The History of Cadet Nurses and Their Struggle for Veterans Rights

By Catherine Simmons

In the years leading up to WWll, jobs were in short supply. However, once America entered the war, that all changed. Because so many men signed up, employees of every kind were desperately needed. Nurses were perhaps needed most.

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University of Utah–Cadet Nurses War Vets. Salt Lake Tribune Negative Collection, Utah State History.

In 1943, Frances Bolton introduced a bill to create a governmental program to recruit and train nurses. (“Short History”) It passed just a few months later. This led to a countrywide mass recruitment, particularly in universities. The University of Utah formed a club for all Cadet Nurses and even practiced drill with other ASTP, or Army Specialized Training Program, students. They often got in uniform and stood in formations and even ran practice exercises. (Cutler) There were numerous advertisements calling women to join the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, similar to the advertisements calling men to join the service. At one point, 80 percent of nurses in the United States were part of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. (“Short History”)

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St. Marks Hospital Cadet Nurses. Salt Lake Tribune Negative Collection, Utah State History.

Their 30-month training was rigorous and demanding. There was a lot of school work as well as training, not to mention the strict curfews. (Bergman) But they all said they felt an obligation to help the young men and their country.

One nurse, Eunice E. Smolak, was assigned to Bushnell General Hospital where she treated wounded servicemen and prisoners of war. She wrote about how difficult it was, emotionally and physically, to care for those wounded soldiers, and that she would never forget those experiences. (“We Remember”) Each nurse was greatly affected by what she saw and heard in those hospitals. It was not an easy job. It was physically, emotionally and psychologically demanding. However, despite the hardship each cadet nurse faced, they were not considered veterans.

Numerous pleas have been submitted asking to change the status of cadet nurses to eligible veterans. A wave of activism has swept across the country. Former cadet nurses are sending letters and calling all their cadet friends and acquaintances, letting everyone know what they are trying to achieve. Letters were sent out begging for signatures on their petition. Cadet nurses and their families have sent letters to the editor in newspapers all over the country, including the Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune, asking for recognition of their efforts and sacrifice. The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps is, in fact, the only uniformed force that has not received veterans status. That means they do not qualify for any of those benefits and services. (Karins)

On February 6, 2017, H.R. 1168, the United States Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act, was introduced to Congress. It states that any member of the United States Nurse Corps who served between July 1, 1943, and December 31, 1948, is qualified to full veteran status, including all benefits, although those benefits won’t be back-paid. (Lowey) Seventeen representatives cosponsored the bill. However, despite all the effort put in by so many, nothing has come of it. Almost two years later and it has still not passed in the House of Representatives.

Thousands of women sacrificed so much of their time and energy, just doing their duty to their country and their fellow Americans and the least we can do is give them what they are owed. If we wait much longer, there will be no nurses left to recognize.

Catherine Simmons is a Utah resident who has a degree in communication from the University of Utah. She is married with a beautiful puppy.  She loves history and reading and dreams of becoming an author. 

Sources

Robert Cutler, “Campus in Crisis,” Utah Chronicle, November 4, 1943.

Belcher, David. “Cadet Corps Seeks Congressional Recognition: World War II Nurses Petition Congress for Veterans’ Benefits, Honors,” American Journal of Nursing 103, no. 3 (2005): 130-31.

Doona, Mary Ellen. “Cadet Nurse Corps,” Massachusetts Report on Nursing 11, no. 1 (March 2013): 6.

Karins, Jessica. “U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps members seek veteran status,” Columbia Daily Tribune, August 20, 2018.

Bergman, Julia. “All but forgotten: Cadet nurses reflect on service during WWII,” The Day, November 3, 2018.

Rep. Nita Lowey, H.R. 1168, United States Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act.

Alissa Sauer, “Overdue Recognitions for WWII Cadet Nurse Corps,” Veteran Aid, April 3, 2018

Short History of Military Nursing: U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps,” Ebling Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, August 18, 2017.

“We Remember: Eunice E. Smolak,” USCadetNurse.org.

The Role of Cigarettes in 1940s University of Utah Campus Culture

By Emerson Oligschlaeger

In January 1943, Utah Chronicle columnist Bette Pomerance penned an op-ed titled “Scribe Finds Weed Vices Common at the U.” Pomerance neither condemns nor defends the prominence of cigarette smoking on campus; her point is limited to chronicling students’ commitment to the vice. When contextualized against local and national historical resources, Pomerance’s column allows us to understand tobacco’s cultural role in the university community of the 1940s.

