Amid the devastation at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the lives of countless men were saved by the brave actions of women. At the time, women weren’t allowed to serve in combat roles, but their presence was vital nonetheless. These were the nurses of Pearl Harbor.
During the course of the attack and its aftermath, several nurses found themselves standing out among the rest, earning special praise for their efforts. Here are three of the heroic nurses who served their nation with pride and cared for the hundreds of injured who filtered into their wards during and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
When the Japanese launched their attack, First Lieutenant Annie Fox was serving at Hickam Field in the Army Nurse Corps. As head nurse, Fox worked tirelessly to assist all those who came in, administering anesthesia and dressing wounds despite the chaos nearby.
Though she wasn’t injured in the attack, Annie Fox earned the Purple Heart for “outstanding performance of duty and meritorious acts of extraordinary fidelity.” When the criteria for the Purple Heart were changed to only include wounded servicemembers, Fox’s commendation was changed to a Bronze Star.
Serving aboard the USS Solace (AH-5), a hospital ship at Pearl Harbor, Grace Lally performed admirably during the Pearl Harbor attack. Though initially in shock at the sight of the USS Arizona (BB-39) exploding into flames, Lally pulled herself together and continued carrying out her duties as Chief Nurse on Solace.
With her staff rushing with her, Lally helped set up emergency wards for the wounded. A the close of the day, Lally and her crew assisted nearly 300 wounded servicemen.
On the morning of the attack, Myrtle Watson was the only nurse in her ward. Stationed at Schofield Hospital without a doctor on duty, Watson was forced to spring into action when the bombs started to hit. She helped protect patients by piling mattresses around them for cover. For three days, Watson continued working, with only a skeleton crew to assist her.
These are just three of the brave nurses of Pearl Harbor, but there were many more who also served, saving hundreds of lives that morning.