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[FROM a brochure prepared in the U.S. Army Center of Military History by Judith A. Bellafaire]
The Army instructed the American Red Cross, which throughout the war had been responsible for the recruitment of nurses to recruit nurses for the Army Nurse Corps.
Over59,000 American nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than they ever had before. Within the “chain of evacuation” established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes.
The Army Nurse Corps listed fewer than 1,000 nurses on its rolls on 7 December 1941, the day of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Eighty-two Army nurses were stationed in Hawaii.
Six months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, there were 12,000 nurses on duty in the Army Nurse Corps. Few of them had previous military experience, and the majority reported for duty ignorant of Army methods and protocol. Only in July 1943 did Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, Commanding General, Army Service Forces, authorize a formal four-week training course for all newly commissioned Army nurses. This program stressed Army organization; military customs and courtesies; field sanitation; defense against air, chemical, and mechanized attack; personnel administration; military requisitions and correspondence, and property responsibility. From July 1943 through September 1945 approximately 27,330 newly inducted nurses graduated from fifteen Army training centers.
Throughout 1941 the United States had responded to the increasing tensions in the Far East by deploying more troops in the Philippines. The number of Army nurses stationed on the islands grew proportionately to more than one hundred. Most nurses worked at Sternberg General Hospital in Manila and at Fort McKinley, 7 miles outside the city. However, a few nurses were at Fort Stotsenberg, 75 miles north of Manila, and two worked at Camp John Hay, located 200 miles to the north in the mountains. Several nurses worked on the island of Corregidor.
The Japanese attacked the Philippines on 8 December, Philippine time. Clark Field, adjacent to the Army hospital at Fort Stotsenberg, suffered a three-hour air raid during which planes, barracks, and field shops were bombed.
The hospital escaped damage, but the large number of casualties from the air attack overwhelmed the small staff. The chief nurse at Sternberg sent several of her nurses to Stotsenberg to help cope with the emergency. They remained at Stotsenberg until 27 December when they received orders to evacuate to Manila. By that time Japanese forces had landed on the main island of Luzon and were approaching the city of Manila from the north. All of the nurses stationed outside of Manila reached the city except for two nurses stranded at Camp John Hay, who were taken prisoner by the Japanese.
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In February 1945 U.S. troops liberated the sixty-seven Army nurses who had been imprisoned in Santo Tomas Internment Camp since 1942 and evacuated them to a convalescent hospital on Leyte.
Nurses received 1,619 medals, citations, and commendations during the war, reflecting the courage and dedication of all who served.
Sixteen medals were awarded posthumously to nurses who died as a result of enemy fire. These included the 6 nurses who died at Anzio, 6 who died when the Hospital Ship Comfort was attacked by a Japanese suicide plane, and 4 flight nurses. Thirteen other flight nurses died in weather-related crashes while on duty. Overall, 201 nurses died while serving in the Army during the war.
When W.W.I began in Europe in June of 1914, the American Red Cross was a small organization that had yet to fully develope identity or programs. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany and the Red Cross as an organization began a period of extraordinary growth. By the time the war ended in November 1918, the Red Cross had transformed itself almost overnight into the large and important organization it is today.
Camp Service (established in 1917). Field directors and their assistants provided supplementary supplies, such as clothing and comfort items, and recreational and welfare services, everything from movies and refreshments to communications and financial aid to military personnel. At home, Camp Service operated in 400 military camps, hospitals and other installations. It maintained 250 buildings of its own, including convalescent houses, nurses’ houses, headquarters, warehouses, and garages. Overseas the Camp Service operated in 25 countries providing services to American and Allied servicemen. Through its Camp Service, the Red Cross helped practically every solider, sailor, and marine in the service of the United States.
Canteen Service (1917). The Red Cross provided food and snacks as well as leisure articles, to troops primarily when they were in transit at railroad stations and ports of embarkation and debarkation. By the end of the war, 55,000 canteen workers operated 700 canteens in the United States that served nearly 40 million refreshments. Overseas, the American Red Cross operated 130 canteens in France alone that served some 15 million American and Allied soldiers.
