In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 that established a permanent place for women in the United States military. Though female nurses were already considered permanent, this Act changed the role of women in the military and opened many doors. In 1950, the Unites States found themselves in conflict with Korea, a conflict for which they were unprepared. The Armed Services began to ask American women to leave their homes, jobs, and families and fight, as they had in previous wars. There were approximately 120,000 active duty women in Korea, with many in neighboring countries, such as Japan. There were also around 11,000 females in Vietnam during that conflict. In most cases, the vast majority of women were nurses.
These women were true patriots and a very important part of American History. In many ways, they paved the way for those women who sacrifice and serve their country today. One such woman is Marjorie Phipps, a retired Major in the United States Army that served as a nurse in both Korea and Vietnam.
Major Phipps grew up in Peoria, Illinois, where she graduated from high school and then continued on to three years of nurses training. Though she never had children, Major Phipps was married twice, both of which were Lieutenant Colonels in the Army. In 1936, after her brother had joined the Army, she was feeling patriotic and chose to enlist as well. She worked as a floor nurse and spent time in Paris, after both Korea and Vietnam. “I was a little shaking going overseas the first time, but it was ok. My brother had already told me all about it so I was prepared. I felt patriotic and thought the Army was something really good to do. I went overseas and did my duty there, it was mainly routine, thank God. But we took care of the boys and they appreciated, so much, everything we did for them,” explained Major Phipps. “I am still patriotic. We have got a wonderful country. After being overseas in Korea, Vietnam, and Paris, I think the United States is the best place in the world.”
Eventually, Major Phipps and her husband, Robert, a pilot for the Army, were stationed at Fort Chaffee, and upon Robert’s retirement, they moved to Mena and bought a farm and raised cattle, while Major Phipps commuted back and forth until she completed 26 years of service and retired. “We liked Mena and I didn’t want to go back to Illinois and he didn’t want to go back to Oklahoma, so we stayed here and I still like it. I’m glad to be back here, I think it’s a wonderful little town. My husband isn’t with me anymore, but I have lots of friends here,” said Major Phipps.