The Year of the Nurse March Spotlight: Ruby Bradley, the most decorated woman in U.S. military history
2020 has been named the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization. To celebrate, every month we're highlighting a nurse who has helped change the world.
Known as the “Angel in Fatigues,” Ruby Bradley was born in 1907 in Spencer, West Virginia. She began her career as a teacher before graduating from the Philadelphia General Hospital School of Nursing in 1933. She joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1934.
Bradley was serving as a hospital administrator at Camp John Hay in the Philippines in 1941 when the Japanese took over the camp. She would be held as a prisoner of war for over three years. During that time, she assisted in more than 230 major surgeries and delivered 13 babies. She would regularly smuggle food to hungry children in the camp, despite dropping to under 90 pounds herself. She was liberated in 1945.
Bradley went back overseas in 1950, after the beginning of the Korean War. She worked as a combat nurse in evacuation hospitals, serving as the 8th Army’s chief nurse. She left Korea in 1953, and became a colonel in 1958, one of the first three Army nurses to hold that rank.
Bradley is the nation’s most decorated female veteran, earning 34 medals and citations of bravery, including two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze Stars, a UN Korean Service Medal with seven battle stars and the Florence Nightingale Medal from the International Red Cross.