Nurses on the Great War's Front Lines

March 12, 2019

Jane Rignel, Linnie Leckrone and Irene Robar almost certainly didn't know they were the first female Silver Star recipients. 

For decades, the rest of the world didn't know, either. Four World War II Army nurses were considered the first to have this honor.  

But Rignel, Leckrone and Robar all received the Citation Star — the Silver Star's predecessor — for their efforts as Army nurses on the front lines in France in July 1918, according to research detailed in a 2008 article in the journal "Military Medicine."  In 1932, Citation Star recipients were authorized to exchange the decoration for the new Silver Star. 

Rignel was the chief nurse of Mobile Hospital No. 2, attached to the 42nd Division. Her unit was stationed in a hospital in Bussey le Chateau when it came under heavy enemy fire on July 15. She continued to give aid to wounded soldiers, and was cited for her gallantry in doing so.

People pose for a group photo in the World War I era.
Chief Nurse
Personnel of Mobile Hospital 2. Chief Nurse Jane Rignel is highlighted, holding the dog. Rignel was awarded the Citation Star for her valor on July 15, 1918, while serving with the unit. with Mobile Hospital No. 2.
Photo By: Courtesy Army Military History Institute
VIRIN: 190308-A-ZZ999-104Y

Leckrone and Robar volunteered for Shock Team No. 134, which arrived July 28, 1918, at the 32nd Division’s 127th Field Hospital near Chateau-Thierry. A steady stream of casualties arrived the next day, and Leckrone and Robar remained at their stations, treating wounded even as the hospital came under artillery fire. They received their Citation Stars for their gallantry during this time.

A composite image shows two black and white photos of women and a Wisconsin National Guard logo.
Leckrone and Robar
Army nurses Irene Robar, left, and Linnie Leckrone in a Wisconsin National Guard photo illustration. The Army recognized Robar and Leckrone for their gallantry during World War I treating wounded members of the 32nd Division, consisting of troops from the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard.
Photo By: 32nd Infantry Division Heroes
VIRIN: 180328-Z-ZZ999-0001

Army doctrine in 1918 placed female nurses at hospitals and other facilities well away from the front lines. When wartime medical necessity changed this, Rignel, Leckrone and Robar rose to the occasion.

A civilian woman wearing a Silver Star talks with a soldier.
Silver Star Daughter
Mary Jane Bolles Reed talks with Capt. Rachel Park, the assistant head nurse for the surgical intensive care unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after accepting the Silver Star on behalf of her late mother, Linnie Leckrone, July 31, 2007. Once it was determined that Leckrone and two other World War I Army nurses were authorized to wear the Silver Star, officials searched for the nurses' living relatives to present them the awards.
Photo By: Fred W. Baker III
VIRIN: 070731-A-ZZ999-014Y


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