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Claire Elizabeth Fearn Papers

Identifier: 2022-041

Scope and Contents

The Claire Elizabeth Fearn Papers principally comprise materials that document Fearn’s service with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in World War Two, Pacific Theater. Included is the complete set of military orders and other official records generated during Fearn’s period of active duty. These trace her assignments and movements from California to Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines, also listing commendations, property distributions, immunizations, pay and leave tallies. Fearn also assembled a small collection of keepsakes and souvenirs, letters, and insignia, along with a few items from her civilian life. By far the most striking component of the Fearn Papers is an extensive collection of photographs documenting virtually every posting and camp set-up, friends and colleagues on these assignments, and travels on leave. Some are identified with autograph annotations. These images offer a fascinating view into the life and interests of an army nurse in the war years of the 1940s.


  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1941-1946

Biographical / Historical

Captain Claire E. Fearn served as an active duty nurse in the U.S. Army during World War Two, and subsequently as a Nurse Corps reservist until 1954, when she received an honorable discharge at age 45 per army regulations. Fearn spent all of her post-war career with the Veterans’ Administration and at her retirement in 1973 held the position of head nurse at the V.A. Hospital facility in Palo Alto, California.

The fourth child of a British immigrant family, Fearn was born in Glencoe, Wyoming, in 1909. She completed high school in Evanston, Wyoming, and graduated from the Holy Cross Hospital School of Nursing in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1930. Before enlisting in the U.S. Army in July, 1941, Fearn worked as a supervising nurse at Holy Cross Hospital, took on private duty nursing cases, and was staff nurse for a private Otolaryngology practice in Salt Lake. She moved to California, and for three years was a pediatric ward nurse at the Sacramento County Hospital.

Certainly the most marking of Fearn’s professional experiences was her service in the Pacific theater of the world war, from 1942 to 1945. Beginning in Australia, at the 12th Station Hospital organized at Townsville, Queensland, Fearn also saw tours of duty with the 2nd and 3rd Field Hospitals in New Guinea in 1944, and with the 36th Evac Hospital, the 165th Station Hospital, and the 1st and 2nd Field Hospitals in the Philippines in 1944-45. In addition to patient care and her responsibilities as supervising nurse of the otolaryngology service, Fearn also supervised and instructed corpsmen and civilian nurses and attendants in a number of specialty services and in the general medical and surgical wards. She received the Bronze Star in 1945 for her exceptional devotion to duty in the Philippines campaigns.


0.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



(b. 1909) Captain in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War Two and Nurse Corps reservist until 1954. Later head nurse at Palo Alto, CA, VA Hospital. Bulk of collection documents her service in the Pacific theater, and includes her complete military order book, other military records, and most importantly a large collection of photographs of her various assignments.


The Fearn Papers are divided into two components, the documentary and photographic collections. The initial eleven document folders contain all of Fearn’s official military records, in chronological and subject groupings. The remaining folders contain personal items of military and civilian nature, and a military document envelope with Fearn’s nurse-corps and professional insignia. The photographs have been organized where possible by subject category or location, and general chronology.

Henry K. Sharp
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Eleanor Crowder Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry Repository

University of Virginia School of Nursing
P.O. Box 800782
Charlottesville Virginia 22908-0782 United States