The Most Highly Decorated Woman Of WWII Was Also The First Woman To Receive Both The Purple Heart And Bronze Star

 August 29, 2021

During World War II, women served in segregated units for women only. However, one woman stood out from the rest, making her way up the ranks and earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

Working For The Army

Lt. Col. Cordelia "Betty" Cook was the middle child of five and was born in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and went to Christ Hospital School of Nursing in Ohio to become a surgical nurse. She was commissioned by the Army and went to Europe to help the medical corps already there.

Cook was a bit of a workaholic and would not take leave even when offered to her. She was known as kind and compassionate.

Cook was working at a field hospital in Italy where the Germans had the strategic advantage during battles. Each time the Allies faced off against the Germans, it was brutal.

Dangerous Assignment

On Lt. Col. Cook's first day at the field hospital, it was bombed. Even though she was was in grave danger, Cook worked diligently caring for those who were wounded.

Cook was transferred to the 11th Field Hospital in the Presenzano sector in 1944. Allies had landed there the year prior and made significant progress liberating Napels in a month.

They were also successful in keeping the German forces pinned down. But the 23 divisions of the German Army were reinforced to the tune of 215,000 troops in the south and 265,000 troops in the north.

The 11th Field hospital was in the middle of all the chaos. Every time Lt. Col. Cook went to work, she was at risk. For her work at the hospital, Cook was given the Bronze Star.

Making History

She was injured by shrapnel after being hit with German artillery fire and worked through her injury. Her bravery and commitment earned her the Purple Heart.

Lt. Col. Cook was the first woman to be awarded both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Over time, 1.8 million Purple Hearts have been awarded to service members. The medal was first awarded to service members in 1782.

After World War II, Lt. Col. Cook married an Army Captain and lived in Columbus, Ohio, with their three children. She continued to work as a nurse at Doctors Hospital North for thirty years.

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2 comments on “The Most Highly Decorated Woman Of WWII Was Also The First Woman To Receive Both The Purple Heart And Bronze Star”

  1. Her nursing career reminds me of couple of good friends. Both were WW2 Veterans. Both have since passed on, about a decade ago. Both were the best of patriots! Bud was a Marine Raider and was in a number of battles with the Imperial Japanese. Edie was a Navy Nurse and a Lt. in rank. Bud got seriously wounded on the first wave to hit Guam in July of 1944. He lost his best friend in that battle. He survived the ordeal, however he was severely wounded trying to take a Japanese Bunker out. He was removed from the battlefield and sent home on a Hospital Ship. He was transported to San Diego, where a Navy Nurse treated him for his wounds and the after effects of Malaria. They fell in love during his recovery. Bud, who was a Marine Corporal at the time, and Edie a Navy Officer, got married after Bud fully recovered from his wounds. I joked with him about marrying an officer, when visiting with them both. I said "Bud how did you pull that off". He smiled and said " Well, I was a Marine". Both were the best of people, part of the Greatest Generation!

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