World War II Army Flight Nurses – 18 Dec 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

25th Interview

Frances Sandstrom Crabtree
816 MAES Europe
21 June 1986

My interview with Frances Crabtree was one of those unexpected surprises. When I arrived in Spokane, Washington to interview Hilda Chamberlain in her home, Hilda mentioned that her friend Frances, another World War II flight nurse living in Spokane, wanted to be interviewed for my study. Hilda was eager that I meet Frances and arranged for me to drive to Frances’s house some minutes away after our interview.

When I arrived at Frances’s house, I was met by Frances and her husband Roe and escorted into their house. The house was a surprise itself. It is an old home with an accumulation of old furniture, cut glass, even large dolls occupying some of the chairs in the living room and dining room. My eyes were attracted immediately to an antique pump organ and a baby grand piano in the living room. This was not, however, an occasion to play. Frances served coffee and chatted a great deal about her experiences. I eventually asked her directly whether she would like to be interviewed as part of my study, and she quickly and enthusiastically agreed.

I realized when I learned her maiden name that I had read an article about Frances in an Air Force magazine published during World War II. This made my interview with her even more exciting, since in my eyes she was a bit of a celebrity, having had her picture on the cover of the magazine as well as having been the subject of an article about flight nursing. According to Frances, however, her real claim to celebrity is that she was the first nurse to go into France after D-day (though Grace Dunnam of the 806 MAES had claimed the same distinction).

Actual flight nursing was not difficult, Frances said, but she remembered that as far as patient care, the flight nurses had little in the way of supplies and equipment with which to work. Frances once had a seriously injured patient, perhaps with a skull fracture, she said, whose only chance for survival was air evacuation to another hospital. She had no oxygen or IVs to give him and could only watch him. Realizing that oxygen could make the difference between life and death, she had the pilot divert the plane to an airfield where an ambulance was waiting with oxygen.

Frances recalled that during the war she encountered a comradeship not only with flight nurses in her squadron, but with other flight nurses and aircrews—all who had been through the war together—that could not have happened otherwise. She had high respect for the aircrews “that we flew with who brought us down safe and sound with our patients”—even occasionally on just one wheel.

Frances could have talked for hours, though she was a bit dependent on my questions to guide her in what experiences to share, but we eventually brought the interview to a close. Afterward, Frances said that she and her husband wanted to take me to dinner. I was pleased to be asked and enjoyed a casual meal at a Texas barbecue place. We chatted easily through dinner, and I was invited to return to their home to see their summer cabin on a lake in Idaho and to play the antique pump organ. They are a delightful couple, and it truly was a pleasant way to end the interviews for my dissertation.

One of Frances’s stories: Frances had flown with a load of patients from Scotland to New York. When she arrived at the hotel, staff of the Air Force magazine were on the lookout for someone to photograph for an article about flight nurses. A woman approached and asked Frances, “Are you a WAC?” Frances said, “Oh, no.” ‘What are you?” “I’m a flight nurse.” “Oh,” said the woman, “Just sit right there. Don’t leave.” And Frances said, “Don’t worry, lady. I can’t even get out of this chair.” She was waiting for some place to rest her head after flying all the way across from England. The memory made Frances laugh. The magazine staff waited until the next morning to do the photo shoot for “Flight Nurse” by Charlotte Knight, Air Force 27 (10) (October 1944): 28–30, 62.

Frances died in 2006.

frances

Cover girl Frances Sandstrom. (Author’s private collection)

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 20 Nov 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

24th Interview

Hilda Halverson Chamberlain
826 MAES Pacific
21 June 1986

I met with Hilda in her home in Spokane, Washington. For the first leg of my journey, from San Jose to Seattle, I was booked in First Class, and what a luxury awaited me! I was impressed not only with Alaska Airlines but with the state of Washington—“God’s Country” is a phrase that comes to mind. Again, a rental car awaited me, and what a pleasure it was to drive the brand new silver Mustang.

Hilda lives in an area of the city with hills, trees, and old homes. She was waiting on her porch when I arrived and invited me in warmly. I knew that she had had cataract surgery earlier that week, and I was concerned that it might not be a good time for me to visit, but she had assured me that she would be fine. Other than a patch over her eye, she showed no ill effects from the surgery.

