May 12

Happy Birthday to the Navy Nurse Corps

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:57 PM


Established by Congress on 13 May 1908, the Navy Nurse Corps has evolved with the nation’s needs in war and peace. From its original 20 female members, the Navy Nurse Corps expanded with the demands of World War I in the United Kingdom and Europe when the U.S. Navy deployed five base hospitals and a number of special operating teams, including those loaned to the U.S. Army during the 1918 offensives. By November 1918 there were some 1,550 Navy Nurses in naval hospitals and transports at home and abroad.

When World War II began nurses were aboard USS Solace (AH 5), which treated the casualties from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Others were among the Americans taken prisoner on Guam and in the Philippines. By 1945 some 11,086 nurses were serving in 40 naval hospitals, 176 dispensaries, and at 6 hospital corps schools. Overseas this included hospital ships, air evacuation facilities, and forward operating bases. The U.S. Navy assigned nurses relative rank in 1942, with actual rank established in 1944 and permanent commissioned rank as a staff corps in 1947. The first male nurses were commissioned in 1964; today men comprise about 25 percent of the Nurse Corps.

In Korea and Vietnam, Navy nurses once more served aboard hospital ships and at Navy support activities where sailors and Marines received life-saving medical care. After the Cold War there was renewed emphasis on humanitarian relief and disaster support. During the 1990–1991 Gulf War two hospital ships supported the fleet, and fleet hospital facilities operated ashore. Today the members of the Navy Nurse Corps continue this proud tradition of saving lives on land and at sea.