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Army Flight Nursing in World War II

When writing Beyond the Call of Duty: Army Flight Nursing in World War II, I read extensively about the topic. Much has been written about the success of air evacuation as a means of transportation for sick and wounded soldiers of World War II, and about the flight nurses who provided the patient care. Published either during the war years or retrospectively, most sources are factual accounts of wartime events. Some, however, are only based on fact.

In fiction, Peggy Gaddis’s Shirley Andrews (Flight Nurse Arcadia House 1945) is assigned to air evacuation duty in the Pacific. Elizabeth Lansing’s Nancy Naylor (Nancy Naylor, Flight Nurse Crowell 1944 and Nancy Naylor, Captain of Flight Nurses Crowell 1946) participates in air evacuation missions in the North African and Sicilian Campaigns before being alerted for the invasion of Italy. She then travels with her squadron to England prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Not surprisingly, the best-known fictional nurse of the 1940s also becomes a flight nurse. In Helen Wells’s Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse (Grosset and Dunlap 1945) the eponymous heroine, whom readers first met as a student nurse, then as a senior nurse, joins the Army where she serves as a chief nurse before being selected for the flight nurse course with follow-on assignment in England. As is her usual inclination, Cherry solves a mystery during her tour of duty. Common to all these works of fiction, romance and intrigue are woven into the plots and take precedence over the flight nurse experience, which serves only a minor role in the overall story. These books are for the most part, however, remarkably accurate in their portrayal of the qualifications for and duties of an Army flight nurse assigned to the Army Air Forces and served as an important tool to recruit young women into the military where they themselves could become part of this exciting new field of Army nursing.

More recently, Sarah Sundin’s Wings of the Nightingale Series published by Revell offers historical romance from a Christian perspective in an air evacuation setting during World War II. Each of the three books features fictional Army flight nurses – Lt. Melanie Blake (With Every Letter 2012), Lt. Georgiana Taylor (On Distant Shores 2013), and Lt. Kay Jobson (In Perfect Time 2014) – who fly fictional air evacuation missions in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations with the Army Air Forces in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy and into southern France as part of the factual 802nd Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron.

For a selective bibliography of nonfiction, see Blog for 24 Jun 2018.

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