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Ruth Bradley

The angel in fatigues

It is Year of the Nurse and Midwife so we’re celebrating the profession’s achievements with a series of historical articles about some awesome nurses from around the world … as well as a few of our own.

Ruth Bradley was a trail blazer as a nurse in the Armed Forces.

The farm girl from Virginia rose to the rank of Colonel in the US Army and became its most decorated nurse with more than 34 medals and citations.

She survived interment in a Japanese POW camp during World War II and being shelled in Korea with a typically laconic: “It was all in a day’s work.”

Bradley joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1934 and was posted to the Philippines during World War Two.

Her base was overrun by Japanese soldiers and she spent 37 months in an internment camp.

She and a small team of nurses saved many lives with the most basic of equipment and medical supplies and became known as the "angels in fatigues”.

Ruth weighted just 85lb when the camp was liberated.

In 1950, the now Major Bradley served in the Korean War and refused to board the last transport plane at a beleaguered airfield until all the wounded soldiers were on board.

She recalled looking back as the plane taxied down the runway to see her ambulance hit a shell from advancing Chinese forces.

Bradley retired as a full colonel in 1963 but continued working in a private nursing facility until her retirement.

She passed away in 2002 and was buried with full military honours with a 21 gun salute.

#YearOfTheNurse

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