World War II Army Flight Nurses – 1 Dec 2018

The Aerial Nurse Corps of America
Part 4

Detroit Company A of the Third Wing, Fifth Division was one of the more active Aerial Nurse Corps of America (ANCOA) units. 1 Its success may be attributed in large part to the efforts of Company Commander Captain Leora B. Stroup. A registered nurse employed in nursing education, Stroup knew when she saw the female pilots at the National Air Races in Cleveland in 1929 that she, too, wanted to fly. A few years later in 1933 she earned her pilot’s license at the Cleveland Airport, where she met pilot and ANCOA founder Lauretta Schimmoler and, like Schimmoler, later was inducted later into the Ninety-Nines, the national organization of licensed women pilots. 2 Stroup was also a member of the Civil Air Patrol and the National Aeronautic Association and held national offices in ANCOA, serving first as its treasurer and quartermaster and later as its director of nursing. In 1941 Schimmoler appointed Stroup ANCOA president.

ANCOA nurse Margaret Gudobba (left) and Eileen Newbeck (right)
display new flag [USAF Photo]

Stroup described the Detroit Company of ANCOA, the first in the mid-west, as one of her “pet projects”, and by 1939 the company had its full quota of fifty-six women of whom thirty were registered nurses. 3 The rest of the women served supportive roles in first aid and communications. Members met every Wednesday night in the Saint Joseph’s Hospital Training School auditorium for their classes and on Sunday afternoons at the local airport where they made flights with Stroup or with an Army reserve pilot who was assisting the ANCOA unit. Eight of the nurses were themselves pilots, but piloting planes was not an ANCOA duty. Rather, members were taught enough about aviation to determine by ground inspection whether a plane was airworthy and were taught about weather conditions relevant to flight as well. 4

Eileen Newbeck, a member of Detroit Company A, recalled:

We did have a group of Aerial Nurse Corps members. It was controlled by the group over in California, Leora Stroup was the captain of our group. We had military rank. We wore uniforms. It was a grey-blue uniform. We wore a regular overseas cap. We did first aid in the area at all the air meets, whether it was the model air meets and or whether we went up to Cleveland and did the first aid at the National Air Races. We met every month, and we were connected with an airfield. And if there were any patients in the area that needed movement to hospitals or back home, we took them by air. 5

What Newbeck remembers about ANCOA confirms information found in organizational literature and in the press at the time. On the lighter side, ANCOA members had a social life as well. Dancing seemed to be a favorite activity, and Company A was no exception. Newbeck made news in the local paper as the chairman of the committee planning a dance in 1940 to raise money for the national membership campaign. The spring dance appeared to be an annual event not only in Detroit, but also in Dayton, where the first annual aviation ball of the Dayton Tri-Flyers Club, which included ANCOA Company C of Fifth Division, in 1940 drew 500 people and in Los Angeles, where Company A of the First Wing, First Division was sponsor of the annual aviation ball for 1939, in which all aviation organizations in Southern California participated. 6

Declining membership in ANCOA in general and in Detroit Company A in particular may have been a problem as early as 1939, for Stroup told a reporter for the Detroit Evening Times that “the corps served as a recruiting agency for airline hostesses. The Detroit unit has already lost one member to an airline and is about to lose another”. 7 A year later Margaret Quinn, a private duty nurse in Detroit Company A, wrote to the War Department, Michigan Military Area, indicating her willingness to serve her country as part of the United States Army Air Corps, citing her air ambulance work as justification. 8 The wording in this letter suggests the possibility of an ANCOA campaign to seek military flight nurse positions for its members. By 1941 ANCOA had lost Quinn to the United States Army as a nurse stationed at Fort Custer in Michigan. 9 In his January 1941 reply to a letter from Stroup, John G. Slevin, Medical Officer for the United States Army, Headquarters Michigan Military Area, told her that “No doubt, within the next year the first Reserve will be badly depleted by call to extended active duty with the Army. Hence, your organization will lose many of its present members.” He suggested that the ANCOA should continue to function, filling its ranks with American Red Cross (ARC) Second Reserve nurses as an important valuable aid to home defense work. 10

With units like Detroit Company A leading the way, by 1936 the ANCOA had become an active organization, and in 1937 Schimmoler, who was its president and national commander, began to contact key personnel in the United States Army to seek recognition of her flight nurse organization. Schimmoler went straight to the top in an apparent effort to discuss her plans with Brigadier General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Acting Chief of the Air Corps, who replied:

Just a note to express my regret that I didn’t get a chance to see you while out on the Coast and talk over the program of the Aerial Nurse Corps of America. I hope, however, to discuss the subject with you in detail. I believe there is a place in the scheme of things for such an organization, but just what that place is I will be unable to definitely decide until I know more of the details. 11

Although Schimmoler surely found encouragement in this initial correspondence, it was destined to be short-lived, for a month later when Arnold had learned more of the details, he advised her:

I do believe, however, that inasmuch as the American Red Cross has been designated by law (Army Regulation 850-75) that this organization is in effect in time of emergency an auxiliary aid to the Medical Department of the Army, it would be advisable that you should work in conjunction with that organization. 12

Arnold enclosed a copy of Army Regulation 850-75 “Employment of American National Red Cross” to acquaint Schimmoler with the provisions of this regulation. Arnold’s advice apparently had come indirectly from Major Julia O. Flikke, Army Nurse Corps Superintendent. When Arnold asked Colonel Malcolm C. Grow, Chief of the Medical Section, to draft a reply, Grow in turn sought input from Flikke, whose memo to him used wording that Arnold incorporated into his final letter. Not appearing in Arnold’s letter was Flikke’s belief that “Miss Schimmoler’s plan is very complete and would be of great value if it could be used but it would conflict with the present set up if carried on independently.” 13

Army Regulation 850-75 stated that

The Red Cross serving with the armed forces and under the orders of the President is the only voluntary society authorized to render aid to the Medical Department of the Army. Any other society desiring to render similar aid can do so only through the Red Cross. 14

It was under the aegis of this regulation that the ARC worked closely with the Army Nurse Corps to recruit nurses for service in the Army. Nurses enrolled in the First Reserve of the ARC constituted the pool of qualified applicants from which nurses were drawn to expand the nursing service of the Army as needed. Requirements for enrollment in the ARC First Reserve were stated in that organization’s literature. 15

To be continued

Notes

1          Jean Pearson, “Detroiter Receives Ideal Job,” Detroit Free Press, 6 Oct 1942.
2          “’Flying Nurses’ Train Here for Defense,” Detroit Evening Times, 2 Feb 1939.
3          Mary Eileen Newbeck Christian, interview with author, St. Petersburg, FL, 21 May 1986.
4          Margaret Gudobba, “Michigan Great Lakes Breezes,” ANCOA Flashes 3 (Mar 1940), 6; “Plans Dance,” Detroit Free Press, 27 Apr 1940; Hilda Lackner, “Ohio Air City News,” ANCOA Flashes 3 (Mar 1940), 4; Ruby Lilly, “California Sunshine Co. A – 1st Div.,” ANCOA Flashes 3 (Mar 1940), 7.
5          “’Flying Nurses,’” 2 Feb 1939.
6          Margaret Quinn, letter to War Department, Michigan Military Area, 14 Oct 1940.
7          “Sent to Detroit News Announcing The Annual Dance of the Detroit Group,” 5 Apr 1941.
8          Margaret Quinn, letter to War Department, Michigan Military Area, 14 Oct 1940.
9          “Sent to Detroit News Announcing The Annual Dance of the Detroit Group,” 5 Apr 1941.
10       John G. Slevin, letter to Leora Stroup, 16 Jan 1941.
11       H.H. [Henry H] Arnold, letter to Lauretta M. Schimmoler, 27 Sep 1937.
12       Henry H. Arnold, letter to Lauretta M. Schimmoler, 20 Oct 1937.
13       Julia O. Flikke, memo to Malcolm C. Grow, 11 Oct 1937. Grow’s full title was Chief Flight Surgeon in the Office of the Chief of the Army Air Corps.
14       “Employment of American National Red Cross,” Army Regulation No. 850-75, 30 Jun 1943. (Supersedes Army Regulation 850–75, 30 Aug 1926), 4–5.
15       American Red Cross Nursing Service (Abridged) (Washington, DC: The American Red Cross, May 1942), 6.

 

 

 

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 10 Nov 2018

The Aerial Nurse Corps of America
Part 3

Lauretta Schimmoler, a pilot who in the 1930s founded the flight nurse organization Aerial Nurse Corps of America (ANCOA) independent of the other service organizations such as the United States Army and the American Red Cross (ARC), nevertheless intended that ANCOA would become the air unit of the ARC, which in turn provided nurses for the military.

Although a civilian organization, the ANCOA was organized according to military command structure, with national headquarters in Burbank, California. ANCOA was divided into three wings based at Burbank Union Air Terminal, Newark, New Jersey Airport, and Cleveland, Ohio Municipal Airport that were subdivided into nine divisions throughout the United States in Burbank, San Antonio, Omaha, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Baltimore, Newark, and Boston. Each division corresponded to corps area boundaries found in the United States Army. The divisions were further subdivided into companies. The military analogy went even further. Members of ANCOA were assigned rank commensurate with their position. The national commander held the rank of colonel, a lieutenant colonel commanded a wing, a major commanded a division, and a captain commanded a company.

