World War II Army Flight Nurses – 30 Aug 2015

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.

4th Interview

Ivalee Holtz
801 MAES Pacific
4 April 1986

I talked with Ivalee Holtz this afternoon in her home in San Antonio. I had encountered a traffic jam on my way and was concerned I would be late, but I made it on time. As I was going up the two flights of stairs to her third-floor apartment, I was greeted by Ivalee’s pleasant voice. She was casually dressed in slacks and blouse and slippers, but very well groomed. I learned that she likes to be called Lee.

During our interview Lee had a great deal of valuable information to share about her experiences. She described incidents in vivid detail with little need for probing. We took a short break in the middle of the interview for glasses of iced tea.

Lee shared some funny experiences about her social life off duty when stationed with the 801 MAES in the Pacific, such as never turning down an invitation to dine with navy men, because the navy had good food. The flight nurses laughed a lot about this, because they’d go with anyone, just to get the canned Vienna sausages or Spam that they were given to take back with them.

I have much to learn as an interviewer. But what struck me the most was my obvious enthusiasm for the topic and the incidents Lee was sharing. I was thoroughly enjoying myself as well as collecting data. This is the fun part of the “feasible, fun, and future” that my dissertation chair suggested as criteria for my dissertation.

We visited for a while after the interview, and Lee invited me to return for a visit and said we wouldn’t even have to talk about the war.

One of Lee’s stories: Lee remembered having “poor equipment” on air evac flights. “Well, we had no equipment, really.” They had bandages, morphine, and plasma. On one flight a patient started bleeding through his makeshift cast, and Lee had no cast-cutters on board. “It was terrible,” she recalled. “I had the navigator come back and try to help me, ‘cause, you know, it really got very hard to cut this hard cast off. And yet I could see the red creeping through the cast, and I knew I had to get to it to put pressure on it.”

Lee died in 1992.

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Lee Holtz (second from right) in front of flight nurse quarters on Biak.
(Author’s private collection)

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 8 August 2015

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.

3rd Interview

Lucy Wilson Jopling
801 MAES Pacific
4 April 1986

I talked with Lucy Jopling in her home in San Antonio. I was struck by the number of plants, many of them in bloom, in her yard. Lucy was casually dressed in slacks, a blouse, and slippers and wore a cross on a chain around her neck. She began by sharing some of her current medical problems, one of which explained the slippers.

I explained what I lightly refer to as the “ground rules”, and then we began our interview. We were sitting at her dining room table. Lucy left the room several times and came back with a framed assortment of medals, flight nurse wings, Thirteenth Air Force patch, and her discharge pin, which was actually a lapel button, a scrapbook filled with photos, and sacks of mementos such as military insignia.

After asking some background questions, I focused on where Lucy’s unit was assigned in the South Pacific and asked about her training to get her started. It only took that question for Lucy to begin relating her experiences. Lucy occasionally digresses, but always returns to the topic at hand. She strikes me as an intense person who feels strongly about certain things and is inclined to voice her opinion. She is a “spunky lady”—strong willed, and courageous in upholding her convictions. She became tearful at times, especially when talking about the flight nurse in her squadron who died during the war, but Lucy quickly recovered each time.

Lucy, who was chief nurse of her squadron, recalled that the flight nurses were required to have three survival items with them at all times: a cross, because natives would connect the cross with missionaries and thus treat the women well; a pistol for protection and to get food; and a cigarette lighter to make light, help cook food, and use as a signal to planes above. The cross Lucy was wearing for our interview was one given to her at that time. She also carried the words for Protestant or Catholic last rites.

When we finished our actual interview about Lucy’s time as a flight nurse, Lucy continued to talk about related experiences. Prior to her flight nurse assignment Lucy was stationed in the Philippines and was one of the nurses on Bataan and Corregidor. She was not taken prisoner by the Japanese, because she was sent out on the last submarine to leave the Philippines before Corregidor was surrendered.