After talking casually, I explained how the interview would progress. She got us each something to drink, and we sat at her dining table for the interview. Hilda did not have a lot to say, but she shared the experiences she had remembered with an enthusiasm that made the interview an easy one to conduct. She enjoyed the chance to reminisce, since she said that she hadn’t thought about or been asked about her wartime experiences in a long time.

Hilda remembered irregular flying hours — leaving in the middle of the night and flying 16 or 18 hours, deadheading to a location to pick up patients for air evacuation, and flying them to their destination. Sometimes the flight nurses had only an hour or two on the ground before catching the next flight; mostly, though, they remained overnight away from their home station before catching the next flight back. She learned to sleep “real good” on the floor of a plane when deadheading without patients. Hilda recalled feeling tired most of the time, in part because the flight nurses were on alert to go at a moment’s notice, and in part because she always was thinking what she could “do for the next person.”

Packages from home were always a welcome treat when overseas, but a Christmas box that arrived in July was a huge disappointment. Hilda’s sisters had sent her a cake and some cookies, but the thick icing turned out to be mildew. She had promised to treat her flying colleagues, but they had to make do with some canned meat the sisters had enclosed, not with sweets.

I was conscious of the time, because I didn’t want to tire Hilda out, especially since she’d had the surgery on her eye earlier in the week. When it seemed that Hilda had no more experiences ready to share, and that my questioning was not bringing out much additional information, I chose to end the interview.

Hilda told me about a friend of hers in Spokane who was also a World War II flight nurse. Hilda had mentioned my coming to this friend, and, according to Hilda, the friend wanted to talk with me. Hilda got directions on how to get to the friend’s house and then sent me on my way so that I would have the opportunity to talk with her friend that evening while I was still in Spokane. I didn’t know if another interview would actually materialize. This situation of the informant knowing someone else who she thought wanted to be interviewed and setting me up to interview this person had been tried once before but didn’t work—the first time, the woman denied ever having said she would like to be interviewed. But partly to please Hilda, and partly because I’ve not yet turned down the chance to get an additional interview, I wound up my visit with Hilda to pursue yet another interview in the city.

One of Hilda’s stories: Hilda remembers flying with patients on board from Leyte in the Philippines to Saipan where the Japanese had just raided the airfield. It had been raining, and the Hilda and her enlisted technician off-loaded the patients as quickly as possible. She continues, “And then I heard somebody say, ‘Where’s the nurse? Is the nurse all right?’” She was down in the mud trying to cover a young soldier’s head wound, because she didn’t want it to get dirty. She laughs about the teasing she got afterward when they said, “Oh, we’d have never found you!”

Hilda died in 1993.

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 16 Oct 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

23rd Interview

Adele Edmonds Daly
801 MAES Pacific
20 June 1986

I met with Adele Daly in her home in Palo Alto, California. I found myself less enthusiastic about this interview than I had been about other interviews. One reason, I know, is that Adele had some difficulty hearing and understanding me in phone calls to coordinate my visit. I thought that perhaps she had a hearing loss that would make an interview difficult. But in spite of my concern I decided to go ahead with the interview, since Adele sounded so enthusiastic about my study.

My flights were more tiring than usual from the physical exertion of carrying my bags across flight lines to planes and one leg of the trip with every seat filled, delays, and demanding passengers. That didn’t help my mood once I arrived in San Jose, nor did the traffic.

The trip to Palo Alto via rental car took only minutes; I had expected a much longer drive. When I arrived in Palo Alto, I called Adele, who had no trouble understanding me this time, and she encouraged me to come to her house right away, even though I had arrived much earlier than expected.

Adele was a very pleasant, warm, hospitable person whom I liked immediately and with whom I felt comfortable. I hadn’t yet eaten, and Adele fixed me a light lunch that I ate as we chatted casually and got to know each other better. I realized how wrong I had been to prejudge her unfavorably, and I was glad I hadn’t let my unfavorable impression keep me from making the trip.

Adele was not especially talkative, but she did talk easily as she shared experiences. She lacked some of the spontaneity of other women I’ve interviewed, but what experiences Adele did share, she covered in enough detail to give a good picture of her feelings and relevant actions.

