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.
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.
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.
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