Sharon A. Lane

Sharon A. Lane
First Lieutenant
67th Medical Group, 44th Medical Brigade
July 7, 1943 – June 8, 1969

Woman in a nurses uniform standing in front of an American flag looking to her right.

1st Lt. Sharon A. Lane at her promotion to first lieutenant, Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center, 1968. U.S. Army

The Army is full of hero Soldiers. When one thinks of a Soldier, a man in uniform almost instinctually comes to mind. What many overlook, however, is that the Army is full of heroines as well. Sharon A. Lane was one such heroine. A member of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, Lane has been remembered for being quiet, hard-working, and dedicated to her patients. She also has the tragic distinction of being the only U.S. military nurse killed by enemy fire in the Vietnam War.

Sharon Ann Lane was born on July 7, 1943, in Zanesville, Ohio. Her family made the nearly 90-mile move to Canton, Ohio when Lane was 2; that is where she spent the remainder of her childhood. Throughout her life, her dream was to become a nurse, so after graduating from Canton High School in 1961 she enrolled at Aultman Hospital School of Nursing (now Aultman College of Nursing) where she graduated in 1965. She spent the next two years in the obstetrics unit at Aultman. Having never expressed interest in military life before, she surprised her family by joining the U.S. Army Nurse Corps Reserves in April 1968  .

Officially barred from combat roles until 2013, American women have served in other areas of the military, the most common choice being nursing. In the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, women were not allowed to join the Army, so they acted as civilian volunteers nursing Continental and Union troops back to health. It was not until the establishment of a permanent Army Nurse Corps of the Medical Department under the Army Reorganization Act of 1901 that women nurses were allowed to join the Army in a formal capacity.

Lane underwent basic training at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. She graduated in June 1968, with the rank of second lieutenant. Her first post was at the Army’s Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado, in the tuberculosis ward. Impressed with her talents, her superiors soon promoted her to first lieutenant. Her promotion also meant a move to a new ward — the cardiac division’s care unit and recovery room. While Lane liked her work, she was restless. Within months of her move to the new unit, she requested a transfer to a place far more challenging and fast-paced: Vietnam.

Many nurses who served in the Vietnam War were recent graduates and were ordered to go after receiving stipends from the Army while in school. Lane, by contrast, asked to be sent. She arrived at the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai, South Vietnam, on April 29, 1969. Not long after, Lane volunteered for one of the most unpopular wards at the hospital: the Vietnamese ward. It was there that American doctors and nurses not only looked after injured Vietnamese civilians and children but also Viet Cong prisoners who would often spit, kick, and insult them. Martha Green  , who worked with Lane, remembered her taking everything in stride. “She didn’t make a big deal of out of it,” recalled Green, “she said she was a nurse, and she had to take care of patients. It didn’t make a difference whether they were Vietnamese or POWs or our own soldiers.”

Attending to her patients kept Lane extremely busy. She worked five days a week for 12 hours each day. During her days off she volunteered to care for critically injured American Soldiers in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Being so close to the frontlines was dangerous, however, and within weeks of arriving, two enemy rockets struck the hospital compound. Once again, Lane remained unfazed. In a letter to her parents, she summed up her new environment by saying, “… hardly anyone is scared though. It is just like part of the job.” Her attitude and dedication, not only to those she cared for but those she worked with, earned her instant admiration and respect.

Forty-one days after her arrival in Vietnam, 1st Lt. Sharon A. Lane was killed by shrapnel from a 122-mm rocket that hit the hospital. She died while trying to protect her patients from the incoming blasts. The news of her death shocked her colleagues. “The sadness really was palpable” remembered Green. She was laid to rest with full military honors and the Army posthumously awarded her several medals including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with the “V” for valor decoration. She was the only American servicewoman to be awarded such an honor at the time. Her name can be found on panel 23W, line 112 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Lane’s time in the Army during the Vietnam War, while short, left a lasting impression on all those who met her. Since her death, a memorial has gone up in her honor at Aultman College of Nursing and she was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame. Perhaps the most appropriate memorial was in 2002 when The Sharon Ann Lane Foundation built a hospital in Chu Lai near where Lane worked and was killed. The hospital’s mission is to help women and children in the area. “She was a very loving, caring person,” stated Patricia Powell, a member of a veteran’s group that visits Lane’s grave each year. “I don’t think she ever looked at what nationality people were. She was there to help. She was a very dedicated nurse. If you needed help, that’s what she did.” A fitting tribute to a true heroine.

Ellora Larsen, Education Specialist
Caitlin Healey, Education Specialist


DeKunder, David. “New AMEDD Museum Exhibit Honors Only U.S. Nurse Killed by Enemy Fire in Vietnam .” Joint Base San Antonio, January 25, 2019.

Dorr, Robert F. “Nurse Sharon Lane Paid the Highest Price in Vietnam.” Defense Media Network, June 30, 2013.

“First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane.” Army Historical Foundation. Accessed August 15, 2022.

“Highlights in History of the Army Nurses Corps/Chronology.” United States Army. Accessed August 16, 2022.

Holbrook, Jessica. “Ohio Nurse’s Legacy Lives on 50 Years After Death in Vietnam .” Associated Press, June 8, 2019.

Kang, Dake. “Friends Recall Only Nurse Killed by Hostile Fire in Vietnam.” The Seattle Times, May 28, 2017.

Additional Resources

DeSimone, Danielle. “Over 200 Years of Service: The History of Women in the U.S. Military.” USO, June 7, 2022.