Esther Jane McNeil graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in 1940 and joined the Army Nurse Corps. After the Pearl Harbor bombing Dec. 7, 1941, McNeil entered active duty. In February 1942, she went to Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. She also served at bases in Colorado and Texas.
McNeil became part of the 69th General Hospital and went to Ledo, India. However, after meeting a colleague from her University of Pennsylvania days, she transferred to the 80th General Hospital. She later became head of the operating room and treated patients with gas gangrene. While on leave in July 1945, McNeil learned that her unit would be moving to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. However, the war ended before her arrival, and her unit went to Okinawa before returning to the U.S. in the fall. McNeil honorably discharged at Fort Des Moines on Thanksgiving Day, 1945.
Following her discharge, McNeil attended Case Western Reserve University and majored in public health. After graduating, she went to work for the D.C. Health Department in Washington, D.C. When a colleague told her about her positive experience in the Navy Reserve, McNeil joined the Navy Reserve Nurse Corps. However, she later rejoined the Army Nurse Corps after hearing of the benefits for Veteran nurses. She went to Fort Hood, Texas and later went to southern France to serve at a field training school.
During the Korean War, McNeil transferred to a field training school in Deggendorf, Germany, where she served for a year. In 1952, she went to Landstuhl when the field school moved to the base there. When she returned to the U.S. at Fort Sheridan, McNeil applied to the University of Michigan to get her master’s degree. However, she later attended the University of Minnesota after an administrative mistake and took courses in public health. After receiving her master’s, McNeil went to Fort Houston to set up a nursing program at the military base’s hospital. Instead, she became a nurse at the base’s health school for two years.
McNeil briefly served during the Korean War before returning to the U.S. Upon her return, she became a chief nurse at Fort Polk in Louisiana. She later served as a nurse in Stuttgart, Germany before retiring as a colonel in 1971.
After retiring, McNeil moved to San Diego, California, and became interested in golfing and birdwatching.
We honor her service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Fact checker: Nohely Diaz
Graphic artist: Erin Gallagher