8 Replies Latest reply on Oct 29, 2018 4:18 PM by V. Van Hyning (formerly of By the People LOC)

    What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?


      I have a question about the status of Red Cross Nurses serving in France during and after World War I.


      The Red Cross had a program called the Red Cross Reserve. It consisted of two lists: a list of nurses who were on call to serve anywhere in the country and a list of nurses who were on call to serve anywhere in the world. The nurses on these lists were volunteers. When the US entered WWI, the nurses on the second list were among the first Americans to be sent to France (May 1917).


      I’m trying to understand the status of these nurses. Did they become Army nurses? Were they Red Cross nurses that were “attached” to the Army? When the war was over, did they have veteran status?

        • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

          Not NARA. The Army Nursing Chronology does note the role of the Red Cross during WW1.

          Chapter 10 defines Special Groups of US veterans which includes those of foreign nations

          and WW1 and WW2.  Per Item 17, U.S. civilians of the American Field Service who served

          overseas in World War I, are considered veterans. There is a large group of Chapter 10 veterans

          that have been approved for benefits for service during WW1 and WW2.


          VA Chapter 10 Special Groups of veterans




          Nurse Chronology




          US Army Center for Mil History



          1 person found this helpful
          • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

            Per portions of the Federal Register, the American Field Service was recognized in 1990, and authorized under

            55 FR 46707.




            U.S. civilian volunteers, who actively participated in the Defense of BataanRecognized effective February 7, 198449 FR 7849.
            U.S. civilians of the American Field Service (AFS), who served overseas operationally in World War I during the Period August 31, 1917, to January 1, 1918Recognized effective August 30, 199055 FR 46707.
            U.S. civilians of the American Field Service (AFS), who served overseas under U.S. Armies and U.S. Army Groups in World War II during the Period December 7, 1941, through May 8, 1945Recognized effective August 30, 199055 FR 46707.
            Start Printed Page 4825
            U.S. Merchant Seamen who served on blockships in support of Operation MulberryRecognized effective October 18, 198550 FR 46332.
            Wake Island Defenders from GuamRecognized effective April 7, 198247 FR 17324.
            Women's Air Forces Service Pilots (WASP)Recognized effective November 23, 1977Sec. 401, Pub. L. 95-202, 91 Stat. 1433, 1449.
            Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC)Recognized effective March 18, 198045 FR 23716, 45 FR 26115.
            2 people found this helpful
              • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

                Thank you, Michael, your references were quite interesting. It might be helpful if I named the nurse in question. She is Amabel Schraf Roberts. She was a Red Cross nurse in 1917, on the Red Cross Reserve list to serve anywhere in the world if called. She served in Presbyterian Hospital Number 2 in Etretat, France. The location and name of the hospital are from newspaper reports so they may be in error. She died on January 17, 1918.


                Your references point to the treatment of two other civilian organizations caught up in WWI. The American Field Service, I understand, consisted of American college students who came to France to drive ambulances for a summer or semester. Their Alumni Associations often funded their trip and living. On October 1, 1917, the American Field Service was subsumed into the Army much to the dismay of many of the students who were now in France for the duration. Per your response, they received veteran’s status August 30, 1990. So were they actually “Army”.


                The other organization I know of is World War I Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit, the so called “Hello Girls”. They were told after the war that they weren’t even in the Army (despite Grace Banker, the head of the unit, being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal), but were considered "civilians" employed by the military, because Army Regulations specified the male gender. Not until 1978, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War I, did Congress approve Veteran Status/Honorable discharges for the remaining "Hello Girls."


                So perhaps you can see the rational behind my questions: did these Red Cross nurses become Army nurses or were they “attached” to the Army. My secondary question as to their veteran status would support them being Army nurses (assuming Army nurses were given veteran status).

                  • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

                    Mr. Malcolm,


                    Using the information you provided about the nurse's name and date of death, I was able to locate the Veterans Affairs Master Index 1917-1940 Card (see below). You can also locate it if you have a FamilySearch.org account (it is a free service) https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C3MS-DHCR-4?i=1080&cat=2864050

                    Even though it's a little blurry, the pertinent information is:

                    ROBERTS AMABEL SCHARFF

                    XC 6102 (This number is the deceased veteran's claim/pension number for the Department of Veterans Affairs). Nurse Roberts' XC file is located at the National Archives at St. Louis.

