U.S. Senator Steve Daines, along with senators Elizabeth Warren, Susan Collins, and Angus King, introduced bipartisan legislation to honor the women who served in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II with honorary veteran status. This bill credits service in the Cadet Nurse Corps between 1943 and 1948 as active military service for the purpose of attaining status as a veteran. We happen to have a World War II cadet nurse right here in the Magic City!
Laura Koch – Natvig is originally from South Dakota. She moved to Billings in 1964 and has lived in the Magic City ever since. She is 93 years old and can still remember her years as a cadet nurse during World War II.
It’s been 76 years since Laura first served as a nurse in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps.
“I started nurse’s training right out of high school,” Koch-Natvig said. “So I was pretty young. Right after I started nurse’s training in 1943, that’s when they started the cadet nurse corps. So, most of us in my class signed up for the cadet nurse because we got paid.”
According to uscadetnurse.org, World War II was facing a shortage of nurses in 1943. The federal government established the cadet nurse corps within the public health service.
“Every nurse that was in the school could join up for the cadet nurse corps,” Koch-Natvig said. “But when the government sent out the papers, there was one nurse from each state that was chosen to go to San Diego.”
Some were sent to V.A. hospitals, while others were sent to army hospitals. Laura was sent to the Bob Wilson Naval Hospital, also known as the “Balboa” Hospital, in 1943.
“The naval hospital in San Diego, at the time, was the largest hospital in the world,” Laura explained.
Laura’s duties included just about everything. From starting IV’s to taking care of critical patients and doing rounds in the wards as well. She remembers one patient whose story left a lasting impression on her.
“There was a young man who was in a car accident,” Laura recalled. “I was specialing him for a long time. He didn’t regain consciousness until after I had left there, but his wife and two children were killed.”
Laura had seen a lot while she was serving as a cadet nurse from 1943-1946. After the war was over in 1945, Laura was sent home where she eventually got married and had two children.
Laura said she is glad the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act that would give WWII cadet nurses honorary veteran status is being introduced. She hopes the bill passes. She hopes to one day be buried in the National Cemetery in Laurel, Montana.
Laura said the U.S. cadet nurses would have been the first ones drafted in the military if World War II continued after 1945. Because of this, many nurses from her school of nursing did not sign up for cadet nursing. Laura believes she may be the only cadet nurse veteran alive today.
From all of us at KULR-8 Laura Koch-Natvig, thank you for your service!