Home Service (1917). Provided aid to the families of service personnel. This included financial assistance, communication between troops and home, and information and guidance regarding such things as government programs and military regulations. By the end of the war, the Red Cross estimated that 50,000 volunteers in 3,620 chapters serving 10,000 American communities had assisted 500,000 dependent families.
Production Corps (1917). Responsible for the production of garments, surgical dressings and other medical supplies, comfort kits, and additional items for the benefit of American and Allied soldiers and sailors and destitute civilians in war-torn countries. Eight million volunteers, with help from Junior Red Cross members, produced over 372 million relief articles during the war years with a value of nearly $94 million. For additional information, see American Red Cross Production Corps.
Nursing Service (1909). Already established as an important branch of the Red Cross before the war, the Nursing Service greatly expanded with the coming of hostilities. Its principal task became to provide trained nurses for the U.S. Army and Navy. The Service enrolled 23,822 Red Cross nurses during the war. Of these, 19,931 were assigned to active duty with the Army, Navy, U.S. Public Health Service, and the Red Cross overseas. The Red Cross also enrolled and trained nurses’ aides to help make up for the shortage of nurses on the homefront due to the war effort. Both Red Cross nurses and nurses’ aides were also enlisted in the battle against the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918.
Hospital Service (1916). The Red Cross recruited almost 24,000 nurses and well over 2,000 nurse’s aides, physicians, and dietitians to meet the military’s needs. It also secured trained medical and psychiatric social workers to help veterans make the readjustment back to civilian life that many found difficult to do.
Hospital and Recreation Corps (1918). This Corps began at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. where women volunteers acted as hostesses and provided recreational services to patients, most of whom were war veterans. The women wore gray dresses and veils as uniforms and the soldiers affectionately called them “the gray ladies,” the name by which they became officially known after World War II. During World War I, the service quickly spread beyond Walter Reed to both military and civilian hospitals.
Motor Service (1917). The Red Cross Motor Service provided transportation support to canteens, military hospitals, and camps, and was involved in the campaign against the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918. The Service consisted almost entirely of women volunteers, most of whom used their own cars. Many enrolled in auto mechanics classes in order to be able to make repair
The American Red Cross involvement in World War II preceded the entrance of the United States into the conflict. When hostilities began in Europe in 1939, the Red Cross became the chief provider of relief supplies for the civilian victims of conflict distributed by the Geneva-based International Red Cross Committee. In February 1941, the Red Cross responded to a request by the U.S. government to begin a Blood Donor Service to produce lifesaving plasma for the armed forces in anticipation of America’s entry into the war. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Red Cross quickly mobilized a volunteer and staff force to fulfill the mandates of its 1905 congressional charter requiring that the organization “furnish volunteer aid to the sick and wounded of armies in time of war” and to “act in matters of voluntary relief and in accord with the military and naval authorities as a medium of communication between the people of the United States of America and their Army and Navy.”
At home, millions of volunteers provided comfort and aid to members of the armed forces and their families, served in hospitals suffering from severe shortages of medical staff, produced emergency supplies for war victims, collected scrap, ran victory gardens, and maintained training programs in home nutrition, first aid, and water safety. Overseas, Red Cross workers served as field directors providing compassionate support for the troops they accompanied, operated clubs and clubmobiles for the armed forces, and were attached to military hospitals, hospital ships, and hospital trains.
At the peak of Red Cross wartime activity in 1945, 7.5 million volunteers along with 39,000 paid staff provided service to the military. Throughout the war years, the Red Cross served 16 million military personnel, including one million combat casualties. By the time World War II ended in September 1945, the American public had contributed over $784 million in support of the American Red Cross. Nearly every family in America contained a member who had either served as a Red Cross volunteer, made contributions of money or blood, or was a recipient of Red Cross services.
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