Captain Della H. Raney, US Army Nurse Corps


Dublin Core


Captain Della H. Raney, US Army Nurse Corps


African American US Army Nurse Della Hayden Raney's story as a nurse in World War II


This is a photo of US Army Nurse Della Hayden Raney Jackson. Born in 1912 in Virginia, Jackson attended nursing school in Durham, North Carolina, graduating from the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing in 1937. Jackson worked as an operating room supervisor at Lincoln, and when the war came, decided to join the US Army Nurse Corps. Jackson, however, was denied entry into the corps because of her race.

Before 1941, the army would only take white nurses. Jackson sought the endorsement of the Red Cross, and persisted in pursuing a military career. The Red Cross, especially in the South, was still reluctant to allow black nurses into the armed forces, and Jackson finally had to write Miss Mary Beard directly, asking to serve her country as a nurse. Beard, the director of nursing for the American Red Cross at the time, sent Jackson her membership card, pin, and certificate in response.

Thus, Jackson was finally able to join the ANC in April of 1941 as a 2nd Lieutenant. She was the first African American nurse to serve in the US Army Nurse Corps. After this, the lack of available nurses and nursing volunteers for the war effort forced the military to allow black nurses to serve their country, with a limit of 56 nurses. They were prohibited from caring for white patients, and the first groups were sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Camp Livingston in Louisiana. The hospital wards on these bases were segregated, and Jackson was sent to the former, in NC. She served there for six months as head nurse, before passing the chief nursing exam and being promoted to 1st Lieutenant. She then became the leader of the first five African American nurses assigned to serve at the Tuskegee Air Field in 1942. This made her the first African American to serve as Chief Nurse in the US Army Nurse Corps.

Jackson went on to serve in several other bases and army camps throughout the country, and in 1946 she was awarded the rank of major, and served in Japan. Jackson became the highest ranking African American nurse to serve during the war.

"When I entered nursing more than forty years ago, it was serious business with me. It was a commitment to give my life for a cause--that of caring for those who were ill...It was this strong desire to elevate my profession that led me to volunteer..." --- Nurse Della H. Raney Jackson, 1983

Jackson's story is an extraordinary example of an American nurse determined to serve her country and help those who needed her, regardless of the roadblocks in her way. Her story is a reminder of the darker parts of American society during the war, and how that impacted military nursing, and it highlights the fact that Jackson, along with many other nurses of all racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds, chose to push her career as a woman in military service forward through becoming a nurse.


Unknown Photographer, Office of Emergency Management, Office of War Information, Overseas Operations Branch, New York Office, News and Features Bureau, 12/17/1942-9/15/1945


United States National Archives, Series: Photographs of Notable Personalities, 1942-1945, Record Group 208: Records of the Office of War Information, 1926-1951, Item 535942:

Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch. New York Office. News and Features Bureau. Capt. Della H. Raney, Army Nurse Corps, Who Now Heads the Nursing Staff at the Station Hospital at Camp Beale, CA, Has the Distinction of Being the First Negro Nurse to Report to Duty in the Present War... Series: Photographs of Notable Personalities, 1926 - 1951, 1945.


United States National Archives and Records Administration


Accessed April 26, 2020




Appalachian State University Nursing History Webpage: "Della Hayden Raney Jackson African American Trailblazer WWII Nurse," Accessed April 28, 2020:


Photograph (jpg)




Still Image


Della H. Raney, US Army Nurse Corps, WWII


African American Nurses in WWII, African American Women in WWII

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

black and white photograph



Unknown Photographer, Office of Emergency Management, Office of War Information, Overseas Operations Branch, New York Office, News and Features Bureau, 12/17/1942-9/15/1945, “Captain Della H. Raney, US Army Nurse Corps,” US Nurses in World War II, accessed July 25, 2024,