Women in Korea
Did women serve (and die) in Korea during the Korean War? Yes, they did. World-wide, there were 120,000 American women on active duty during the war, but only a small number of that total served in Korea. The Korean War Veterans National Museum & Library is currently gathering information about women who served their country during the Korean War. We invite our readers to read the following information, and help us create a better page by sending more data to us regarding Women in the Korean War. Please send it to Sharon Corum at 700 S. Main Street Tuscola, IL 61953.
Air Force Nurse Corps Casualties of the Korean War:
Brown, Captain Vera M.
Army Nurse Corps Casualties of the Korean War:
Smith, Major Genevieve
Navy Nurses Corps Casualties of the Korean War:
Beste, Ensign Eleanor
* (She died in the San Francisco harbor after the Benevolence sank. She died after being rescued from the water by the crew of an Army boat.)
Memorial Tells Obscure Facts About Women's Military Service
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON -- Stories about women who masqueraded as men on the battlefield, survived prisoner of war camps, died in combat and other pieces of obscure history come to light at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
More than 170,000 people visited the women's memorial in the first year since its dedication Oct. 18, 1997, at Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery. Those who took guided tours learned of Molly Pitcher, Sarah Osborne and Deborah Sampson in the Revolutionary War; Dr. Mary Walker, Susie King Taylor and Sally Thompkins in the Civil War; and nurses in the Spanish-American War and World War I and II. They also learned about women's service in the Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm and women's role in today's military services.
The stories of hundreds of individual service women are at the public's fingertips in the memorial's interactive computerized register. Visitors can use a dozen computer terminals to find information about the service of their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and other relatives and friends, said memorial curator Judy Bellafaire.
"If the woman is registered, all the information given to us, including a photograph, will appear on the computer monitor," she said. About 300,000 of an estimated 2 million eligible women have registered or were enrolled by their families or friends. The register grows daily as word spreads of the memorial's search for the 1.7 million women whose stories of service are yet to be recorded, Bellafaire noted.
The memorial gallery is filled with exhibits showcasing artifacts, text and images
depicting the roles women have played in the defense of the nation, she said. So far, the
only permanent exhibits are three dealing with World War II. Temporary exhibits
include "The Making of a Memorial" and several pictorial displays tracing more
than two centuries of women's service to the nation.
The first World War II exhibit deals with recruiting and training of women. "They're the women who served in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps, the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), WACs (Women's Army Corps), Coast Guard SPARs (Semper Paratus-Always Ready) and Marine Corps Women," Bellafaire said.
The second showcase highlights civilian women who "also served" during World War II, she said. These include groups on the home front with the military, such as the WASPs (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) and cadet nurses, and the American Women Volunteer Service Group, which drove ambulances, conducted blood drives and ran care centers for the children of women working in defense plants.
The third World War II exhibit deals with service women overseas. "The only women who went overseas during World War II were Army and Navy nurses and members of the Women's Army Corps," Bellafaire noted. "Some of the stories of nurses who were captured by the Japanese are told in detail."
"Voices of women throughout the ages" are engraved on glass tablets on the second floor terrace, Bellafaire said. "Twelve quotations of famous military women and American leaders speaking about military women, like President Kennedy, are engraved on 12 glass tablets visitors can view as they walk along the terrace," she said.
She said the memorial staff is striving to erect an exhibit of women's service during the Korean War for the 50th anniversary in June 2000.
One panel exhibit honors women who served from the American Revolution through the Spanish-American War. When the memorial's Hall of Honor is finished, it will feature women who served with distinction and achievement and highlight those who died in service and were prisoners of war. "Eventually, we hope to have an elegant notebook that will list all the women who were casualties of war from the Revolution up to the present day," Bellafaire said. She already has more than 300 names of women who died as a result of service in World War I and more than 300 who died during World War II, the two largest groups of casualties. The memorial sits at the front gate of Arlington Cemetery.
Visitors get a panoramic view of Washington -- in a beeline, the memorial overlooks the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol across the Potomac River. "It's an absolutely gorgeous view," Bellafaire said.
