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Beyond the Call of Duty

Army Flight Nursing in World War II

Judith Barger

Publication Year: 2013

At the height of World War II, five hundred Army flight nurses served with the Army Air Forces as members of thirty-one medical air evacuation squadrons located throughout the world on both the European and Pacific fronts. Their work was not insignificant—over one million patients were evacuated by air between January 1943 and May 1945. These specially trained Army nurses took nursing to new heights. Often decorated for their accomplishments, they exemplify the ability of a group of nurses to cope successfully with the challenges of war.

In her comprehensive book, author Judith Barger brings together information that is becoming less accessible as the former nurses succumb to age, infirmity, and death. Barger interviewed twenty-five of these pioneering women in 1986 when their recall of their service experiences was still vivid and informative. Building on Barger’s earlier research, their stories and the numerous complementary photographs included in the volume bring to life this long overdue tribute to Army flight nursing in World War II.

Beyond the Call of Duty offers the only in-depth account of the events leading up to the formation of the military flight nurse program, their training for duty, and the air evacuation missions in which they participated. Readers of military history, women’s history, and nursing history will find all three interests represented in this book, which gives new meaning to a phrase in the Flight Nurse Creed of 1943: “I will be faithful to my training, and to the wisdom handed down to me by those who have gone before me.”

Published by: The Kent State University Press

Cover

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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. i-vii

Contents

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pp. viii-ix

Maps and Illustrations

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pp. x-xi

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Preface

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pp. xii-xvii

At the height of World War II, five hundred army flight nurses served with the army air forces as members of thirty-one medical air evacuation squadrons located throughout the world.1 Flight nurses participated in the major campaigns on both the European and Pacific ...

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Prologue

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pp. xviii-xxi

Ethel Carlson was “scared to death” and “wanted to turn around and go back” when she and her footlocker boarded a Chicago–to–Saint Louis train in the middle of the night in April 1943. The twenty-one-yearold, who never had been away from her hometown of Chicago except on family vacations, had earned her diploma in nursing from Englewood...

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01 Origin of Flight Nursing

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pp. 1-24

On remote World War II battlefields scattered throughout Europe and the Pacific, thousands of soldiers in the U.S. military were being shot and wounded and experiencing the usual and more exotic illnesses associated with military duty overseas. Staffs of military facilities in the army and navy chains of evacuation worked admirably to treat these ...

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02 Military Air Evacuation Tries Its Wings

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pp. 25-38

Air evacuation began shortly after the invention of the airplane, when two officers at an army base in Florida constructed and in 1910 flew the first known air ambulance, but the War Department chose not to allocate funds for further development of the airplane for medical transport. As early as 1919, patients were transported to hospitals...

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03 Flight Nurse Training

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pp. 39-63

Flight nurse training at Bowman Field, Kentucky, was a memorable event for those army nurses selected for air evacuation duty. Class songs such as this one written by members of the fifth class, which graduated in August 1943, often commemorated this time of rigorous military preparation with a hint of nostalgia. Air evacuation itself was relatively new,...

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04 From Flight Nurse Graduation toArrival Overseas

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pp. 64-81

For some flight nurses, the interim between earning their wings and participating in air evacuation in the real world seemed like an eternity. The first verse of the “803rd Lament,” written by Lieutenants Elsie Ott and Georgia Insley “while lying on cot waiting final movement orders at Bowman Field, Kentucky, July, 1943” and sung to the tune “It ...

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05 Flight Nursing on the European Front: North Africa, Sicily, Italy

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pp. 82-95

The growing importance of air evacuation, improvised during the early months of the war, led the War Department to charge the army air forces officially with developing a comprehensive medical air evacuation system that incorporated intra-theater, inter-theater, and theater–to–United States movements and, in the last months of the ...

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06 Flight Nurses behind Enemy Lines

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pp. 96-111

Elsie Ott made her first air evacuation flight before earning her wings at Bowman Field. A year later, another mission in which flight nurses participated—this one seemingly routine—made a different kind of history. While Ott’s flight occurred before she had been trained as a flight nurse, several members of the 807 MAES barely had started...

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07 Flight Nursing on the European Front: United Kingdom, France, North Atlantic

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pp. 112-130

While the 802 and 807 MAES were shifting their air evacuation activities forward as the Tunisian, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns liberated the Mediterranean from Axis control, ten MAES were arriving in the United Kingdom in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. The...

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08 Flight Nurse Prisoner of War

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pp. 131-140

The flight nurses of the 807 MAES were not the only ones to wind up on the ground behind enemy lines. Not quite a year after their unexpected crash landing in Albania, a flight nurse on duty with the 813 MAES in England was aboard a plane traveling to pick up patients on the Continent for air evacuation when it was forced down in Germany ...

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09 Flight Nursing on the Pacific Front: Pacific Islands

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pp. 141-165

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, civilian nurse Elizabeth Pukas still had six months left on her contract with the Army Corps of Engineers in Antigua, where they were building the airfield that became Coolidge Field. As soon as she returned to her former job in New York City, the Red Cross recruited her for military ...

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10 Flight Nursing on the Pacific Front: Alaska, China-Burma-India

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pp. 166-178

The war in the Pacific, Alice Hager wrote, fell into two divisions: the “spectacular march up through the Pacific, ending with its fierce impact against the Japanese home islands,” and “the bitter and littleknown war of the India-Burma and China theaters, for over three years a holding operation,” where the Japanese and Chinese had been fighting...

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11 Flight Nurse Image in Mind and Media

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pp. 179-198

The novelty and the professionalism of the flight nurse may have sold the air evacuation program to the general public, helped in great measure by media portrayals of flight nurses in articles often given catchy titles—“These Angels Fly on Man-Made Wings,” “Hell’s Angels,” “Invasion Heroine: The Flying Nurse,” “Angel Footprints.”1 But not all military ...

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12 Challenges of Wartime Flight Nursing

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pp. 199-226

During World War II, female flight nurses first brought their professional nursing skills and compassion to injured and ill soldiers. But with the first use of flight nurses came challenges, both for an environment unaccustomed to the presence of women in its midst and for those women who encountered stresses of war previously known only...

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Epilogue

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pp. 227-230

Looking back on her experiences as a flight nurse assigned on the Pacific front in World War II from a perspective of forty years, Adele Edmonds realized that while she might have no control over whether her country went to war, she could control the type of person she would be, should that occur. The war taught Edmonds and the other flight nurses ...

Appendix

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pp. 231-232

Notes

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pp. 233-262

Bibliography

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pp. 263-270

Index

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pp. 271-285

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC


E-ISBN-13: 9781612776774
E-ISBN-10: 1612776779
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606351543

Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2013