World War II Army Flight Nurses – 16 May 2020

In Memoriam
World War II Army Flight Nurses

Jenevieve (Jenny) Boyle Silk, who died in June 2017, was the last living of the 25 World War II US Army flight nurses whom I interviewed in 1986 for what became Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II. I clearly remember each of my interviews with these remarkable women and still can picture them and hear their voices when I think of them.

Twenty of these interviews are now digitized and available as audio recordings on the Imperial War Museum website. Access the interviews here:

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search?query=judith+barger&filters%5BwebCategory%5D%5BSound%5D=on&pageSize=&pageSize=

 

My short remembrances are in the order in which I interviewed these former flight nurses.

 

Ethel Cerasale née CARLSON (1921–1998)
815 MAES, Europe

When Ethel Cerasale née CARLSON (Englewood Hospital School of Nursing, Chicago, 1942) saw the Army nurse who came to her nursing school to recruit nurses for the military, the “gorgeous … absolutely the most beautiful” uniform made an immediate impression on her. Carlson already knew she wanted to be a flight nurse, and she heard that if she applied for military service through the Red Cross Reserve, they would help her find the type of duty she wanted. She graduated from nursing school in 1942, gave the Red Cross her application in February 1943, joined the Army, and two months later was sent to Jefferson Barracks, an Army post near St. Louis. She was selected for flight nurse training at Bowman Field, KY and graduated from the course on 21 January 1944 with assignment to the 815 MAES and initial duty in England. Because of illness, Carlson was sent back to the US before the end of the war, but not before celebrating with members of her squadron in France on the day that Paris was liberated.

Ethel (lower right) with members of her squadron.
(Author’s private collection)

What struck me on meeting Ethel was her infectious smile, which I had remembered from photos taken in World War II. Ethel was easy to interview. She was very spontaneous with a bubbly personality, and, as in my interview with Jo Nabors, we could have talked for hours. But we talked only for about two hours on tape. Our break for dinner was a long one, but fortunately Ethel shared my enthusiasm for finishing the interview that night. While Ethel had a lot of information to share, she actually had little to say about her actual flying experiences. She was, she recalled, too busy having fun and getting into trouble, and she didn’t do a lot of flying. Her tour of duty overseas was cut short because of a medical condition that required her own evacuation as a patient back to the US before the end of the war. Ethel died in 1998 at age 77.

 

To listen to my interview with Ethel Cerasale, click on the link:

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80011345

Interviewed 7 May 1986, Satellite Beach, FL
Learn more about my interview with Ethel on the Blog for 10 Jan 2016.

To be continued



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