About flight nurse training, for example, Adele said, that what the flight nurses learned at Bowman Field during their course had helped them to a certain extent, “but we never realized that we’d have so little to do with.” Her nurses training had taught her to improvise, an important skill for making do with less during the war.

Nor had Bowman Field prepared her for the reptiles and bugs overseas. Flight nurses often remained overnight in Bougainville when out on air evacuation flights, Adele remembered  with an “oooh!” and much laughter, because of the lizards and snakes and so many crawly things. “I don’t know how you can prepare yourself for something like that,” she said, “because I’d always been terrified of them.”

Like other woman I‘ve interviewed, Adele is a gracious individual with the special ability to make a person feel welcome and at home. It was a pleasant visit and a good interview.

One of Adele’s stories: Adele laughs about it now, but she remembers flight nurse training as “Very rugged. Very rugged! You knew that everything you participated in would make or break you.” The discipline and routine were quite different from what she had experienced before, even in her nurses training. “And bivouacking and marching and constantly being on the run to go to class or to do something. Your day was just terrifically full. You’d be exhausted at night.” She particularly recalled when the nurses had to maneuver the obstacle course under small arms fire. The flight nurses used to talk about those things and wonder how they could ever survive the actual war, “which we knew we were eventually going to be in when we finished.”

Adele died in 2005.

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 24 Sep 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

22nd Interview

Randy Rast Weinrich
803 MAES China-Burma-India
19 June 1986

I met with Randy Weinrich in her home in Hemet, California. I had flown from San Antonio to Palm Springs, and I had driven a rental car the 28 or so miles to Hemet, which is a small town that grew out of a farm community.

Randy is a very attractive woman, carefully groomed. She was casually dressed. She took me to her favorite spot in the house for our interview—a corner of the living room with adjoining windows that offer a magnificent view of the area from the Weinrich’s hilltop home. She offered me a glass of water, and we casually discussed a number of topics. Then lest the casual conversation fill the afternoon, I eventually introduced the “ground rules” of the interview itself—how long it might last and a general outline of the questions.

I’m afraid my expectations for this interview may have been a bit too high. I was so excited that I’d found a flight nurse who was assigned to the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI)—Randy was assigned in China most of her overseas tour—that I assumed she would have many interesting experiences to relate. I was a bit disappointed that she actually had relatively little information to share. Some of those experiences were very relevant to my study, however.

Three of the four flights in the squadron were based in Upper Assam, India, but Randy’s flight was assigned to China. The six nurses in Randy’s flight were scattered all over China; Randy was stationed at Kunming. In theory, the other nurses in China would bring patients to Kunming, from where Randy would then fly with the patients over the Hump. In reality, she says, there was not much flying.

During the interview Randy served coffee and sweets, and we chatted easily. But my overall impression was that perhaps neither of us knew quite what to expect from the other. It was, however, an afternoon well spent.

Some of Randy’s stories: Randy had a lot of funny things happen during her years as a flight nurse overseas. One time when she went to India, the flight nurses there were weaving a walkway from the tents to where the toilet facilities were. They named their walkway the “P-38 Runway.” When Randy got back to China, she wrote the nurses and asked them in her letter how the “P-38 Runway” was coming. That part was censored and cut out of her letter before the nurses received it. Randy talked about the closeness of the flight nurses in her squadron, who “seemed more like sisters to me than my own sisters, because wartime is different.” Everyone was a friend, not a stranger during war. She used as an example care packages sent from home, which “you wouldn’t think of consuming it by yourself—you passed it around.”

Randy died in 2005.

 

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 4 Sep 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

21st Interview

Jocie Huston
811 MAES Europe
18 June 1986

I met with Jocie in her apartment in San Antonio, Texas this afternoon. She is a tiny woman and small-boned. She had called me two nights before, because she was concerned that she could not find her flight records and therefore wouldn’t know the number of hours she flew, the number of patients she airlifted, and the specific towns and bases into which she flew. She thought perhaps I might not want to interview her after all. On the phone I reassured her that those specific details were not important, and that if she was willing, I would still like to interview her.

