Although many Islanders may remember Louise Costa Yapp from her many years as a Martha’s Vineyard Hospital nurse, they may not know she got her start as a U.S. Cadet Nurse. Recently, Ms. Yapp was honored for her wartime service at a special reunion for a group of Cadet Nurses held in Quincy.
The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps program, administered by the U.S. Public Health Service, facilitated the training of nurses during World War II. In exchange for subsidized tuition, cadet nurses served in the military or other government or essential civilian nursing services for the duration of the war.
On July 31, Ms. Yapp, age 86, joined a group of 22 of the program’s graduates from Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut at a luncheon held at Atria Senior Living at Atria Marina Place. “My two wonderful sons, Robert and Mark, accompanied me, and Martha Post, a nurse at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital who is like an adopted daughter to me,” Ms. Yapp said.
“It was amazing at the luncheon how 22 of us who didn’t know each other could relate to so many similar experiences that happened to us back then,” she said. “We had to take on responsibilities as student nurses far beyond our training, because so many of the graduate nurses were gone.”
The former cadet nurses, all now in their 80s, were presented with state citations, along with a tote bag with the Cadet Nurses insignia on it and a copy of “Nursing at 200,” a book about the Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing.
The reunion was organized by Shirley Harrow, age 79. A registered nurse herself, she was too young during World War II to serve as a cadet nurse, but she recalls seeing recruiting posters for the program when she was 12, according to a Boston Globe article published August 5.
Between 1943 to 1948, more than 180,000 women entered Cadet Nurses training and 124,000 graduated, the Quincy Patriot Ledger reported. The Cadet Nurses that attended the reunion represented 11 of 57 Massachusetts hospital schools of nursing that participated in the program.
Ms. Yapp was accepted into the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps in 1944 after she graduated from Tisbury School. She attended a diploma nurse program at Morton Hospital in Taunton and then spent her last six months as a senior cadet at the Bronx Veterans Hospital in New York.
The war ended before Ms. Yapp finished her training, so she didn’t have to go into military service. “It was a wonderful thing to get an education, and I am so grateful to my country to have given me that,” she said in an interview with The Times in 2008.
For the last three years, Ms. Harrow has been working to get Cadet Nurses like Ms. Yapp formal national recognition for their wartime service. In February, she and several former cadet nurses met with U.S. Representative William R. Keating, who is co-sponsoring legislation that would grant veteran status to Cadet Nurses.
Ms. Harrow told the Patriot Ledger that if the Cadet Nurses are not granted veteran status, as an alternative she would like to see them issued a special medal of honor as an alternative.
“I thought we were a lost breed, but Shirley wants to bring us to life and let people know about us,” Ms. Yapp said.
The daughter of Margaret Andrews and John Costa, Ms. Yapp grew up in a house on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road that first belonged to her grandparents. She met her husband to be, Robert (Bob) J. Yapp of Fond du Lac, Wis., in 1943 when he was stationed on Martha’s Island as a yeoman with the U.S. Coast Guard. They were married in 1948, the year after she graduated from nursing school, and ended up living in the house where she grew up.
Ms. Yapp worked as a medical-surgical nurse at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for almost 50 years before she retired in 1996. Mr. Yapp went to work for the Steamship Authority, retiring after 27 years at age 80 in 2005. He died last year.
The Yapps’ son Mark is a registered nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. Their son Robert was an industrial arts teacher at the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown Schools and his wife Debbie a fifth-grade teacher at Edgartown School until 2011, when they both retired. They are the parents of Ms. Yapp’s grandson, Scott.