|[KWE Note: This page was difficult to research due to lack
of resources about African-American nurses who served during the
Korean War. To add information to this page, contact Lynnita.
The KWE is a free service.]
According to the U.S. Army Medical Department's Office of
Medical History, "The Korean War was a turning point in the
reception of African American nurses in the Army Nurse Corps. The
passage of Executive Order 9981 triggered the Army as an
organization to eliminate 300 segregated units. African American
nurses were finally able to serve in integrated hospitals in Korea,
Japan, Hawaii, and in the continental United States. African
American nurses cared for wounded frontline soldiers and combat
evacuees without the constraints of a segregated environment. They
did so with great merit."
The fact that President Truman's Executive Order demanding
integration of the military service was signed on September 26, 1948
didn't make it easy for black female nurses to integrate into the
military. There were some 600 military nurses serving in
military hospitals in the Korean theatre during the war. Of
those, there were very few black nurses. The names of the black
nurses the KWE has learned about to date include the following:
Black nurses serving in Korea during the war:
- Lt. Martha E. Cleveland (later Colonel)
- Maj. Nancy Leftenant-Colon
- Lt. Evelyn Decker
- Lt. Mattie Donnell Hicks
- Lt. Nancy Greene Peace
- Capt. Eleanor Yorke
Black nurses serving outside mainland USA during the war:
- Edith Mazie DeVoe
- Lt. Claudia Richardson
Black nurses serving in post-war Korea:
- Clara L. Adams-Ender
- Bettye Hill Simmons
- Hazel Johnson-Brown
Black Nurses Serving in Korea During the War
Lt. Martha E. Cleveland
Lieutenant (later Colonel) Cleveland was assigned to the 11th
Evacuation Hospital in Korea.
CLEVELAND, Colonel Martha Stokes, 97, passed away on
Saturday, September 24, 2016. The funeral service will be held
Saturday, October 1, at First Baptist Church at 11 a.m. Viewing
will be held prior to the service from 10 to 11 a.m. Visitation
will be held Friday, September 30, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Mercy
Seat Baptist Church. Colonel Cleveland, a native of Farmville,
was a faithful member of Mercy Seat Baptist Church, where she
was a trustee, deaconess and hostess for the Hospitality
Committee. Colonel Cleveland completed St. Phillips Hospital
Nursing School in Richmond, Va., in 1943. She later continued
her education at Hampton University in Hampton, Va. She joined
the military in 1944, where she served as a nurse, rising
through the ranks to become Colonel, until her retirement in
April 1974. Her overseas duty stations included Japan, Korea,
Europe, Germany and Thailand. Colonel Cleveland was a member of
Farmville Chapter #153 OES, Kappa Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha
Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, Piedmont Virginia Chapter of MOAA,
and supporter of Call Me Mister of Longwood University. She
participated and supported numerous other community
organizations. She was preceded in death by her parents, Luther
H. and Alice Spraggs Stokes; brothers, Clem and Leslie Stokes;
and sister, Carrie V. Stokes. She is survived by brothers,
Howard Stokes and wife, Jane, of Jessup, Md. and John Stokes of
Lanham, Md.; and sister-in-law, Mildred Stokes of Southfield,
Mich. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to the
American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society.
Maj. Nancy Leftenant Colon
[Source: University of Nebraska Medical Center]
No woman at the Tuskegee convention had the badge of
legacy and heritage equal to Nancy Leftenant Colon, a world-traveled
country girl, not only made indelible military history, but also is
the first woman ever elected president of the Tuskegee Airmen
"I came from a family of six boys and six girls in Goose Grease,
S.C.," Major Colon said at the Tuskegee convention. "I was 12 years
old before I found out that you were supposed to get presents at
Major Colon worked as a maid for an entire year to save up the $100
she needed to begin nursing school. As a nurse, her first salary was
$20 a month. The school she attended was as much a "finishing
school" as nursing school. She was taught how to dress and behave,
as well as run an entire ward single-handedly. When she entered the
military in 1944, she went from second lieutenant to first
lieutenant in 11 months because no other nurses could carry the
workload she had been trained to bear.