Jocie had placed some materials she still had from her flight nurse assignment on a table. But unlike most other women I’ve interviewed, she was not interested or eager for me to look at her photographs. So I did not get the opportunity to see her photo album, other than a few pictures that she pointed out to me.

Jocie’s memory was not too good for many details of her assignment as a flight nurse in World War II. I had realized from our two phone calls that it might not be, so I was prepared. It wasn’t that she was unwilling to share information, but simply that she couldn’t remember the information to share. What she did share was very helpful to the study, and my questions often helped her to remember other areas of her flight nurse experiences. Jocie did remember dates, places, and names, but she didn’t have too much to offer in the way of specific flights or patients.

As a member of the 811 MAES, Jocie was flying patients out of Prestwick, Scotland, usually to Newfoundland, but sometimes all the way to New York, when she heard about D-day. She was eager to get back to southern England from where she would fly across the English Channel to France, but her squadron still had a couple of weeks of duty in Scotland. Jocie did make it over to France not long afterward. She was in the air again on V-J day, on a cargo plane over Germany. Her first stop had no patients to on-load, but the plane diverted to pick up some American and British POWs at a nearby camp for return to England. It was a long day of flying, she said.

My interview with Jocie lasted under an hour. I didn’t want to tax her or make her feel uncomfortable by asking questions for which she might not have an answer. But in the time we did talk, Jocie contributed much important data on coping with war, so it was an afternoon well spent. While not gregarious, Jocie was very friendly and seemed to enjoy my visit to her home.

One of Jocie’s stories: Prior to one of her flights, the flight surgeon told Jocie, “Well, now, this boy’s jaw is wired together, and the weather is going to be bad going back. If he gets sick, you’re going to have to clip these wires.” Her stomach began to churn, because she’d never clipped wires before, and she didn’t know what might happen to the patient’s mouth. She remembered that as a flight nurse she was allowed to give morphine without a doctor’s orders if she thought it was needed. “So I thought, Well, I’ll just give you an eighth of a grain of morphine. I did, and the blessed little fellow slept all the way over, and everybody else on that plane got sick.” Jocie laughed as she recalled the incident.

Jocie died in 1995.

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 14 Aug 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

20th Interview

Brooxie Mowery Unick
816 MAES Europe
25 May 1986

My interview with Brooxie was the last interview I conducted at the World War II Flight Nurses Reunion at Cocoa Beach, Florida. I had asked Brooxie about the interview when she jokingly remarked that, since she couldn’t get her flight home changed from later in the week to Sunday, she was going to sit in her room on Monday and sulk. I suggested that perhaps if she were willing, we could do an interview and help pass the time on that day. Brooxie readily agreed. Some of the members of Brooxie’s 816 MAES who were attending the reunion, however, suggested she join them for a short visit in Tequesta, Florida. Brooxie therefore was leaving for Tequesta shortly after checking out of the hotel at noon.

When I realized how rushed an interview with Brooxie would be, I offered to cancel the interview so that she could get on the road a bit sooner. But Brooxie still wanted to be interviewed, so I did some quick planning to facilitate both the interview and Brooxie’s trip. I suggested that Brooxie drive to Ethel Cerasale’s house in Satellite Beach, which was on the way to Tequesta. Ethel had invited several of us to stop by, including Agnes Mangerich and me, and I knew Brooxie would be welcome too. I then conducted the interview at Ethel’s house.

Brooxie was pleasant and willing to be interviewed, but although she had shared many experiences with her World War II colleagues at the reunion, she did not have much to say. It was not because she was uncomfortable being interviewed; rather, she commented that she was not one to live in the past. Unlike some women I’ve interviewed, Brooxie didn’t reminisce, remembering long-forgotten memories. I found that in order to keep Brooxie talking, I needed to ask more questions than usual.

I asked, for example if Brooxie’s training in nursing school and at Bowman Field had prepared her for flight nurse duties. In small ways, she said, but it didn’t always work out. For example, the flight nurses were told that they would fly with an enlisted technician, but that seldom happened—the flight nurse was often the sole attendant. They were taught how to arrange litters to facilitate patient care, but in a wartime scenario, time often didn’t permit careful placement of patients. On one flight a patient with a serious head wound was in a top litter and became agitated. Brooxie had to call the aircrew members to come hold him down. She eventually asked that the plane be diverted so that the patient could receive medical attention. What was taught in theory didn’t always work out in practice.

