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The Army Nurse Corps in the Korean War

In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

Nurses Land at Inchon

On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

Combat Conditions

The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

"I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

Medicine and Science

The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

A Small, but Proud Corps

The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

Sources

Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps


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node/273 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 363 [plid] => 0 [link_path] => node/261 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => History [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -48 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 363 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => History [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => 1 [access] => 1 [href] => node/261 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => active-trail ) ) ) ) [#children] =>
  • History
  • [#printed] => 1 ) [418] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => expanded ) ) [#title] => Outreach [#href] => node/435 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( [426] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => first [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => KW60 Events [#href] => node/435 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 426 [plid] => 418 [link_path] => node/435 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => KW60 Events [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -50 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 418 [p2] => 426 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => KW60 Events [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/435 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [888] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Become a KW60 Ambassador [#href] => node/480 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Contact Us ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 888 [plid] => 418 [link_path] => node/480 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Become a KW60 Ambassador [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Contact Us ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -48 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 418 [p2] => 888 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Become a KW60 Ambassador [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/480 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( [title] => Contact Us ) ) ) ) [719] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => KW60 Ambassadors [#href] => node/451 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 719 [plid] => 418 [link_path] => node/451 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => KW60 Ambassadors [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -47 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 418 [p2] => 719 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => KW60 Ambassadors [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/451 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [993] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Forums [#href] => forum/6 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 993 [plid] => 418 [link_path] => forum/6 [router_path] => forum/% [link_title] => Forums [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -42 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 418 [p2] => 993 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => Array ( [1] => forum_forum_load ) [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => user_access [access_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;s:14:"access content";} [page_callback] => advanced_forum_page [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => forum/% [title] => Forums [title_callback] => t [title_arguments] => [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [href] => forum/6 [access] => 1 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 418 [plid] => 0 [link_path] => node/435 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Outreach [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -47 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 418 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Outreach [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/435 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) [#children] =>
  • Outreach
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a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Press Releases [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/267 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [427] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => KW60 Newsletter [#href] => node/271 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 427 [plid] => 758 [link_path] => node/271 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => KW60 Newsletter [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -49 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 758 [p2] => 427 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => KW60 Newsletter [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/271 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [982] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Latest News [#href] => blog [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 982 [plid] => 758 [link_path] => blog [router_path] => blog [link_title] => Latest News [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => system [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -48 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 758 [p2] => 982 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => views_access [access_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;a:2:{i:0;s:16:"views_check_perm";i:1;a:1:{i:0;s:14:"access content";}}} [page_callback] => views_page [page_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:15:"enterprise_blog";i:1;s:4:"page";} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => blog [title] => Latest News [title_callback] => t [title_arguments] => [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [href] => blog [access] => 1 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [698] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Press Coverage [#href] => node/460 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 698 [plid] => 758 [link_path] => node/460 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Press Coverage [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -46 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 758 [p2] => 698 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Press Coverage [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/460 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [422] => Array ( [#theme] => menu_link__main_menu [#attributes] => Array ( [class] => Array ( [0] => last [1] => leaf ) ) [#title] => Public Service Announcements [#href] => node/266 [#localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [#below] => Array ( ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 422 [plid] => 758 [link_path] => node/266 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Public Service Announcements [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 0 [expanded] => 0 [weight] => -45 [depth] => 2 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 758 [p2] => 422 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Public Service Announcements [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/266 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#theme_wrappers] => Array ( [0] => menu_tree__main_menu ) ) [#original_link] => Array ( [menu_name] => main-menu [mlid] => 758 [plid] => 0 [link_path] => node/267 [router_path] => node/% [link_title] => Media & Press [options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) [module] => menu [hidden] => 0 [external] => 0 [has_children] => 1 [expanded] => 1 [weight] => -46 [depth] => 1 [customized] => 1 [p1] => 758 [p2] => 0 [p3] => 0 [p4] => 0 [p5] => 0 [p6] => 0 [p7] => 0 [p8] => 0 [p9] => 0 [updated] => 0 [load_functions] => a:1:{i:1;s:9:"node_load";} [to_arg_functions] => [access_callback] => node_access [access_arguments] => a:2:{i:0;s:4:"view";i:1;i:1;} [page_callback] => node_page_view [page_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [delivery_callback] => [tab_parent] => [tab_root] => node/% [title] => Media & Press [title_callback] => node_page_title [title_arguments] => a:1:{i:0;i:1;} [theme_callback] => [theme_arguments] => a:0:{} [type] => 6 [description] => [in_active_trail] => [access] => 1 [href] => node/267 [localized_options] => Array ( [attributes] => Array ( ) ) ) [#children] =>
  • Media & Press
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  • Donate
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  • Education
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  • Veteran Services
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  • Contact Us
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    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

