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Navy's first female admiral dies at age 98

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WASHINGTON – Retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk, the United States Navy's first female admiral, died at age 98, the Navy said Wednesday.

According to the Navy, Duerk died July 21. She retired in 1975, but remained a strong advocate for Navy nursing throughout the remainder of her life.

Born in Defiance, Ohio, on March 29, 1920, Duerk received nursing training at the Toledo [Ohio] Hospital School of Nursing, from which she earned her diploma in 1941.

From there, Duerk entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was appointed an ensign in the Nurse Corps.

According to the Navy, her first tours of duty included ward nurse at Naval Hospital Portsmouth in Virginia, Naval Hospital Bethesda in Maryland, and sea service aboard the Navy hospital ship, USS Benevolence, in 1945. While anchored off the coast of Eniwetok, Duerk and the crew of the Benevolence would attend to the sick and wounded being brought back from the Third Fleet's operations against Japan.

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Her selection to the rank of rear admiral was approved by President Richard Nixon on April 26, 1972, the Navy said. The first woman to be selected for flag rank, she was advanced on June 1, 1972.

Duerk was awarded the Naval Reserve Medal, American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.


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