ANCOA National Commander Lauretta Schimmoler
[US Army Medical Dept Museum]

Most of the nurses held the rank of first or second lieutenant, or cadet, which was the lowest grade for a registered nurse. 1 As organizational literature stressed, however, “These titles are used only within the organization, set up for greater discipline for members working together as a women’s organization. They are purely honorary.” 2 Should a member put too much stock in her quasi-military status, she need only remember the organization’s Ten Commandments to restore her sense of perspective. An ANCOA nurse, she learned,

  1. is honorable
  2. is loyal, congenial, cooperative
  3. is prompt, thorough, dependable, reliable
  4. is always dignified, never loud or boisterous
  5. is true to her religion
  6. always respects her superiors and never fails to keep a promise
  7. never complains about anything
  8. never desecrates her uniform
  9. never reveals confidences
  10. shows conduct, character, and integrity always above reproach. 3

Like their military counterparts, those ANCOA nurses who met the qualifications took an oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the Aerial Nurse Corps of America against all their enemies whomsoever” and “to bear true faith and allegiance to the same”. 4 The oath-taking took on the fervor of a religious ceremony. In the presence of the American flag and at least two ANCOA members, the recruit took a ten-question pledge to which she responded “I am” or “I do.”

  1. Are you serious and sincere about your enlistment?
  2. Do you promise to study the Regulations and live up to them?
  3. Do you promise to preserve them?
  4. Do you promise to read all orders, and communications and endeavor to comply with them to the best of your ability?
  5. Do you promise to be loyal to your Flag and the members of the Corps?
  6. Do you promise to relinquish all properties belonging to the Aerial Nurse Corps of America, when being discharged or reassigned?
  7. Do you promise to notify your Captain when ill or unable to attend? Giving reason.
  8. Do you promise to obtain a Furlough when being absent for a period of more than 3 meetings?
  9. Do you promise to carry out all instructions and assignments to the best of your ability?
  10. Do you promise to apprize commanding officers regarding characters of individuals being recruited when you know their character will be harmful to your organization?

Upon your HONOR in the presence of these Witnesses you have promised to be faithful and uphold the principles and Regulations of the Aerial Nurse Corps of America.

The recruit then repeated the oath of office, the words of which differed slightly in various ANCOA documents:

“I, [recruit repeats name] do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America and to the Aerial Nurse Corps of America and do hereby acknowledge to have voluntarily accepted enlistment for three years in the Aerial Nurse Corps of America, unless sooner discharged by proper authorities; and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies whomsoever and that I will obey the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations, So Help me God!” 5

An ANCOA nurse was required to be a single female American citizen between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five with a height between five feet two inches and five feet eight inches inclusive and a weight corresponding to her age and height. She had to pass a physical examination to determine her fitness for air duty. The applicant was also required to be a member of her state nurses’ association and a member of the First Reserve of the American Red Cross, which provided the pool of applicants from which military nurses were drawn.

Nurses joining ANCOA served on “active duty” during which time they agreed to perform nursing duties in any airworthy aircraft. They also were required to attend two-hour classes and lectures one night each week divided into medical subjects the first year, aeronautical subjects the second year, and theoretical subjects the third year. Training Bulletin Number 2 and other ANCOA literature provided a course schedule covering 150 weeks of work that in addition to the above general subjects also covered chemical warfare, first aid, drill, and the ANCOA Regulations Manual in year one; ambulance technique and regulations and radio-telephone communications in year two; and surveys of airports and aircraft, establishment of aviation medical centers, and company management in year three. All members had to pass an examination of the ANCOA Regulations Manual with a score of at least 80 within the first six months of membership and had to hold a third-grade radio-telephone operator’s license. 6 After six months, having made the necessary passing score on the Regulations Manual examination, the new nurses were placed on the active duty roster and were promoted from cadet to second lieutenant. With the promotion in rank, these nurses were authorized to wear the blue-grey ANCOA uniform with its overseas cap and military-like insignia. 7 In 1938 Joseph Panitz and Company of Los Angeles manufactured and furnished the ANCOA uniforms; Hollywood Uniform Company of Los Angeles provided the official uniform for Aerial Nurse Corps and Aviation Emergency Corps members around 1941. 8

Unlike military nursing, work as an ANCOA nurse was not full time but rather was limited to part-time volunteer participation in evening classes and weekend activities that included providing first aid for national air races and smaller air events. Occasionally ANCOA nurses would accompany a patient on a flight to provide nursing care en route. Members held other jobs as nurses and paid for the privilege of being part of ANCOA with a five-dollar enrollment fee and monthly dues of fifty cents. 9

Schimmoler’s optimistic goal of ten thousand ANCOA nurses trained and ready, reported in a 1941 issue of Trained Nurse and Hospital Review, was unrealistic given the projected need of ten thousand nurses for the Army Nurse Corps alone as the United States headed into war. 10 Equally unrealistic was Schimmoler’s undated prediction that within ten years there would be an adequate supply of ANCOA nurses for aviation duty. 11 Nor were companies of aerial nurses established in every large city in the United States as Shimmoler had hoped. 12 Yet in its early days ANCOA showed a modest growth as companies were formed – twelve of them by 1940 – and others planned in several large cities: Bakersfield, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota, Florida; Chicago and Decatur, Illinois; Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; New York City; Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; El Paso, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 13 By April 1941 ANCOA had chapters in twenty-two cities in eleven states. 14 Writing to medical historian Hubert A Coleman in 1945, Schimmoler cited the formation of fourteen companies over a four-year period and a roster “to date” numbering between six and seven hundred ANCOA members, approximately seventy-five of them non-nurses. 15

Seemingly unlimited in ways to expand ANCOA activities, Schimmoler reached out in 1940 to women who for whatever reason could not qualify for ANCOA membership in its current departments. National headquarters daily received “many letters from young and old alike requesting information and an opportunity to be of service to the Aerial Nurse Corps and aviation”. 16 The answer, Schimmoler decided, was to create a Junior Section and a Second Reserve. An Auxiliary also was planned that would establish Hangar Departments in each city where an ANCOA company existed. As stated in a press release,

The purpose of the Hangar Departments is to provide the Aerial Nurse Corps of America with the necessary equipment and supplies to be used in airplanes and on airports in any emergency. Research in this field indicates that certain ground supplies cannot be used to good advantage in airplanes because of dimensions and weights. 17

In her eagerness not to turn away applicants, however, Schimmoler may have weakened her original intent to “develop a technically trained Corps of RESERVE NURSES … qualified for all forms of air duty”, particularly for military purposes. 18

To be continued

Notes

1          Aerial Nurse Corps, Regulations Manual (Los Angeles, Burbank, CA: Schimmoler, 1940), 4–5, 45, 47–48.
2          Leora B. Stroup, “What is the Aerial Nurse Corps of America?” n.d., 2.
3          “Ten Commandments of an Aerial Nurse,” Aerial Nurse Corps of America Memorandum, 20 Jun 1938.
4          “Aerial Nurse Corps,” brochure, n.d., 4.
5          “Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America and the Aerial Nurse Corps,” Aerial Nurse Corps of America, n.d.; “Oath,” Aerial Nurse Corps of America, n.d.
6          Stroup, “What is the Aerial Nurse Corps of America?” 2; Leora B. Stroup, “A New Service in an Old Cause,” Trained Nurse and Hospital Review 105 (Sep 1940): 188; Ruth G. Mitchell, “Schedule of Courses and hours for 3 years,” Aerial Nurse Corps of America Bulletin No. 2, n.d.
7          Aerial Nurse Corps, Regulations Manual, 2-4; Stroup, “New Service,” 187–88.
8          “Aerial Nurse Corps of America Regulation Uniform,” n.d.; Lauretta Schimmoler, “Memorandum: Ordering Regulation Uniforms,” Aerial Nurse Corps of America, 28 Jul 1938; “Official Uniform for Aerial Nurse Corps and Aviation Emergency Corps Members,” n.d.
9         “Aerial Nurse Corps,” brochure, n.d., 4.
10       “Aerial Nurse Corps,” Trained Nurse and Hospital Review 107 (Oct 1941): 281; “Call To Service,” Trained Nurse and Hospital Review 107 (Oct 1941): 281; “American Nurses – We Are at War!” American Journal of Nursing 42 (Apr 1942): 354; “Urgent Need for Nurses,” American Journal of Nursing 44 (Nov 1944): 1017.
11       “The Meaning of ‘Aerial Nurse Corps,’” Aerial Nurse Corps of America Memorandum, n.d.
12       Stroup, “What is the Aerial Nurse Corps of America?” 2.
13       Stroup, “A New Service,” 184; Stroup, “What is the Aerial Nurse Corps of America?” 3. A new company was also to be formed in Kansas City, but the state was not specified.
14       “Sent to Detroit News Announcing The Annual Dance of the Detroit Group,” 5 Apr 1941.
15       Lauretta M. Schimmoler, letter to H.A. Coleman, 22 Mar 1945.
16       “Interest in Aviation Increases Aerial Nurse Corps Activities,” Aerial Nurse Corps of America, 15 Sep 1940.
17       Ibid.
18       Aerial Nurse Corps, Regulations Manual, 1.

 

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 20 Oct 2018

The Aerial Nurse Corps of America
Part 2

By the 1930s, the use of stewardesses on airlines, an idea launched by Boeing Air Transport, had caught on not only with air passengers but also with America’s nurses who applied by the thousands for the chance to take their nursing into the skies.

