Officer, Nurse, Woman
The Army Nurse Corps in the Vietnam War
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Introduction: “Lady, you’re in the army now”
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“I never got a chance to be a girl,” Kate O’Hare Palmer lamented, thirty-four years after her tour as an army nurse in Vietnam.1 Although proud of having served, she felt that the war she never understood had robbed her of her innocence and forced her to grow up too quickly. ...
1. “The Bright Adventure of Army Nursing”: Meeting Nursing Demands for the Vietnam War
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In April 1969, the U.S. Army ran a full-page advertisement in the American Journal of Nursing (AJN). Under the heading “Officer. Nurse. Woman,” an attractive, young nurse, wearing fatigues and carrying surgical scissors in her pocket, stood smiling. ...
2. “An officer and a gentleman”: Gender and a Changing Army
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Before their first assignment, new army nurses attended the Officer Basic Course, held at Fort Sam Houston’s Medical Field Service School. Whereas soldiers attended a basic training course meant to prepare them physically for the rigors of combat, members of the Army Medical Department (nurses, physicians, dentists, veterinarians, administrators, dietitians, and therapists)...
3. "A wonderful, horrible experience”: Nursing Education and Practice [Includes Image Plates]
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In May 1965, the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) had twenty-two nurses stationed at three hospitals in Vietnam. Chicago Tribune reporter Arthur Veysey visited the hospitals and wrote one of the earliest articles about American nurses in Vietnam to appear in the U.S. press. Veysey’s article, “Here’s Why Nurses Like Viet,” told a romantic tale of nurses finding love in war. ...
4. “Helmets and hair curlers”: Gender and Wartime Nursing
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On Sunday May 5, 1968, U.S. national and local newspapers ran the weekly edition of Charles Shultz’s Peanuts. In this edition of the popular syndicated cartoon, a disgruntled Snoopy, the “World War I flying ace,” exclaims, “Curse this stupid war!” Despondently fearing the war will never end, he decides, “perhaps one of the nurses at the dispensary will talk with me.” ...
5. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to just change our ways”: Wives, Mothers, and Pregnant Nurses in the Army
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“A general gave away one of the brides . . . The Roman Catholic chaplain-priest wore a gold chasuble on which was embroidered the Latin word pax, meaning peace. And ten minutes away Americans and Viet Cong were trying to kill each other.” ...
6. “You mean we get women over here?”: Gender and Sexuality in the War Zone
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While stationed at the 3rd Surgical Hospital in Dong Tam in 1968, Margaret Canfield and the other nurses participated in the Easter Bowl, a touch football game that pitted the hospital’s female nurses against the men from the nearby 9th Infantry Division. ...
7. “Not All Women Wore Love Beads in the Sixties”: Postwar Depictions of Vietnam War Nurses [Includes Image Plates]
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The last U.S. army nurse left Vietnam on March 29, 1973. Ten years later, Lynda Van Devanter’s autobiography, Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam, sparked public interest in the experiences of women who had served in the war. ...
Conclusion: Officers, Nurses, and Women
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The simple, limited images of nurses that emerged in the years after the war revealed none of the complexity of their experiences or the negotiation that occurred between the nurses and the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) over the nature and meanings of their service. A more accurate depiction of their service would have acknowledged multifaceted understandings of what it meant...
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Essay on Sources
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Most Army Nurse Corps (ANC) records are located in the ANC Archives in the Office of Medical History, Office of the Surgeon General, in Falls Church, Virginia. These archives were particularly helpful in outlining official policies about the use of nurses and the views of the ANC leadership on key issues as well as for correspondence between hospital chief nurses in Vietnam and ANC leaders in Washington, D.C., end of tour reports of...
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Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 16 halftones
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: War/Society/Culture
Series Editor Byline: Michael Fellman, Series Editor