Major Annie Gayton Fox United States Army Nurse Corps
Major Annie Gayton Fox United States Army Nurse Date of Birth:August 4, 1893Place of Birth:Pubnico, Yarmouth Co., Nova ScotiaDate of Death: January 20, 1987Age 93Place of Death:San Francisco, California, United StatesCemetery: San Francisco National Cemetery
Major Annie Gayton FoxUS Army Nurse CorpsAugust 4, 1893 – January 20, 1987First woman to receive the Purple HeartAnnie Fox was born August 4, 1893 in Pubnico, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, to Doctor Charles James Fox, MD, and Deidamia “Annie” (Gayton) Fox.Annie G. Fox was an officer in the US Army Nurse Corps. She served during the First World War from July 8, 1918 to July 14, 1920) and in the Second World War. Throughout the 1920’s and 30’s she served in New York, Fort Sam Houston in Texas, Fort Mason in San Diego, California, and Camp John Hay in Benguet and Manila in the Philippines. After sometime back in the Continental US, she was assigned to Honolulu, Hawaii in May of 1940. She was granted an examination for the promotion to Chief Nurse on August 1, 1941, promoted to 1st Lieutenant and transferred to Hickam field in November of 1941.At her post as Chief Nurse for less than a month, 1st Lieutenant Fox was at Hickman Field, Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While Japanese dive-bombers and Zero fighters screamed overhead at Pearl Harbor, Army hospitals on the island were overwhelmed with burn victims. Amid the noise and confusion, and dealing with shortages of supplies and even beds, Hickam Air Field Station Hospital chief nurse Lt. Fox worked ceaselessly and calmly despite the enormous loss of life around her.She was awarded the Purple Heart for her “outstanding performance of duty and meritorious acts of extraordinary fidelity…” The citation went on to state, “During the attack, Lieutenant Fox, in an exemplary manner, performed her duties as head Nurse of the Station Hospital… in addition she administered anesthesia to patients during the heaviest part of the bombardment, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency, and her fine example of calmness, courage and leadership was of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact….”She was the first US service woman to be directly awarded the Purple Heart.
Hickam Field Flagpole Circle, 7 December 1941. Hickam Field's flag waves as the Big Barracks burns in the background
B-17s over Hickam Field, Summer 1941
Major Annie Gayton Fox
The Purple Heart and its evolutionEstablished in 1782 during the American Revolution, President George Washington bestowed the Purple Heart on three non-commissioned officers for “singularly meritorious action,” but it quickly fell into disuse. The medal remained unauthorized until 1932, when on the 200th Anniversary of George Washington’s birthday the Army War Department reinstituted the award as a commendation for bravery under fire. The 1932 action included a special clause allowing First World War veterans, including some nurses, to exchange previously received citations for bravery for the Purple Heart medal.By the early 1940’s, America faced a war on two fronts and her daughters were among those serving and — for the first time — among those being directly cited for bravery under fire. For Army Lieutenant Fox, December 7 was not only a “day that will live in infamy,” but also a day that she herself made history: She was the first US service woman to be directly awarded the Purple Heart.At the time Lt. Fox received the award (October 26, 1942) there was no requirement of having sustained serious injury during battle; instead, the award could be given for any “singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.”After Fox received her Purple Heart the additional requirement of having had received wounds during enemy action was instituted. As a result, on October 6, 1944, Fox was issued a Bronze Star Medal in lieu of the Purple Heart previously awarded in 1942. Regardless of the decoration’s evolution over time or what it was decide would be awarded based on the circumstances, it is clear Fox acted with great heroism, courage and service to her fellow servicemen and women.She went on to be promoted to the rank of Captain and May 26, 1943 after transferring to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, California.Annie Fox had a number of posts in the Army Nurse Corps serving as Assistant to the Principal Chief Nurse at Camp Phillips, Kansas. She served at Camp Kansas from 1943 to 1944. While there she was promoted to the rank of Major. Prior to her retirement from active duty December 15, 1945 she also served at Fort Francis E Warren in Wyoming. She eventually settled in San Diego, California where two of her sisters resided. She never married. Major Annie Fox died January 20, 1987 in San Francisco, California at the age of 93.