Pilot Lauretta Shimmoler, however, had a better idea conceived in reaction to two troubling events she had observed. When at the controls of her new plane en route from Akron to Lorain, Ohio in 1930, she had seen the devastation wrought by a tornado that had swept through that area about a year before, its damage yet to be repaired. What if nurses could have been flown to the scene after the storm to render immediate aid to its victims on the ground and to accompany them by air to medical treatment elsewhere, she wondered. Later when Schimmoler noted the inadequate emergency care provided to a fellow pilot following an accident at an air meet, her idea took more definite form. 1

By 1932 Schimmoler, who now was living in Cleveland where she was vice-president of Vi-Airways and in charge of its Women’s Division, had begun preparations for her civilian flight nurse organization. Here she gathered together a group of nurses interested in her idea and formed the Emergency Flight Corps whose initial task was to research and develop the aerial nurse concept further. After moving to Los Angeles in 1933, where she worked in the first of several aviation-related jobs, Schimmoler continued to pursue her plan for aerial nurses. For the National Air Races held in that city in 1936, Schimmoler provided ten registered nurses to staff two field hospitals under the direction of the Chief Medical Officer for that four-day event. The Emergency Flight Corps, renamed the Aerial Nurse Corps of America (ANCOA), was now operational, having aided 220 persons attending the races. 2 By 1940 ANCOA structure, objectives, routines, and course of study were spelled out in the sixty-three page Regulations Manual and other supporting organizational directives.

Lauretta Schimmoler (back row far left) and original ANCOA members,
National Air Races, Los Angeles, 1936 [USAF Photo]

In ANCOA literature the point is made that Schimmoler “was fully cognizant that no provisions were being made to provide nurses with the essential aeronautical education”. 3 Whether Schimmoler knew about an existing aerial organization recently formed in New York City in 1931 – the American Nurses Aviation Service, Inc. – is uncertain. Her research, detailed in statements and speeches, identified aerial nurses in France, Chile, and England, but not in her own country. With its purposes to foster and promote air-mindedness in its registered nurse and licensed physician members, to give courses and lectures in aeronautics and allied subjects to qualify members as attendants to patients in air ambulances, and to institute chapters throughout the country leading to a national aviation nursing service, the American Nurses Aviation Service, Inc.’s goals were similar in many respects to those Schimmoler developed for her own organization of aerial nurses. 4 The Journal of Aviation Medicine, a publication of the Aerospace Medical Association, endorsed the New York organization and welcomed news of its progress within its issues for 1931, 1932, and 1933, including in its pages the organization’s founding, constitution and by-laws, reports of meetings, and course of lectures. Only one lecture pertained to care of patients in flight. Other lectures covered the history of aviation and aviation medicine; physical requirements of pilots; the nervous system; the Schneider Test for circulatory efficiency; eyes and ears; effects of altitude, wind, cold, speed, and carbon monoxide; fatigue; airsickness; military and civilian aviation; types of injuries; duties of nurses as flight surgeon assistants, at airports, and as airline hostesses; operation of airlines, airplanes, and aircrews; flying rules and regulations; and demonstration of flight physicals. 5

In 1932 the American Nurses Aviation Service, Inc., suffered the tragic loss of the “American Nurse” airplane, its pilot and co-pilot, and the organization’s director-general Dr. Leon Pisculli in a research flight from New York to Rome in honor of the American Nurses Aviation Service, Inc. 6 Because Pisculli was its primary organizer and backer, the organization lapsed into inactivity after his death. Although the organization was reactivated the next year by decision of its council, news of the American Nurses Aviation Service, Inc. had faded from the pages of the Journal of Aviation Medicine by 1934, about the time that Schimmoler’s aerial organization was attracting media attention elsewhere. 7

From the time that she launched the ANCOA, Schimmoler worked steadily to have the organization endorsed and recognized as the flight nurse unit of various service organizations, both civilian and, ultimately, military. Believing that actions speak louder than words, ANCOA members offered their services at air meets, air shows, and other aviation activities, gaining some local and national exposure in the press. When the need and opportunity arose, the nurses accompanied patients on flights as well. Media coverage that followed had more impact than advertising in bringing the work of ANCOA to the attention of the public. National ANCOA officers then referred to these activities in their speeches to nursing and aviation organizations.

In the late 1930s the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Aero Squadron recognized ANCOA as a voluntary auxiliary unit for emergency and disaster work. 8 In 1938 the National Aeronautics Association endorsed ANCOA as its official nursing organization, and in April 1940 Gill Robb Wilson, the National Aeronautics Association president, wrote to Mary Beard, Director, American Red Cross (ARC) Nursing Service, asking that society to “take a constructive interest” in ANCOA, a “valued affiliate of the National Aeronautic Association”. 9 One must wonder whether Wilson’s letter was intended to reconcile differences between Schimmoler and Beard, since the interest the ARC had shown in ANCOA up to this point had been anything but constructive. Schimmoler recalled Beard telling her, “You have a wonderful idea, but you are ten years ahead of us. If you were only a nurse we could find a place for you.” 10

ANCOA’s association with Relief Wings, Inc., “A Civilian Program to Use AIRPLANES for Humanitarian Purposes in War or Peacetime Disasters at Home and Abroad”, first mobilized in 1940 and for which Schimmoler served on the Advisory Committee for Technical Aeronautical Problems, also was strained at best. 11 Relief Wings planned to establish and maintain as one of its four voluntary corps “Flight Nurses who will not be emotionally or physically disturbed by first air travel, and who therefore can give maximum efficiency under pressure of disaster or air ambulance conditions”. 12 But in 1941 Ruth Nichols, Executive Director of Relief Wings and a licensed pilot, wrote to Harriet Fleming, a member of the California State Nurses Association, ”Although I have felt that Miss Schimmoler has evolved a fine detailed piece of training program for aerial nurses, we have not found any basis upon which she was willing to co-operate with Relief Wings.” 13

Correspondence of Nichols to Schimmoler indicates that Nichols thought they had an agreement that Schimmoler was not honoring. In short, Nichols would help ANCOA obtain more members if those members would be available for disaster service under Relief Wings, but Schimmoler apparently was not encouraging this collaboration. At stake was each woman’s control over the limited number of nurses available for civilian aerial work during time of war and her claim to the uniqueness of that work. 14 Whether their differences ever were reconciled is not known, but Nichols’s letter to Fleming in 1942 suggests that Relief Wings did not know the present status of ANCOA; Nichols had heard, however, that it “had died a natural death”. 15

ANCOA had not died, but the ultimate association that Schimmoler sought for her organization – to form a unit of the United States military – was beyond her control. ANCOA had as one of its purposes

to provide technically trained and physically qualified personnel to fulfill the requirements of the Medical Department of the U. S. Army and Navy Nurse Corps, under their supervision, in national emergencies, for nursing duty in air transports, at airports and air bases of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in time of national and civic emergencies. 16

Schimmoler, who founded her flight nurse organization independent of the other service organizations such as the United States Army and the ARC, nevertheless intended that ANCOA would become the air unit of the ARC, which in turn provided nurses for the military. Undaunted in the face of the skepticism she encountered when promoting her new organization to nursing officials, Schimmoler relentlessly pursued her goals. The formative years of flight nursing prior to the development of the program in the United States Army Air Forces were marked by the rivalry of these two organizations – ANCOA and ARC – that were in contention to provide the nurses for a flight nurse program in the United States military. This rivalry highlights an issue that has plagued nursing from its beginning: that nurses should control their own profession.

To be continued

Notes

1          Aerial Nurse Corps of America, Regulations Manual (Los Angeles, Burbank, CA: Schimmoler, 1940), n.p.; Leora B. Stroup, “A New Service in an Old Cause,” Trained Nurse and Hospital Review 105 (Sep 1940): 186.
2          Aerial Nurse Corps, Regulations Manual, n.p.; Douglas J. Bintliff, “Aerial Nurse Corps,” Air Trails, Nov 1940, 54; Emerson, “Most Recent Emergency Unit,” 10; Stroup, “New Service,” 186–87.
3          “The Aerial Nurse Corps of America” brochure, n.d.
4          “The American Nurses Aviation Service, Inc.,” Journal of Aviation Medicine 2 (1931): 262–63.
5          Ibid.; “The Nurse in Aviation,” Journal of Aviation Medicine 3 (1932): 5; “The Nurse in Aviation,” Journal of Aviation Medicine 3 (1932): 116–18.
6          “The American Nurses Aviation Service Inc.,” Journal of Aviation Medicine 3(3) (Sep 1932): 176.
7          “American Nurses Aviation Service, Inc.,” Journal of Aviation Medicine 4 (Mar 1933): 19.
8          Emerson, “Most Recent Emergency Unit,” 10; Leora B. Stroup, “What is the Aerial Nurse Corps of America?” n.d., 2; James Farrer, “Flying Nurses Do Without Glamor,” [Dayton] Sunday Mirror, 20 Apr 1941; “Nurses Mobilize for Duties in New Home Defense Service,” Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar 1941.
9         Gill Robb Wilson, letter to Mary Beard, 16 Apr 1940.
10       Lauretta M. Schimmoler, letter to H.A. Coleman, 22 Mar 1945; Lauretta M. Schimmoler, “The Story of How It All Began: “And They Said It Wouldn’t Be Done,” unpublished manuscript, n.d., 7.
11       “Relief Wings,” brochure, n.d.
12       “Relief Wings, Inc.,” Journal of Aviation Medicine 12 (Sep 1941): 260.
13       Ruth Nichols, letter to Harriet Fleming, 16 Feb 1942.
14       Ruth Nichols, letter to Lauretta Schimmoler, 5 Dec 1941.
15       Nichols, letter to Fleming, 16 Feb 1942.
16       Aerial Nurse Corps, Regulations Manual, 1.

