Tag Archives: American Military History

Military Nurses Save Lives and Affect the Course of History

This is a guest post and infographic about the history of nursing in the US Military.

Few careers give you the chance to have a profound impact on the course of history like nursing. Since the birth of the United States, nurses in the armed forces have made a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people. Military nurses have been caring for those dedicated to fighting for freedom since the Revolutionary War.

American Revolution

As with any war, the American Revolution brought forth an array of casualties. During the battle for independence from Britain, George Washington sought the aid of Congress in tending to the injured soldiers of the Continental Army. He knew and successfully convinced lawmakers that a victory against the Monarchy would not be possible with hundreds of injured soldiers incapable of fighting. Throughout history, male soldiers routinely provided nursing care; however, Congress approved the hiring of one woman to care for every 10 injured soldiers; this is well before nursing had become the regulated industry that it is today.

Women were initially paid $2.00 per month and one daily ration during service in the Continental Army, but the wage had risen to $8.00 by the end of 1777. According to the U.S. Army, today’s military nurses are eligible to receive a sign-on bonus of up to $30,000, little to no-cost health and dental insurance, student loan forgiveness programs — which may help alleviate up to $120,000 of debt — and 30 days of paid vacation every year.

Civil War

The outbreak of the Civil War saw an unprecedented number of men fall to fire when the Union fought the seceding Confederacy, and nurses were needed even more than during the Revolutionary War. There were still no education requirements for nurses at this time, and women, who aided in cooking and making clothes for soldiers, in addition to providing nursing care, were paid $12.00 per month. Nursing care continued to be provided by both men and women, but that would soon change.

Spanish-American War

In 1898, thousands of men perished at the hands of tropical diseases during the Spanish-American War. The U.S. Army granted a contract to 1,500 female nurses to provide help during the war, but 20 of them lost their own lives. At this point, the need for a governing agency for nurses in the military became evident, and Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee found herself drafting a bill to create the first Army Corps of Nurses in 1901, Carrington explains. The Army Corps of Nurses, which is the organization that all U.S. military nurses are a part of today, took immediate action towards regulating nursing in the military by forbidding men from performing nursing care. Seven years later, the Navy established their own Corps of Nurses as well.

World War I

As the world erupted into battle in 1917, more than 21,000 Army nurses and almost 1,500 Navy nurses joined the crusade against the Central Powers. Although 116,516 U.S. soldiers lost their lives during WWI, the number of deaths may have doubled without the care provided by these nurses, especially considering that nearly 400 nurses died from infections like the Spanish Flu. The courageous actions of nurses during WWI contributed to the passage of the Army Reorganization Act of 1920; this act recognized military nurses as holding slightly higher standing in the military than held previously.

World War II

WWII called up thousands more nurses than any battle before, approximately 74,000 women. In fact, the battle required so many more nurses than were available that the Cadet Nurse Corps sprang into existence, training 125,000 women for military service as nurses in 1943. Following WWII, military nurses were finally granted commissioned officer status, which paved the way for women to advance their careers in the military.

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Text and Graphic ©2015 by Monika Gomez

Veteran’s History Project by the Library of Congress

If you are a history geek like me, and I assume you are because you are reading the blog, then here is a project that should be interesting.  In the late 90’s and early 00’s there was a much bandied statistic floating around that 1,000 World War II vets died every day.  If that number were true then it is probably not true anymore because there probably are not enough World War II vets left to keep dying in those numbers for very long.

One thing that modern technology allows is to capture the memories of individual and put them into a form accessible to both the public and historians.  One project like that is the Veteran’s History Project by the Library of Congress.  What this project does is it “collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”  The project makes all of this material available through its own website and includes not just narratives but also pictures and videos made by the veterans.

What is neat about this project is that it depends on non-historians to collect the material for it.  The veterans themselves can submit their own stories or people who just want to preserve history can go out and interview vets for inclusion in the database.  They have a VHP Field Kit that people can download to help guide them in their interviews of vets.  I plan on filling one of the kits out with my own experiences and also interviewing my brother and father who are also both vets.  My dad was in Vietnam and my brother was in Operation Desert Fox in 1990 while I was in both Bosnia in 1995 and Iraq 2004-2005.

This is a great project for history teachers to get involved in.  Not only does it make the kids aware of the men and women who walk among them every day who put their lives on the line in service to the country, it also preserves the memories of the men and women for future generations.  I can imagine finding and interviewing a vet being a pretty enlightening project for high school sophomores or juniors.

Book Review: House of War by James Carroll

House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power is one of those books that when you are done reading it you cannot quite decide if it was worth reading or not.

If you want to know what history looks like, particularly American history, from the perspective of someone who sees evil and nefarious dealings in just about every single action taken by the United States then this is the book for you. I never thought I would see the day when the Marshall Plan would be described as economic warfare but it is in this book and that is just one example. I found it difficult to suspend disbelief and finish this book but I managed to man up and do so. This is history of the Zinn School. That is, it is a history written by a person consumed with spite and self-loathing for the culture and nation that nurtured and created them.