The memorial is open daily except Christmas. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 1-March 31; and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.April 1 - Sept. 30.
For more information, call 1-800-222-2294 or send E-mail to the memorial foundation at The memorial Web site is:
Original 121st Evacuation Hospital Nurses:
Adams, 1st Lt. Harriet M.
Baker, Maj. Mescal
Blatt, Maj. Margaret E.
Bolinger, 1st Lt. Dorothy L.
Budnick, 1st Lt. Eve
Canalas, lst Lt. Irena N.
Chaponis, lst Lt. Anastasia
Crowell, Capt. Thelma
Currier, Anne (Miller)
Donio, Anne (Prejean)
Gibson, lst Lt. Margaret G.
Hanley, 1st Lt. Margaret M.
Hartley, Capt. Mary E.
Hawkins, Capt. Irene I.
Hablunovsky, 1st Lt. Anne c.
Jacobs, Anna (King)
Kingan, 1st Lt. Harriet F.
Lipham, Capt. Corinne
McManus, Capt. Helen F.
Martin, Capt. Lorraine H.
Moultrie, Capt. Mary L.
Pellegrene, 1st Lt. Ada D.
Perkins, Capt. Sarah E.
Rachig, Miss Clara M.
Rainono, Capt. Lucy T.
Robinette, Capt. A. Inez
Roderick, Capt. Edith C.
Sabat, Capt. Julianna
Schneider, 1st Lt. Patricia M.
Steen, 1st Lt. Dorothy M.
Taylor, 1st Lt. Wahnetta M.
Tesheneck, 1st Lt. Marian V.
Thomas, Capt. Frances
Toudouze, Capt. Mary P.
Tucker, 1st Lt. Janice
Turton, Capt. Mildred P.
Vancelik, 1st Lt. Rosemary
Weeks, Capt. Grace E.
Williams, 1st Lt. Lorraine L.
Other Stats on Women in the Korean War:
According to the "Korean War Almanac" by Harry G. Summers Jr., fifty-seven Army nurses arrived in Pusan in early July 1950 to set up a hospital there. Then 12 moved forward to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) at Taejon on the edge of the battle area. Page 302 of Summers book also states that "As air evacuation of casualties began, flight nurses played an active role. Before the end of the war, some 500 to 600 nurses would serve in Korea, and a great many others would serve in hospitals in Japan and elsewhere in the Far East." Summers further states, "When the Korean War began, there were 22,000 women on active duty, with about 7,000 in the health professions and the remainder in "line" assignments in the WACs, WAFs, WAVEs (Women in the Navy) and Women Marines. By the early spring of 1952 there were 46,000 women on active duty -- 13,000 WAFs, 10,000 WACs, 8,000 WAVEs, 2,400 Women Marines and the remainder in the health professions. While the precise number of women who served on active duty during the Korean War era is unknown, the Veterans Administration found that as of the 1980 census there were 120,300 female white, black and Hispanic veterans of the Korean War still living." [Note from web author: Keep in mind that, like the approximately 6.5 million male veterans of the Korean War era, the vast majority of these women were not stationed in Korea.]
Other Women Whose Lives Were Lost in Korea in Non-Hostile Deaths:
Brown, SN Doris Frances Brown of Milwaukee (Navy)
Perando, Edith E.
Perry, AN Margaret Fae of Morgantown (Air Force - air crash)
Platt, AB3 Kay Sherill of Dexter (Navy)
McClure, AN Virginia May of Sioux City (Air Force - air crash)
WACs in Korea
Source: The Korean War: An Encyclopedia, edited by Stanley Sandler, p. 358-359
"With the onset of the Korean War, the need for WAC officers and enlisted women increased dramatically. Beginning in July 1950, commanders in the Far East command and other overseas commands placed many requisitions for WAC officers and enlisted women to fill noncombat positions (typists, stenographers, finance clerks, personnel specialists, supply clerks, medical technicians and corpsmen, etc.) vacated by men who were sent to Korea and other overseas locations..... To most women in the service, an overseas posting was the most desirable assignment. And during the Korean War, almost every WAC who was eligible and wanted to serve overseas was able to go. The number of WAC units in Japan alone increased from two in 1950 to nine by 1953.