When I felt Brooxie had run out of things to say, I chose to end the interview. Brooxie needed to get on the road to Tequesta, and her comment when she looked at her watch told me I’d made a wise decision. Brooxie remembered the fun things about the war as opposed to the bad things. I hope her memories will add another perspective to the concept of coping with war. My interview with Brooxie helped me realize that some days of a reunion are better than others for an interview, and the final day of the reunion was not conducive to a lengthy interview designed to elicit particular information for my dissertation.

One of Brooxie’s stories: Brooxie remembers that her squadron was not involved in air evacuation before D-day. To keep them busy during that time, flight nurses were sent, usually in twos, to bomber bases to become familiar with the B-17s and B-24s in the event that, in an emergency, they needed to use the plane for air evacuation. Brooxie went to a B-24 base, where she attended early-morning pre-departure briefings on the flight line, then helped out at the base hospital. She returned to the flight line to watch the planes return, and after the aircrews were debriefed, the flight nurses gave crewmembers a shot of whiskey. Brooxie said it was the nurses as well as the whiskey that gave the men a lift. “I mean, they’d reach for the glass, and it was kind of a double take when they saw who was there.”

Brooxie died in 2005.

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 24 Jul 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

19th Interview

Agnes Jensen Mangerich
807 MAES Mediterranean
25 May 1986

I interviewed Agnes in her hotel room the last day of the World War II Flight Nurses Reunion at Cocoa Beach, Florida. Agnes was a member of the 807 MAES and one of the 13 nurses aboard the plane that, hampered by weather conditions, wound up in enemy-occupied Albania during World War II. She and the other flight nurses aboard had one of the most unique experiences of the war when they escaped and evaded the Germans for over two months before reaching friendly soil. For quite some time I had wanted to interview a nurse who had been among this group. Agnes mentioned that because some years ago she had contributed all the information she could recall from her Albanian experience to help a person writing a book about combat nurses (Wyatt Blassingame and Gil Walker, Combat Nurses of World War II, Random House, 1967), she was probably a good person for me to interview. I gladly agreed.

While Agnes had a wealth of information that she freely and easily shared, it was not necessarily in logical order. Since I’d read about the Albanian experience, however, I fortunately could follow her train of thought and fill in what had not been said. Thirteen nurses and 13 enlisted technicians were en route to two forward locations in Italy, from which they would start evacuating patients, when their plane was forced down in enemy territory because of bad weather and low fuel. All survived but spent two months making their way back to Allied territory. As the senior-ranking nurse in the group, Agnes was the person with whom the aircraft commander talked about any issues involving the flight nurses. She still remembers vividly the details of that experience.

What I didn’t anticipate was the interruptions during the interview—people coming to the door to say good-bye, for example—and I brought the interview to an end a bit sooner than I wanted.

One of Agnes’s stories: Agnes can remember sitting in the cabin of the plane before it was forced down onto Albanian soil. She didn’t know her nurse colleagues all that well, because she’d joined the squadron later than the others; she hardly knew the enlisted technicians. She sat in her bucket seat and observed them all. She wanted to get up and check the Mae Wests hanging in the back of the cabin, but was afraid of creating panic. Agnes was scared, she admitted, but she sort of resigned herself to the situation. She took another look at her squadron mates, “and with that I kind of smoothed out these musette bags next to me, and I loosened my belt just a little. And I kind of slid down, and I thought, Well, what the hell. I’d rather be sleeping.” She must have dozed off, she said, for when the pilot stuck his head out of the cockpit door to say they were going to make a rough landing and to buckle up, she asked her seatmate where they were going to land. The flight nurse smiled and replied, “On the ground, I hope.” Agnes laughed at the memory.

At the time of our interview, Agnes was writing a book about her experiences in Albania during World War II, which was published by The University Press of Kentucky in 1999 under the title Albanian Escape: The True Story of U.S. Army Nurses Behind Enemy Lines.

Agnes died in 2010.

