WWII…A Navy Nurse Remembers
by Elizabeth Kinzer O’Farrell
Most of the books I have collected are about or by WWII nurses who served overseas, but this is by one of the nurses who cared for the wounded who returned and were treated in military hospitals in the States. There aren’t many books written by U.S. Navy nurses, granted there were far fewer of them than the army nurses. 14,000 navy nurses versus 60,000 army nurses is the usual estimate of World War II who served the military.
Elizabeth Kinzer O’Farrell was based at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital and the Glenview Naval Air Station Dispensary from May 1943 until April 1945, doing general nursing and not working with returning wounded from the war. As she states, her next assignment to St. Albans Naval Hospital in New York “was an introduction to … the reality of war and the consequences for those who survived it.” She recalls, some sixty years later, individual patients who returned to try to regain their lives after the wounds of war.
A course in Physical Therapy followed in 1946, along with an apprenticeship program led her to the U. S. Naval Hospital in Corona, California. She found this to be a very rewarding career for her in the navy. In addition to treating the wounded and paralyzed veterans, there was also the care of polio patients in physical therapy. Reassigned to Great Lakes in Illinois, Elizabeth eventually found the work in naval hospitals to be easing up because of the end of the war, and resigned in 1948.
Memoirs, especially written so many years after the experience, seem to be more thoughtful than detailed, as I found when interviewing the nurses for my book. They see the broad picture, and it is probably influenced by their more recent experiences in life. They are all brave for having signed up, not knowing where the next few years would take them.