Skip to Main Content

Short History of Military Nursing : U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps

U.S Cadet Nurse Corps

The Cadet Nurse Corps Program was supervised by the United States Public Health Service (PHS) to train nurses during World War II. After America entered the war, the demand for nurses increased dramatically, outstripping the supply and creating a shortage.[1]

Representative Frances P. Bolton of Ohio introduced her bill on March 29, 1943. The bill requested the establishment of a special government program to facilitate the accelerated training of nurses. Thus, a larger number of graduate nurses could be freed for military service overseas. Applicants would be granted subsidization of nursing school tuition, associated expenses, and a shorter training period. In exchange, applicants pledged to actively serve in essential civilian or other federal government services for the duration of the war. In addition, the bill would provide certain funds for participating, accredited schools of nursing. This measure intended to ensure that as many schools as possible would take part in the Cadet Nurse Corps program.

The Nurse Training Act (known as the Bolton Act) passed Congress unanimously. The bill was signed by President Roosevelt on June 15, 1943, and became Public Law 74 on July 1, 1943. The Cadet Nurse Corps (originally designated the Victory Nurse Corps) would be administered by the United States Public Health Service (PHS). The Division of Nurse Education was established in the PHS to supervise the Cadet Nurse Corps and answerable to the US Surgeon General, Thomas Parran, Jr., who appointed Lucile Petry, a registered nurse (RN), director of the Cadet Nurse Corps

To qualify, the women were required to be between 17 and 35, a high school graduate or a college student, in good health and mentally alert. Advertisements for the "war job with a future" promised free training with pay, room and board, and uniforms ("There's one for summer and one for winter, and it's hard to say which is the smarter, which you'll wear with more pride"). Applicants were assured they could wear "something frilly and feminine" for dances, and they would have time for dating.[2]

Nursing schools throughout the country were informed of the Cadet Nurse Corps program and invited to join. Schools who wanted to take part in the program had to fulfill minimal requirements. They had to be accredited, and affiliated with a hospital approved by the American College of Surgeons. The staff and the facilities had to be adequate, but superior standards were not required. Schools with substandard conditions were not rejected, but supported with funds from the Corps to improve their training possibilities. When the Cadet Nurse Corps program ended, 1,125 of the 1,300 nursing schools in the country had participated.


H.R. 1718: United States Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act
112th Congress, 2011–2012

To provide that service of the members of the organization known as the United States Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II constituted active military service for purposes of laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Rochester (NY) General Hospital U.S. Nursing Corp History (url has been shortened)

UW-Madison Library Books

To learn more about the UNited States Caet Nurse Corps, UW-Madison has many resources available within the library catalog.

Conduct UW-Madison Library Catalog Search

Online Records has made available a collection of more than 300,000 records of women who were in the Cadet Nursing Corps during World War II.  This database contains Cadet Nurse Corps membership cards providing details on women who joined the Corps. There are four different card forms: 300A, 300B (pre-May 1944), 300B revised, and PG 400, which recorded post-graduate information. NARA provides the following description of the forms and the information each includes:

“Form 300A is a membership card and includes the name of the cadet, serial number, name of the nursing school or hospital, address of the school, and dates attended. Form 300B (before May 1944) only identifies the cadet by serial number and includes statistical information about the cadet such as age, hometown, marital status, occupation of her father, and how she found out about the program. In May 1944, Form 300B membership card was revised to include the information that was contained in Form 300A and the previous version of Form 300B. Form PG 400 includes the name and address of the cadet and any post-graduate information such as the name of the university or hospital and what degree was earned.”

NOTE: when browsing the records, only the revised Form 300B is arranged alphabetically by name. All other cards are alphabetical by state, reflecting their archival arrangement.

Dissertatons about military Nurse Corps

A search of  "nurse corps" within the database "ProQuest Dissertations and Theses" yielded 296 works as of May 2, 2012.  This is only a small subset of a diverse body of work on the nurse corps of all U.S. military branches.

Tanner, J. D. (2011). Nurses in fatigues: The army nurse corps and the vietnam war. California State University, Fullerton). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses,

Matthews, T. (2011). Women and work: A focused examination of female contributions to the army nurse corps within the american military during the second world war. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale).

Provenzano, J. A. (2008). Federal nurse training legislation: A study in legislative opportunity. The American University).

Hudson, T. L. (2008). Re-evaluating retention: Shocks and intended separations in registered nurses and nurse anesthetists in the U.S. army nurse corps. Virginia Commonwealth University).

Harris, R. A. (2008). A qualitative descriptive study that identifies essential competencies and leadership characteristics of army adult medical-surgical critical care head nurses. George Mason University).

House, C. L. (2007). Army nurse officer retention: A qualitative examination of forces influencing the career longevity of army nurses. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro).

Vuic, K. D. (2006). "Officer. nurse. woman.": Defining gender in the united states army nurse corps in the vietnam war. Indiana University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 392 p.