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Congressional bills seek WWII medals for Army, Navy nurses

Second Lt. Ellen G. Ainsworth, a member of the U.S. Army Nurses Corps, was killed in action in Italy Feb. 16. 1944. She is buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.

Image of painting of Ainsworth at Pentagon courtesy of U.S. Army; gravesite image from Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.

Separate bills introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives seek a congressional gold medal to recognize nurses from the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and U.S. Navy Nurse Corps who served during World War II.

S.1558 — the WWII Nurses Congressional Gold Medal Act — was introduced May 11 by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Steve Daines-R-Vt. On the same day, Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-N.Y., introduced similar legislation as H.R. 3272.

The legislation tells one nurse’s heroism: “The story of Lt. Ellen Ainsworth of Glenwood City, Wisconsin, highlights one such instance of bravery. Second Lieutenant Ainsworth was on duty in a hospital ward in Anzio, Italy, while the area was subjected to heavy enemy artillery shelling. ... Despite the extreme danger, she and three other nurses calmly evacuated 42 wounded patients to safety. For her actions, Lt. Ainsworth and the other nurses involved in the attack were awarded the Silver Star for bravery — the first women to receive this commendation from the Army. Lt. Ainsworth did not live to receive this award in person, as just a few days after, she was killed by an enemy artillery shelling.”

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