 

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 1 Oct 2018

The Aerial Nurse Corps of America
Part 1

As early as 1930, before flight nursing in the United States military was a reality, Lauretta M. Schimmoler, a pilot, had foreseen a need for flight nurses. Born in Fort Jennings, Ohio in 1900, Schimmoler, who graduated with honors from the Bliss Business College of Columbus, tried her hand at various business pursuits – working as a court stenographer, studying law, raising chickens – before settling on the business of aviation. By the age of thirty she had learned to fly, obtained her pilot’s license, and established and managed the Port Bucyrus Municipal Airport in Ohio. As the first female pilot in Crawford County, Ohio, Schimmoler was a “favorite daughter” of the local press. “From Chickens to Flying: Lauretta Schimmoler Quit Poultry Raising to Pilot Planes” began one account typical in its admiration for her achievements. After chronicling Schimmoler’s career, the reporter concluded:

It is not hard to understand why Miss Schimmoler has risen so rapidly in the flying world. Her extraordinary capacity for activity, her quick movement, her orderly mind and her keen sense of values are outstanding. She never is too busy to help a student flyer. She isn’t afraid to climb into overalls and to find out what causes an unnatural knock in an engine. She keeps her head when at the controls and so far has not had a crack-up.

Lauretta Schimmoler looks responsibility and hard work straight in the eye. 1

Lauretta M. Schimmoler, circa 1932 [Bucyrus, OH Historical Society]

In 1932 in recognition of her aviation activities, Schimmoler was inducted into the Ninety-Nines, the national organization of licensed women pilots. 2 But she had even loftier ambitions. While continuing to participate in air meets and aerial exhibitions as part of this prestigious group of flyers, Schimmoler was contemplating the use of aircraft for a more compassionate purpose that would involve flying nurses.

The idea of nurses in airplanes was not entirely new. Nurses had become airborne in 1930 when a group of women selected and organized by Ellen Church, a nurse from Iowa who was working at a San Francisco hospital, formed the initial cadre of registered nurse stewardesses for Boeing Air Transport, the predecessor to United Airlines. Church had never been on a commercial plane when she stopped by the Boeing Air Transport office on Washington’s Birthday in February 1930 on her day off, ostensibly to book a flight home to Iowa. Because it was a holiday and business was slow, Mr. Stephen Stimson, the Passenger Traffic Manager for the Oakland, California to Cheyenne, Wyoming route, chatted with Church about the new passenger planes capable of transporting eighteen passengers. Church, who had learned to fly and had thirteen solo hours to her credit, wanted to combine her love of flying and her love of nursing in some way to earn a living. Like Schimmoler, Church envisioned a need for air ambulances in outlying districts far removed from hospitals. In her conversation Church let it slip that she had learned to fly, and the eager Church and the enthusiastic Stimson began to talk about possibilities. 3 As Church recalled in 1960:

He told me about the boys they had hired and that they had them spotted on different jobs and about the kind of use they were going to have for them. I said, “Why couldn’t a girl with nursing do that?” It was the psychology of a woman earning her living up in the air every day. … “[W]hat man could say he was afraid to fly if a woman was doing that?” He [Stimson] got real enthusiastic about that and then went on to other things. He said he knew the manager of the airport in Oakland and then said, “I will give you a letter of introduction or a card or something. You go and talk with him. Maybe something will work out there. Let’s pursue it further. You will hear from me.” 4

Two or three weeks later Stimson called to arrange an interview with Church and one of the company vice presidents “about this stewardess proposition if you are still interested”. The vice president was “totally unenthusiastic about the whole thing”, but Stimson, who was sold on the idea, got approval from Mr. Boeing for a three-month trial with home base at Cheyenne. Church, who had once wanted to be a copilot, had found her true calling in the airplane’s cabin, not in its cockpit. 5 The vice president who had opposed the idea of female stewardesses resigned rather than be connected with the new program. 6

Finding the first seven nurses who met the requirements for stewardess duty was not easy for Church because of height and weight requirements, although many women were interested. She eventually found three women in San Francisco and four in Chicago. Concerning their training as stewardesses, Church recalled:

We didn’t have any kind of training. There were discussions as to what was to be served and about the forms to be filled out. We had nothing to go on. We had to formulate our plans as we went along. Certainly it was the trial and error method. But as soon as we learned what we were doing, what the service involved, what there was need for – then we began training the girls by sending them out with older girls and giving some ground training beforehand. In the beginning everybody was on his own and we did the best we could. 7

Tasked with providing safety and comfort for the traveling public, these eight women – Margaret Arnott, Jessie Carter, Ellis Crawford, Harriet Fry, Alva Johnson, Inez Keller, and Cornelia Peterson, with Church as Chief Stewardess – did much to boost the image and reputation of the nascent commercial airline industry as they attended to the needs of the occasionally apprehensive but for the most part healthy passengers. 8 The earliest stewardesses were under age twenty-five, stood under five feet four inches tall, and weighed under 115 pounds. The women wore a tailored suit in soft green and grey; a grey linen smock for wear inside the plane was discarded after a few months. A cape and hat for outdoor wear completed the outfit.

In the air the stewardesses served their passengers a cold meal of fried chicken, ham, potato chips, pickles, fruit cup, fresh fruit, and cookies, with hot coffee or hot tea. Additional duties included supplying reading material, sending telegrams and dispatching letters, and furnishing pillows and blankets. 9 And as Church pointed out, “We spent much more time with passengers than they do today, pointing out things of interest as we flew over. We had maps. … But on the whole we spent more time talking and listening and trying to do little things for them.” 10

Church had been a stewardess for only eighteen months when she was grounded following an automobile accident. She returned to school to earn her nursing degree and resumed her nursing career on the ground. Meanwhile, the stewardess program “took off” with most of the airlines following Boeing’s lead. The idea of stewardesses had caught on not only with air passengers but also with America’s nurses who applied by the thousands for the chance to take their nursing into the skies.

Schimmoler, however, had a better idea.

To be continued

Notes

1     Virginia Saunders, “From Chickens to Flying,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 16 Dec 1932.
2     F.W. Emerson, “The Most Recent Emergency Unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.” The Guardians of Peace and Property, n.d., 10; M. Aileen Crain, “Lauretta M. Schimmoler,” ANCOA Flashes, Apr 1940, 6.
3     Ellen Church, interview with Kenneth Leish, May 1960. [AFHRA K146.34–27]
4     Ibid.
5     Ellen Church, “Introduction” in Mary F. Murray, Skygirl (New York: Duell, Slowan, Pearce, 1951), 13; “The First Flying Nurse,” Public Health Nurse 22 (Sep 1930): 471.
6     Church, interview with Leish.
7     Ibid.
8     Georgia P. Nielsen, From Sky Girl to Flight Attendant: Women and the Making of a Union (Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1982), 10.
9     Ibid., 7–12; “The First Flying Nurse,” 471; Ellen E. Church, “Nursing Up in the Air,” Public Health Nurse 23 (Feb 1931): 74.
10   Church, interview with Leish.

Music in The Girl’s Own Paper – 2 Sep 2018

Nursing and Music in The Girl’s Own Paper
Part 2 Asylum Nursing

The Girl’s Own Paper (TGOP), a popular weekly magazine published in London by the Religious Tract Society beginning in 1880, included information and advice about employment opportunities for young women in its issues. If replies in the Answers to Correspondents columns in the magazine offer a representative sampling of readers’ desired employments, other employments – including music – paled in comparison with readers’ visions of becoming professional nurses.

Nursing, both amateur and professional, continued to capture the attention of TGOP and its correspondents in the first decade of the twentieth century. In a twelve-part series, C.F. Picton-Gadsden’s ‘The Hospital in the Home’ [27: beginning 101] * covered basic nursing essentials that the author of ‘The Trials of an Amateur Nurse’ may have found helpful. [29: 751–52] ‘Nursing as a Profession for Girls’ [28: 4–5] and ‘The Experiences of a Private Nurse’ [28: 140–41] discussed the professional side of nursing.

Correspondents were particularly interested in asylum nursing. Why asylum nursing? Strides had been made in the last half of the nineteenth century to replace containment and coercion of patients in asylums with care and cure instead. But overcrowding of these institutions as well as little tangible evidence that the therapeutic modalities were working led to stagnation in the treatment of Britain’s insane. 1 Mrs Chapman, a former Matron of Whittingham, Leavesden and Claybury Asylums in England, wrote of the ominous increase of insanity in Britain during the last decades of the nineteenth century; in 1900 the Lunacy Commissioners, a group established by the Lunacy Act of 1845 to oversee asylums and the welfare of the mentally ill, reported that one in every three hundred of Britain’s population was a ‘registered lunatic’. 2 In 1906 the Commissioners in Lunacy reported 121,979 registered lunatics in England and Wales cared for by about 20,000 nurses and attendants, 4006 of them women. 3 Male staff members were called ‘attendants’ and female staff, ‘nurses’. 4

A reform was underway to recognize mental illness as a disease and to make care for those patients more like that given in general hospitals rather than the less than commendable care associated with Britain’s treatment of the insane. Just as the introduction of trained nurses into general hospitals in the previous century had brought a more humane approach to the care of medical patients, likewise the introduction of trained nurses into asylums could, it was hoped, do the same for the care of mental patients.

