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Anna Mae Hays, First U.S. Military Female General, Dies

Hays Began Service as a Nurse in WWII, and led 4500 in Vietnam

Anna Mae Hays, First U.S. Military Female General, Dies
"When Anna Mae McCabe Hays first joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1942, she was just one of many women who felt called to serve their country after the attack on Pearl Harbor—but in the decades that followed, her military career proved to be a singular one. This Thursday marks the 45th anniversary of her June 11, 1970, promotion to Brigadier General, the first time a woman ever wore the stars of a general officer in the U.S. Armed Forces."


Retired Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays died on Sunday, Jan. 7th in a Washington retirement home at the age of 97.

Hays was a true pioneer of women's efforts in the U.S. military service. 

After joining the Army Nurse Corps following nursing school, Hays spent 2 and a half years in the primitive conditions of Assam, India. Buildings were made of bamboo, and there were often leeches and snakes in her working quarters. At the conclusion of WWII, Hays was promoted to First Lieutenant. 

After WWII, Hays served as head nurse at the hospitals at Fort Dix and Fort Myer, until the Korean War began. In 1950, she was posted to a field hospital for months with conditions even worse than those in India. Following her wartime service, she was selected as one of three private nurses for an ill President Dwight D. Eisenhower!

In the 1950s and 60s, Hays worked hard in academia. She earned a bachelor's degree in nursing education in 1958 from Columbia University and a Master of Science in Nursing from the Catholic University of America in 1968. By 1967, she was promoted to Colonel, and in the same year was appointed the chief of the Corps. 

During the Vietnam War, she traveled to Vietnam three times to monitor America's nursing station and was able to develop new training programs to increase the capabilities of nursing overseas. In 1970, she was promoted to Brigadier General. 

In addition to her achievements, Hays was also instrumental in changes to the treatment of women in the armed services. At her recommendation, maternity leave became policy for women serving, and spouses of women serving were able to claim similar privileges to spouses of male service members.  

This week, we remember her legacy.