Alene Duerk

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Alene B. Duerk
Alene Duerk.jpg
Birth name Alene Bertha Duerk
Born (1920-03-29) March 29, 1920 (age 98)
Defiance, Ohio, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1943–1946
Rank US Navy O8 infobox.svg Rear Admiral
Commands held Director, Nurse Corps
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Legion of Merit
Distinguished Alumni Award
Other work Director of United Services Life Insurance Company
Director of the Visiting Nurses Association and Foundation for Central Florida

Alene Bertha Duerk (born March 29, 1920) became the first female admiral in the U.S. Navy in 1972.[1][2] She was also the director of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps from 1970 to 1975. She is a 1974 recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award of Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

Early life and education[edit]

Duerk was born in Defiance, Ohio, on March 29, 1920 to Albert and Emma Duerk.[3] She had nursing training at Toledo (Ohio) Hospital School of Nursing, from which she received her diploma in 1941.[4]


On January 23, 1943, she was appointed as an ensign in the Nurse Corps of the U.S. Naval Reserve. After receiving her commission in 1943, she was assigned in March of that year as a Ward Nurse at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Virginia. In January 1944, she transferred, in a similar capacity, to the Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland and in May 1945 joined the USS Benevolence That vessel, anchored off Eniwetok, received the sick and wounded brought back from Third Fleet operations against Japan and later joined the Third Fleet for its last strikes against the enemy. After the cessation of hostilities, that hospital ship remained in Japanese waters, off Yokosuka, to assist in the processing of liberated Allied prisoners of war. The Benevolence returned to the United States with wounded servicemen in late 1945. Assigned in January 1946 to the Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, Illinois, Durek continued duty there until June of that year, when she was released from active naval service.[4]

She attended the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, from which she received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Ward Management and Teaching, Medical and Surgical Nursing, in 1948. Employed as Supervisor and Instructor, Medical Nursing, at Highland Park (Michigan) General Hospital, she remained there until 1951. While there, she joined a ready naval reserve unit in Detroit, Michigan, in 1948.[4]

Ordered to return to active naval service, she reported in June 1951, as a ward nurse at the Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia. Transferred in September 1951 to the Naval Hospital Corps School, Portsmouth, she was a Nursing Instructor there until October 1956, when she became Interservice Education Coordinatorat the Naval Horpital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From June 1958 to May 1961 she served as Nurse Programs Officer at the Naval Recruiting Station, Chicago, Illinois, after which she had duty as Charge Nurse at the U. S. Naval Station Hospital, Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. In April 1962 she was assigned as Assistant Chief Nurse at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka, Japan.[4]

During the period May 1963 to June 1965 she was the Senior Nurse Corps Officer at the Naval Station Dispensary, Long Beach, California. Following an assignment as Chief of the Nursing Branch at the Naval Hospital Corps School, San Diego, California, she reported in May 1966 as Assistant for Nurse Recruitment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health and Medical), Washington, D. C. She remained there until May 1967, then had duty until February 1968 as Assistant Head of Medical Placement Liaison (Nurse Corps), Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department. She next returned to the Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, where she became Director of the Navy Nurse Corps, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy Department.[4]

Advancing progressively in rank, she attained that of captain on July 1, 1967. She became the first female admiral in the Navy in 1972.[1][2]

Duerk retired in 1975.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Duerk received the following honorary degrees:


In 2013 the University of Central Florida College of Nursing unveiled a bronze statue of Duerk, and it was put on display there.[5] That university also offers the Rear Admiral Alene Duerk VNA Endowed Nursing Scholarship.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tiger. Female Hierarchies. Transaction Publishers. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-1-4128-2353-1. 
  2. ^ a b Richard Mayne (January 2000). The Language of Sailing. Taylor & Francis. pp. 5–. ISBN 978-1-57958-278-4. 
  3. ^ a b c Defiance County Veterans Directory[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e f Official U S Navy Biography, Navy Office of Information, Biographies Branch (OI-O111), June 7, 1972
  5. ^ "Navy Nurse Trailblazer Honored With Statue". UCF News – University of Central Florida Articles – Orlando, FL News. 
  6. ^ "Undergraduate Scholarships". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Veronica Bulshefski
Director, Navy Nurse Corps
Succeeded by
Maxine Conder