Chapman pointed to England’s recognition in the last few years of how valuable systematic training was in any profession. Ratepayers, who supported asylums, were becoming slowly aware that intellectual efficiency of all those engaged in that work would promote economic efficiency. 5 But intelligence must be coupled with experience, and Britain’s hospital-trained nurses lacked the understanding and skills needed to meet the needs of patients suffering from mental illness. 6 The Medico-Psychological Association – the professional organization of asylum medical superintendents – offered a comprehensive training program for asylum nurses beginning in 1899 to assure that they could meet their patients’ physical as well as psychological needs. 7

The ‘general desire to raise the status and qualifications of the asylum nurse’ would be advanced by careful selection of candidates, Chapman wrote, and, on the whole, women offered a better pool than men from which to select asylum nurses, in part because ‘A good moral character is the foundation upon which the successful training of the nurse rests.’ 8

When in 1901 ANXIOUS wrote TGOP asking ‘Is there any demand for asylum nurses? How could I find out where they are wanted?’, the correspondent’s question and the magazine’s reply were printed in a Question and Answer column. The demand for asylum nurses was considerable, ANXIOUS was told, but training in a good asylum that offered certification by the Medico-Psychological Association was important. Annual salary as an asylum nurse would amount only to £20 to £25, but the field offered good employment opportunities. [22: 715] In a follow-on Questions and Answers column, TGOP reassured A LOVER OF USEFUL WORK, who asked if asylum nursing, like so many other occupations, was overstocked, that vacancies did exist in that line of work. [23: 53]

Perhaps to set the record straight on training and work opportunities in asylum nursing, in 1903 Anna contributed ‘An Occupation for Girls That Is Remunerative, Interesting, and Not Over-Crowded’. Healthy women aged 18 to 30 and at least five foot three inches tall with a fair education, an aptitude for nursing, and ‘some knowledge of music and singing’, should consider working in an asylum, she said. The author appealed especially to those Christian women with a missionary spirit to ‘Take up this work, my sisters!’ to prevent unnecessary suffering. ‘When discouraged, think of Him Who cured the sick in mind as well as the sick in body, and pray that His coming be not long delayed.’ [25: 243]

Anna explained the curious musical prerequisites in ‘The Duties of an Asylum Nurse’ that appeared later in the same volume. The asylum chaplains who directed the choirs for worship services were glad to have nurses with good voices as choir members. In addition, each ward had a piano, and the patients appreciated musical nurses. But the accomplishment was not a necessity, Anna explained – perhaps to the relief of nonmusical readers – since some patients were professional musicians who sang and played exceptionally well. [25: 478]

Judging by replies in the Answers to Correspondents column, readers took Anna’s suggestion to heart. MABEL, [23: 352] A READER OF THE “GO.P.”, [24: 224], M.C. [25: 495] and ROTHA [25: 704] all asked about asylum nursing. A.K.’s inquiry about the ‘best way of getting into a private mental asylum, and at what age, with no experience’ left the editor confused. Did the correspondent mean as a patient, as a nurse, as a maid or as a pupil? His advice to apply to the Medico-Psychological Association and to consult her family physician covered all possibilities. [23: 80] Far more correspondents remained interested in general nursing, particularly in hospitals for adults and for children; a few inquired about maternity or monthly nursing, district nursing and army or navy nursing.

Because only replies, not correspondents’ questions, were printed in the Answers to Correspondence columns, we cannot know how many of these aspiring nurses achieved their dream, or whether, once in the profession, it was a dream fulfilled.

* The first number in brackets is the volume number, followed by page number(s).

Notes

  1. Neil Brimblecombe, ‘Asylum Nursing as a Career in the United Kingdom, 1890–1910, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 55 (September 2006): 770–71.
  2. Mrs Chapman, ‘Care of the Insane: I. Asylum Nursing’, American Journal of Nursing, 2 / 3 (1901): 164.
  3. Sarah A. Tooley, The History of Nursing in the British Empire (London: Bousfield, 1906), 260.
  4. Neil Brimblecombe, ‘Asylum Nursing in the UK at the End of the Victorian Era: Hill End Asylum’, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 12 (February 2005): 61.
  5. Chapman, 164.
  6. Ibid., 164–65.
  7. Briddlecombe, ‘Asylum Nursing in the UK’, 62; Chapman, 166–67.
  8. Chapman, 169.

Music in The Girl’s Own Paper – 12 Aug 2018

Nursing and Music in The Girl’s Own Paper
Part 1 Professional Nursing

The Girl’s Own Paper (TGOP), a popular weekly magazine published in London by the Religious Tract Society beginning in 1880, included information and advice about employment opportunities for young women in its issues. If replies in the Answers to Correspondents columns in the magazine offer a representative sampling of readers’ desired employments, other employments – including music – paled in comparison with readers’ visions of becoming professional nurses.

Professional nursing had entered the public’s consciousness when in 1854 Florence Nightingale took 38 female volunteer nurses from England to Turkey to provide care to ill and injured soldiers in the Crimean War. Highly publicised in the British press for her successful venture, Nightingale next opened a school of nursing at Saint Thomas Hospital in London in 1860. Nursing did not attract many recruits, however until the 1890s, but its popularity already had been reflected in the pages of TGOP. 1

In Volume 9 of TGOP, the editor proposed to award three gold medals yearly to girls or women who distinguished themselves in actions or in words. Subscribers to the magazine would vote for winners in the categories of good deeds, fine arts and literature, and science or education. Not surprisingly, he took it for granted that his readers would want to award the first medal to Her Majesty the Queen. [9: 8, 275] * Following a reminder to readers, the magazine was inundated with suggestions that Laura Finnis, Head Nurse at Saint William’s Hospital, Rochester, Kent, should receive the next medal. After TGOP staff had investigated the incident that prompted the letters, Finn was awarded the Girl’s Own Order of Merit for having risked her own life in hope of saving that of a five-year-old child dying from diphtheria. [9: 558, 631, 689–90]

‘Nursing has become one of the fashionable crazes of the day,’ wrote Amy Woods in 1893, ‘and almost every girl seems to imagine she is a born nurse. As a refuge for discontented and dissatisfied women, the hospitals and training institutions seem to have taken the place of the sisterhoods, possibly because no vows are enforced on those who enter them, and masculine society is not prohibited.’ [14: 500] She continued:

Because a nineteenth century maiden can bind up a cut finger and does not faint at the sight of a severed artery, she imagines she is cut out for a hospital nurse, and fondly pictures herself as a sort of ministering angel, who, wearing a most becoming uniform, smoothes the pillows and watches by the bedside of interesting patients, or performs miracles of Herculean strength in lifting and supporting burly costermongers and colliers, and is the wonder and admiration of doctors, nurses, and patients. Fortunately, if she carries out her intentions and enters a hospital, she is speedily awakened to a sense of her folly and incapacity by the hard work she has to do, and the scant consideration with which her inexperience is treated, and in many cases she gladly resigns her post and returns to the home she has learned to appreciate. [14: 500]

As Woods hinted, the reality of nursing was in stark contrast to its idealized image. In its first decades, nursing was organized along military lines in a battle on two fronts – one to create a respectable professional occupation for women of impeccable moral standards and one to wage war against illness and filth. Nightingale, the ‘supreme commander’, turned over the daily operations to her ‘generals’ – the matrons [senior-ranking nurses] of the large hospitals – who in turn oversaw the work of the ward nursing sisters. All gentlewomen from the upper classes, they were the officers in charge of the troops – the probationers and the nurses from the lower middle class. The ‘battle plan’ emphasized cleanliness and discipline as the weapons with which to carve out a distinct space for women that focused on care of patients and their environment within the male-dominated medical world. 2

From its very beginning, nurses met with resistance from both men and women as they worked to gain a foothold and justify their existence in the hospital. Ironically, their sisters who sought entrance into the medical profession swayed opinion in favour of female nurses as the lesser of two evils. To Mater, who wrote to the editor of The Lancet medical journal in 1870, the thought of lady doctors was ‘repugnant’, but a lady nurse in sickroom or hospital ‘is seen at her holiest and best work’. 3 Nursing, not the masculine domain of doctoring, was the ‘legitimate province’ of women, an anonymous contributor to the same journal wrote in 1879. The policy of ‘lady doctors’ was a ‘misdirected enterprise’ and a ‘monstrous mistake’ against which all womanly women should be warned. 4

A minimum age of 23 for probationers assured that nursing candidates would have maturity and some education. A literacy test, lengthy application, recommendations regarding maturity and character from two or three ladies and a minister, and an interview with the matron weeded out unsuitable young women. 5 Successful applicants entered a two-tier system of training: regular probationers, mostly from the lower middle class, were paid a stipend with uniforms and board for a three-year course of training, while lady probationers from the upper classes paid for the privilege of a year of training. Despite their shorter course, these latter probationers were placed on the fast track to become the ward sisters and matrons. With gentlewomen assuming command, the profession would be recognized as respectable, thus attracting applicants from the sheltered upper-middle and upper classes. 6

