Navy Nurse Corps

In 1908, the U.S. Congress passed a bill creating the Nurse Corps (female) of the U.S. Navy. In the 19th century, male enlisted men, called loblolly boys, had assisted navy medical officers, but in 1861, the title and rating became “nurse.” This entry discusses the history of the Navy Nurse Corps, with a focus on its growth, milestones, and leaders.

Early History

During the U.S. Civil War, five African American women served as nurses along with male nurses and nuns of the Holy Cross School of Nursing on the Red Rover, a paddle-wheel steamer designated as the navy’s first hospital ship. Before being taken out of service in 1865, the Red Rover cared for 2,947 sick and wounded men along the Mississippi River.

Although not enlisted in the ...

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