The selection of the Navy’s first female admiral in 1972 was an easy one for then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, the Naval History and Heritage Command reports.

And that obvious choice was Alene Duerk.

Duerk, who is celebrating her 98th birthday Wednesday, was born in Defiance, Ohio. She entered the Navy in 1943, initially as a ward nurse at the Portsmouth and Bethesda naval hospitals. She also served on the Benevolence in the Pacific, helping repatriate U.S. prisoners of war.

Duerk later served in facilities throughout the country and overseas.

After she was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps, Duerk instituted a number of reforms to scrape “outmoded policies negatively affect Navy medicine,” including new promotion opportunities and pay increases for nurses, which doubled their retention rate.

Read the details on Duerk’s long, noteworthy career on the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

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