Flight Nurses
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Legends of the Flight Nurses of WWIIA quote from "The Story of Air Evacuation, 1942-1989" published by World War II Flight Nurses Association:

"On Feb. 18, 1943 the first formal graduation of nurses of the 349th Air Evac Group was held at the base chapel at Bowman Field, Ky. The 30 members of this group had completed a program of instruction that was definitely in the experimental stage. The 4-week course included class work in air evac nursing, air evac tactics, survival, aeromedical physiology, mental hygiene in relation to flying, training in plane loading procedures, military indoctrination and a one-day bivouac.
In his address to the first class, Brig. Gen. David N. Grant said, "Your graduation in the first class of nurses from the first organized course in air evacuation, marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of nursing. Air Evacuation of the sick and wounded is already an accomplished feat, requiring only trained personnel for rapid and extensive expansion." At the end of his address, on the spur of the moment, realizing no one had thought of an insignia for the flight nurse, he unpinned his own miniature flight surgeon's wings and pinned them on the honor graduate, 2nd Lt. Geraldine Dishroon, remarking that the insignia of the flight nurse would be similar to that of the flight surgeon, with the addition of a small "N" superimposed on it. Having created this insignia without authority, difficulty was encountered in having it manufactured as no insignia manufacturer would make the wings without the War Dept.'s approval."

Aerial Medical Evacuation nurses served with distinction with both the USAAF and USN in every theater of war, and continue to care for our service men and women today. Female nurses and male medical technicians were a crucial part of the war effort, and the advent of air evacuation during WWII is credited with saving many lives. History was made, with many significant events.


 I will summon every resource to prevent the triumph of death over life. I will stand guard over the medicines and equipment entrusted to my care and insure their proper use. I will be untiring in the performance of my duties and will remember that, upon my disposition and spirit, will in large measure depend the morale of my patients. I will be faithful to my training and to the wisdom handed down to me by those who have gone before us. I have taken a nurse’s oath, reverent in man’s mind because of the spirit and work of its creator, Florence Nightingale. She, I remember, was called the “lady with the lamp.” It is now my privilege to lift this lamp of hope and faith and courage in my profession to heights not known by her in her time. Together, with the help of flight surgeons and surgical technicians, I can set the very skies ablaze with life and promise for the sick, injured, and wounded who are my sacred charges. This I will do. I will not falter in war or in peace.

(Mae Mills & Coleman, Hubert A. Medical Support of the Army Air Forces in World War II. Office of the Surgeon General, USAF. Washington, DC. 1955.)

On March 22, 1945, two CG-4A gliders landed in a clearing near the bridgehead at Remagen, Germany, to evacuate 25 severely injured American and German casualties. Once the gliders were loaded, C-47 transports successfully snatched them from their landing site and towed them to a military hospital in France. In the second glider, 1st Lt. Suella V. Bernard, who had volunteered for the mission, cared for the wounded en route. One of the first two nurses to fly into Normandy after the D-Day invasion, Bernard became the only nurse known to have participated in a glider combat mission during World War II. For this mission, she received the Air Medal. One of the C-47 pilots was Bud Berry, mentioned in the forward to MISSING STICKS, who flew in every airborne flight mission in Europe.

Eventually, about 500 Army nurses served as members of 31 medical air evacuation transport squadrons operating worldwide. It is a tribute to their skill that of the 1,176,048 patients air evacuated throughout the war, only 46 died en route. Seventeen flight nurses lost their lives during the war.

Fellow author Sara Sundin has an excellent historical background about flight nurses at her web site, along with links to her excellent novels.

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