STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's recall the life of a woman who broke a barrier in the United States military.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
WILLIAM WESTMORELAND: Colonel Hays, it is a great pleasure for me now to join with Lieutenant General Hal Jennings, surgeon general of the United States Army, in pinning on your new insignia of rank.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
That rank of brigadier general was given to Anna Mae Hays on June 11, 1970, by General William Westmoreland, making her the first female general in the U.S. armed forces, or, as Westmoreland put it, the first in the Western world since Joan of Arc.
INSKEEP: General Hays joined the Army as a nurse during World War II, posted to the China-Burma-India theater. She later treated some of the first casualties of the Korean War and then went on to become chief of the Army Nurse Corps during the Vietnam War before her promotion to general.
GREENE: She reflected on that promotion in a video for the Army Heritage Center Foundation.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARMY HERITAGE CENTER FOUNDATION VIDEO)
ANNA MAE HAYS: Well, it really was something, you know, to have stars on your shoulders because a woman didn't have those. This was impossible. No one ever thought it was going to happen.
INSKEEP: Anna Mae Hays, the first American woman to be an Army general, who died this week at 97.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOONCAKE'S "NOVOROSSIYSK 1968") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.