On December 7th, 1941, the US entered WWII when Pearl Harbor was bombed. At the time, First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox of the Army Nurse Corps was the Head Nurse at Hickam Field. Her bravery in rallying her nurses, organizing civilian volunteers, and treating the wounded earned her not only universal praise, but also a medal. During the heaviest part of the bombing, Lt. Fox was in surgery, serving as anesthesiologist. In October of 1942, she was awarded the Purple Heart, the first to a woman, with her citation reading
During the attack, Lieutenant Fox in an exemplary manner, performed her duties as head nurse of the Station Hospital. In addition, she administered anesthesia to patients during the heaviest part of the bombardment, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make and wrap dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency and her fine example of calmness, courage, and leadership was of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact.
And yet, in 1944, Lt. Fox’s Purple Heart was revoked. Why had a woman, whose service was so lauded, had her medal cancelled?
Thankfully, the reason was simple, even if the process was a bit involved. The Purple Heart was reinstituted as a medal in 1932 (George Washington originiated the medal in 1782). The Purple Heart was generally awarded to service members wounded in action, though in some cases‚Äìlike that of Annie Fox‚Äìit was awarded for “singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.” There is no doubt that Lt. Fox’s actions fall into this latter category. However, as the war progressed, the conditions for the medal changed, and it was only awarded to those wounded as a result of enemy action. As such, previously awarded medals were rescinded, but replaced with other awards. In Annie Fox’s case, she received the Bronze Star Medal, citing the same rationale as before.
Lt. Annie Fox was an amazing woman. As we remember Pearl Harbor this December 7th, let’s take a moment to remember Annie Fox and all the other brave women who were there.
For more information on Lt. Annie Fox, see her page at¬†the National Women’s History Museum.
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Girl Museum Inc.