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:
My short remembrances are in the order in which I interviewed these former flight nurses.
Clara Morrey Murphy (1918–2015)
802 MAES, North Africa
Clara Murphy née MORREY (Saint Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing, Hancock, Michigan, 1939) worked in civil service at a US Marine hospital in Detroit before entering the Army in March 1942. She already knew she wanted to be a flight nurse. Her first assignment was at Selfridge Field in Michigan where she worked until orders came through for Bowman Field, Kentucky nine months later as part of the initial cadre of flight nurses in the 802 MAES. Flight nursing was still “experimental”, with no formal training program yet implemented. On Christmas Day 1942, before the first class for flight nurses had begun, but after some rudimentary training, Morrey’s squadron deployed for North Africa to provide air evacuation support for the Tunisian Campaign. She attended the flight nurse course, which had moved to the School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas, in 1945 after returning from overseas duty.
Clara Morrey (USAF Photo)
Gracious and friendly, Clara was more reserved than the women whom I had interviewed previously. But since her squadron was the first to travel overseas for air evac duty, Clara truly had launched the role of wartime flight nursing, and I knew she would have valuable memories to relate. Initially hesitant to talk on tape, Clara soon agreed, so most of our interview was recorded, but she seemed uncertain of what to say about her experiences as a flight nurse during the war. To ease her mind, I briefly explained the types of questions I would ask. I learned toward the end of our interview that Clara had written several pages of notes about coping to help her remember what she wanted to share with me. Unknown to me, our interview was on her wedding anniversary. We socialized for some time after the interview, which had gotten off to a late start, but since Clara and her husband had a party to attend that night, I left before overstaying my welcome. Clara died on 10 June 2013 at age 94.
To listen to my interview with Clara Murphy, click on the link:
Interviewed 19 April 1986, San Antonio, TX
Learn more about my interview with Clara on the Blog for 10 Oct 2015.
To be continued