Those of us who have been to war came to know and to love these heroes for their courage, their care, their unquestioned dedication to save our lives. Who are they? They are the nurses of the Army, Navy, and Air Force who have served along with us in war and peace. Every single one of them is and has been a volunteer in every war.
This video is a powerful revelation of the history of the women who have served as nurses to the troops in the field through all of our wars. You will be introduced to some women individually, but the story is really about all of these courageous women who have gone beyond the call of common citizenship to serve our troops in their time of greatest need. It is a story that needs to be told and honored by all Americans.
You will hear the name of Dr. Mary Walker mentioned in relation to the Civil War. I wrote about her in the past, as she is the only woman in our history to have been awarded the Medal of Honor for her actions on behalf of the Union forces, especially at the Batlle of Bull Run and as a spy. After the war, there were attempts to strip Dr. Walker of the Medal of Honor because she was a woman, but she wore that medal proudly to the day she died.
You will also be reminded of the truly primitive medical conditions that the soldiers and the nurses and doctors had to work under. It really was hellish.
The Spanish-American War in 1898 saw nurses being sent to support the troops outside of this country for the first time. They had to battle not only the wounds of war but also the deadly diseases in the tropical climate of Cuba, with malaria and yellow fever claiming many lives, including those of some of the nurses.
The Spanish-American War ended, and the military, especially the U.S. Army, decided that nurses were so necessary to military success that, in 1901, the Army Nurse Corps was established as a permanent unit of the United States Army. The United States Navy, which established the Navy Hospital Corps to train enlisted men as field medics and for medical service on ships in 1898, established the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908.
In 1917, when the U.S. sent troops to Europe to help the allies against the Germans, there were only 400 Army Nurses in the Nurse Corps. By the end of the war, only a year later, 20,000 nurses had gone over to Europe. On the front lines, those nurses, along with the allied troops, experienced for the first time in history the devastating effects of chemical warfare and saw and treated the horrendous wounds that the then-new weapon of the machine gun could cause to soldiers’ bodies. They were there to care for the wounded and the dying on the worst day of WWI, when, at the Somme, over 50,000 men were killed in one day. Those nurses were there, and their actions saved many.
Many of you may not know this, but Army nurses took part in the D-Day invasion. Nurses and medical units landed on the beaches on D-4, the fourth day of the invasion, and they moved forward with the allies for the rest of the war. They landed at Anzio in Italy, which, as you may know, was not as swiftly successful as the landings up in Normandy on D-Day.
The Germans counterattacked and trapped the Allied forces on the beaches for several days. The nurses that went ashore were caught up in that too, with the constant shelling and bombardment. Some were wounded as well. But they did their jobs with cool, calm, practiced, and skillful care. Over 1,600 women were decorated for valor during WWII across every theater.
One of the most harrowing stories for Army and Navy Nurse Corps nurses during WWII was the result of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Many of them were captured either in Manilla when the Japanese took the city or as a result of the Allied surrender during the Battles of Bataan and Corregidor. They continued to serve as a nursing unit as prisoners of war. They were given the nickname the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor. Over the course of WWII, 250 nurses were killed in action.
The nurse Ruby Bradley is a story all by herself for the work she did during the Korean War. She would become the most decorated woman in Army history to that time.
Vietnam veterans have long and lasting memories of the brave nurses who cared for them in the hospitals in-country or on the hospital ships offshore. The quality and the skill of those nurses in Vietnam, and the speed with which troops could be gotten to medical care because of helicopters, made it possible for 98% of those who would make it to those hospitals to survive their wounds and go home. Among the 58,328 names of those who died that are etched into the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., there are 8 women, all of whom were nurses.
The nursing and medical advances that have been made in warfighting conditions have dramatically raised the ability of the wounded to survive the even more devastating wounds of modern weapons and things like IEDs of today’s wars. And nurses, doctors, Corpsmen, and medics are doing that life-saving work every day.
There are two things to take away from this piece: first, the skill and dedication of the modern medical corps are second to none; and second, there is no doubt about the incredible courage and skill of our nurses, medics, and doctors in the field.
We honor and thank all who have served in the Nurse Corps of all of our military branches. You are the best there is. You truly are angels to those who have been wounded. Those of us who have been cared for by you will remember you always. God bless you all.