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McKay Hortense Eleanor

Hortense Eleanor McKay
Second Lieutenant
Serial Number:
United States Army Nurse Corps
Date of Death:
Richland Prairie Presbyterian Cem., Minnesota
Bronze Star Medal

Hortense Eleanor McKay was born on July 16, 1910 in Harmony, Minnesota. She was the daughter of George Milne McKay and Lydia A. Hahn McKay. Following graduation in 1927, McKay attended the Saint Cloud Teacher's College then worked for one year in a rural Crow Wing County school before attending nursing school, where she earned her nursing degree in 1933.

After joining the Army in 1936, she was eventually sent to the Philippines and survived the heavy bombing of Clark Field, and heroically served the wounded on Corregidor and later at a primitive hospital in Bataan. Although she did not take part in the death march, she is said to be one of the last nurses to leave the wounded. Eleanor was one of the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor” – the US Army and Navy Nurse Corps women who served in the Battle of the Philippines in 1941-42. When Bataan and Corregidor fell, 11 Navy nurses, 66 army nurses, and 1 nurse-anesthetist were captured and imprisoned in and around Manila. They continued to serve as nurses in various POW camps until they were finally liberated in February 1945.

In 1949, McKay earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Minnesota and continued her Army nursing career, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel, and retiring in 1960 after three posts as Chief Nurse in overseas and domestic Army hospitals. She died on January 15, 1988 at the age of 77, in surgery at the University of Minnesota Hospital. She is now buried in the Richland Prairie Presbyterian Cemetery, Preston, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA.

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