Most were hospital units. A WAC unit was opened in Okinawa in 151 containing both administrative and medical personnel. The number of women assigned to the Far East command increased from 629 in 1950 to 2,600 a year later. WAC strength in the European command increased by 300 between 1950 and 1951. During the first year of the war, the WACs momentarily expected that a unit would be formed at Fort Lee to go to Korea--Pusan or Seoul--where it would be attached to the Eighth Army, Forward. But Army commanders in Korea believed the combat then was too unpredictable, moving up and down the peninsula as it did, to bring in a WAC unit. Late in 1951, when the lines were fairly stalemated, the Eighth Army commander asked for a WAC unit, but by this time, WAC recruiting had declined so much that Colonel Hallaren [Mary Hallaren of Lowell, MA was WAC director from 1947 to 1953] had to admit that corps strength was too low to maintain a WAC unit there. She did assign about a dozen enlisted women and one officer to the major headquarters in Korea during 1951 and 1953 as stenographers, translators, and administrative aides."
Woman Combat Correspondent
On June 27, 1950, four newspaper correspondents flew into the Korean war zone. They included Keyes Beech of the Chicago Daily News, Frank Gibney of Time, Burton Crane of the New York Times, and Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald Tribune. Higgins was a graduate of the University of California and the Columbia School of Journalism. She joined the City Staff of the New York Herald Tribune in 1942 and two years later was sent to Europe as a war correspondent. There she achieved a distinguished record and in 1945 was made chief of the Herald Tribune's Berlin Bureau. Immediately after she went to Tokyo in 1950, the Korean War broke out. Two days after the fighting started she flew to the front lines.
Gibney tried to discourage Higgins from going to Korea, insisting that Korea was no place for a woman. On this issue, Marguerite Higgins wrote, "But, for me, getting to Korea was more than just a story. It was a personal crusade. I felt that my position as a correspondent was at stake. Here I represented one of the world's most noted newspapers as its correspondent in that area. I could not let the fact that I was a woman jeopardize my newspaper's coverage of the war. Failure to reach the front would undermine all my arguments that I was entitled to the same assignment breaks as any man. It would prove that a woman as a correspondent was a handicap to the New York Herald Tribune."
For a look at the Korean War from the perspective of a female war correspondent, read, "War In Korea: The Report of a Woman Combat Correspondent" by Marguerite Higgins, 1951.
12 June 1948 -
Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act (Public Law 625) which authorized the acceptance of women into the Regular component of the Marine Corps. Women could not exceed two percent of total service strength or hold permanent rank above lieutenant colonel. The Director of Women Marines would hold the temporary rank of colonel.
3 November 1948 -
Colonel Katherine A. Towle, who had been the second Director of the Women's Reserve, was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve and accepted a Regular commission as a permanent lieutenant colonel. The next day she was appointed the first Director of Women Marines, with the temporary rank of colonel.
The 3rd Recruit Training Battalion was formed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC with Captain Margaret M. Henderson as the first commanding officer. The Women Officers' Training Class was established at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, in June 1949 under the command of Captain Elsie E. Hill.
August 1950 -
Korean War - For the first time in history, Women Reserves were mobilized.
1 May 1953 -
Julia Hamblet became Director of Women Marines--as a colonel. She held this post until 1 Mar 1959.
Women in the News
"Nurse Home from Korea Pleads for 'More Blood'"
"A Milwaukee Army nurse with 18 months of duty in Korea returned home from the front a few days ago with a plea for "more blood and more nurses." First Lt. Marian Tesheneck, a shy, pretty nurse who has seen almost as much of the front, and more of the suffering than most combat infantrymen, landed in Korea from a landing barge at Inchon, only a few days after the first Marines gained a foothold on the eastern shore.