Major Colon was one of the first 36 black nurses ever sent as a
group to the East Coast. Until that time, most black nurses were
stationed out West, usually at Fort Huachuca, N.M.
"I think it is very important to remember that black women in the
military suffered all the same segregation and indignities as the
men did," Major Colon said. "Traveling across the country was
especially horrible for black women. Knowing I would have to drive
great distances, I would not drink any fluids for up to two days
before leaving -- you just didn't want to have to stop in the
Southern towns to use a bathroom along the way in those days. That
could just be too dangerous."
Flight nurse was the most elite status for military nurses. Major
Colon had to wait five years before certification as a flight nurse
even though she had the highest ratings and scores. That is why she
always counseled younger women that "you not only have to be
excellent, you also have to be patient. Some doors just aren't going
to open right away and you have to have the perseverance to wait
As a flight nurse she served in Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Indochina.
In an astonishing historic moment, Major Colon was aboard the first
medical evacuation flight into the defeated French outpost in Dien
Bien Phu, in Vietnam in 1954. Her life story will be an entire
chapter in a book to be published about black women veterans of
World War II written by history students at Hiram College, Hiram,
"I am grateful that our university continues to provide forums to
explore the history of health care and the role of people of color,"
Ford said. "First, because I and others like me, stand on the
shoulders of these ground breakers. Second, as we struggle with
health disparities in the United States today, we must remember that
a significant part of these disparities is due to the long-term
effect of not having enough health care professionals of color that
resulted from generations of discrimination and segregation.
"We don't revisit this history for the purpose of recrimination and
divisiveness. Rather, we use history as an aid to understanding how
things got to be the way they are today and how we can work together
to develop more inclusive health profession opportunities and
patient outcomes in the future."
[Source of article below: US Air Force, "Nurse
Faced Hurdles for Military Acceptance"]
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- Retired Army
Maj. Nancy C. Leftenant-Colon, the first black nurse in the Reserve
or active-duty Army nurse corps, didn't expect it to be easy.
As a Reservist, she knew upon joining the U.S. Army in 1945 that
there would be hurdles, but her strength in the face of adversity
created avenues for generations to follow, in both the Army and the
Air Force. It wasn't enough that she became the first Black member
of the Regular Army Nurse Corps. She also served in the Air Force as
a flight nurse and continued to make history as the only woman to
hold the presidency of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., from 1989-1991.
The East Norwich, N.Y. native remembers her efforts to success.
As a registered nurse in the mid-1940s, Leftenant-Colon had become
well aware of the austere circumstances Black women faced in pursuit
of their professional training. Still, she graduated from the
Lincoln School for Nurses in the Bronx, where a fair number of
minority students attended. There, she saw a photo that caught her
attention and spurred her consideration of the Army. "I saw a
picture of an Army nurse with her cape," she said. "She looked so
good --straight and I tall. I wanted to do my part."
Leftenant-Colon said she recalled many of her colleagues' exhaust in
battling the rigors of fitting into the military during such a
turbulent time for civil rights. However, she endured, and with her
impressive record applied for regular status as a nurse in 1948.
Military officials soon approved her becoming the first Black nurse
in the Regular Army Nurse Corps.
Following the Air Force's emergence from the Army Air Corps,
Leftenant-Colon recalled, as a traveling Air Force nurse, the
hardship of having to drive hundreds of miles out of the way in the
South to stay with friends because Blacks were denied rooms at most
motels. Still, she describes her military experiences
favorably, noting the quality of one's work, and not the color of
one's skin should be paramount. In her career, she considered
herself a nurse first, above any racial classification.
Leftenant-Colon retired and returned to New York in 1965. In Las
Vegas during the August 2009 Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., convention, she
participated in the concurrent promotion ceremony for Brig. Gen.
Stayce Harris, the first black female to command an operational
flying wing in the Air Force.
