Blanchfield, Florence Aby, COL

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Army Nurse Corps
Last Primary MOS
3430-Nurse Administrator
Last MOS Group
Nurse Corps (Officer)
Primary Unit
1943-1947, Army Nurse Corps, HQ, US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM)
Service Years
1917 - 1947

Army Nurse Corps


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 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
West Virginia
West Virginia
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Blanchfield, Florence Aby, COL USA(Ret).
Contact Info
Home Town
Last Address
Washington, D.C.

Date of Passing
May 12, 1971
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Army Staff Identification US Army Retired (Pre-2007)

 Unofficial Badges 

Medical Shoulder Cord

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

As superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps from 1943 to 1947, and the first woman to be commissioned in the regular army of the United States, Florence Aby Blanchfield was among the most respected nurse leaders of the twentieth century. Devoting a significant part of her illustrious career to serving her country, Blanchfield's military experiences included meritorious service in World War I and World War II.

Born April 1, 1882, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Blanchfield was one of eight children of Joseph and Mary Anderson Blanchfield. Her goal to become a nurse was achieved in 1906, when she graduated from Southside Hospital Training School for Nurses in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Blanchfield's early employment history includes positions in private duty nursing, hospital nursing in Pennsylvania and the Panama Canal Zone, and industrial nursing for the United States Steel Corporation. In 1917, she joined the Army Nurse Corps, left for France with Base Hospital #27, and served as acting chief nurse of Camp Hospital #15.

Following separation from the military in 1919, Blanchfield returned to Pennsylvania for a brief period and re-entered the Army Nurse Corps in 1920. Over the next fifteen years, Blanchfield completed assignments across the United States, and in the Philippines and China. In 1935, she joined the United States Surgeon General's staff in Washington, DC, and was named superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps in 1943. World War II generated a critical need for nurses and under the leadership of Blanchfield, the corps was expanded from approximately 1,000 to a force of 57,000 nurses. In recognition of her devotion and contributions, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.

Although Blanchfield successively held the ranks of First Lieutenant (1920), Captain (1939), and Lieutenant Colonel (1942), those ranks were relative in nature. Nurses were denied the rights, privileges, and pay enjoyed by male commissioned officers. Appalled by this inequity, Blanchfield struggled to achieve full military rank for nurses. In 1947, the Army-Navy Nurse Act authorized placement of the Army Nurse Corps in the regular army with equal pay and privileges for commissioned nurses. On July 18, 1947, Blanchfield was commissioned in the regular army by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Following her retirement in 1947, Blanchfield remained active as a consultant and author. She promoted the establishment of specialized courses of study and influenced the development of a program in nursing administration for army nurses. In 1951, she received the Florence Nightingale Medal of the International Red Cross for her service to humanity. Blanchfield died on May 12, 1971, and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. As a final tribute to this extraordinary nurse, the Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was named in her honor and dedicated in September, 1982.

Other Comments:

Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield

Army Nurse Corps

© Mary T. Sarnecky

Florence Aby Blanchfield was one of eight children born in Shepardstown, West Virginia to stonemason Joseph Plunkett Blanchfield and Mary Louvenia Anderson Blanchfield, a nurse, in 1882. She graduated from Southside Hospital Training School for nurses in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1906. Following graduation, Blanchfield migrated to Baltimore where she worked as a private duty nurse and pursued further education in operating room supervision and technique at Dr. Howard Kelly's Sanitarium and Johns Hopkins University. Blanchfield subsequently returned to Pittsburgh as operating room supervisor at Southside Hospital and Montifiore Hospital. In 1909, she became superintendent and director of a training school at Suburban General Hospital in Bellevue, Pennsylvania.

Blanchfield got her first taste of foreign duty in 1913 when she worked for six months as an operating room nurse and a anesthetist at the Ancon Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone. Upon her return to the states, she worked at the United States Steel Corporation in Bessemer, Pennsylvania and attended the Martin Business college. In 1916, Blanchfield again changed positions and again became superintendent of nurses at Suburban Hospital in Bellevue.

With the outbreak of war in 1917, Blanchfield joined the University of Pittsburgh Medical School unit, Base Hospital #27, and served as acting chief nurse from August 1917 to January 1919 in Angers and in Camp Coetquidan, France. Following the war Blanchfield left the Army Nurse Corps and settled briefly back at Suburban General Hospital.

Undoubtedly, she enjoyed her military experience as she returned to the Army Nurse Corps eight months later in 1920. Thereafter followed a number of brief assignments at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, California; Camp Custer, Michigan; Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana; Sternberg General Hospital and Camp John Hay in the Philippine Department; Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington D.C.; Fort McPherson, Georgia; Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; Fort William McKinley in the Philippines; and Tientsin, China.

In 1935, Blanchfield returned to Washington D.C. to the office of the superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps where she would remain for the balance of her career. When initially in the superintendent's office, she assumed responsibilities for personnel matters in the corps. Subsequently she became assistant superintendent in 1939 and acting superintendent in 1942 when Flikke was absent from duty due to ill health.

On 1 June 1943, Blanchfield took the oath of office as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps. She served in this capacity until her retirement in September 1947.

Florence Blanchfield was an excellent choice to be the seventh superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps. The "Little Colonel," so called because she was only 5' 1" tall, was thoroughly conversant with the workings of the superintendent's office and familiar with all the key people in the Surgeon General's Office. Her assistants confided that Blanchfield could "keep her mind on eight things at once,. . . she has the memory of a super Quiz Kid for facts and figures."

Another account credited Blanchfield with being a "good scrapper." It related that Blanchfield "can fight with bulldog tenacity to obtain or revise regulations that will benefit her Corps." Her extensive and varied military background contributed to her very successful leadership as well. Also referred to as the "soldiers' nurse" because of her passion for the welfare of the ordinary soldier, Blanchfield was one of the finest leaders the Army Nurse Corps has known.

She died on 12 May 1971 and was interred in the nurses' section of Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Among a myriad of other honors, Blanchfield received the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal of the International Red Cross in 1951. In 1982, the hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky was given the name of the Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital. This has been the only instance where a Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC) has been named after an Army nurse.

Florence Nightingale Medal

Florence Nightingale medal


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 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
HQ, US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM)Letterman Army Medical Center (LAMC)Garrision Hospitals/ClinicsPhilippine Department
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DCChina Headquarters CommandOffice of the Chief of Staff of the Army
  1917-1920, Army Nurse Corps, HQ, US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM)
  1920-1922, Letterman Army Medical Center (LAMC)
  1928-1929, Hawley Army Hospital, Fort Benjamin Harrison
  1932-1933, Philippine Department
  1933-1934, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC
  1934-1935, China Headquarters Command
  1935-1943, Office of the Surgeon General, Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army
  1943-1947, Army Nurse Corps, HQ, US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1917-1918 World War I
  1941-1945 WWII - American Theater
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