COLUMN: Celebrating World War II cadet nurses

This plaque honoring the United States Cadet Nurse Corps was installed in the Statehouse.

This July 1st is “WWII Cadet Nurse Day” in Massachusetts, the 79th anniversary of the United States Cadet Nurse Corps. A bronze plaque now hangs in Nurses Hall of the Statehouse to honor the 9,000 Massachusetts women who served in the USCNC. For Mary Maione of Hamilton, Eleanor Wyckoff of Lynn, Betty Beecher of Weymouth, Dottie Hall of Westford, Evelyn Benson of Brookline and the few remaining nurses, the legacy of the USCNC matters. They are trying to pass legislation to make WWII Cadet Nurses honorary veterans.

When war broke out, one-third of experienced nurses left the workforce for military service. This resulted in a critical nursing shortage on the home front, causing hospitals to close.

To meet this wartime crisis, Congress established the USCNC on July 1, 1943. Using an aggressive and effective advertising campaign, girls as young as 17 years voluntarily enlisted in this new corps. They were issued military uniforms, underwent accelerated nursing training and pledged their “service in essential nursing for the duration of the war”, not knowing when that would be.

In the rank of Senior Cadet, the nurses were deployed anywhere needed in the 48 states and territories of Alaska and Hawaii where they provided 80% of all the nursing care in military, government and civilian hospitals.

When our critically injured soldiers returned home from battle, the Cadet Nurses were there to care for them and their families. For their role in the success of WWII, the Cadet Nurses were Home Front heroes, credited with preventing a complete collapse of the health care system.

Yet, because they are the only uniformed corps not recognized as veterans, the USCNC is largely unknown. S1220/HR2568 The United States Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act is federal legislation that can correct this. The bill provides no financial or VA medical benefits, only an American flag and gravesite plaque.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton is on the House Armed Services Committee where the bill is stuck. We need Rep. Moulton to get the bill passed out of committee before it is too late for Mary, Eleanor, Betty, Dottie, Evelyn and the few remaining World War II cadet nurses who are now in their late 90s. Please let Rep. Moulton know that honoring the service of our World War II cadet nurses is important to you!

Dr. Barbara Poremba is Professor Emeritus of Nursing at Salem State University. She is the Founder and Director of the Friends of WWII Cadet Nurses. She can be reached at

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