Lt. Evelyn Decker
Evelyn Decker left her home in Washingtonville and entered
nursing school in Harlem in 1936. She joined the US Army in
1944 to serve in World War II. During the Korean War she
served in the 8055th MASH unit and was a member of the 38th Parallel
Medical Society of Korea. After duty in Korea compromised her
health, she left the army after serving 13 years. She
eventually received 100 percent service-connected disability rating
for lung disease. She finally received her captain's bars at
age 92. Captain Decker died April 25, 2008 at the Northport
Veterans Medical Center in Northport, New York. She is buried
in Washingtonville Cemetery. Captain Decker authored
Stella's Girl: The Autobiography of Captain Evelyn Decker, a World
War II and Korean War Veteran.
Maj. Mattie Donnell Hicks
[Source of article below: University of North Carolina at
Greensboro - The university's special collections include the
Mattie Donnell Hicks Collection consisting of: African-American
nurse Mattie Donnell Hicks (1914-2004) of Greensboro, North
Carolina, served in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) from 1945 to
African-American nurse Mattie Donnell Hicks (1914-2004) of
Greensboro, North Carolina, served in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC)
from 1945 to 1966.
Mattie Donnell Hicks was born 2 September 1914 and raised in
Greensboro, North Carolina. She graduated from Dudley High School
and entered nurse's training at the Grady Hospital School of Nursing
in Atlanta, Georgia. Hicks graduated after three years and worked in
Gainesville, Georgia, and Spartanburg, South Carolina. She also
completed graduate courses in public health in both Richmond,
Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Hicks joined the ANC on 2 July 1945, and completed three weeks of
basic training with an integrated unit at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin.
She was shipped to the general army hospital at Camp San Luis Obispo
in California, where she became a member of an African American
unit. Hicks was released from the army following VJ Day in August
1945, but re-entered in March 1946. She was sent to Tilton Army
Hospital at Fort Dix, New Jersey, as a general medical and surgical
nurse, and then to the Fort Lee, Virginia.
From 1951 to 1953, Hicks served at the 11th Evacuation Hospital in
Korea and later at the Osaka Hospital in Japan. Additional stations
of duty include Lockburne Air Base in Columbus, Ohio; Valley Forge
General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; Letterman Army
Hospital in San Francisco, California; the U.S. Army Hospital at
Fort Lee, Virginia; 2nd Field Hospital in Germany; the U.S. Army
Hospital at Bremerhaven, Germany; and Womack Army Hospital at Fort
Bragg, North Carolina.
Hicks retired from the army as a major in April 1966, after
twenty-one years of service. She built a house in Greensboro and
worked part-time as a nurse at the L. Richardson Memorial Hospital.
Mattie Hicks died Greensboro on 14 March 2004.
[Source of article below: Appalachian State University,
"North Carolina Nursing History"]
Visit the university's website at:
After World War II ended in August 1945, the nation returned to
peaceful pursuits. On July 26, 1948, President Truman signed
Executive Order 9981, abolishing racial segregation in the armed
forces. In June 1950, North Korea, a small Asian nation of little
concern to most Americans, launched a surprise invasion of its
neighbor to the South. The United States was once again at war,
fighting alongside its ally, South Korea. Many active duty nurses
were unexpectedly called to scene of battle. One of the North
Carolina nurses responding to this call was Mattie Hicks.
Mattie Donnell Hicks was born in Greensboro, North Carolina on
September 2, 1914, to John and Josephine Donnell. She was one of ten
children. Pursuing her childhood dream to become a nurse, after
graduating from the all African American Dudley High School, she
enrolled at the Grady Hospital School of Nursing in Atlanta,
Georgia. Three years later she earned her diploma and began her
career at a segregated, rural hospital in Gainesville, Georgia.
Hicks “wanted to do something different in going into the military
to try to help the soldiers with their wounds and all that”. She
joined the Army Nurse Corps on July 2, 1945 but served only a few
weeks until World War II ended in August 1945. However, Hicks
realized she enjoyed Army nursing so she re-enlisted in March 1946
and stayed for twenty one years.
When the Korean War broke out, Hicks was assigned to the 11th
Evacuation Hospital in Wonju, Korea on the eastern battlefront.