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World War II Army Flight Nurses – 4 Jul 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

18th Interview

Dorothy White Errair
807 MAES Mediterranean
24 May 1986

Dorothy arrived late at the World War II Flight Nurses Reunion at Cocoa Beach, Florida, but I am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet her, talk with her socially about some of her experiences, and conduct an interview for the dissertation. A member of the 807 MAES assigned in Sicily and later Italy, Dorothy was among the 12 flight nurses “left behind” when the other 13 flight nurses in her squadron wound up evading the Germans when their plane landed in enemy-occupied Albania during World War II.

Dorothy is one of those people who is a delight to know. Indeed, I have made several such acquaintances during the reunion. She is a truly dedicated nurse, only recently retired, who supports causes with a zest that wins my respect and admiration. Whether it is the 100th graduating class of flight nurses at the School of Aerospace Medicine or the Vietnam Nurses Memorial, she will speak for the cause with enthusiasm. She approached the interview in that same spirit.

Interviewing Dorothy was a pleasure. An operating room nurse from her earliest days of nursing, Dorothy is an active member of the American Association of Operating Room Nurses (AAORN). At a recent AAORN convention in Anaheim, California Dorothy was pleased and relieved to see that the goals and principles she had espoused for OR nursing in her own career were being espoused capably by a new generation of OR nurses. She is a person who believes in and fosters the phrase in the original Flight Nurse Creed, “I will be faithful to my training and to the wisdom handed down to me by those who have gone before me.”

Dorothy was very expressive in sharing her experiences. She needed little guidance to reveal a wealth of valuable data concerning how at least one flight nurse coped with various wartime situations. Finding humor in those experiences was one way that Dorothy coped.

Some of Dorothy’s stories: When one of the planes on which she was to evacuate patients was covered with glossy prints of nudes, Dorothy figured, “Now, my poor patients have had enough problems, they don’t need any more.” So she dressed the entire ceiling of the airplane with Band Aides, giving her patients a good laugh. Another plane was no laughing matter, for it had transported mules before the patients were brought on board. With only a broom to clean up the mess, the crew chief did his best to clean the plane’s cabin. When the patients, who didn’t know about the mules, complained about the odor, Dorothy said, “Well, I can’t smell a thing. It’s just your imagination.” And she talked like that all during the flight. One of the patients said, “Nurse, you better get your nose checked.” Dorothy laughs as she recalls the incident now and adds that to this day, anytime she sees a mule, she smells it.

Dorothy died in 2015.

WhiteDorothy White. (USAF Photo)

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 6 Jun 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

17th Interview

Louise Anthony de Flon
816 MAES Europe
23, 24 May 1986

When I first heard Louise talking with other flight nurses at the World War II Flight Nurses Reunion at Cocoa Beach, Florida about some of her experiences as a flight nurse, I knew I would like to interview her. But for some reason I had it in my mind that she might not consent to an interview. She seemed to me rather unapproachable, and I was a bit intimidated by her very outgoing style. She lives in Spain, and that set her a bit apart from the others attending the reunion. I thus was very pleasantly surprised when Louise asked me if I would want to interview her. I agreed, of course.

Louise is a woman intent on preserving the history of the flight nurses of World War II, and she saw my dissertation as one means to achieve this. She had many experiences that she felt needed to be recorded, some of them about her chief nurse. We both had our own agendas for the interview, but these agendas were not at cross-purposes. The length of our interview required that we break for a planned dinner and resume and conclude the interview the next morning. Louise related a number of experiences quickly and easily, needing only minimal guidance. We could have talked for hours. The experiences Louise shared are valuable and provide interesting examples of how one flight nurse coped with some particularly trying situations during the war. The story of how she dealt with a patient death on a flight out of France across the English Channel, for example, shows the compassion and resourceful thinking that marked the work of a good flight nurse. Louise’s determination to continue her flight nurse duties despite lingering pain from a back injury incurred during flight nurse training shows the determination with which she approached her wartime work.

One problem with the interviews conducted at the reunion was that I had to work them into available time not already scheduled for meetings, meals, and other planned activities. Another problem was that the reunion was one day shorter than had been publicized, leaving one less day for interviews.