As the ranks filled with gentlewomen, nursing shifted from the military metaphor to a maternal one. 7 The image captured the hearts of the Victorian public who ‘adored womanly self-sacrifice’ and imagined nurses as their surrogates. As Martha Vicinus explains, ‘In an age that was widely condemned for its materialistic and self-seeking character, women – and especially nurses – carried the burden of morality for others. Nurses were as close to saints as a Protestant country could have.’ 8 But nursing was not for the faint-hearted or physically frail. All probationers were plunged into a grueling fifteen-hour hospital day ordered by a regimen ‘clearly intended to weed out all but the most determined’. 9

Despite the potential drawbacks to the work, the most determined TGOP readers, many of whom no doubt saw themselves as self-sacrificing saints, deluged the editor with their questions about nursing. Replies to such questions could be found on a regular basis in the Answers to Correspondents column beginning in the magazine’s first volume when ANNIE was given information about lady probationers, Saint Thomas Hospital and Westminster Training School for nurses. [1: 192] Most correspondents were told that they were too young to enter training as probationers. The editor Charles Peters soon tired of repeating himself. ‘We give answers to such questions as yours nearly every week,’ he told NETTA in 1886 [7: 703] Three years later, an exasperated Peters told NURSEY, ‘We have given every information to our girls on the subject of nurses, but multitudes never read our answers under the above [Employment] heading.’ [11: 79] By the end of the magazine’s first decade, Peters told MAUDE P. [11: 256], MARY HOPE, CLYTIE, CARDEW and others that the nursing profession and training hospitals were ‘now much over-stocked’. [11: 688] With a waiting list of applicants desiring such work, it was ‘almost useless our recommending a hospital now’. [11: 256]

As the letters poured in to TGOP requesting information about nursing, so did the number of applicants for nurses training. ‘Some of the great hospitals have as many as 2,000 applications in the year,’ Peters told MAY and M.E.H. in 1897; [18: 239] he noted 1,000 applications refused yearly at Westminster Hospital alone in 1893. [14: 257] Rather than repeat the details in replies to letters arriving on almost a weekly basis, Peters began referring readers to the book How to Become a Nurse by nursing and child-care reformer Honnor Morten. He was, Peters told TOYDONIA in 1894, ‘a little less than “amused” at the never-ending questions on the subject of “Training as Nurses”, to which we as often give replies, and we mentally exclaim, as you do, “if they would only take the trouble to read” what we have said – “but perhaps they won’t”’. [16: 480]

TGOP readers were not to be deterred from their cherished goal. The letters from correspondents interested in nursing increased during the magazine’s second decade. Some hopefuls were told to work on their spelling first. NELL GLEN had made twelve mistakes in only a few lines written to the editor in 1886; [7: 736] ONE IN EARNEST, MARY F., ANXIOUS TO SERVE ARIGHT and J.T. were given the same advice in 1892. [13: 400, 784] A worried MIGNON was told she ‘need not fear that she will be made to open her mouth and show her teeth in offering herself as a hospital nurse. Not being exactly treated and examined by horse-dealers, her few false teeth will preserve their strict incognito.‘ [13: 176]

In a more serious vein, two correspondents were advised to do some soul-searching before they pursued hospital nursing as a vocation, for their motives were questionable. Twenty-eight-year-old ROSE BUD, who longed ‘for something more exciting than cooking’ was told: ‘Such a vocation [as nursing] should be adopted with a willingness to deny yourself in all and every way for the love of God and man – not for the self-gratification to be found in such painfully exciting sights.’ [13: 287] EMBRYO, who thought hospital nursing would be more fun and exciting than nursing her delicate mother at home, was upbraided for being ‘almost too selfish for us to believe it is meant in earnest. We have unfortunately, however, met your counterpart in real life.’ Duty bound Embryo to her mother’s side, as did the Fifth Commandment, the editor admonished the correspondent. [18: 559] Embryo’s letter brought to Peters’s mind the 1889 Punch cartoon ‘Charity That Beginneth Not Where It Should’ that pictures a young woman saying: ‘Well, you see, it’s so dull at home, Uncle. I’ve no Brothers or Sisters – and Papa’s paralysed – and Mamma’s going blind – so I want to be a Hospital Nurse.’ 10

Much had appeared in TGOP about nursing and its training, beginning in the first volume, and, as the editor told UNCONTROLLABLE D. in 1890, readers would be wise to ‘read up the subject’ in the magazine. [12: 416] The next year, Sophia Caulfeild, who included professional nursing among the ‘New Employments for Girls’ [13: 362] considered it ‘trite’ to say much, since the subject had been exhaustively discussed – much of it by Caulfeild herself. [13: 362] Other contributors about nursing included nurses and physicians in articles that focused on professional nurses in the hospital as well as amateur nursing in the home.

Nursing was also the subject of fiction and a competition in TGOP. Fiction presented readers with two themes – the work of nursing and the motives behind it. ‘In Warwick Ward: A Story of Routine’ [14: beginning 232], ‘In Monmouth Ward: A Story of Night-Duty’ [18: beginning 89] and ‘”Sister Warwick”: A Story of Influence’ [20: beginning 153], all by H. Mary Wilson, and ‘The Wards of St. Margaret’s’ by Sister Joan [15: beginning 321] describe hospital nurses at work and off duty. Another theme focuses on why young women choose nursing. In ‘Marsh Marigolds’ by Ada Trotter [16: beginning 1] Miriam’s selfish reasons for becoming a nurse contrast sharply with the selflessness of Ruth who takes over her father’s farming duties when his eyesight fails him, and Ritchie, her younger sister who takes over her father’s organist duties. ‘I see with real pain that you are worshipping a wrong ideal of duty,’ Ruth tells Miriam in confidence during a visit. As a nursing student, Miriam thought only of the many patients whom her services would benefit rather than of her invalid aunt at home who needed her. [16: 327] The episode reinforces the Religious Tract Society’s belief that young women should look for their duty close to home. Writing of the current ‘crazes’ of women in 1891 to be masculine in appearance, poets and nurses or missionaries, Caulfeild’s advice to aspiring missionaries had relevance to aspiring nurses as well: ‘Be faithful with your conscience, and beware of “running where you are not sent,” and seeking new work, and new temptations and difficulties, in the place of God-given duties that you may propose to leave behind.’ [12: 245]

Mary Wilson offered a variant of that theme in ‘Contrasts’, a short drama with hospital nurse Sister Christian, her married sister Mrs Haley, a young friend Joan Layland and a servant maid as characters. Christian, who was on summer holiday, was chatting with her sister on a Surrey lawn when Layland, who had recently taken up the ‘fad’ of hospital nursing, came to visit. Layland, asks Christian what hospital nursing is like and gets a detailed description of all the trials and tribulations as well as the joys and satisfactions of the work. Christian believes that although she has been described as flighty, has fainted a the sight of blood and is prone to bad headaches, Layland has the makings of a nurse, since she was not needed at home and was amenable to overcoming these defects in the two years before she could enter hospital training. ‘Joan a hospital nurse! That would be a contrast indeed!’ Mrs Haley concludes. [15XS: 51]

A nurse topped the list in one of the magazine’s competitions in 1896. Agnes Eugenie Smith of the Nursing Institute in Sunderland described her work in an essay that won first prize in a TGOP Competition for Professional Girls; two other nurses in Wakefield and Guildford received honourable mention. [18: 57, 347, 412]

‘It is no play – far from it! downright hard and earnest work,’ Smith wrote.

There are those (a shame that it is so!) who dabble in the work, but these never stay long at it, and perhaps best so for all parties concerned, so we will pass quickly over them, and if you want to be a nurse, do make up your minds to give up the worship of such gods as “Pleasure” and “Self” and let your high ideal henceforth be – “I was sick and ye visited Me.” [18: 412]

She described the routine of her twelve-hour days during her hospital training and the importance of spending her two-hour breaks on alternate afternoons, tired though she was, on her bicycle or at the piano or in a chat over tea rather than in bed. On obtaining her nursing certificate, smith became a private duty nurse, a choice made perhaps because of the better pay and longer working life. 11

* The first number in brackets is the volume number, followed by page number(s). XS refers to the extra Summer issue.

Notes

  1. Martha Vicinus, Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women 1850–1920 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 96.
  2. Ibid., 92
  3. ‘A Lady on Lady Doctors’, Lancet, 95 (7 May 1870): 680.
  4. ‘The “Graphic” on Lady-Doctors’, Lancet, 113 (8 March 1879): 350.
  5. Vicinus, 103–104.
  6. Vicinus, 97.
  7. Ibid., 87–88, 101.
  8. Ibid., 112.
  9. Ibid., 91.
  10. ‘Charity That Beginneth Not Where It Should’, Punch, 97 (7 December 1889): 267.
  11. Vicinus, 118.

To be continued

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 14 Jul 2018

Select Bibliography
Army Flight Nursing in World War II
Fiction

When writing Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II, I read extensively about the topic. Much has been written about the success of air evacuation as a means of transportation for sick and wounded soldiers of World War II, and about the flight nurses who provided the patient care. Published either during the war years or retrospectively, most sources are factual accounts of wartime events. Some, however, are only based on fact.

