"I wanted to do something for the country": Experiences of military nurses in World War II

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Ellen D. Baer - Committee Chair


Twenty-nine military nurses who served in the Army Nurse Corps, Navy Nurse Corps, Cadet Nurse Corps and German Army during World War II were interviewed about their wartime nursing experiences. Analysis of the data of the nurses' collective experience identified themes of opportunity, reason for joining the military, youth and innocence, affecting experiences, and learned lessons. World War II represented an opportunity for the nurses to contribute to the war effort. They joined the military in response to the call to serve, out of a sense of duty, to demonstrate their patriotism, to do something different and nurse beyond a traditional hospital setting. The nurses' youth and relative innocence did not prepare them for the horrors of war. Caring for traumatic battlefield injuries matured them personally and professionally and they expressed pride in their ability to be part of this conflict. The nurses foreshadowed advanced practice roles as anesthetists and flight nurses. They expanded their professional autonomy through independent decisions making and critical thinking. As a group, the nurses downplayed the significance of their role in caring for the wounded. Collectively, their efforts are significant to the outcome of the war. The military nurses of World War II had an important role in reducing battlefield mortality. Their contributions have significance for military history, nursing history and women's history. These nurses challenged and overcame gender stereotypes of women's place in a military setting and met these challenges with intelligence, ability and courage.


History, United States; Women's Studies; Health Sciences, Nursing

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text