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U.S. Army Nurses of Scott Field in World War II

  • Published
  • By Kris Matthews, 375th Air Mobility Wing Historian

While the previous installment of this series focused on the work of civilian women at Scott Field during the 1940s, women were not completely barred from the military. There were many obstacles in place restricting the capacity of their service but thousands of women found a way to aid their country during World War II. The most prominent of the early World War II-era at Scott Field were the Army nurses.

The U.S. Army Nurse Corps predated not only World War II, but also World War I.  Although women had served as nurses since the Revolutionary War, they were not made an official part of the military until the Army Reorganization Act of 1901.  Even then, certain inequities remained; women nurses would be appointed to an officer rank, but not commissioned, which led to them receiving lesser rights and privileges than a man wearing the same rank insignia, such as base pay. 

The explosive growth of the Army Nurse Corps matched the rest of the military components. In 1940 there were only 942 in active service; by 1942 that number was 12,475 and a year later the number had grown to 36,607. The specific amount of those women who were stationed at Scott Field is unknown, but we do have some indication of how prominent they were on post by looking at the artifacts of the time period. 

In April of 1941, construction of a new Scott Field hospital began (this building, P-4, is now the headquarters of 18th Air Force) as the World War I-era wooden building was no longer suitable for the demands of the new war.  The 600-bed facility required a robust staff, coinciding with the expansion of the Army Nurse Corps. By 1942, women had been stationed at Scott as nurses and integrated into the post community.  A regular feature in the base newspaper, The Broadcaster, was a short column in the squadron news section titled “Nurse to You” that served to welcome new nurses, say farewell to those nurses transferred to other bases, and update readers about the goings-on throughout the hospital and its staff. 

Scott’s nurses cared for patients around the clock at the base hospital, with both day and night shifts posted. Off-duty, they frequented the officers club on post, taking on male officers and fellow nurses in table tennis or billiards. They also ran their own mess service, played the piano placed in their barracks, and occupied their free time trying to learn Spanish. They were paid $111 a month, compared to the $166 to $280 a male second lieutenant made. In 1944, Congress fixed this with a law granting Army nurses temporary commissions, with full pay and privileges.


Army nurses did more than work at the hospital and socialize at the officers club, they were active supporters of combat operations. For example, they arrived ashore less than one week after the troop landings at Anzio, Italy and Normandy, France. This meant that Army nurses at all posts had to be ready for orders to hazardous duty locations. Scott nurses proved themselves to be a rough-and-tumble lot, with regular hikes and trips through the post obstacle course, usually in their white dresses. 

Photos from the time showed Army nurses taking part in the same readiness training as male soldiers, with nurses standing in formation wearing gas masks, white uniforms, and skirts while the training gas wafted around them. Afterwards, they took the opportunity to tackle the obstacle course again and again wearing the ever-present white skirt.

Throughout the war, Scott nurses would provide top-notch patient care here at home; many would also deploy overseas to the European and Pacific theaters. Members of today’s 375th Medical Group can trace their lineage to and take great pride in these outstanding women.