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Artifact Friday: World War Two Flight Nurse Uniform

The United States Army began the Army Nurse Corps in 1901, opening the door for women to start serving in the Armed Forces. 

In World War Two, this branch of the US Army grew considerably relying on the Army Nurse Corps at home and overseas. 

Army nurses were sent to the Pacific, North Africa, Europe, and even to China. Their job was to do the mandatory physical checks for the men in the military as well as treat the wounded and assist doctors on the frontlines. 

Certain nurses went through more intense training and became flight nurses in the Army Air Corps. 

Air evacuation was a new concept for the military at the start of World War Two. Before even the first flight nurses completed training, they sent them over to North Africa, on Christmas Day, 1942. 

Interestingly, all flight nurses were volunteers. They were not flying in combat zones unless they chose to be there. Their medical attention saved thousands of soldier’s lives as they were being transported from the battlefield to a base hospital. 

One of the items in our collection is an Army Nurse Corps uniform that belonged to one of these flight nurses.  

The Army Nurse Corps had several uniform options including the olive drab wool uniform, the seersucker nurse dress, and even field jackets and pants. 

The uniform featured here is the summer uniform. It is described as a tropical worsted material of beige coloring. 

It could be worn with a beige service cap or with a beige garrison cap like the one pictured here. 

Nurses were required to wear their service branch badge on their left sleeve, their rank on both shoulders, the blocked lettering “U.S.” on both sides of the collar,  (if wearing the jacket), and the nursing insignia on both sides of the collar as well. On the left chest pocket is the nursing insignia with wings. This identifies her as a flight nurse. 

  That is the explanation of the uniform, but let us talk about the woman behind the uniform. 

Phyllis Wilhelmina Caskey grew up in Minden, Iowa, and decided to attend nursing school after high school graduation.  She received her training at the Jennie Edmundson School of Nursing just thirty minutes from her hometown. She graduated in 1943 and proceeded to use her degree in the military joining the Army Air Corps as a nurse that same year.  

During this time, she met her husband Harold "Cass" Caskey also an Iowa native and a member of the Army Air Corps. He flew both B-17s and B-24s in the European Theater of Operation. 

While the details of when and where they met are uncertain, they did meet while serving in the Army Air Corps. They got married, moved back to Iowa, and eventually found their way to Arkansas. 

 Their story as well as this uniform is featured in the Caskey Exhibit in our Third building.

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