In fiction, Peggy Gaddis’s Shirley Andrews (Flight Nurse Arcadia House 1945) is assigned to air evacuation duty in the Pacific. Elizabeth Lansing’s Nancy Naylor (Nancy Naylor, Flight Nurse Crowell 1944 and Nancy Naylor, Captain of Flight Nurses Crowell 1946) participates in air evacuation missions in the North African and Sicilian Campaigns before being alerted for the invasion of Italy. She then travels with her squadron to England prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Not surprisingly, the best-known fictional nurse of the 1940s also becomes a flight nurse. In Helen Wells’s Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse (Grosset and Dunlap 1945) the eponymous heroine, whom readers first met as a student nurse, then as a senior nurse, joins the Army where she serves as a chief nurse before being selected for the flight nurse course with follow-on assignment in England. As is her usual inclination, Cherry solves a mystery during her tour of duty. Common to all these works of fiction, romance and intrigue are woven into the plots and take precedence over the flight nurse experience, which serves only a minor role in the overall story. These books are for the most part, however, remarkably accurate in their portrayal of the qualifications for and duties of an Army flight nurse assigned to the Army Air Forces and served as an important tool to recruit young women into the military where they themselves could become part of this exciting new field of Army nursing.

More recently, Sarah Sundin’s Wings of the Nightingale Series published by Revell offers historical romance from a Christian perspective in an air evacuation setting during World War II. Each of the three books features fictional Army flight nurses – Lt. Melanie Blake (With Every Letter 2012), Lt. Georgiana Taylor (On Distant Shores 2013), and Lt. Kay Jobson (In Perfect Time 2014) – who fly fictional air evacuation missions in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations with the Army Air Forces in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy and into southern France as part of the factual 802nd Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron.

For a selective bibliography of nonfiction, see Blog for 24 Jun 2018.

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 24 Jun 2018

Select Bibliography
Army Flight Nursing in World War II
Nonfiction

When writing Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II, I read extensively about the topic. Much has been written, both during and after the war, about the success of air evacuation as a means of transportation for sick and wounded soldiers of World War II and about the flight nurses who provided the patient care. These sources fall into several categories.

First are histories of air evacuation, often prepared by military personnel or historians, that mention the role of the flight nurse. “Air Evacuation: An Historical Review” by Frederick Guilford and Burton Soboroff (Journal of Aviation Medicine 1947), Medical Support of the Army Air Forces in World War II by Mae Link and Herbert Coleman (US Government Printing Office 1955), and Aeromedical Evacuation in the United States Air Force, 1909–1960 by Robert Futrell (USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, Air University 1960) are three such examples. Although unpublished, academic theses and dissertations written by military scholars offer comprehensive insight into particular aspects of flight nurse history. Helen Rumianek’s “The Historical Development of the Flight Nurse Program in the United States Air Force Nurse Corps” (Catholic University, Washington DC 1965) and my own “The History of Flight Nursing in the United States Army Air Forces During World War II” (Catholic University, Washington DC 1977) and “Coping with War: An Oral History of United States Army Nurses Who Flew with the Army Air Forces in World War II” (University of Texas at Austin 1986) fall into this category.

Second are memoirs written by flight nurses. Nurses stationed overseas with medical air evacuation squadrons contributed accounts of their work to military and nursing journals during and immediately after their tours of duty. Henrietta Richardson’s “Flight Nurse” (Air Force 1943) and “Skyway Nursing” (American Journal of Nursing 1944) and Dorothy Rice’s “Flight to Kirawagi” (American Journal of Nursing 1945) represent these short descriptive articles. Many decades after the war, some World War II flight nurses published books about their military careers or about a memorable mission. Esther Baer Moseley’s Lady Don’t Stop Here (Publisher Unidentified 1980) recounts her adventures as a flight nurse evacuating wounded patients from China, Burma, and India. Dorothy Berendsen’s The Way It Was (Carlton 1988) looks back at her flight nurse assignment in Europe. Lucy Wilson Jopling’s Warrior in White (Watercress 1990) chronicles her experiences as a nurse in Bataan and on Corregidor and later as a flight nurse in the Pacific, where she helped evacuate from Luzon some of the liberated prisoners of war. Agnes Jensen Mangerich’s Albanian Escape (University Press of Kentucky 2000) is a carefully reconstructed account of a harrowing experience of escape and evasion behind enemy lines in Europe that she and others in her squadron endured after the plane in which they were flying had to make a forced landing. In The Story of Air Evacuation 1942–1989 (Taylor 1989), members of the World War II Flight Nurses Association submitted individual reminiscences to make up a collective history published in yearbook format. The work draws heavily on Wings Over America (1944), a previously published history of the Army Air Forces Troop Carrier Command at Bowman Field Army Air Base, Louisville, Kentucky, where flight nurses were trained.

Third are human interest stories about flight nurses, some written by war correspondents who accompanied these women on air evacuation missions, published in newspaper supplements and popular magazines. Often given a catchy title – “These Angels Fly on Man-Made Wings” (The Courier-Journal Roto-Magazine 1943), “Hell’s Angels” (Family Circle 1944), “Invasion Heroine: The Flying Nurse (Look 1944), “Angel Footprints” (Cosmopolitan 1944) – these stories feature numerous photographs of flight nurses at work.

Fourth are compilations of oral histories first appearing at the end of the twentieth century that include World War II flight nurses among their contributors. Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation (Random House 2001), inspired in part by the author’s trips to Normandy on the fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries of D-Day, opened a floodgate of memories for men and women who had served in the armed forces in World War II and for their families back home. Overwhelming response to Brokaw’s book led to follow-on books containing letters and personal histories. Nurses feature prominently in resulting collections of interviews and reminiscences documenting women’s participation in the war effort. World War II flight nurses are among the contributors to Latter-Day Saint Nurses at War: A Story of Caring and Sacrifice (Brigham Young University 2005) compiled by Patricia Rushton, Lynn Callister, and Maile Wilson that spans World War I through Operation Iraqi Freedom. No Time for Fear: Voices of American Military Nurses in World War II (Michigan State University Press 1996) by Diane Fessler focuses exclusively on World War II and groups the short vignettes, some by flight nurses, by the various theaters of war.

And finally, World War II flight nurses were the heroines in books intended for young female readers beginning to consider the career options open to them after high school graduation. In the nonfiction Brave Nurse: True Stories of Heroism (Appleton-Century 1945), Ellsworth Newcomb included flight nurse Lieutenant Dorothy Shikoski, who attempted to assist a crewman when the plane in which they were traveling was forced to ditch in the seas of the South Pacific, among military nurses who demonstrated exceptional valor in time of war. Newcomb does not have his facts straight, however, concerning Shikowski’s flight nurse training and flight nurse wings. In Wyatt Blassingame’s Combat Nurses of World War II (Random House 1967), the Albanian experience of flight nurse Lieutenant Agnes Jensen is the focus of a chapter on flight nursing, which is factual in its detail because of input from the flight nurse herself.

More recently, Cate Lineberry’s Secret Mission: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines (Little, Brown 2013) retells the account of the downed air evacuation crew in Albania who made their way to Allied territory on foot over an arduous trek lasting months. I interviewed one of those nurses, Agnes Jensen Mangerich, and include her own account of the event in Beyond the Call of Duty.

To be continued

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 2 Jun 2018

Personal Reflections on Coping with War
Part 12 When the War Ended

For the 25 flight nurses interviewed for Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II, wartime service was beset with potentially difficult circumstances that could exact a toll on even the most hardy of nurses. To cope with these professional and personal challenges, these women drew on many sources of support, tangible and intangible, physical and mental. Social support, one’s physical condition, and abilities and skills fostered in nurses’ training all helped the flight nurses cope behaviorally with the multiple demands of the war. Reasonable expectations, devotion to duty, an optimistic outlook, and faith in one’s God, one’s colleagues, and one’s self all helped them cope emotionally with the war.

The Day Paris Was Liberated [Author’s Private Collection]

Clara Morrey, who flew with the 802 MAES in the Mediterranean, celebrated VE Day with her squadron in Siena, a small walled city on top of a hill in Italy.

We had a humongous celebration. All of the Allied people who were there celebrated down in the stadium. We had races, and it was just a day of celebration. The natives joined in. There were dancing in the streets and parades and everything. It was beautiful.

After VE Day, some medical air evacuation squadrons (MAES) in Europe, such as the 815 and 816 MAES, were slated for transfer to Marseilles for shipment to the Pacific. Then VJ Day ended the war. “At that point, I wanted to go home,” Brooxie Mowery of the 816 MAES said.

The war was over – I wanted to go home. But, you know, what chance do you have? And then we were told they were going to fly us over to Japan. Then, no, we were going to go by boat – or ship, I should say. … And we kept waiting, and finally they said, “You’re going home.” So we sailed from Marseille.

The war on the Pacific front continued through the summer of 1945. Even the Allied firebombing of Japanese cities did not weaken Japanese resolve to continue fighting. Not until 6 August when the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, followed three days later by a second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki, did Japan surrender to Allied forces, leading to the formal Japanese ceremony of surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.

Three of the flight nurses assigned in the Pacific recalled their reactions to the news that their country had dropped the atomic bombs. For Jo Nabors with the 812 MAES, learning that the bomb had been dropped was the worst, most frightening, most difficult event of the war. How could this ever happen? How could they produce a bomb that would annihilate this many people? she thought. She had seen a lot of the war and treated a lot of its casualties and almost crash-landed once on approach to an island without being frightened. “But I was frightened that day,” she said. Her usual calm demeanor must have shown fear during her air evacuation flight that day, for some of her patients asked, “Lieutenant, what’s the matter?” It was the first time that Nabors had shown her feelings in flight. “Well, you should be happy. The war is over,” one of her patients said. “Well, I am happy for that,” she replied, “because that means that many less boys are wounded. Our boys can go back home, and it will all be over.” But what if the bomb had been dropped on a large American city, she said. “How would you feel if it was your family?” Nabors’ heart ached for these victims whom she did not even know.

