September 1, 1939 marked the beginning of the most deadliest and violent armed conflict in the history of mankind – World War II. Triggered by Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland, the war lasted for six years and resulted in more than an estimated 50 million military and civilian deaths from more than 30 different countries.1 World War II has much to teach, not only about military preparedness, global strategy, and the combined military operations in the coalition war against fascism, but also about the ways civilians became involved in the war – specifically, the impactful roles of women on the warfront. One of these ways women got involved was through nursing, which was a key element of healthcare during wartime. The war was a period of great advancements in medicine and was a direct response to the newly developed war weaponry. The role of women as nurses was crucial, as it was the potential difference between life and death for many wounded soldiers. The need for nurses became more obvious than at any other time in war history. As this nursing role became more and more critical as World War II progressed, the number of female nurses increased significantly. Most importantly, though, women were allowed to demonstrate their competence during even the most dangerous conditions. In recalling the history of World War II, the contribution of women nurses during the war is highly recognized and indispensable. Essentially, the war brought these women closer to battle than ever before seen. Their duties enabled them to participate in almost every aspect of the war. The skills and
1. Wikimedia Foundation. "World War II." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II (accessed March 17, 2014).
abilities of women nurses were considered so especially valuable, that the end of World War II had forever changed the face of military nursing.
The role of women prior to World War II was still extremely limited, as women were restricted to purely feminine jobs, including military nursing. Initially, the government discouraged women from performing any type of military service in the war. However, as it became clearer that the war required much more assistance than originally expected, women could perform technical jobs that were typically performed by men. In doing so, the services of women helped free men for battle. Prior to World War II, men were the main providing source for his family. Any woman who took a job in the workforce was, therefore, taking a job away from a man, who needed it to support himself and his own family. Women tended to work in various jobs such as in welding, machine repair, making weapons and ammunition, as well as other agricultural jobs, such as harvesting and plowing. As the war progressed, so did women's roles on the battlefield, including their role as army nurses.2
Women all over the United States came together to join the United States Army Nurse Corps, a group that was formally established in 1901.3 The Nurse Corps was...