my new World War II novel, With Every
Letter (Wings of the Nightingale book 1), features nurses,
I'm conducting a blog series on Army Nursing during the war. Last week we looked
at requirements to serve in the Army Nurse Corps. Today, we’ll discuss the
training the nurses underwent and rank in the Army Nurse Corps. And in the
following weeks, I’ll provide details on uniforms and general nursing practices.
Recruitment and Training
The American Red Cross served as the
traditional reserve for the Army Nurse Corps. On October 9, 1940, the ANC
called the reserves to active duty, to volunteer for a one-year commitment. At
first there was no formal military training for nurses. On July 19, 1943, the
first basic training center for nurses opened. Training centers were located at
Fort Devens, MA; Halloran General Hospital, Staten Island, NY; Camp McCoy, WI;
and Brooke General Hospital in 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
To train the increased number of nurses
needed during the war, 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.
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.
Even so, 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.
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 against fraternization between officers and
This week I'm also guest blogging on Redwood's Medical Edge about flight nurses in World War II. We'll also be giving away a copy of With Every Letter, so stop by and leave a comment!
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
Labels: Army Nurse Corps, nurses, World War II