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Veterans Legacy Program: Rear Adm. Alene Bertha Duerk, Navy’s first female admiral

Alene B Duerk


Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk had a long military career and was a trailblazer for women in the Navy. She is a Veteran of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. In 1972, she became the Navy’s first female admiral.

Duerk was born on March 29, 1920 in Defiance, Ohio. She attended the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in 1941. During World War II, the American Red Cross needed nurses and frequently contacted Duerk because of her education. She quickly grew a desire to want to help during the war which prompted her to join the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Her first assignment was at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. She spent about 6 months there before transferring to the hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

In April 1945, Duerk boarded the Navy hospital ship USS Benevolence. She departed on the ship from New York, passed through the Panama Canal and headed towards the Pacific. The ship spent time at both Hawaii and Guam before joining the Third Fleet in preparation for the invasion of Japan. However, the war ended before the planned invasion took place.

The mission of the USS Benevolence changed. Instead of participating in an invasion, the ship docked in Tokyo Bay and evacuated two prisoner of war camps in August 1945. For the first 36 hours, Duerk and her shipmates processed nearly a thousand American prisoners of war before transferring them onto other ships going back to the United States. Duerk remained on the ship in Japan which served as a hospital for the fleet until November 1945.

The following year, Duerk left active service and attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1948 she earned her degree in Ward Management and Teaching, Medical and Surgical Nursing. She then began teaching nurses at Highland Park General Hospital and joined a Naval Reserve unit in Detroit.

The Navy called her back into active service in 1951 during the Korean War. She was assigned to the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Virginia where she trained hospital corpsmen for about 5 years. In 1956, Duerk became an education coordinator at Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, and later served at the Naval Recruiting Station in Chicago until 1961.

For the next ten years, Duerk served at multiple locations and held many different positions in the Navy. She served in hospitals in Long Beach, California; San Diego; Yokosuka Japan; Subic Bay, Philippines; Chicago; and Washington, D.C. She held supervisory positions at each of these assignments.

In May 1970, the Navy appointed Duerk as the director of the Navy Nurse Corps. She helped push the recruiting effort to draw more women into the Navy and became a symbol of opportunity for women. Duerk’s continuous climb in the Navy served as an example to other women showing what they accomplish in a military career.

On April 26, 1972 President Richard Nixon approved her selection to Rear Admiral. She was promoted on June 1, 1972 and became the first woman selected to flag officer in the Navy. Duerk continued to serve as the director of the Navy Nurse Corps for the remainder of her career. She retired from the Navy in 1975.

After her military career, Duerk remained involved in nursing and continually advocated for advancements in the profession. She served on the board of the Visiting Nurse Foundation for 25 years and established the Admiral Alene Duerk Endowed Scholarship at the University of Central Florida in 2006. To date, the scholarship has been awarded to 69 students in the university’s College of Nursing.

Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk passed away on July 21, 2018 at the age of 98. She is interred at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery in Mims, Florida.

Please join us in honoring the long service and lasting legacy of Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk.


VA may have fumbled over 1,000 sexual trauma claims, report says

Sexual Trauma


Washington (CNN) - The Department of Veterans Affairs incorrectly processed hundreds of claims related to military sexual trauma last year -- a breakdown in procedure that may have "resulted in the denial of benefits to Veterans who could have been entitled to receive them," according to a report from the VA's Office of the Inspector General released Tuesday.

Impact of sexual assault and combat trauma on fertility in Veterans

VA Qtrly Rsrch Udate


Investigators at the Iowa City VA Health Care System in Iowa, are investigating the relationship between sexual assault, combat-related trauma, and infertility in male and female Veterans. Her team will interview by telephone a nationwide group of reproductive-aged Veterans. They will then use statistical models to analyze the association between sexual assault, combat-related trauma, and infertility.

How intimate partner violence affects women Veterans

Partner Violence


Dr. Katherine Iverson is a clinical psychologist and researcher in the Women's Health Division of the National Center for PTSD. She is also a researcher at the Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research (CHOIR); both centers are located at the VA Boston Healthcare System. In addition, she is an associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on women's health and trauma—in particular, interpersonal violence and intimate partner violence. In 2014 she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her research into the effects of violence on women's health and associated health care needs.

VA’s Center for Women Veterans to highlight, connect and inform women Veterans through outreach and social media

Women Veterans Center


The women Veteran population is growing and VA is stepping up to meet the need through innovative programming and services specifically designed to serve women. But, once the programs are deployed, how do we get the word out? How do we ensure that women Veterans self-identify and take advantage of the benefits they’ve earned and deserve? And, how do we capture the sentiment and reality of what women Veterans are experiencing so we can raise those voices to drive effective policy?

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