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.
Louise Anthony De Flon (1916–1995)
816 MAES, Europe
Louise De Flon née ANTHONY (Independence Sanitarium and Hospital School of Nursing, Missouri, 1936) had a “rather varied” nursing career first in Independence where she did hospital nursing, then in her home state of California where she worked in a maternity home and at private and county hospitals, as well as in private duty nursing. She would get bored with the work, Louise said, pack her things in her car, take off, and find another job. When war was declared, Louise declared her intention to enter the military. Brothers, cousins, and nephews would be in the service, and Louise felt she couldn’t have stayed out of the military had she wanted. But initially she had to talk herself into the proper attitude to join: “I knew once you got in, you had to stay in it. When they told you to jump, you had to jump, no matter what it was. And you couldn’t say I quit.”
Orders for Gardner Field, CA came through in September 1942. After arriving on base, Louise immediately applied for flight nurse training; orders to Bowman Field, KY arrived just over a year later. “And, of course, I was so happy,” Louise said, “if someone had handed me $50,000, I couldn’t have jumped for joy more.” She graduated from flight nurse training in the same class as Jenny Boyle, Ethel Carlson, and Denny Nagle on 21 January 1944 and was assigned to the 816 MAES in Europe with Jenny. Louise’s most memorable flight was from Normandy back to England after D-Day. Germans were shelling the field, and the last patient she took on board obviously was dying. When he died over the English Channel, Louise notified the radio operator to have a doctor meet the plane; then she treated the patient like she did the others – adjusting his pillow, checking his pulse and his dressings – “and so no one knew anything”. A back injury that Louise suffered during a litter-lifting exercise while in flight nurse training cut her overseas flying assignment short, and she returned to the US in March 1945 before the end of the war. When asked if she felt like she’d missed out on activities because of her early departure, Louise replied, “No, I didn’t. I felt that I did everything everyone else did, that I accomplished what I set out to do in the beginning, to become a flight nurse, to do the work.” Louise died in 1995 at age 76.
To listen to my interview with Louise de Flon, click on the link:
Interviewed 23 and 24 May 1986, Cocoa Beach, FL
Learn more about my interview with Louise on the Blog for 6 Jun 2016.
To be continued