Hadassah Nurses Council member Faye Berzon, now 94, is one of 124,000 women who played an integral part in history as a member of the US Cadet Nurse Corps. As one of the “unsung heroines of World War II,” Faye was proud to serve in the all-female Corps, the first uniformed service in the US that did not discriminate based on religion or race.
In 1943, the majority of America’s nurses were aiding in the war effort overseas. To address a critical shortage, Congress established the US Cadet Nurse Corps, launching a national recruitment effort along with scholarships, training and a stipend for young women to fill essential nursing positions. In exchange, cadets pledged their “essential nursing for the duration of the war.”
“During World War II there were no nurses to take care of patients,” says Faye, who was just 18 when she signed up in 1944. “We thought we were doing our part [in the war] by getting the education we needed to become nurses.”
These cadet nurses provided 80% of the nursing care in US military, government and civilian hospitals during the war. The American Hospital Association credits the Corps with preventing the collapse of the US health care system.
Faye had just three months of accelerated training when she began her work as a cadet nurse at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital, administering medications, changing dressings and caring for patients. It was trial by fire, Faye says, recalling how she'd joke with fellow nurses that patients would “get better in spite of us, not because of us.” Still, she and her cadet peers quickly "learned how to take over" and care for patients, which she did there for three years.
After the war, Faye earned a master's degree in nursing from Boston University, got married and began teaching, at Simmons University in Boston and Massasoit Community College. Her passion for nursing is what drew her to Hadassah, which she says is "near and dear" to her, including her peers at the Nurses Council in Boston.
Today Faye reflects on her service in the Corps with pride, but her legacy is still incomplete. That’s why she’s a part of the push for the US Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act, a bipartisan bill championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren that would recognize World War II cadet nurses as honorary veterans.
For Faye and so many others, this bill is long overdue. If it passes the Senate, Faye says, “It will give me some solace to know that finally we were recognized for the job we did during World War II."
With this legislation, Faye and her fellow cadet nurses are not asking for the financial benefits veterans receive. They simply want to be recognized as honorary World War II veterans with a gravesite plaque and an American flag.
|Take Action Today|
Support the US Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act with Hadassah by sending a letter to your senators.
Read about another Hadassah Nurses Council member's recognition in the Boston Globe.
Are you a nurse? Learn more about the Hadassah Nurses & Allied Health Professionals Council.