Army Nursing in World War II - Requirements

Since my new World War II book, With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale book 1), features nurses, I'm starting a blog series on Army Nursing during the war. Today we’ll look at requirements to serve in the Army Nurse Corps. Next week, I’ll discuss the training the nurses underwent and rank in the Army Nurse Corps. And in the following two weeks, I’ll provide details on uniforms and general nursing practices.

During World War II, 57,000 women served in the US Army Nurse Corps (ANC), 11,000 in the Navy Nurse Corps (NNC), and 6500 in the Army Air Forces. More than two hundred nurses died serving their country.


To serve in the Army Nurse Corps, women had to be 21-40 years old (raised to 45 later in the war), unmarried (married nurses were accepted starting in October 1942), a high school graduate, a graduate of a 3-year nursing training program, licensed in at least one state, a US citizen or a citizen of an Allied country, 5’0”-6’0,” have a physician’s certificate of health and a letter testifying to moral and professional excellence.

Pregnancy was the main cause of discharge from the Army Nurse Corps, or as the women called it, PWOP (Pregnant WithOut Permission). To discourage pregnancy, the Army had a cumbersome process to gain approval for marriage. Other methods to prevent pregnancy included careful placement of nurses’ quarters, discouraging drinking, and encouraging the women to socialize in groups. The second main reason for discharge was “neuropsychiatric,” also called combat fatigue.


Discrimination based on gender and race was still rampant in the 1940s. Male nurses were not allowed in the ANC during World War II. In October 1940, a small quota of African-American nurses were admitted to the ANC. Despite a large number of black registered nurses in the United States, fewer than five hundred were allowed to serve, and then only to care for black patients or for prisoners of war.

Sources: (The official website for Army Nurse Corps history.)

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 personal stories).

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