Within a month of landing on the beach in Korea in 1950, nurse Margaret (Zane) Fleming and her fellow nurses with the 1st Mobile Army Surgical Hospital were attacked. The group of 13 Army nurses was traveling with the 7th Infantry Division from Incheon to Pusan when enemy forces ambushed them. They ran to a nearby ditch to take cover and watched as gunfire and burning vehicles lit up the sky. At sunrise they ventured out and went to work, treating the wounded. Eight men died, and some of the supply vehicles were lost. None of the nurses were injured.
Because of nurses like Fleming, traveling with troops and working in MASH units, wounded people survived. During World War II, the fatality rate for seriously injured troops was 4.5 percent; during the Korean War, it was reduced to 2.5 percent.
“Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.”
These powerful words—spoken by a woman steeped in conviction to help others—were reinforced by the actions of her life. To be so ready to renounce all that had been handed to her—an eligible upbringing promising everything that a Victorian woman could desire—to reduce herself to a profession held as immodest and unsuitable for a lady of her social status required immense tenacity and self-belief. Her determination, sacrifice, and confidence are the reason we have since seen a medical renaissance in nursing practices and militaristic triage efforts. For all of these reasons and more, Florence Nightingale unarguably deserves the title “Mother of Modern Nursing.”