From the Stars and Stripes archives

Chief of Army Nurse Corps tours Zama Hospital

Brig. Gen. Anna M. Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, is interviewed at Zama Hospital during a Far East inspection tour in 1971.


By STEVE GREENE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 19, 1971

CAMP ZAMA, Japan — The first woman general in the 196-year history of the U.S. Army, Brig. Gen. Anna M. Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, said Tuesday that it was wrong to compare her job to that of a division commander because she functions purely in a staff position despite the fact that she has roughly 21,000 people under her supervision.

During an interview with Stars and Stripes at the Camp Zama Hospital, Miss Hays said there are 5,000 nurses, 2,300 Department of Army civilians, 11,000 enlisted men and women and 4,000 nursing technicians in the Army Nurse Corps, one of the six divisions of medicine under the supervision of the surgeon general.

The Army's head nurse shared the honor of becoming the first lady general with Brig. Gen. ,Elizabeth P. Hoisington, director of the Women's Army Corps (WAC) on June 11, 1970, during colorful ceremonies presided over by Army Chief of Staff, Gen. William C. Westmoreland.

After helping pin a silver star on each shoulder during the ceremony, Westmoreland declared what he called "a new protocol" and kissed Gen. Hays on the cheek. Minutes later, he repeated the ceremony with Gen. Hoisington and kissed her "in accordance with the well-established Army protocol."

"The promotion brought very little in the way of added responsibilities," said Gen. Hays, "I was already chief of the Army Nurse Corps at the time of my promotion. There were more activities of a social nature that I was expected to attend, however."

"One of the funniest things that has happened to me since my appointment occurred on an inspection tour in Korea. There was a military policeman on the gate of the hospital compound and when he saw the general's flag at the front of the car, started to salute. When he looked in the back seat and saw it was a woman general, he dropped his swaggerstick and stared openmouthed, unable to believe his eyes.

Gen. Hays enlisted during World War II, serving in the China-Burma-India theater of operations during the building of the Lido Road, and later in Korea during the fighting in the 1950's. She held chief nursing positions in a number of Army hospitals including Walter Reed, where she personally tended President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mamie Eisenhower led the line of people congratulating the new lady generals at the commissioning ceremonies.

The chief of Army Nurses arrived in Japan from Korea Sunday, accompanied by Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Whelan Jr., special assistant to the surgeon general. The two departed Japan Wednesday for the Republic of Vietnam, the next stop on their Far East and Southeast Asia orientation tour.

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