The article mentions “restricted areas” — campus venues where smoking is banned — and students’ “flagrant violations of the ‘no fagging’ rule.” Pomerance cheekily notes students’ unflagging devotion to tobacco, writing that offenders chastised for smoking in restricted areas “swear… to never do it again — and get caught.”

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The College Inn in 1937. Used with permission of the Utah State Historical Society.

Pomerance also records a few epicenters of campus tobacco culture, including the university game room and the College Inn, an off-campus restaurant that once stood on 200 S. and University Street. “One could hardly write an article on smoking without mentioning the College Inn,” she writes, calling it “the best place to obtain a non-average report card, tubercular lungs and stomach ulcers.”

In the Summer 1997 issue of Continuum, the University of Utah’s official magazine, alumnus Rod Decker recalls visiting the College Inn as a 10-year-old to find it full of college students smoking cigarettes and “fleeing supervised wholesomeness.” The non-smokers tended to eat in the Union cafeteria where smoking was prohibited, Decker writes, while tobacco users congregated at the campus-adjacent eatery.

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Ellis Gangl Leonard poses in her husband Leo Leonard’s military cap while an unidentified woman smokes a cigarette. Both soldiers and women contributed to the prevalence of tobacco on campus in the 1940s. Used with permission of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Decker and Pomerance’s recollections reflect national trends in tobacco usage. The early 1940s saw one of America’s sharpest spikes in per capita tobacco consumption, and more women took up smoking during the ’40s than any other decade. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014) Pomerance’s column notes the prevalence of smoking among university co-eds, writing of “the entire male population and half the female with a weed in his or her face.”

The presence of servicemen also contributed to the clouds of smoke on campus. Tobacco played a significant role in military culture. A July 1943 article from the Davis County Clipper titled “Smokes and the Soldier” detailed the ways that cigarettes “play a prominent part in many phases of the life of a soldier.” A January 1943 issue of the Vernal Express includes a write-up on care packages assembled by the local Red Cross chapter, which necessarily featured cigarettes. As rationalized by The New York Times during World War I, “tobacco may not be a necessary of life, in the ordinary sense of that term, but it certainly lightens the inevitable hardships of war as nothing else can do.” (Brandt, p. 52).

A letter to the editor published in a February 1943 edition of the Chronicle directly addresses the issue of servicemen smoking on campus. In response to complaints about soldiers smoking in buildings and areas where it is prohibited, the writer acknowledges that servicemen should follow the rules, but takes issue with critics’ tone.

“This note, then, is directed not to the validity or invalidity of the ‘no-smoking’ rule, but to one who, in times of war and stress, when the very life of our country hangs in the balance concerns himself with trivial things like smoking in school buildings. Let me say that we service men are concerned with affairs far more momentous,” he writes.

Another letter to the editors of the Chronicle chastised students for failing to properly dispose of their cigarettes, creating fire hazards and cluttering campus. “Just a little effort on the part of each of you can make our campus something to be remembered by the numerous visitors who come here,” wrote Marian R. Jones in 1949.

A 1941 Utah Chronicle article by Frank Allen, “Scribe Gets Hot Under Collar Over Paper’s Cigarette Ad Problem,” addresses an ongoing debate over the absence of tobacco advertising in the student paper. According to Allen, the Chronicle printed a number of letters to the editor alternately praising and decrying the paper’s decision not to advertise cigarettes. Throughout the 1940s – and indeed, to this day – the Chronicle remains an important venue for discussion of student smoking practices.

Tobacco use, on college campuses and elsewhere, has steadily decreased since the 1960s. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014) In 2018, the University of Utah declared itself a smoke-free campus, sparking another wave of Chronicle op-eds. The first sentence of Pomerance’s 1943 column  —  “each year about this time someone starts a debate about the use of nicotine on our campus” — still rings true. While university nicotine culture has changed dramatically, some things never do.

Emerson Oligschlaeger graduated from the University of Utah in 2018 with a degree in mass communication. Emerson currently works for KSL NewsRadio and plans to pursue a career in community journalism.

 Sources

Frank Allen, “Scribe Gets Hot Under Collar over Paper’s Cigarette Ad Problem,” The Utah Chronicle, February 6, 1941, 4.

Bette Pomerance, “Pomerance Says: Scribe Finds Weed Vices Common at U,” The Utah Chronicle, January 21, 1943, 2.

“Local Red Cross to Make 275 Comfort Kits,” Vernal Express, January 28, 1943, 1.

 S/Sgt. OES., “Upholds Soldiers,” The Utah Chronicle, February 11, 1943, 2.

“Smokes and the Soldier,” Davis County Clipper, July 23, 1943, 6.

