Menendez, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation on Pearl Harbor Day to Honor WWII Cadet Nurses

Menendez, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation on Pearl Harbor Day to Honor WWII Cadet Nurses

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today joined several colleagues this Pearl Harbor Day in introducing the U.S Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act, a bill to honor women who served in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps during WWII with honorary veteran status.  The legislation would recognize former Cadet Nurses' service to our country and provide them with honorable discharges, ribbon and medal privileges, and burial privileges. 

"When our nation needed nurses and medical professionals during World War II, the women of the Cadet Nurse Corps answered the call and gave of themselves to serve their country," said Sen. Menendez. "It is our responsibility to give them the honor and recognition they earned and deserve for their service and sacrifice to this great nation."

The bill was introduced in the Senate today by Sens Menendez, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Angus King (I-Maine), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).  The bill will be introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont). 
In the midst of WWII, a severe shortage of trained nurses threatened the nation's ability to meet domestic and military medical needs.  In response, Congress established the Cadet Nurse Corps, an integrated, uniformed service of the Public Health Administration, in 1943.  The Cadet Nurse Corps provided young women with expedited nursing education in exchange for "service in essential nursing for the duration of the war."  In total, nearly 120,000 women completed the Corps' rigorous training.  Cadet Nurses served in military hospitals, VA hospitals, private hospitals, public health agencies, and public hospitals.  In 1944, the Federal Security Agency identified "national recognition for rendering a vital war service" as a privilege of service in the Corps.

The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act would: (Bill Text | One-Pager)

  • Provide Cadet Nurses with veteran's status, with an honorable discharge from service where merited; 
  • Provide Cadet Nurses with burial benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and 
  • Allow the Secretary of Defense to provide honorably discharged Cadet Nurses with a service medal. 

"Cadet Nurses served our country bravely in World War II, and they deserve our utmost thanks and respect. When our country needed them most, they stepped up to answer the call of duty," said Sen. Warren. "Honoring veterans is not a partisan issue; it's something we are all called to do as Americans. I'm proud to introduce the Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act to ensure that Cadet Nurses who served in World War II receive the recognition they deserve."

"Whether in a hospital or overseas on a military base, nurses work on the front lines of patient care in a wide variety of health care settings and serve as critically important advocates for patients and their families," said Sen. Collins. "The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps played a vital role in WWII, addressing a critical shortage of nurses during the War and providing women with an expedited nursing education in exchange for their healthcare services. U.S. Cadet Nurses worked tirelessly to keep America's healthcare system strong, and many went on to work in military hospitals caring for our injured troops. I am proud to cosponsor this meaningful bill, and I encourage my colleagues to join us in honoring U.S. Cadet Nurses." 

"On this day in 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor shocked the nation and brought the United States into World War II," said Sen. King. "Seventy-seven years later, it is still important to remember the contributions of all Americans who answered the call to serve - including the Cadet Nurses, who saved lives, healed the injured, and in so many ways, helped save our nation."

"The ladies of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps served our nation with distinction at the height of World War II.  It is fitting that on the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we pause to remember the contributions of these brave women, and take this step to preserve their proud legacy," said Sen. Daines.  "Serving our veterans is one of my highest priorities, and I will continue to fight to ensure all of those who serve our country are treated with the respect and honor they deserve."

"Our Cadet Nurses in World War II answered the call of duty and helped the United States save the world. We should honor them as we honor all of our veterans - with gratitude and respect," said Sen. Markey. "The Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act would ensure that the Cadet Nurses who served with patriotism and bravery receive the recognition they deeply deserve."
"The nurses who sacrificed in World War II served their country and earned our eternal gratitude," said Sen. Murphy. "This bill rights a wrong, and grants recognition to the Nurse Corps members who saved soldiers' lives and helped them return home."

Cadet Nurse Elizabeth "Betty" Beecher was one of those 120,000 women.  She trained to become a Cadet Nurse in Boston, Massachusetts, then served as a nurse at a Staten Island, N.Y., Marine hospital near the end of WWII.  "We prevented a total collapse of the health care system," she said.  "Had we not stepped up and volunteered and enlisted in the Corps, I'm afraid the country would have been demoralized and our boys would have come home to a sick country." 

The bill has been endorsed by the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Organization of Nurse Executives.