There are several outrageous claims made throughout the book and they all essentially boil down to America was/is evil.  Here are some examples:

  1. The Point Blank campaign that destroyed communications infrastructure in occupied Europe prior to the Allied invasion on D-Day was purposely designed to kill as many civilians as possible and any industrial or strategic effects were secondary results at best.  Richard Overy does a very good job of destroying this particular fanstasy in his recently published book, The Bombers and the Bombed.
  2. The Marshall Plan was not designed to help rebuild Europe from the devastation of WWII, it was economic warfare against the Soviet Union and had nothing to do with helping anybody.
  3. The Soviet land blockade of Berlin that led to the Berlin Airlift was a response to economic attacks by the West.  Specifically, he claims it was a response to the West’s apparently malicious introduction of the Deutsche Mark into the Western occupied zones.
  4. The North Korean’s were probably goaded into attacking the the South in 1950 by a speech by Dean Acheson.  The subtext here is that the war would not have happened if it were not for the US.

He goes on and on ad nauseum about NSC-68 being evil and completely ignores the fact that the strategy of communist containment outlined in the document was ultimately the strategy that won the Cold War for the West.  Of course, he thinks the West should not have won.  If you take this book at face value you would come away believing that Communists the world over are/were a bunch of peaceful little boggles that were forced into being the brutish thugs who murdered their own people by the millions because of the evil machinations of the West.  In this long story of the perfidy of the West the brutal Soviet crackdowns on satellite states are ignored and Soviet intervention elsewhere are always presented as being reasonable responses to Western aggression.

I would call this book a waste of paper but that is not strong enough. It is worthwhile in one respect though. If you can see beyond the banality and fake moralism it gives a pretty clear picture of the intense dislike of the modern American left for the United States.  I found myself wondering, if the author finds America so evil why is he still here? The one thing that comes through clearly in the entire book is the author’s conviction that America and the wider West are the true Evil Empire and it is only if the West gives itself over to the modern left/progressive movement that we can hope to atone for the sin of our very existence.  That all this comes from a de-frocked Catholic Priest should be no surprise.

I cannot recommend this book except as an excellent example of what infinitely biased history and twisted facts look like.  Luckily I did not pay for it having borrowed it from my local library.

Book Review: The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 by Richard Overy

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 is one of those books that is going to end up a standard work for a long time to come.  It is the single most comprehensive history of the Allied bombing of Germany and occupied Europe during WWII that I have seen since the strategic bombing survey published by the US government in the immediate post-war years.

I have a review copy of the book so the page counts may be a little different in the published version.  The book itself is 561 pages with 78 pages of notes, a 26 pages bibliography, and an 18 page index.  It is divided into six chapters.  The first three chapters are a chronological account of the air war over Germany and the last three are thematic dealing with the logic of bombing and the campaigns in Italy and the occupied countries.

Every book about the war talks about the bombing campaign and most take for granted that it was effective at least partially in reducing Germany’s war-making ability.  This book examines the war in detail and tries to establish the effectiveness, if any, of the Allied bombing offensive.  The answer is mixed at best.

It has always struck me as odd that despite the expenditure of hundreds of tons of bombs and the devastation of the center and surrounding regions of most industrial towns in Germany, german war production continued to increase throughout the war.  Indeed, the most productive war of the month in terms of number of tanks and aircraft constructed was march of 1945.  Given that, how could it be said that the bombing campaign was successful as many historians and the leaders of the campaign claimed?

The point of bombing was not to kill civilians, but to reduce the war making capacity of Germany.  What Dr. Overy makes clear is that while industrial capacity was negatively affected in the wake of many raids, what was lost was regained and then some so rapidly that production halts were temporary at best.  he attributes this to two causes; one, bombing accuracy was abysmal, and two, the Germans were very good at repairing damage and getting production lines running again.

It was considered a good raid by the british if there bombs fell within 5 miles of the target and three Americans thought within 3 miles was good.  Bombing accuracy was so bad because the bombers flew very high to avoid AA fire and in the case of the English, they flew at night.  The lower the bombers flew, the more accurate they were but they also suffered horrendous losses at low altitude due to AA fire and German fighters.

Added to bombing inaccuracy, was the depth and responsiveness of the German Civil and Air Defense Systems.  The Germans had a multitude of agencies tasked with dealing with raiding damage and the German people themselves pitched in to make things good.  The striking thing is that the Germans could have been even more effective if they had streamlined their civil defense organizations and avoided having a plethora of agencies trying to do the same thing.

The story of the bombing of italy shows that where the germans were very good, the Italians were very bad and italian civilians suffered as a result.  Of special interest is the discussion of the bombing of occupied countries and the response of the occupied people to the destruction and loss of life inherent in being bombed to get their freedom.

This is an outstanding book and I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they are knowledgeable about the Allied Bombing campaign of WWII.  The book dispels some myths and puts the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of strategic bombing in context to who the war was won and the Nazis defeated.