The role of the American woman has most certainly changed since the dawn of the republic. Women can now even fight on the front lines in battle. There is a rich history of women who have served in the armed forces. Some of these stories rarely get told. The Purple Heart Foundation wants to use Women’s History Month as way to educate the public about women who have served in the military and those that are serving in the military today. Their service is appreciated but sadly often goes unnoticed by some. In a previous article featuring Army nurse Lt. Sharon Lane, the focus was drawing attention to the neglect of those women who have made history serving the United States. The Purple Heart Foundation is attempting to right that wrong by bringing readers the story of a different woman veteran each week throughout Women’s History Month. The stories of Lt. Sharon Lane, Admiral Michelle Howard and Lt. Elsie Ott have been shared. This week, The Purple Heart Foundation is telling the story of Lt. Annie Fox who is the first female recipient of the Purple Heart medal.
Lt. Annie G. Fox served as a nurse in the United States Army Nurse Corps since the end of the first World War in 1918. She believed in serving her nation and tending to the men who were fighting to protect it. Lt. Fox rose through the ranks of the Nurse Corps and took on many leadership roles in her career as a nurse; however, in the Fall of 1941 things would change for her. Lt. Fox was given the assignment as the head nurse for the newly opened hospital at Hickam Field in near Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii.
On December 7th, 1941 the lives of millions changed as the Empire of Japan launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the surrounding airfields, and on America itself. At 47 years old, Lt. Fox was for the first time placed in the middle of battle. There was gunfire, bombs detonating, and the sound of airplanes whipping over the hospital. It was not long after the attack began that the Japanese pilots turned their attention near Hickam Field and Station Hospital. While the “hellfire” rained down outside the hospital, Lt. Fox cleared her mind and jumped into action. She assembled her nurses and sought after volunteers from the base community to help her look after the wounded that started to arrive.
Lt. Fox was assisting in surgical procedures with the doctor on staff while the attack raged on outside her hospital unit. The injured were arriving at an alarming rate and eventually became too much for the 30-bed facility to handle. Lt. Fox, along with the other nurses, continued to administer pain medicine to the injured and prepped some for travel to another nearby hospital. She was one of many recognized for their exemplary service on that tragic day in American history.
In October of 1942, Lt. Fox was awarded the Purple Heart medal. Her citation read, “During the attack, Lieutenant Fox in an exemplary manner, performed her duties as head nurse of the Station Hospital. . . . [She] 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.” For the record, Lt. Fox was not wounded at the hospital during the attack on Pearl Harbor; however, at this time in history one did not have to necessarily be wounded to receive a Purple Heart medal. It could be awarded for, “. . . singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.”
In that same year, the Purple Heart medal criteria was changed to those who received wounds by enemy action. Two years after being awarded the medal, it was rescinded and Lt. Fox was instead awarded the Bronze Star medal. On October 6th, 1944 she was awarded the Bronze Star and the Report of Decorations Board used the same citation for this medal as for the Purple Heart originally awarded to her. The United States Armed Forces still recognizes Lt. Annie G. Fox as the first woman to ever have been awarded the Purple Heart medal. Her memory lives on through the services of nurses and all female servicewomen.
The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to telling the stories of America’s heroes and heroines who have fought to keep the republic standing. The Purple Heart Foundation remains committed to assisting all veterans in all aspects of their lives. Nearly 90% of cash donations fund the National Service Officer Program, the Scholarship Program, service dog programs, and other recreational and rehabilitative programs. The Purple Heart Foundation acknowledges that the transition from battlefield to the home front can be a difficult one. It is the goal of The Purple Heart Foundation to make that transition as smooth as possible for all veterans.
The Purple Heart Foundation prides itself on being the only veteran service organization with an entire membership that was wounded in combat. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for the United States of America by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.