Marian R. Jones, “Battered Campus, Untidy Lawns Cause Greater Tuition Costs,” The Utah Chronicle, October 12, 1949, 2.

Brandt, Allan. The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2007.

Rod Decker, “Campus Hangouts Throughout the Years: A Cautionary Tale” Continuum,(Summer 1997): 24.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. “The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General.” Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US), 2014, Chapter 13, Patterns of Tobacco Use Among U.S. Youth, Young Adults, and Adults.

The Cadet Nurse Corps at the University of Utah

By Tyson Aldridge

The Cadet Nurse Corps was established across the country between the years 1943 and 1948 to help with the demand for nurses during the war. According to authors Willever and Parascandola, “124,065 nurses were graduated from the Cadet Nurse Corps, making the Corps one of the largest and most fruitful Federal nursing programs in history.” (Parascandola and Willever, p. 455)

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Image from Public Health Reports.

The need for nurses was at an all-time high after the United States entered World War II and as a result, nursing leaders were trying to find solutions to supply enough nurses for the war. The need for nurses increased as the war went on, but other higher paying jobs were taking women away from the nursing profession. Consequently, the Public Health Service created in June 1943 the Cadet Nurse Corps to focus on improvement of nursing education and recruitment of more nursing students. If admitted, a student would receive scholarships that covered tuition and fees, as well as a monthly stipend. The expectation for the nurses was to graduate in 30 months, as opposed to the usual 36 months, and perform nursing services for the duration of the war. The schooling was broken into sections. The first nine months the nurses were known as “probies.” “Junior cadets” were in the middle of their schooling and attended classes as well as applying their learning in the field at actual hospitals. During the final training period, the students were known as “senior cadets” and would be placed where nurses were needed.

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Image from Public Health Reports.

Like many other universities across the country, the University of Utah was part of this program. In the very first semester of the program, 150 women registered. To help boost morale and get the nurses excited for the upcoming program, a representative from the national nursing council came to the University of Utah and spoke to the freshman students at Kingsbury Hall. The representative, Mildred E. Newton, spoke about the urgent need for 65,000 nurses and the chance to serve the country they loved.

From the very beginning, the University of Utah was extremely supportive of the Cadet Nurse Program and the students in it. In the Utah Chronicle on September 23, 1943, Mrs. Hazelle Baird Maequin, an assistant professor of nursing education at the University of Utah, said, “The 15 nurses in the cadet corps are going to make up an important part of the wartime life on the campus this year.” The nurses were not kept from students; the university wanted them to be recognized and supported. This was shown when Carlson Hall, a dining room and living area on campus, was renovated to accommodate the nurses in the program. The hall normally would fit around 76 people, but after a few renovations and converting the hall to cafeteria style, 154 people could fit in the hall. Most of those 154 were nurses in the program, and all of the nurses lived at Carlson Hall.

A lot of the nurses as they went through schooling at Utah would receive hands-on training at nearby LDS Hospital, and most of the time when they were there, their living arrangements would change as well. Once a nurse completed her 30 or 36 months of training, she would receive a certificate of nursing and would be placed at either LDS hospital or one of the nearby local hospitals as a civilian nurse, or she would be placed in one of the branches in the military to serve as a nurse there.

Overall, the Cadet Nurse Corps program at the University of Utah was a great success. The university made the nurses’ time in school comfortable and enjoyable by providing places to live and places to study and eat. The University of Utah also made sure that the Cadet nurses were included in student activities on campus, and made sure that other students were aware of the program and its importance. This program helped improve nursing education, as well as prompting federal aid for graduate school studies for nurses. The effect is still felt today around local and national hospitals and nursing now is a respected profession. Modern-day nursing definitely got a kickstart because of this program.

Tyson Aldridge is a senior at the University of Utah. He is majoring in journalism communication.

Sources

“Campus Trains Cadet Nurses,” Utah Chronicle, September 23, 1943.

Helen Chamberlin, “Registration Swells Despite War,” Utah Chronicle, September 23, 1943.

“Nursing Official Outlines Program,” Utah Chronicle, October 21, 1943.

Walter A. Shead, “Continuation of Nurses Training to Provide for Thousands of Qualified Hospital Assistants,” Pleasant Grove Review, September 21, 1945.

War Affects Carlson Hall,” Utah Chronicle, September 23, 1943.

Kathleen Emerson Britton, “U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps,” Rochester Regional Health.

Parascandola, John and HeatherWillever. “The Cadet Nurse Corps, 1943-48,” Public Health Reports 109 no. 3 (May-June 1994): 455-457.