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G.I. Nightingales

G.I. Nightingales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II

Barbara Brooks Tomblin
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    G.I. Nightingales
    Book Description:

    "Weaving together information from official sources and personal interviews, Barbara Tomblin gives the first full-length account of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in the Second World War. She describes how over 60,000 army nurses, all volunteers, cared for sick and wounded American soldiers in every theater of the war, serving in the jungles of the Southwest Pacific, the frozen reaches of Alaska and Iceland, the mud of Italy and northern Europe, or the heat and dust of the Middle East. Many of the women in the Army Nurse Corps served in dangerous hospitals near the front lines -- 201 nurses were killed by accident or enemy action, and another 1,600 won decorations for meritorious service. These nurses address the extreme difficulties of dealing with combat and its effects in World War II, and their stories are all the more valuable to women's and military historians because they tell of the war from a very different viewpoint than that of male officers. Although they were unable to achieve full equality for American women in the military during World War II, army nurses did secure equal pay allowances and full military rank, and they proved beyond a doubt their ability and willingness to serve and maintain excellent standards of nursing care under difficult and often dangerous conditions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7020-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-x)
  4. 1 Mobilizing for War
    (pp. 1-12)

    On October 8, 1940, Miss Agnes C. Rosele stepped forward at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., to be sworn into the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Rosele was the first of 4,019 Red Cross nurses to be transferred from reserve to active duty on the eve of World War II. At the brief ceremony, Capt. James L. Murchison, adjutant at Walter Reed Hospital, administered the oath, while Edith Starr, a Navy nurse, and Monica F. Conter, an Army nurse, looked on. An Associated Press photographer captured the historic moment as Rosele, in her starched nurse’s cap, white uniform, and...

  5. 2 War Comes to the Pacific: U.S. Army Nurses at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines
    (pp. 13-37)

    While Maj. Julia Stimson’s office in Washington was preparing for a national “emergency,” Army nurses overseas in 1941 were going about their daily peacetime routines all but oblivious to the war clouds gathering on the horizon. At bases in the Panama Canal Zone, Hawaii, and the Philippines, Army nurses were thoroughly enjoying the benefits of overseas duty, opportunities to travel, sightsee, and practice their nursing skills in a relaxed atmosphere on Army posts that often featured swimming pools, golf courses, tennis courts, horseback riding, and social activities at officer’s clubs. In the fall of 1941, 2d Lt. Revella Guest was...

  6. 3 Across the Pacific: Nursing in the Central Pacific and Southwest Pacific Area
    (pp. 38-66)

    With the exception of American nurses already stationed in the Philippines, Guam, or Hawaii in 1941, the first American servicewomen to be sent to the Pacific theater during World War II were U.S. Army nurses. They accompanied Army hospital units assigned to the Pacific to care for the first American troops sent to that theater. The early months of 1942 were dark days for the United States and its allies. Combined Japanese land and naval forces had decimated the Asiatic Fleet, captured the British bastion of Singapore, and by March 1942 were poised to strike at Darwin, Australia. They had...

  7. 4 The Torch Is Lit: Army Nurses Support the Invasions of North Africa and Sicily
    (pp. 67-94)

    As thousands of American troops were arriving in the southwest Pacific in 1942, others were being convoyed across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom in anticipation of a Second Front against the Axis in Europe. Allied leaders were under strong pressure to go on the offensive somewhere in the West in 1942. However, after prolonged debate the Combined Chiefs of Staff decided not to launch a cross-channel attack in 1942, but to mount three separate amphibious landings on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar in early November. Code-named TORCH, the operation would be coordinated with a major British offensive...

  8. 5 Fifth Army First: Nursing in the Italian Campaign
    (pp. 95-119)

    With the Allies firmly ashore on the island of Sicily, Allied planners could turn their attention to the next objective in their strategic plan to attack the Axis’s “soft underbelly.” On July 17, 1943, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, buoyed by the early successes of the Sicilian operation, decided that the Allies should give serious consideration to an invasion of the Italian mainland. In Washington, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall seconded Eisenhower’s choice, stressing the early capture of the Italian capital at Rome. Restricted in their choice by the need to keep the invasion beaches within range of...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. 6 To the Rhine and Beyond: Army Nurses in the European Theater of Operations
    (pp. 120-152)

    Many nurses sailing for distant shores early in World War II were destined for U.S. Army bases or airfields in Great Britain. Our buildup of medical personnel in the United Kingdom was so gradual, however, that a nursing section was not established in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) until July 21, 1942. When the ETO’s chief nurse, Capt. Margaret E. Aaron, reported for duty, she found only 359 nurses in the theater, half of them serving at two Army hospitals, the Tenth Station and Fifth General, in Northern Ireland. The Thirtieth General was the only Army hospital in England...

  11. 7 The End of the Line: Nursing in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations
    (pp. 153-171)

    While the Pacific theaters absorbed the bulk of American fighting forces during 1942 and 1943, other Allied troops were waging war against the Japanese in India and Burma. Although the British had committed the most troops to what became known as the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater, the United States’s Lend Lease commitments to China led to an early American involvement in the area. Although not a large force, Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell’s American troops in the CBI were assigned medical support in the form of U.S. Army medical units and Army nurses. In fact, for two years the only American servicewomen...

  12. 8 They Also Served: The Army Nurse Corps at Home and in the Minor Theaters of War
    (pp. 172-203)

    Although most Army nurses in World War II were assigned to hospital units in the continental United States or in major theaters of war, thousands of nurses served in minor theaters from Alaska to Iceland, Africa, and the Middle East. Their experience, although less well known, was equally valuable and often quite interesting. The first Army nurses to be sent to foreign soil during World War II were nurses of the Eleventh, Sixty-seventh, and 168th Station Hospitals, who departed by convoy in mid-September 1941 for Iceland. Prior to the nurses’ arrival, medical support for the American troops in Iceland was...

  13. 9 Peace at Last! Demobilizing the Corps
    (pp. 204-211)

    Although Army nurses remained on duty in the Pacific after the Japanese surrender, V-J Day brought the Army Nurse Corps’ World War II experience to a close. All the challenges of the next few months—demobilization, the return of soldiers and sailors to the United States in Operation “Magic Carpet,” the occupation of Germany and Japan—belong to the Army Nurse Corps’ postwar story. In August 1945, when the Japanese government accepted the terms of unconditional surrender, over 57,000 nurses were serving with the Army Nurse Corps, well over twice the number participating in World War I. During World War...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 212-231)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 232-238)
  16. Index
    (pp. 239-255)