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 Her Purple Heart was rescinded, and she was instead awarded the Bronze Star medal on October 6th, 1944, using the same citation for the Purple Heart originally awarded to her.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.”