Navy’s first female admiral, retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk death 98

Rear Adm. Alene Duerk was the first woman to reach flag rank in the US Navy on 1 June 1972.

(U. S. Navy Photo)

The Navy’s first female admiral, retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk, died Saturday at the age of 98, the service branch announced Wednesday.

Duerk, born in Defiance, Ohio, in 1920, when the Navy as a star in 1941, after completing nursing training at the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing in Ohio, the Navy said in a press release.

“Alene Duerk was a strong and committed trail-blazer who embodied the principles that continue to guide the Navy Medicine today,” Vice-Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy surgeon general, said in a statement. “She will forever be remembered as a servant-leader who is the best care to those who defended our nation, the honor of the uniform we wear and the privilege of leadership.”

The Navy said its first tours of duty during world War 2 included district nurse at the Navy Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, and board the Navy hospital ship U. S. S. Benevolence in 1945. While aboard the Benevolence, Duerk helped to attend to the sick and wounded being brought back from Third Fleet operations against Japan.

Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk entered the Navy in January 1943, and initially served as a ward nurse at the Portsmouth and Bethesda naval hospitals

(U. S. Navy Photo)

At the end of World War 2, Duerk was involved in the evacuation of liberated allied prisoners of war, according to the Navy.

“The time I was on board the hospital ship and we have the prisoners of the war, that was something I will never forget,” Duerk told the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project. “That was the most amazing experience of my entire career.”


After his release from active service in 1956, Duerk back in 1951 as a nursing instructor at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Va. and as inter-service education coordinator at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia.

She served in hospitals in the next two decades in San Diego, Yokosuka, Japan, Chicago and Washington D. C. In May 1970, she was appointed as director of the Navy Nurse Corps and helped expand the Navy in the atmosphere of the nurse in ambulatory care, anesthesia, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.



A day in the life of a Navy sailor

A former Navy fighter pilot Lea Gabrielle goes below deck.

President Richard Nixon approved her selection to the rank of rear admiral on April 26, 1972, making her the first woman to be selected for flag rank. Duerk retired in 1975, but remained a strong advocate of the nursing care her entire life, according to the Navy.

“It lasted 197 years, and a future Chief of Naval Operations, Elmo Zumwalt, to break with the tradition for Alene Duerk became the first female admiral in the us Navy,” Maritime History and Heritage Command director Sam Cox said in a statement. “But the honor goes to Duerk. From the melting pot of the care for injured Sailors, Marines and prisoners of war during the second world War in the Pacific, they blazed a trail of stellar performances at difficult tasks, serves as inspiration for an increasingly larger number of women officers who followed her path.”

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @travfed

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