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    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

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    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>

    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

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    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

    [summary] => [format] => full_html [safe_value] =>

    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

    [safe_summary] => ) ) [#formatter] => text_default [0] => Array ( [#markup] =>

    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

    ) ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>

    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

    [#printed] => 1 ) [#sorted] => 1 [#children] =>

    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

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    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

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    In June 1950, the North Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and mounted a swift and unexpected attack on the citizens of the Republic of Korea. At that time, only one Army Nurse Corps officer was on duty on the Korean Peninsula. That solo Army nurse, assigned to the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG), was Captain Viola B. McConnell. In the frenzied aftermath of the invasion, she organized and supervised the evacuation of the ill, the infirm, those who were military family members and other American expatriates who previously had resided in the beleaguered country to a place of safety. The constituency of the group provides hints at the challenges confronting McConnell. The band of 643 evacuees included 277 children some of whom were suffering with diarrhea, pneumonia, chickenpox and strangulated hernia; four pregnant women, almost ready to deliver; two elderly ladies, one senile and the other with advanced arthritis; and a handful of alcoholics in various stages of withdrawal. McConnell shepherded this flock onto a small, 12-berth Norwegian ship, the Rheinholt, and the vessel set sail for Japan. On the odyssey, McConnell's only assistants were a United Nations nurse, an Army wife who was a nurse, six missionary nurses and one female missionary physician. Fortunately the voyage lasted only two days. Doubtless, it was for her strategic pragmatism and steadfast leadership that McConnell later was awarded the Bronze Star.

    Meanwhile in occupied Japan, 87 Army nurse volunteers, who then were stationed in that island country, mobilized with the first of a handful of units to provide medical support for the U.N. Forces in Korea. Among members of these first units were the 12 nurses of the 8055 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). They arrived in Pusan, a southern seaport city, on July 6, 1950, in the dreary rain. But greater difficulties were to come. Constantly on the move in a variety of filthy, flea-ridden conveyances as the line advanced and retreated, the nurses improvised and functioned in an array of expedient shelters such as tentage, barns, schoolhouses, rice mills and churches.

    Nurses Land at Inchon

    On Sept. 15, when MacArthur boldly landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also came ashore on the very same day of invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing. Their mission was to support X Corps. By October 1950 they were on the move to Pusan traveling on a one-lane road over a mountain pass when the enemy attacked. They took cover in ditches for 14 hours while the battle raged on. Their situation was not unique but was shared with other Army Nurse Corps officers during the first year of the war.

    By the end of 1950, 249 Army Nurse Corps officers were in Korea. The demand for more Army nurses in the combat zone drastically depleted nurse strength in other facilities of the Far East Command and in other Army units worldwide. Additional Army Nurse Corps officers or even replacements were few as both the Army and the nation were in the midst of a nursing shortage dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II.

    The Army nurses of the 4th Field Hospital, the 8055 MASH, the 171st and 121st Evacuation Hospitals, the 1st MASH and the 8063 MASH followed the troops as U.N. forces reclaimed ground lost during the enemy's push south to the Pusan Perimeter. They entered the city of Seoul, and advanced north of the 38th parallel toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China. When China launched her major offensive against the U.N. forces with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, Army nurses continued to serve before they were ordered to a position of relative safety in Ascom City eight miles from Inchon.

    Combat Conditions

    The Army Nurse Corps officers in these units followed a time-honored precedent when they accepted the stressful and challenging responsibilities of combat nursing. These women far exceeded the normal scope of nursing practice as they independently triaged, started blood transfusions, initiated courses of penicillin and sutured wounds. They discharged logistical responsibilities by monitoring the supply chests and ordering replacement blood, oxygen and water. They improvised whenever supplies and equipment were not available, scrounging useful items from deserted family quarters or remaking discarded bits and pieces into functional tools. They managed overwhelming numbers of patients, regularly caring for 200 or more critically wounded soldiers and Marines in a 60- bed MASH. During rare quiet moments, they searched for strategies to improve their performance and avoid future blunders. In their limited off-duty hours, they assisted the long-suffering local populace. Usually, they carried out their mission in stark settings with few resources. Adverse weather conditions were the norm. Extended periods of rain and mud were exceeded only by bitterly cold winters or sizzling hot summers. Field uniforms were scarce and woefully inadequate. The ill-fitting garments provided little protection in the frigid months and were unbearably hot during the sweltering summers.