"It wasn't very pleasant then and it is worse today," she said. "First there was a lack of just about everything. Now we have men and equipment, but blood supplies remain at a very low ebb and we could use so many more nurses I could not begin to estimate the number."
Born in West Allis, she lives with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. John Reinhecker, at 2349 S. 78th St. She attended West Allis Central High School and St. Mary's Hospital School of Nursing at Rochester, Minn. In the fall of 1949 Miss Tesheneck joined the Nursing Corps and got her first taste of Army duty at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C. When the Korean War broke out she and many other nurses were alerted for overseas duty. She left the states in mid-summer and went directly to Korea, landing behind the Marines in September with the 121st Evacuation Hospital.
As units of the United Nations force moved north her unit followed, finally reaching Hamhung, North Korea, just before the big Chinese push. She was hurriedly evacuated with other nurses at the last minute. "We're using bombed out buildings and tents for hospitals, even to this day," she explained. "That part isn't so hard to take, but the suffering of all the wounded is almost unbearable. We do all we can and then hurry them to expert care in Japan. We are very short handed. Red Cross workers and some volunteers help, but we need so many trained nurses."
"Want 30,000 More WAC's Soon"
Friday, March 16, 1951, Page 1
"Washington - Col. Mary Halloran, head of the WAC's, said today that the need for women soldiers is growing and that about 30,000 more WAC's should be taken into the service immediately.
General Marshall, defense secretary, today asked Congress to change a law limiting the number of women in the army to two percent of the total strength so that more girls could be taken in."
Council Grove, KS
February 8, 1951, pg. 1
"Emporia - Women between the ages of 18 and 34 are being interviewed in Emporia today by an army-air force recruiting officer for the WACs.
Recruits have a choice between army and air force."
"Emporia Nurse with Army in Korea Writes of Battle and Hard Life"
Emporia Daily Gazette, Emporia, KS
August 10, 1950, p. E6.
"This is no man's land and hell," writes First Lieut. Charlotte Scheel from Korea. Lt. Scheel, an army nurse and veteran of World War II, is the daughter of John A. Scheel, 311 East Seventh. Her recent letter from the Korean front was written to her sister, Mrs. Charles B. Firth of Wichita. Parts of it were quoted in a story in the Wichita Eagle.
The Emporia nurse was one of the first sent into Korea. She writes that she has recently moved into improved quarters -- sharing a single room with 18 other nurses. Each has a cot, bed roll and two blankets.
Until recently they had no bathing facilities but now have a shower "when there is water." She is at an evacuation hospital and with other nurses goes close to the fighting front to accompany the wounded back to the hospital. The nurses are not permitted outside the hospital except when accompanied by armed guard, due to snipers and the nearness of the enemy.
"Our diet consists mainly of C rations," she writes, "mostly stew, hash and canned meat, with fresh meat, potatoes and fruit brought in occasionally by the navy."
"There has been a mass slaughter and massacre over here. You must realize how fighting mad it makes us when someone says we are not actually in a state of war. Technically, maybe this isn't a formal war, but I wish some of the men in Washington could see Korean conditions."
She described some of the torture practices of the North Koreans and told how they often killed after wounding and crippling their opponents. "I'm not telling you all this to worry you. But please do us a favor, and let the folks back home know what really goes on."
Women Veterans of the Korean War Era:
If you are a female veteran of the Korean War era, we invite you to post your name here and provide some information about yourself -- when and where you were trained and stationed during the Korean War, and something about your wartime experience. Be sure to list your phone, E-mail or snail mail address if you would like to hear from anyone.
My name is Marilyn Monus Turvey. My Mother was in the Korean War as a nurse. She died 20 years ago. Now that I am older I would like to know if anyone knew her. Her name was Betty Cook Monus or Just Betty Ann Cook. She was called 'Dusty' the singing nurse. She sang to the troops overseas on the radio. She lived in Enid, Oklahoma and came home on furlough from time to time. Do you think anyone know of her? If so, could you let me know. Thanks for your service to our country. Sincerely and Respectfully,
Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library
Copyright © 1998 Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library