United States (U.S.) Cadet Nurse Corps (CNC) was authorized by the U.S. Congress and signed into law as a nondiscriminatory program in July 1943. Its purpose was to help alleviate the nursing shortage that existed during World War II. The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) was named the supervisory agency; it was answerable to the surgeon general of the United States, Thomas Parran, Jr. The USPHS established a division to administer the CNC program and Parran appointed Lucile Petry, a registered nurse (RN), as its director.

The program was open to all women between the ages of 17 and 35 who were in good health and had graduated from an accredited high school. The recruiting target was the high-school graduate but college women were also recruited. Few media sources lacked advertising for the CNC. All state nursing schools in the U.S. were eligible to participate in the program; they were, however, required to be accredited by the accrediting agency in their state and be connected with a hospital that had been approved by the American College of Surgeons. The participating schools of nursing were required to compress the traditional nursing program of 36 months into 30 months and were obligated to provide the students with the clinical experiences of medicine, surgery, pediatrics, and obstetrics.

The cadets came from locations across the nation and from all backgrounds. The CNC was the largest of the federal nurse-training programs; it allowed young women to serve their country in uniform and without discrimination. Of the 1,300 schools of nursing in the country, 1,125 participated in the program. The CNC operated from 1943 until 1948; during this period 179,294 student nurses enrolled in the program and 124,065 of them graduated from participating nursing schools. The American Hospital Association credited the cadet student nurses with helping to prevent the collapse of civilian nursing in the U.S. during the war.