    In spite of the overwhelming challenges, Army Nurse Corps officers who witnessed combat in the Korean War derived some positive outcomes from their service. First Lieutenant Mary C. Quinn wrote later, divulging her view of the experience:

    "I learned different things about myself, where some of my weaknesses were, where some of my strengths were. I learned, I think, an awful lot more tolerance of other person's points of view…. I learned a lot from other people. I think that is one of the things about us being in the service, is that you are exposed to so many different people from so many different places. If you're wise, you can pick up a lot of good information from them. If you're not wise, then you become very regimented in your own thinking and you just never progress very far—tunnel vision…. I grew from that experience, both as a nurse and as a person."

    Medicine and Science

    The Army nurses assigned to unique units also served with heroism in difficult circumstances. Members of the 11th Evacuation Hospital pioneered the art and science of renal dialysis nursing. They were among the first nurses to support patients with hemorrhagic fever on a first generation artificial kidney machine.

    Additionally, the Army Nurse Corps officers who served in POW hospitals faced many ambiguities and complex dilemmas. They learned to spray all newly-admitted patients with DDT to eliminate vermin and subsequently dealt with numerous cultural differences, dissension and even brawls among their patients. The nurses whose assignments were on hospital trains worked as long as their duty train rolled the rails, providing routine and emergency care to the sick and wounded evacuees. Typically, they were the senior medical officers on the coach and accordingly were the ultimate authority aboard.

    Following their service, psychic after effects touched the Army nurse veterans of Korea. After returning home, Quinn recognized that her personality had subtly changed. She was reluctant to converse with friends and family about her war time experiences, expecting that they just would not understand. At some later date, Captain Catherine Wilson reluctantly agreed to recall her wartime experiences even though, as she put it, she simply preferred to forget them. Wilson maintained that while it generally was a good practice to prepare for future conflicts, she personally did not aspire to participate in any further hostilities. Both Quinn's and Wilson's sentiments echoed those of many of the Army Nurse Corps veterans of the Korean War and bear testimony to the stressful nature of the experience.

    A Small, but Proud Corps

    The exact number of Army Nurse Corps officers who saw action in the Korean War over the course of the three-year conflict is unknown. However, estimates of Army nurse participants vary from 540 to 1,502. An undetermined number of Army Nurse Corps officers served in the Far East Command at that time. While not physically located in the combat zone, these women suffered many of the same deprivations, rose to meet similar relentless challenges and worked long, hard hours. Indeed, the contributions of all Army Nurse Corps officers who served during the Korean War, whether in Korea, the Far East Command, or in other worldwide locales, were significant. Because the nation and the Army Nurse Corps were simultaneously locked in the depths of a critical and dangerous nursing shortage, it is noteworthy that the small number of caregivers was capable of providing support for the enormous numbers of casualties generated. 

    In this era, the Army rarely acknowledged the contributions of service members with awards. They recognized only the highest levels of performance. Thus it is not surprising that during the Korean War, authorities approved and awarded only nine Legions of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons to Army nurses whose service during the hostilities was exceptional. 

    Only one Army nurse, Major Genevieve Smith, lost her life as a result of the war. Smith was en route to Korea for her assignment as chief nurse of the Eighth U.S. Army in the initial days after the invasion. However she tragically perished when the aircraft on which she was traveling crashed.

    The Army Nurse Corps officers who served in the Korean War exhibited many hallmarks, shared in common with their counterparts in other 20th century wars. In virtually every combat setting these women were an important element of the total force. They exercised an uncommon spirit of volunteerism, a high level of readiness, an expanded scope of nursing practice, a mastery of field expediency and courage under fire. 

    Mary T. Sarnecky, Ph.D.

    Sources

    Feller, Carolyn M., and Constance J. Moore, eds. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (1995).

    Cowdrey, Albert E. The Medic's War (1987).

    Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps

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