It has been wonderful to hear from 3 of the nurses from my book, No Time For Fear, this month. All in their 90s now, they are still good at recalling the WWII days they served overseas.
Ernestine Hess NNC was interviewed for the PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL, and the WWII Museum in New Orleans will preserve the story in its collections. “Hessie”, as she was called while on the hospital ship USS REFUGE, is one of the nurses on the cover of our book. Along with other nurses on board they are shown standing at the rail, and over the years I’ve been told by many how much the cover photo means to the reader. The REFUGE served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, bringing patients from the war zones to the U.S., before being sent to the Pacific theater. There they picked up the patients, treating them on the ship, and leaving them at larger hospitals throughout the Pacific theater. For more info about the REFUGE see HOSPITAL SHIPS OF WORLD WAR II by Emory Massman.
Hessie’s story is told in my book along with other nurses who served with her, Helen Miller, Esther Wallenga, Bessie Glembocki and Elizabeth Staats. I loved interviewing them because I had no idea how the nurses on ships went about winning the war. In addition to the patients’ stories, and experiences of being at war on a hospital ship, they relate the humorous experience of King Neptune’s Court, which was the initiation of first-timers crossing the equator at sea.
Leviatha Nelson ANC was one of four nurses in my book who served with the 167th General Hospital, stationed near Cherbourg, France. As the war in Europe ended they treated mostly German prisoners as patients. Their location gave the nurses access to the villages nearby, and some even went to Paris. The hospital group shared an unforgettable twelve-day ride on a troop train through France on their way to returning to the U.S. The other nurses who served with Vi in the 167th GH were Janet Haddon, Florence Brandvold and June Noreen.
All three of the nurses I am featuring were in different branches of the military, and Charlotte McFall was a Flight Nurse with the Army Air Force. First developed in 1942, flight nursing was a new aspect of caring for casualties. Charlotte served in the Pacific theater, usually picking up patients in war zones throughout the many islands and bringing them back to hospitals on other islands, mostly in Hawaii. She survived a crash landing on Eniwetok island with little more than a sprained ankle. The plane caught fire and others suffered burns. One of the most moving stories she relates is meeting a plane in Saipan. On the plane were nurses who had been imprisoned in the Philippines by the Japanese for almost three years and were their way back to the U.S. Suffering from malnutrition, the nurses’ uniforms hung on their thin bodies, and Charlotte remembers that there wasn’t a dry eye in the hangar where they were welcomed.
The one thing that these three and most of the others said when they were first telling about the life-changing experiences they shared around the world, was to wonder “what happened to that boy.” After the many years, they couldn’t forget.