During the war, approximately 540 Army Nurses served on the ground
in Korea. Many of these nurses served in the newly created Mobile
Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) units close to the front. Seriously
wounded and ailing troops were air lifted to awaiting Navy hospital
ships or evacuated to Army Hospitals in Japan and the United States
for more intense treatment than was available in MASH units or
evacuation hospitals. Hicks and other nurses in Evacuation Hospitals
took wounded soldiers from the MASH units and provided more
extensive care until the men could either rejoin the battle or be
evacuated from the country. She recalled in an oral history
interview in 1999
We enjoyed our work very much. One thing, we were kept busy because
patients would be coming right off the battlefield because they had
the helicopters to pick them up, bring them right to the hospital
which saved a lot of their lives … whenever a shipment would come
in, you’d work … if they were in real bad shape, they would ship
them on right away. But if they were not in too bad shape, they
would stay right there and we’d take care of them.
Each Evacuation Hospital had a specialty area. The 11th Evacuation
Hospital had a renal insufficiency unit and pioneered the use of
renal (kidney) dialysis. Hicks and her colleagues at the 11th
Evacuation Hospital were among the first nurses to support patients
with hemorrhagic fever on the first generation of artificial kidney
machines. In addition to patients with renal disease and battlefield
wounds, Hicks and her colleagues provided general car for soldiers
and their family members with a variety of ailments. She recalled
civilians coming to the hospitals with tuberculosis and
“We had to run a tube down their throat and clean – and get all the
fluid and stuff out of their stomach. And you know, through that
tube live worms would come through, Live!”
When asked about her social situation in Korea, including
homesickness, cold temperatures, Spartan accommodations and serving
in one of the first integrated units in US armed forces history,
Hicks remembered, “when you’re afraid, as most of us were, being in
a theater where they were fighting and all that, you kind of act
like a family”.
After her tour in Korea, Hicks served wherever the Army Nurse Corps
needed her. Her postings included hospitals in Japan, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, Germany and North Carolina. She worked in
medical surgical nursing and obstetrical nursing. The medals she
earned for her courage and service including the World War II
Victory Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the National Defense
Service Medal, and Army Commendation Medal, the Armed Service
Reserve Medal, a Meritorious Unit Citation and a United Nations
In March, 1966 Hicks retired from the Army having earned the rank of
major. She returned home to Greensboro and built a home. After her
years of travel she was ready to spend time with her extended family
and childhood friends. She was dedicated to her church spending many
hours serving on committees, in the choir and helping fellow
congregants in need. Hicks passed away on March 14, 2004.
Lt. Nancy Carolyn Greene Peace
Lieutenant Peace served in the 11th Evacuation Hospital in Korea.
Born on January 25, 1926 in Covington City, Virginia, she was a
daughter of Chester Greene (1890-1960) and Grace Reynolds Greene
(1890-1929). Her siblings were Reginald Chester Greene
(1914-1993), Frazier Greene (1917-1938), Norine Marie Greene
(19l18-1981) and Anna Louise Greene (1919-1956). Lieutenant
Peace died November 18, 2004 and is buried in J.T. Peace Memorial
Gardens Cemetery, Oxford, Granville County, North Carolina.
Black Nurses Serving Outside Mainland USA During
the Korean War
Lt. Edith Mazie DeVoe
Born October 24, 1921, Edith Mazie DeVoe was the
second black woman admitted to the US Navy Nurse Corps during World
War II. She was the first black nurse admitted to the regular
Navy. She was the first black nurse to serve in the Navy
outside the mainland USA. In 1950 she was assigned to the
Tripler Army-Navy Hospital, which served multiple service branches.
There she assisted in the evacuees and injured serving in the Korean
War. She became a full lieutenant on May 1, 1952. In
August of that year she was transferred to the naval hospital in
Pasadena, California. Lieutenant DeVoe died on November 17,
Lt. Claudia Richardson
Lieutenant Richardson was an Army nurse assigned to
Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii. While serving there she was
able to visit with her brother, Vincent Richardson, who had been
evacuated to Tripler due to wounds received in the Korean War.