Some of Louise’s stories: To Louise, the decision to enter the military was an easy one. “There was no decision to be made — it had already been made. War had been declared.” With two brothers who would be in the service, as well as cousins and nephews, there was no question that she would join, too. Louise was single, and “couldn’t have stayed out had I wanted to.” She had to talk herself into the proper attitude, though, because she had been quick to move when her civilian nursing jobs grew stale, and Louise knew that once in the military, you had to stay in, jump when they told you to jump, and you couldn’t say “I quit.” When Louise finally made the decision, she was sent to Gardner Field, California, where she applied immediately for the flight nurse course but had to wait over a year before she finally received her orders to Bowman Field. “I was so happy, if someone had handed me $50,000, I couldn’t have jumped for joy more.” When, after graduation, Louise and the flight nurses of her squadron were at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, awaiting shipment overseas, they were expected to stand reveille in the cold winter mornings. When complaints got back to their chief nurse that her flight nurses were not standing reveille, their chief 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 her nurses, “You are standing reveille every morning — I don’t care if you stand it in bed. But you are standing reveille.” Louise laughed as she recalled the incident.

Louise died in 1995.

 

 

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 8 May 2016

Meet the former US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed for
Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

In 1986 as part of my research about flight nurse history and coping with war, I was privileged to interview 25 former US Army nurses about events of their flight nurse duty in World War II. Most of them are now deceased, but their stories live on in Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II.

The journal I kept of my time with each of them in 1986 when writing my dissertation offers a brief personal glimpse of these remarkable women. I am sharing edited versions of these journals, in the order in which the interviews took place. The actual interviews are in separate documents.

16th Interview

Denny Nagle
815 MAES Europe
23 May 1986

Ethel Cerasale had given me Denny’s name prior to the World War II Flight Nurses Reunion in Cocoa Beach, Florida as someone who would be willing to be interviewed for my dissertation. Denny had been assigned to the 815 MAES in England with Ethel. Despite our difference in age, Denny was like a sister. She quietly assured me shortly after we met that she would do whatever she could to help me with the dissertation; that included being interviewed.

Denny was not gregarious like many of the other World War II flight nurses at the reunion. She didn’t chatter and seldom related her own experiences. She was friendly but not very talkative; she seemed reserved. It was a quiet sort of friendship that was nonetheless evident. Perhaps it was her twinkling eyes that suggested her warmth and friendliness. Whatever the reason, Denny immediately befriended me, and I liked her from the time I first met her.

During our interview Denny had very little to say. It was more a desire to help than a vast store of memories, I think, that led to the interview. She often glossed over events, commenting that I’d heard it before from others. My questions to help her focus on her own perception of an event did not result in much additional information.

Denny’s squadron arrived in England before D-day, and she remembers watching the “miles and miles” of C-47s pulling gliders behind them when the day finally arrived. All day “they just went in twos and twos and twos, and so you just couldn’t begin to think how many were going across there. And then three days later we were going across to pick them up and bring them back.” On D+3, flight nurses of Denny’s squadron flew across the English Channel to a rough airstrip hurriedly put down in a poppy field and brought patients back to England.

From England, Denny’s squadron moved to Orly Field near Paris for a year and started evacuating patients from Paris to New York on Air Transport Command planes. She had 25 round-trips across the Atlantic and recalls that her squadron alone was moving 52,000 patients a month, for which they received the Air Medal.

As part of the interview Denny gave me a five-page typed account of her experiences as a flight nurse in World War II that she had written shortly after the war. This, she hoped, would give me the additional information and details not adequately covered in our interview. Denny had valuable information to contribute to my study, concise though she was in relating her experiences.

One of Denny’s stories: Denny recalled some close calls while flying that occurred after D-Day. She flew into France, east of Normandy with bombs going off close enough to shake the plane. On a return flight with patients on board, her plane got into a flight of bombers and had to drop under them to avoid a mishap. On yet another mission into France toward the front, Denny looked down and saw a swastika on top of a train under the plane. She laughed as she remembered, “And I thought, There’s something wrong here.” She told the pilot, who hadn’t seen it, and he turned around and flew back the other way. They didn’t know if the train was in the hands of the enemy or the Allies.

Denny died in 2015.

 

image006Denny Nagle (right) and aircrew wait for patients in France. (USAF Photo)