 787. By July 1942, there were almost 12,475 Army nurses and nearly 1,800 Navy nurses on active duty. Almost a year after the U.S. had entered the war, nurses remained the only women mobilized. (60:99)
• In February 1943, several units were trapped behind German lines, including nurses who insisted on staying until the patients could get out. One of the Army nurses, 1st Lieutenant Mary Ann Sullivan, received the Legion of Merit for valor when they finally escaped from Kasserine Pass under heavy enemy fire. (60:101)
• Army nurses staffed the hospital ship USS Comfort, which, while supporting the wounded from Okinawa, was hit by a kamikaze plane; six nurses were killed. (60:102)
• About 60 Red Cross nurses (half of whom joined the Army after the U.S. entered the war) were en route to England when their ship was torpedoed; they spent 12 days drifting in lifeboats. (60:105) Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 22
• Four nurses received the Purple Heart when the British ship carrying them to Italy in 1943 sank after a bombing attack. (60:105)
• In November 1943, an air evacuation plane carrying 13 flight nurses and medical crew crashed in Albania behind Nazi lines. Partisan guerrillas escorted the survivors on a twomonth, 800-mile foot journey through the mountains and snow, where they suffered frostbite, dysentery, jaundice, and pneumonia. Three nurses who had been separated at the crash spent five months behind enemy lines. (60:105)
• During the intense beachhead battle at Anzio, Italy, the German bombing and strafing of the tented hospital area killed six Army Nurses and one female Red Cross volunteer and wounded 16 other nurses. The nurses who were killed received Purple Hearts posthumously; the wounded women were awarded the same medal. The first women to receive the Silver Star decoration for valor were 1st Lieutenant Mary Roberts, 2nd Lieutenant Elaine Roe, 2nd Lieutenant Virginia Rourke, and 2nd Lieutenant Ellen Ainsworth for evacuating 42 patients during the German bombing raid at Anzio. (1:38) (60:104) (34) So inspiring was the valor displayed by these women that an attitude developed among combat troops trapped on the beachhead: “If they can do it, so can I.” (1:38) In all, more than 200 Army nurses lost their lives while serving their country during World War II, and 17 are buried overseas. (60:104) (34) Nurses received 1,619 medals, citations, and commendations during World War II, reflecting the courage and dedication of all who served.
Sixteen medals were awarded posthumously to nurses who died as a result of enemy fire.
Thirteen flight nurses died in aircraft crashes while on duty. Sixteen women received the Purple Heart, awarded to soldiers injured due to enemy action. The Bronze Star was awarded to 565 women for meritorious service overseas. Over 700 WACs received medals and citations at the end of the war. One of the women was Captain Lillian Kinkela-Keil, a member of the Air Force Nurse Corps and possibly the most decorated woman in the U.S. military. Captain Kinkela flew over 200 air evacuation missions during WWII as well as 25 Trans-Atlantic crossings. She went back to civilian flying with United Airlines after the war, but when the Korean conflict erupted she donned her uniform once more and flew several hundred more missions as a flight nurse in Korea. Captain Kinkela-Keil was the inspiration for the 1953 movie “Flight Nurses” and served as technical advisor to the film. (60:104) (34) During World War II military nurses served everywhere that soldiers, sailors, and aviators did, in more than 50 nations. Their male counterparts were so grateful that hundreds signed a letter to the Stars and Stripes newspaper in Europe in October 1944, thanking the women for volunteering to be there.
To all Army nurses overseas: We men were not given the choice of working in the battlefield or the home front. We cannot take any credit for being here. We are here because we have to be. You are here because you felt you were needed. So, when an injured man opens his eyes to see one of you... concerned with his welfare, he can't but be overcome by the very thought that you are doing it because you want to...
you endure whatever hardships you must to be where you can do us the most good.