                    Rank and Branch Component: Nurse Army Corps

                    Location of Service: Base Hospital 2 (Knowing this information is helpful when ordering Return of the Nurse Corps Records https://catalog.archives.gov/id/3370993 located at the National Archives at St. Louis)

                    Mailing Address: 7 Lenox Ave E Orange NJ

                    Service/Serial Number: PN 3871

                    Died: 1/17/1918 (Civilians working with the Armed Forces and military service members who died in service - combat related/disease/car accidents etc have Burial case files https://catalog.archives.gov/id/595318  at the National Archives at St. Louis) 

                    Born: 9/16/1891

                    Enlisted: 5/12/1917

                    The additional letters on the right hand side and on the right card are prefixes and codes for various insurances or benefits the veteran or his/her family may have applied for.


                    The National Archives at St. Louis has a great selection of WWI era (and after) military records https://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww1/st-louis-ww1-series


                    If you would like to request any of the records mentioned above, please consult: https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/contacts


                    I hope the information I have provided is helpful.



                    5 people found this helpful
                      • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

                        Alan, Anna, Andrew, and Michael

                        Thank you all for your help. This is a question that has been bugging me for the last year or longer. I should have given you Amabel’s name right off, but I naively assumed that all Red Cross nurses going overseas in WWI were treated alike. Foolish me. Wars are messy undertakings with lots of moving parts. It’s best to assume nothing.

                        You can mark this one as ANSWERED! Many thanks.

                        On to my next conundrum.


                          • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

                            Hi Mr. Malcolm,


                            It looks like you've had a great response to your question, and I see you had other queries to move on to, but if you have any interest in the early history of the American Red Cross, you might be interested in transcribing some of the papers of Clara Barton, founder of the same. The Library of Congress has just launched a new crowdsourcing effort that invites anyone with an internet connection and the inclination to dive in and transcribe documents. Barton's diaries and journals are among our starting Campaigns (as we call them).


                            You can join in and read more about the project over on crowd.loc.gov. We've devoted a new space on History Hub to the project as well under "Crowd", as well, if you'd like to report back.


                            All the best for your research endeavors.


                            1 person found this helpful
                        • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

                          The Red Cross is an International Organization which may have had nurses from a variety of allied countries.

                          It seems there were also American Field Service Hospitals. There were very few WW1 veterans seeking care in the

                          1990's as I recall. Authorized veteran status was obtained through the Secretary of Defense. These veterans could have applied for Discharge Certificates through the Secretary of Defense. In some cases a branch of the US Armed Forces (Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard)  was not involved. The Merchant Marines were authorized veteran status during WW2. If the Base Hospital 2, fell under Army command, then she may have been considered an Army veteran by the VA, then she may have been issued a Discharge Certificate and have an Official Military Personnel File?

                      • Re: What was the status of Red Cross nurses sent to France in WWI?

                        Dear Mr. Malcolm,


                        Thank you for posting your question to History Hub. It is my understanding that Red Cross nurses sent to France were independent of the armed forces, and would not have received veteran status after the war if they remained with the Red Cross for the duration. However, there were also nurses serving in WWI as part of the Army Nurse Corps and the Navy Nurse Corps. My colleague Anna Csar in military reference provided this response when I passed your question on to her:


                        “The Red Cross was a great recruiter for nurses in World War I. Nurses sent to France [as members of the armed forces] would be considered American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), but there are Americans (to include nurses) who worked with the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) as well. What category/categories could those nurses belong? That's on a case to case basis. A Red Cross nurse may have started as a civilian volunteer and incorporated into an active military Army Nurse Corps member out of necessity. The link below from the US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History has a great summary of Red Cross Nurses in France and how they relate to Army service.”




                        If you are looking for information about a specific nurse, there are a few options for locating additional records. National Archives partner site Ancestry.com has digitized a collection of “American Red Cross Nurse Files, 1916-1959” which are available for free viewing at National Archives facilities throughout the country, and at many public libraries. If you believe she may have served with the military, you can find information about requesting a copy of a service record here: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records. In addition, the National Archives facility in College Park, MD has the following series of Red Cross records relating to nursing.


                        Best of luck with your research!


                        4 people found this helpful