Deputy Director, Navy Nurse Corps, 1966-1970
Captain Angelica Vitillo Costa was the eighth of fourteen children born to Libratto and Josephine (Jannarone) Vitillo and raised in Nutley. After graduating from Nutley High School and earning a Nursing diploma from St. James School of Nursing in Newark, NJ, she worked as a private duty nurse and then Obstetrical Supervisor at Columbus Hospital in Newark until she volunteered for active military duty in 1942. She served in the US Navy Nurse Corps for the next 28 years.
In April 1945, Capt. Vitillo Costa flew to Guam, Mariana Island, where she cared for casualties from the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns of World War II as well as Japanese prisoners of war. After V-J Day, she was assigned as Chief of Nursing Service at the Guam Memorial Hospital where she was responsible for 250 hospitalized patients, 20 dispensaries throughout the island, and an active leper colony until July 1946.
In late 1965, when the large number of casualties in Vietnam required additional in-country beds, the Navy re-commissioned the hospital ship USS Repose and selected Capt. Vitillo Costa to assist in equipping and organizing the Nursing Service to staff the ship. She served on board as the Chief of Nursing Services off the coast of Vietnam in dangerous and difficult conditions until July 1966 when she was appointed Deputy Director of the Navy Nurse Corps. After one year on station, the USS Repose was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for outstanding performance.
As Deputy Director of the Navy Nurse Corps from July 1966 to May 1970, she assisted the Director in recruiting, training, assigning, rotating and developing Nurse Corps officers. She also served as assistant to the Inspector General, Medical, surveying Naval medical facilities around the world in an effort to maintain high standards of care for military personnel and their families.
During her Navy career, she was awarded the American Theater Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Medal, and Vietnam Theater Medal. At a special White House ceremony, she received a Meritorious Service Award from US President Lyndon Johnson. At the time of her retirement in May 1970, she was honored for her distinguished Navy service and recognized for her major contributions which increased the effectiveness of the Nursing Service for the Navy’s operating forces.
While serving in the US Navy, she attended Indiana University from September 1957 to June 1959. She was awarded a Baccalaureate degree in Nursing Education with distinction. During this time she also studied oil painting and over the next twelve years produced an impressive body of work, both abstract and representational.
In 1970, she married Capt. Angelo B. Costa, a US Navy Dental Officer, and became a mother to his three daughters who had lost their own mother to illness. She gave many years of volunteer service to Birthright, an organization which supports pregnant women in difficult circumstances, and to the American Institute for Italian Culture.