Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Science

Dissertation Committee

Irene S. Palmer, PhD, Chair; Janet K. Harrison, EdD, RN; Patricia A. Roth, EdD, RN


American history, nursing, United States Air Force Nurse Corps


The Air Force Nurse Corps (AFNC) was established effective July 1, 1949, however, no history of the AFNC has been written. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the first five years of the AFNC when its initial framework, policies, and practices were established. Included in this period was the story of the AFNC response to its first great challenge of the Korean War beginning just before the corps first anniversary. The study framework consists of the four themes of (1) dedication to serve, protect, and care for soldier patients; (2) slow advance in status; (3) need for adequate nurse preparation; and (4) need for political astuteness which were found consistently in reports of military nursing. These four themes were present in varying dimensions throughout the story of the AFNC and were organized around, (1) major factors leading to the development of the AFNC; (2) difficulties and successes in the formation of the AFNC; (3) experiences of the women who served; and (4) an explanation of the status of the AFNC within the larger Air Force (AF) structure. Documentation of military activities was collected primarily from military history sources. Background and supplementary data were gathered from academic institutions, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. Finally, interviews of AFNC nurses who served during the first five years of the corps provided invaluable insights and information regarding personal experiences. Findings of the investigation showed that the Army nurses who had transferred to the AFNC had developed an identification with the air arm of the service prior to transfer and thought of themselves as AF nurses. The theme of dedication to service was strongly defined in the early years of the AFNC exemplified by the work of the AFNC flight nurses during the Korean War. The theme of need for adequate educational preparation was also clearly demonstrated particularly in the effort to train nurses in wartime skills such as flight nursing, anesthesia, and operating room practice. The themes of political astuteness and slow advance in status were present but not obvious as the AFNC devoted its efforts to creating an effective operational structure at the same time it was coping with the demands of a major war effort. A major difficulty for the study was the minimal written documentation of AFNC activities. This led to the recommendation that a history of the corps post Korean War be accomplished as soon as possible in order to preserve the details and rationales of AFNC actions and the experiences, thoughts, and emotions of the nurses.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



Included in

Nursing Commons