(60:105) (11:92) The valor of nurses at Anzio in World War II was mirrored by American nurses 25 years later during the Viet Cong's 1968 TET Offensive during the Vietnam War. When the Vietcong offensive push came, the Army wanted to evacuate the nurses out of the area, but the women Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 23 said no. Although legally noncombatants, an operating room nurse who served at Pleiku,
Vietnam described what it was like during an enemy rocket attack:
We were responsible to protect all our patients. We had to go around dragging guys off the beds and getting them under the beds or bringing the mattresses up and covering them over. We were the ones who were protecting the men who were the patients. In the operating room, if the attack was bad, we would lower the operating tables as low as possible so we could operate on our knees, but you had to keep going and you did. (11:233) American women Prisoners of War (POWs) World War II women Prisoners of War Since the Spanish-American War, the Philippines had been a quasi-colony of the U.S.
Almost a hundred Army and Navy nurses were assigned there. By late December 1941, the Japanese Army was about to overrun the Philippines. Two Army nurses were taken prisoner.
Thirty-four Army nurses were evacuated to the island of Corregidor, 30 miles to the southeast of Manila. Eleven remaining Navy nurses were taken prisoner in January 1942 and taken to Santo Tomas prison in Manila, and moved to Los Banos prison in 1943. (60:99) (13) Fifty Army nurses and one Navy nurse were ordered to the Bataan Peninsula to establish two emergency hospitals to support the U.S. and Filipino troops fighting the advancing Japanese. By April 1942, when the Japanese were about to overrun that location, all 51 nurses were evacuated to Corregidor to join the 34 other nurses already at that position. Twenty-one of the 85 nurses on Corregidor were able to escape to Australia before the Japanese captured Corregidor. The other 64 became Japanese prisoners of war and were sent to the Santo Tomas prison in Manila. (A total of 77 nurses as prisoners of war were in two different prisons in the Philippines). (60:100) These women and their fellow civilian Filipino internees were subjected to deplorable conditions that led to many deaths among the civilian internees, due to malnutrition, disease, torture, and abuse by their captors. (27) (31) Five other Navy nurses, training native nurses and corpsmen on Guam, also became prisoners of war when the Japanese took over the island in December 1941. They were sent to a prison camp in Japan, and released in June 1942 as exchange prisoners. U.S. forces liberated the 66 nurses at Santo Tomas prison in February 1945, after 32 to 37 months of internment. The other 11 Navy nurses were liberated from Los Banos also in February 1945 after 37 months of internment. In all, 82 Army and Navy nurses were prisoners of war in the Pacific in World War II. Each was presented with the Bronze Star. (60:99) Colonel Ruby Bradley was one of the Army nurses liberated from a Japanese prison camp after being incarcerated for 37 months during World War II. She later went on to become a frontline Army nurse in the Korean War on the day 100,000 Chinese soldiers overran American troops in North Korea. She became America's most decorated military woman, earning 34 medals and citations for bravery, including two Bronze stars. (34) Flight nurse Reba Whittle was wounded and became a German prisoner of war for five months when her C-47 crashed behind enemy lines in 1944. (60:105) (13) (34) Florence Ebersole Smith Finch, a native of Ithaca, New York, was part of the Filipino underground during World War II. She was caught in October 1944 smuggling food, medicine, and other supplies to Americans captured by the Japanese. She was tortured and routed through Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 24 three prisons before Americans liberated the Philippines in 1945. Immediately following her release, she enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARS). Finch was the first SPAR to receive the Pacific Campaign ribbon and one of the few women to be presented the U.S. Medal of Freedom. (23) Persian Gulf War women Prisoners of War The 1991 Persian Gulf War provided clear evidence of the continuing military power of the U.S. It sent over 500,000 troops to that war, a contingent that included nearly 7% women, the largest group of servicewomen that the U.S. had ever sent to a military conflict. The first American female prisoner of the Gulf War was Army Specialist Melissa Rathbun-Nealy. She had been sent to the Gulf in October 1990 and stationed in Dhahran. (26) The Iraqis captured her on January 31, 1991 when her convoy was off course. The Iraqis held her for 33 days. She was released to the Red Cross on March 4, 1991. (26) The second female prisoner of war in the Persian Gulf was Army Major Rhonda Cornum.