Lucy suggested we go to lunch nearby, and that was the way our interview ended. She shared many insights that I think will be valuable to my study. I felt like she really appreciated having someone with whom to talk and even share lunch. The socializing, I’ve found, is mutually enjoyable and a fitting close to the interview setting. Lucy is a wonderful person, and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

Some of Lucy’s stories: Lucy remembers a mission she flew from Guadalcanal with patients, one of whom had a bomb fragment in his eye. She tried to be careful not to increase the pressure on the eye. Everyone on the plane was “scared to death,” because one engine would go out, then the other. Lucy had confidence that they would make it, and they did. Her worst experience of the war—and she was tearful as she recalled it—was when flight nurse Eloise Richardson left on a plane that never came back. “I saw them take off in a plane, and that was it,” Lucy said. This loss hit Lucy harder than anything else. As chief nurse, she had to write the letter telling the supposedly deceased flight nurse’s parents “they’d lost her.” Lucy summed it up, “Those are the things that never leave you.”

At the time of our interview Lucy was writing a book that she planned to title Warrior in White. It was to be a family history with particular focus on Lucy and her years as an army nurse. Watercress Press published the book under that title in 1990.

Lucy died in 2000.

  LucyLucy Wilson, 801 MAES Chief Nurse. (USAF Photo)

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 20 July 2015

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.

2nd Interview

Alice Krieble
818 MAES Europe
3 April 1986

Alice Krieble is a short woman with brown hair and deep blue eyes that twinkle when she laughs. She met me in the parking lot of her apartment complex in San Antonio, Texas. She was casually, comfortably dressed. She has furnished her apartment tastefully with items of furniture, plants, pictures and photos on the walls, and mementos. Everywhere one glimpses the products of her creativity, such as dolls she has made, needlepoint, and wall hangings.

“I swore I’d never do this again,” Alice said to me as we began our interview. But she said she was agreeable to talking with me. It was not a personal affront, I knew, but simply her way of saying that she’d been interviewed about her World War II experiences so much that it got old. In fact, after the interview she admitted that she had tried to think of someone else I could talk to so that I wouldn’t have to interview her. I could appreciate her feelings, and I told her so.

Alice asked what I wanted from our time together, so I explained I was interested in the years she spent as a flight nurse during World War II. I said I could start by asking her a few questions, just to get her started. I said I didn’t expect her to give me a detailed account of everything she did, just to talk about some of her experiences.

I asked her some background questions, and that was all it took to get her started. She attempted to give me a detailed account of her career from graduation from nurses’ training in 1940 through retirement as a lieutenant colonel from the air force in 1965. We focused mainly on her flight nurse years. As she talked, Alice began leaning forward in her chair, closer to me, and she laughed easily as she remembered funny episodes that happened, such as when she lived with 24 other flight nurses in her squadron in England.

At one point Alice went into another room and brought out a scrapbook of photos she had made; she showed me pictures of her first duty assignment in Miami Beach before becoming a flight nurse. Another time she left the room and came back with a framed drawing one of the patients at Miami Beach had made of her.

Alice really needed no prompting. She, like Grace Wichtendahl, remembers her time as a flight nurse as simply doing the job she was sent to do.

Once Alice had finished talking about her war years, she continued to tell me about the rest of her career. Then we chatted about other topics, and she took me on a tour of her apartment, pointing out mementos and items she had made.

Before I left, Alice said that she hadn’t minded talking to me—what she really didn’t like was talking to large groups of women. She is a delightful woman who, I think, will never lack for things to do to keep her occupied. Somewhat a loner, she enjoys her lifestyle.

One of Alice’s stories: Alice reminisced about how she spent her time in between flights: “We’d all sing our hearts out hour after hour. If that isn’t good entertainment, I don’t know what is.” Crocheting was another activity in which both the men and the flight nurses participated. They would get parachute cords from parachutes no longer in use, sit in a circle, and, while talking and telling jokes, strip down the parachute cord to the finest thread, which the nurses then used as crochet thread.

Alice died in 1999.

Alice     818 MAES flight nurses. Alice Krieble is second from left on second row. (USAF Photo)

World War II Army Flight Nurses – 26 June 2015

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.

1st Interview

Grace Dunnam Wichtendahl
806 MAES Europe
29 March 1986

I visited today with Grace Wichtendahl, a resident of San Antonio, Texas. After I had experienced a restless night with bad dreams about this my first interview, Grace put me immediately at ease, meeting me in the parking lot and walking me up to her apartment, where she served coffee and cookies as we began our chat. Grace is a charming, gracious woman, very neatly dressed. Continue reading