The Day That Lives On — December 7, 1941

On this day in 1941, at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.

Today, I came across a piece on the Jon S. Randall Peace Page about one of the heroines of that day, and I thought it a good thing to share with you …

On December 7, 1941, Japanese dive-bombers and Zero fighters screamed overhead at Pearl Harbor and Army hospitals on the island were overwhelmed with burn victims. At Hickam Air Field Station Hospital, amid the noise and confusion, dealing with shortages of supplies and even beds, one woman stood out, working ceaselessly and calmly despite the enormous loss of life around her.

First Lieutenant Annie G. Fox, Chief Nurse at the hospital, assisted in surgical procedures, administered pain medicine to the injured and prepped some for travel to nearby hospitals when the 30-bed facility was overwhelmed.

She was one of many recognized for their exemplary service on that tragic day in American history, and she would become the first US service woman to receive the Purple Heart, which she received for her actions during the attack.

Even though she was not wounded, at that time, the US military awarded Purple Hearts for “singularly meritorious act of extraordinary fidelity or essential service.”

But, two years after being awarded the Purple Heart, the criteria was changed to only those who received wounds by enemy action. Her Purple Heart was rescinded, and she was instead awarded the Bronze Star medal on October 6th, 1944, using the same citation for the Purple Heart originally awarded to her.

Fox was born on August 4, 1893 in Pubnico, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia.

There is not a lot of information on Fox online, but according to the War Time Heritage Association, “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.”

After Pearl Harbor, Fox was awarded the Purple Heart on October 26, 1942 for her “outstanding performance of duty.”

The citation read:

“During the attack, Lieutenant Fox in an exemplary manner, performed her duties as head nurse of the Station Hospital . . . [She] 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.”

Although her Purple Heart was replaced with the Bronze Star, “the United States Armed Forces still recognizes Lt. Annie G. Fox as the first woman to ever have been awarded the Purple Heart medal,” according to the Purple Heart Foundation.

The Foundation states, “At 47 years old, Lt. Fox was for the first time placed in the middle of battle. There was gunfire, bombs detonating, and the sound of airplanes whipping over the hospital. It was not long after the attack began that the Japanese pilots turned their attention near Hickam Field and Station Hospital. While the “hellfire” rained down outside the hospital, Lt. Fox cleared her mind and jumped into action. She assembled her nurses and sought after volunteers from the base community to help her look after the wounded that started to arrive.”

Fox, according to the Wartime Heritage Association, “went on to be promoted to the rank of Captain [on] 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.”

She died on January 20, 1987 in San Francisco, California at the age of 93.

In March 2017, Hawaii Magazine ranked her among a list of the most influential women in Hawaiian history.

According to the Wartime Heritage Association, “regardless of the [Purple Heart’s] evolution over time or what it was decided would be awarded based on the circumstances, it is clear Fox acted with great heroism, courage and service to her fellow servicemen and women.”Annie-Fox

22 thoughts on “The Day That Lives On — December 7, 1941

  1. thanks for sharing this story, one I knew nothing about. It’s nice to know that there are people who know how to react in a time of crisis. While I have never faced a crisis of this magnitude, reading such stories perhaps will help ingrain in me what I should do in similar situations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure, Jim. I had never heard of her, either, but I was fascinated by her story and thought she deserved some recognition … even though posthumously. Like you, I haven’t been in such a situation and only hope instinct would guide me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great share Jill. This is important, Lt. Annie G. Fox is one of those true heroes that get lost for a while then are brought back to life through memorials such as this. The awarding of medals can be mired in the whole small print. Someone probably figured at the time since she wasn’t actually shooting at or engaged in helping someone shoot at the enemy she didn’t qualify. There were probably a lot of injured men and their friends who would have had different opinions. She has been awarded it by The People though.

    Liked by 1 person

      • PS: Michael Grant an author in the YA market wrote a trilogy called the ‘Front Lines’ series. This takes place in an alternative history in the run up to WWII. He starts with a fascinating twist; a young fellow called up for conscription takes his case to the Supreme Court citing discrimination. He calls the Constituion does not state whether a person should be male or female. As a result the Supreme Court rules women should also be conscripted into the front line forces.
        The books following the progress of a number of young women in combat units from 1943 to 1945. Although the books end of positive notes no punches are pulled with gender and racial discrimination, the gore of battle nor the officers who are more of menace to their own troops. The battles in North Africa, Italy and Western Europe are treatied with grim reality
        They are in order Front Lines, Silver Stars and Purple Hearts.
        It’s not often I re-read books….or spend a day just reading one book

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m afraid politics played a role in our late involvement in that war. Of course, some men joined up by way of going to Canada, China, etc. The U.S. Government had signed some documents saying we wouldn’t fight. Trump seems to be acting the same way in trying to stay out of foreign involvements. In today’s shrinking world it’s especially silly and dangerous to try to do that. 😦 — Suzanne

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yes, definitely. Most of the U.S. wanted to be like the three monkeys: Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil. An isolationist stance was very much at play and if FDR had tried to involve the U.S. in the war before Pearl Harbour, he likely would have been killed. Yes, Trump has made it quite clear that he wants an isolationist foreign policy, but frankly that is neither feasible nor desirable in today’s world. Globalization is the reality, and much as people might wish it weren’t so, it is and it’s likely here to stay. We better be treating our allies a lot better than we are at present, and not being so trusting of our enemies. Trump is about as dangerous as a president could be in that aspect.

          Liked by 1 person

          • One of the big problems is Trump doesn’t know much about history. His education seems to have been very narrow indeed. Either that or he just didn’t pay attention to anything historical. It must have gone right over his head. 😦 — Suzanne

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’m pretty sure he was no genius in school, and probably only passed high school so they wouldn’t have to have him back again. When he attended Wharton, coincidentally his daddy just happened to make a large donation to the school … buying Donnie’s degree, perhaps? But, as we can all see, contrary to what he says, he is lacking education and is 180° away from being a genius. Perhaps it’s time we set some additional criteria for the office of president?

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, thanks for sharing this story. I recently saw the movie “Midway,” which shares many things I did nof know about Pearl Harbor and Midway. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think the fact that they rescinded the Purple Heart was based on her gender (though I could be wrong), but simply that they changed the rules in mid-stream. Still, she certainly did her part for this nation and deserves recognition.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.