“Thank God they sent a nurse along”

The Unique Mission of Army Air Force Nurses

Connie Oestrike Rudolph (830th) sent me a copy of an article written by Morris Markey in the October 28, 1944 issue of Liberty Magazine. The article begins by describing the relief of a Flight Surgeon when meeting a plane at Saipan when he saw Irene Craig Stone (812th) get off the plane,  “Thank God, they sent a nurse along.”

The plane to transport the severely wounded patients to Hawaii, a 15 hour flight, carried only K-rations.  Lieutenant Stone found a chaplain and together they began to forage. "It was night and mess halls were closed. Burglary of the officers' mess yielded only a few cans of soup.  But at a Seabees' galley the two found a newly baked cake which they appropriated (the chaplain pausing to bless the cake). A Navy kitchen with a flimsy lock gave up some cans of fruit and turkey/meat. That night, 10,000 feet over the Pacific, the men in their litters ate delicacies which had existed formerly only in their dreams."

A young marine with the first invasion wave at Saipan found himself in a knife fight with a Japanese officer as soon as he was ashore. When the officer was dead, the marine made a routine search of the body and found his own brother's identification tags. His mind exploded with rage. Aboard the evacuation plane, the marine was morose and threatening. He made the other  wounded restless as the plane droned endlessly above the water. The Flight Nurse aboard was Lieutenant Sara Ann Jones (812th).  He met her first approaches with sneers and brutal words. But presently, she persuaded him to smoke a cigarette with her. Then she played the role of mother or big sister and got him to talking. She asked enough questions to lead him over his harrowing experience two or three times. And so he talked out his rage and was calm again. He still wanted to kill, but only Japanese, and not even those with his bare hands.       

On one of her flights out of the battle zone, Nurse Betty Chase (809th) had among her patients a Navy photographer whose leg had been nearly blown off at Kwagalein. He knew he was being flown out for an amputation and he had little will to live. Lieutenant Chase sat down on the litter beside him. She found out that before the war he had been a photographer specializing in style pictures. She began to wonder how his injury could really handicap him in that sort of work.

At first she sympathized with him, but then she began to work out with him the way he would live in the future. She checked off the things he still could do. Then she tried to make a list of things he couldn't do. Run? Play tennis? Dance? Perhaps not. How much running and tennis and dancing had he done before, anyway? Not much. Very well, then. Where's the rub? You don't take pictures with your legs do you? By the time the plane landed at Hickaitt Field, he was eager to have the amputation over so he could get going with his new life.

The article ended with these observations: Nobody instructs the nurses to do these things. No doctor or flight surgeon, no general or admiral would risk orders governing feminine instincts, feminine warmth and generosity and cheerfulness. And it is not the flight surgeons alone who say, "Thank God they sent a nurse along!" . . .