Hilda Halverson of the 826 (later 830) MAES was shocked when she heard about the bomb: “Well, I thought of all the burns. It was a terrible thing to [do to] the civilians.” Chief nurse Elizabeth Pukas of the 812 MAES recalled the time when her squadron was stationed on Saipan toward the end of the war; troops from the neighboring island of Tinian, “who were in charge of the atomic bomb,” were coming to Saipan and socializing with the army nurses in the hospital and with the flight nurses. Her squadron did not know, “even at the time that it happened – communication did not come to us, our need to know was not determined by us – that the atomic bomb was dropped and that we knew the members of the armed forces whose job it was to do it. We did not know this for a long, long time.” Pukas recalled that the socializing served dual purposes, because her flight nurses “were also the eyes and the ears of the psychiatrists. We were to pick up the cues – this young man, he’s precious, but he’s under stress. So that, again, was something for which we were very well prepared, … to report signs … to identify the cues and to report them. Many a man owes it to the flight nurse to have been that astute.”

“After I learned that I was there at that particular time, and we were hearing all of these horrible stories, how terrible a thing it was to drop the atomic bomb, I had my guilt feelings,” Pukas admitted. “And there are times when much, much later, guilt feelings surfaced, and these again, just as the members of the armed forces from Vietnam, many, many years later break down because of the memory.” Pukas sought help, and ultimately drew on her patriotic feelings to justify the act. “This was a mission, it was a decision of my government, of my country. I love it. It was the right thing to do.”

 

 

 

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 6 May 2018

Personal Reflections on Coping with War
Part 11 When Humor Helped

For the 25 flight nurses interviewed for Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II, wartime service was beset with potentially difficult circumstances that could exact a toll on even the most hardy of nurses. To cope with these professional and personal challenges, these women drew on many sources of support, tangible and intangible, physical and mental. Social support, one’s physical condition, and abilities and skills fostered in nurses’ training all helped the flight nurses cope behaviorally with the multiple demands of the war. Reasonable expectations, devotion to duty, an optimistic outlook, and faith in one’s God, one’s colleagues, and one’s self all helped them cope emotionally with the war.

Some events of wartime service were humorous at the time; others were recalled with humor only after the passage of time. Louise Anthony, whose 816 Medical Air Evacuation Squadron (MAES) was sent to England in preparation for D Day, gave a humorous account of her classmates pitching their tents in the frigid January temperature during bivouac as part of flight nurse training. It took all day to issue the “armloads” of field equipment – tent pegs, shelter halves, mess kits, canteen and its holder, flashlights, clothing, “everything imaginable” – to their large class.

Then they announce, “All right, fall out in the morning with all your field equipment, and we will show you how to put it together.” The weather was so cold, we all wore at least two sets of underwear and our slacks, plus any outer clothing we could put on top. And we fell out. It was dark. These four squadrons lined up … and frequently someone would drop a tent peg, and we’d giggle. And they’d bend over to pick up the tent peg and drop their canteen or something else. And then somebody else would try to help pick up one of the things dropped, and she would drop something. And [Edith] Jackson was standing out in front. Each of the flight leaders was standing in front of the squadrons to take the morning report and turn and give it to Jackson, who would turn and give it to the captain standing behind. And Jackson was yelling out periodically, “Attention!” which couldn’t be had under the circumstances very easily. And finally she yelled out, “You are supposed to fall in at attention!” And then she added, “To the best of your ability.” The captain behind Jackson doubled up laughing – was almost on the ground laughing. …

Then when we did go out, … the captain who was in charge said … “Is anyone cold?” And there were about twenty of the girls [who] said, “Oh, I’m freezing! Oh, it’s so cold, I’m dying!” And I thought, Jiminy Christmas, why can’t they keep their mouths shut? And all of a sudden he said, “All right. Everybody fall into line.” And he ran us around the field about four times – to warm us up.

Flight Nurses Resting Before 13-Mile Hike
Bowman Field, KY, January 1944
[Author’s Private Collection]

 

822 MAES Flight Nurses on March Back from Bivouac
Bowman FIeld, KY, March 1944
[Author’s Private Collection]

Waiting at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey to ship overseas, flight nurses in Anthony’s squadron found that their chief nurse had a sense of humor when dealing with some of the more unrealistic demands of military life. The squadron was at Camp Kilmer during winter when it was very cold, and someone complained to the chief nurse that her flight nurses were not standing reveille in the mornings. Louise Anthony continued the story: “And she [chief nurse] said, ‘Well, we’re shipping out overseas. And if you think I’m going to make them stand it out in the cold, and they’ll catch pneumonia or something else – they’re standing it inside.’ So she called a meeting and told us about it, and she said, ‘You are standing reveille every morning.’ She said, ‘I don’t care if you stand it in bed. But you are standing reveille.’”

When Eileen Newbeck and her flight nurse colleagues in Squadron A of the 805 MAES reported for duty in Edmonton in Alberta, Canada in June 1943, base officials did not know what to do with them. The nurses were not yet placed on flying status. Newbeck recalled that some enterprising officers sent her and an enlisted technician to the United States with a trainload of patients bound for Iowa. The patients filled one full carload and part of another, and half of them were what Alaska natives called “bushwacky,” meaning they had been away from civilization too long while out in the bush building the Alaskan Highway. “They looked a little funny,” Newbeck said.

The trip, which Newbeck later recalled with humor, was no laughing matter at the time. When the train stopped at the various stations, guards had to be posted at each exit on the train, and Newbeck discovered that no arrangements had been made for food. When the patients were taken to a ward at a military hospital for an overnight stay, the medical staff gave them passes. The patients, who had found the post exchange, returned drunk from beer. The next day when ready to board the train, the patients were still drunk and so sick that the train master refused to let them board until they had been frisked to remove any bottles of alcohol. Newbeck and her enlisted technician spent the rest of the trip cleaning up after the patients, who could not “hold their liquor.” It was an exhausting, “wild and woolly” trip, Newbeck concluded. Fortunately after reporting back to her duty station, Newbeck began flight nurse duties, thus ending her short assignment as a train nurse.

Adele Edmonds in the Pacific with the 801 MAES, recalled an event that “turned out very funny,” though she did not see the humor in it at the time. She had deadheaded into an island, perhaps Green Island, arriving late at night to pick up patients the next day, and the island had no quarters for women. She wanted to sleep in the plane when she found herself in that situation, but it was against the rules. Nor was she permitted just to sleep in a chair as she requested. Base personnel finally found a place for her in a supply room, but she wouldn’t sleep there unless someone else was with her. So the pilot stayed in the room as well. “They made a big joke out of it, and of course they razzed the pilot unmercifully,” Edmonds said. “I often wondered about him,” she concluded. “I imagine he made a big story about it, and that was fine.”

Flight nurse Dorothy White with the 807 MAES in the Mediterranean found humor in what she found inside two planes that were converted to transport patients in Italy. One of the planes

was just covered with glossy prints, and they were all nudes. So I figured, Now, my poor patients have had enough problems, they don’t need any more. So I took my band-aides, and I dressed the entire ceiling of the airplane. I dressed them. But, see, they were glossy prints, and I knew that the Band-aide wouldn’t hurt the print – they could take it off later. But the patients laughed more about my band-aides. … they thought the band-aides were funny.

Another plane was filled with a terrible odor.

Come to find out they had transported 12 mules north to the front line, and when they unloaded the mules, the crew chief discovered that there was no water – there was no way they could clean the interior of the plane. So they did find a broom, and they swept it clean, but, oh, it needed to be hosed down but good! But when we put our patients on board, and the patients complained, “What is that odor?” You know, I am the biggest liar you ever saw. And I said, “Well, I can’t smell a thing.” You know. “It’s just your imagination,” you know. And I talked like that all the way back. And one of the fellows said, “Nurse, you better get your nose checked.”

But they didn’t know about the mules, and I figured, Well, if they get an infection … they’re going to say that the mules did it. And I made sure they didn’t touch the floor or anything. It was just that the odor was so terrible. But, so, unto this day, when I see a mule, I smell ‘em.

A sense of humor helped Hilda Halverson, who flew with the 826, later 830 MAES in the Pacific when the ants found her underwear during an overnight stop. She had deadheaded into Clark Field in the Philippines. She recalled, laughing:

I was tired and dropped my panties and my bra on the floor, and I kind of think I had nylons or – oh, yeah – I think I had hose. And when I went to reach for them in the morning, there was nothing left but that elastic around the panties. The ants had eaten it. I was so surprised.

A sense of humor also helped flight nurses of the 830 MAES assigned to Harmon Field in Newfoundland resolve the frustrating situation of 25 women sharing one bathroom. When the one toilet kept overflowing “accidentally” out into the Officers Club, management finally gave the flight nurses a larger bathroom.

The flight nurse narratives reveal a multitude of coping strategies – reliance on the support of colleagues and friends as well as of family back home, devotion to their country and its war effort, and an ability to find humor in situations that could be perceived as frustrating.