Black Nurses Serving in Post-War Korea
BG Clara L. Adams-Ender
[Source of article below: Appalachian State University,
"North Carolina Nursing History"]
Visit the university's website at:
Brigadier General Clara L. Adams-Ender of Willow Springs, North
Carolina entered college in 1956 pursuing a profession in nursing
after a suggestion from her father to forget her dream of being a
lawyer. Little did Clara, or her father know was that her future
would be a prestigious one as a nurse in the United States Army.
Clara’s vocation changed halfway through college once she entered
the Army to finish paying for nursing school. Little did her father
truly know that Clara L. Adams-Ender would break down many barriers
and become a woman of “firsts,” in the United States Army.
Adams-Ender was born to Caretha Bell Sapp Leach and Otha Leach. The
fourth child of ten, Adams-Ender grew up in a family of
sharecroppers. Adams-Ender earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing
degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State
University. She entered the army's student nurse program to help pay
her final two years of nursing school. Upon her graduation in 1961,
she was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps.
Beginning her career with the Army, Adams-Ender received training at
Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam in Houston, Texas.
Adams-Ender was assigned overseas, beginning in 1963, as a staff
nurse for the 121st evacuation hospital in the Pacific theater near
North Korea; she later served in Germany. Clara quickly rose through
the ranks and became a Brigadier- General.
In 1967, she became the first female in the Army to qualify for, and
be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. Brigadier General Adams
received a Master of Science in Nursing degree from the University
of Minnesota in 1969. At the University of Minnesota is where she
developed her fond love of teaching that directly carried into her
professional life as a nurse and instructor of nurses.
“The army was opening a school of nursing … because this was Vietnam
and we needed to get more nurses out. So the army had opened this
school of nursing … and I was going there to get my master's degree
so that I could teach in that school, because I had already made
known the fact that I wanted to teach there.”
From this degree she would move to teach at Walter Reed Army
Institute of Nursing and remained there as an instructor for five
years. Clara received a Master of Military Arts and Sciences degree
from the US Army Command and Staff College in Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas in 1976, the first woman ever to earn such a degree.
In 1982, Adams-Ender became the first African American Army Nurse
Corps officer to graduate from the U.S. Army War College. She was
promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1987 and appointed
Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. Following this post, Adams-Ender
served as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Fort Belvoir, Virginia
and Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Military District of
Washington until her retirement in August 1993.
Among the awards bestowed on Adams-Ender are the Distinguished
Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit, Meritorious
Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal,
Army Good Conduct Medal, Expert Field Medical Badge, and the Army
Staff Identification Badge. She also earned while in Germany its
Cross of Honor in Gold.
After retirement, Adams-Ender also served as the President of Caring
About People With Enthusiasm (CAPE) Associates, Inc., and published
her autobiography, My Rise to the Stars: How a Sharecropper's
Daughter Became an Army General, in 2001. Adams-Ender was a woman of
firsts. She was the first woman in her family to join the Army (two
of her brothers had already joined some portion of the armed
services); she was the first female in the Army to qualify for, and
be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge; she was the first woman
to earn a Master of Military Arts and Sciences; she became the first
African American Army Nurse Corps officer to graduate from the U.S.
Army War College, and became the first army nurse to command a major
army base in 1991 of Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
Her personal life consisted largely of her professional life. Clara
married Heinz Ender in 1981 whom she had met while stationed in
Germany, an oral surgeon and orthodontist. They later had a son
named Sven Ingo. Clara excelled a long way from her days as a
sharecropper on a tobacco farm in Wake County, North Carolina. She
had risen to be one of the most well respected nurses and Army-women
of the United States Armed Forces.
“The lessons [I learned in overcoming obstacles] were to be
courageous, strong in your convictions, and never lose sight of the
main goal. As I reflected, overcoming obstacles had been the story
of my personal life and my career. Obstacles had really been
opportunities to excel."