An extremely multifaceted individual, Cornum holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry, was selected as an astronaut candidate, went to airborne school, and became a physician and flight surgeon. With a Ph.D. in nutrition and biochemistry, she entered the Army as a first lieutenant and was promoted to captain two months later. She attended the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda.
Cornum obtained her degree there, became a flight surgeon, and learned to fly helicopters and airplanes. While head of Primary Care and Community Medicine at an Army Community Hospital, she volunteered to go to the Gulf War, leaving her husband and daughter behind.
(6:45-53) During the Gulf War, as part of a search and rescue team, Cornum went on a helicopter mission to rescue an F-16 pilot who had been shot down. Her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down during the mission. When she regained consciousness after the crash, the Iraqis captured her. She had two broken arms, one of which was separated, and a bullet embedded in her back shoulder. Five of the crew were dead. She and two of the crew survived. (6:45-53) (60:14) While in this serious physical condition, she was moved from bunker to bunker, interrogated, and finally sent to prison. On the way, she was re-united with the other two surviving members of the mission. (60:14) While in a pickup truck on the way to prison, she was sexually molested by one of her captors. A male prisoner had to watch helplessly. Cornum commented on the
You don't expect to be raped when you walk down the streets of your hometown, but it is an occupational hazard of going to war, and you make the decision whether or not you are going to take that risk when you join the military. (1:148) On their 6th night of captivity they and the other American POWs (including the F-16 pilot that they had set out to rescue) were released to the Red Cross. (60:18) After her POW
experience, Cornum had these comments:
... women who are motivated to be in the military have the same range of reasons as men. In terms of performance, there’s also that same range. I think some women will be terrific, some will be brainless, and the vast majority will simply do their job and do it well. And I think the percentages of women in these categories will be approximately the same as for the men. The things that are really important are loyalty and integrity, moral courage, a sense of humor, Women's History Month 2001: Inspiring Stories of Vision and Courage 25 dedication, and commitment. I don’t think those things are any better represented in either sex. I think there should be no positive and no negative discrimination based on gender–or, for that matter, on race or anything else. I think a person’s potential and his or her demonstrated performance should be the only criteria used in the assignment of people or in their selection for future training.... prejudice is based on ignorance, and that the only effective way to fight prejudice is with experience. Given the opportunity and rational leadership, men and women work together and bond just fine, particularly during conflict and adversity. It’s pretty simple: we must all judge others on what they do, not what they are. (60:20, 23) Martha Raye “Colonel Maggie, a great soldier” During the Vietnam War, U.S. Special Forces (popularly called the Green Berets) were frequently under attack at their forward-deployed isolated base camps. A frequent visitor to these dangerous camps was Hollywood entertainer and comedian, Martha Raye, upon whom the Green Berets had bestowed the honorary rank of colonel. She was called Colonel Maggie by thousands of admiring American soldiers in Vietnam. On one occasion of her numerous visits to the troops, she begged Army authorities to let her extend her tour through the Christmas season, explaining that she had no family at home. Raye said, “These gallant boys are my family.” (1:5) Raye's long history of supporting the military began in 1942 during World War II when she asked to go to England, then to North Africa, to entertain troops before the U.S.O. had been organized. During the Korean War, Raye was unable to tour with the U.S.O. because of health complications from yellow fever she had contracted in North Africa during World War II. But when the Vietnam War began, she was back on the front lines supporting the troops. She spent as much as six months of the year in Vietnam for nine straight years. (55) During the infamous TET Viet Cong offensive of 1968, Raye was visiting the Green Berets' camp in the Mekong Delta. Viet Cong mortar shells and rockets pounded the base, and several men were wounded. There were no nurses at this remote outpost, so Colonel Maggie, wearing her green beret, combat boots, and a white surgical smock over her camouflage fatigues, helped tend the wounded troops. She assisted the Green Beret surgeon who operated on the casualties in a makeshift operating room as the exploding Viet Cong shells and rockets surrounded them.