Bettye Hill was born in San Antonio, Texas on
February 15, 1950. She entered the Army Nurse Corps after high
school and in June of 1971 she got her first assignment as a
clinical staff nurse at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam
Houston, Texas. In June of 1973 she became an instructor of
practical nursing at Brooke. In June of 1977 she became head
nurse at the 121st Evacuation Hospital in Korea. The next year
she became head nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Walter
Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. During her
military career she met and married Charles W. Simmons, an Army
Reserve Officer. She became the first African-American nurse
to hold the dual role of deputy commander of the U.S. Army Medical
Department Center and School which had 30,000 students on and
off-site, and the 20th Chief of the Army Nurse Corps with 4,000
active personnel. Bettye Hill-Simmons retired from active duty
in 2000 and then became director of the Leadership Institute at
Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.
Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown
[Source: The following article was written by
Emily Langer, August 18, 2011, for the Washington Post]
Hazel Johnson-Brown, 83, the first African American
woman to become an Army general and a former chief of the Army Nurse
Corps, died Aug. 5 en route to a hospital near her home in
Wilmington, Delaware. She had Alzheimer’s disease, said her sister,
The pioneering military nurse grew up on a Pennsylvania farm and
enlisted in the Army in 1955, seven years after President Harry S.
Truman ordered the desegregation of the military. She took
assignments across the country and in Asia, rising in the ranks as
she impressed her superiors with her skill in the operating room.
She made military history in 1979 when she was promoted to brigadier
general and, at the same time, to the command of the 7,000 nurses in
the Army Nurse Corps. She was the first black woman to hold both
posts. That milestone came almost 40 years after Army Brig.
Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr. had become the first African American man
to serve as a general in the U.S. military.
Hazel Johnson-Brown served in Japan before enlisting. In the 1970s,
she was director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing.
“Race is an incidence of birth,” Gen. Johnson-Brown said at the time
of her promotion. “I hope the criterion for selection didn’t include
race but competence.”
Gen. Johnson-Brown always wanted to be a nurse, her sister said, but
racial prejudice created major obstacles. When she applied to study
at the local hospital after high school, she was rejected.
“The director of nursing met us and said to her and myself, ‘We’ve
never had a black person in our program, and we never will,’ ” Gen.
Johnson-Brown told National Public Radio in 2004.
The Johnson family’s nurse, a white woman, saw the young Hazel’s
potential and helped her gain admission to the Harlem Hospital
School of Nursing, where she earned her nursing diploma in 1950.
Gen. Johnson-Brown joined the Army to “travel, change my horizons
and do many things,” she told The Washington Post in 1979. In
civilian life, she realized, she would have had “to start at the
bottom with each job.” As she had hoped, the Army took Gen.
Johnson-Brown around the world. She served in Japan soon after
enlisting. In the 1960s, she trained surgical nurses on their way to
Vietnam. In the 1970s, she was director of the Walter Reed Army
Institute of Nursing. She was serving as chief nurse of the Army
hospital in Seoul when she was promoted to brigadier general.
Her military decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal,
the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and Army
Commendation Medal. She was twice named Army nurse of the year.
Hazel Winifred Johnson was born October 10, 1927, in West Chester,
Pennsylvania. She was one of seven children.
In addition to her degree from the Harlem Hospital School of
Nursing, she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Villanova
University in 1959, a master’s degree from Columbia University’s
Teachers College in 1963 and a doctorate in educational
administration from Catholic University in 1978.
After her Army retirement, Gen. Johnson-Brown headed the American
Nurses Association’s government relations unit and directed George
Mason University’s Center for Health Policy.
Her marriage to David Brown ended in divorce. Besides her sister,
survivors include two brothers.
In the interview with National Public Radio, Gen. Johnson-Brown said
that she was not a “quiet dissenter” when it came to the slights she
suffered as a black woman, in uniform and out. She recalled going
with her mother to a hot dog stand in Philadelphia. Several times
the waitress walked past them to serve white customers first. When
the waitress finally delivered their order, Gen. Johnson-Brown
turned it away. “Now you eat it,” she told the waitress. To her
mother she said, “Let’s go.”