There have been many "firsts" since the first graduation of Air Evacuation Nurses in 1943.
2nd Lt. Geraldine Dishroon received the first pair of flight nurse's wings and the honor graduate of the first class on Feb. 18, 1943.
The 802nd MAES was the first air evac squadron to serve in any theater of war - in North Africa. The 801st followed suit in the Pacific.
Lt. Catherine Grogan was the first chief nurse of an air evac squadron to serve in a theater of war.
Lt. Ruth M. Gradiner, from the 805th MAES, was the first flight nurse killed in combat in Alaska.
Nancy Leftenant-Colon, was the first black nurse to be commissioned into the Regular Army Nurse Corps.
April 1945, the 806th MAES set a world record by evacuating 17,287 patients for that month. This set a record for monthly evacuations in any theater of operations by any squadron.
May 18, 1944 the first major catastrophe of the 803rd MAES occurred while in flight. Plane #372 received a radio message asking for the hospital ship to enter Myitkyina, Burma which the Allies captured the previous night. Capt. Collins, flight surgeon, two nurses, Chief Nurse Audrey Rogers, 2nd Lt. E Baer and Sgt. Miller were the medical team on board. They landed with enemy action still in play. As they loaded the wounded, the Japaneese were strafing the runway and Capt. Collins and Sgt. Miller were struck by shell fragments and the patient on the litter was killed. Lt. Rogers sustained shrapnel wounds to the right knee and thigh. Lt. Baer, who was pushed out of the line of fire was unharmed. The plane was riddled with bullets. They treated each other's wounds, continued to load the injured, and flew the patients to Ledo. They recuperated and returned to duty. They all received the Purple Heart.
The first and only glider air evac in the ETO was made March 22, 1945 by 2nd Lt. Suella Bernard, flight nurse and Maj. Albert D. Haug, flight surgeon, members of the 816th MAES from Germany to an evac hospital in France with flying time of 30 minutes.
Lt. Dorothy P. Shikoski was awarded the Air Medal of Bravery for pulling crew members of her downed aircraft to safety and continuing to pull medical supplies into her raft all while being injured from the crash.
Reba Z. Whittle was the first flight nurse to be imprisoned by the Germans and the first repatriated.
Lt. Janette Pitcherella, 803rd MAES was near Calcutta when the plane she was in started going down. She was the first nurse to bail out of a plane. When she reached the ground she discovered she was missing a finger. "I must have caught it on the door on the way out."
Lt. Thelma Le Fave of the 820th SWP was one of the first nurses into Tadji, and later was missing in action in the Philippines.
The first flight nurse to board a C-47 bound for France to evacuate wounded American soldiers was 1st Lt. Grace E. Dunnam. On June 11, 1944, she made the first authorized evac trip to Omaha Beach and brought back 18 litter of patients.
Lt. Ellen Church was mentioned in a wire service story from General Eisenhower's headquarters. It read, "Another woman, who did heroic work yesterday in the drive toward Bizerte was Lt. Ellen Church, a nurse in the Air Evac Unit of the AAF."
Lt. Ellen Church was also the first nurse employed as an airline stewardess in the US.
Women have continued to serve as flight nurses during war time. They bravely stepped up for WWII and continued through Korea, Vietnam and today.
On a personal note, being from the Vietnam era, I have a particular admiration and heart of thanksgiving for the following story by a flight nurse named Patricia Clark Stanfill. She was on the first air evacuation plane to land in Hanoi and retrieve American prisoners of war in Vietnam. It was a mission of anticipation and anxiety. Friends and I stayed up until 2:30 AM glued to the TV, and watched the arrival of the first POW's to touch American soil.
"On a misty morning in February 1973, a U.S. cargo plane veered toward the only Hanoi airport runway that wasn't bombed out. Rows of North Vietnamese soldiers stood stiffly at attention in the grass along the runway and thinking, they have guns laying in the grass.
We had been told that if something happened, they weren't going to come get us. There was no question in my mind this was not a peaceful thing."
Many of the POW's had been captured five and six years earlier, some longer. As one boarded the plane he grabbed Nurse Stanfill and kissed her.
"I don't think any of them really believed we were leaving until we were airborne. They had been told, yes we are coming; no, we are not. It was very difficult to believe it was finally over. I can still remember that as soon as we got up and the landing gear came in, everybody just stood up and cheered."
Miss Stanfill recalls the anguish of Vietnam, she also remembers the last assignment, flying POWs out, in a very positive way. "Knowing that it was over and that this was the last of it, and we weren't going to have to bring pieces home any longer. It was a good way of ending the tour and in a way helped me a lot, being part of it, that happy era at the end."
As we once again approach Sept. 11, Americans turn their memories and hearts back to one of the worst days ever perpetrated in our beloved Country.
I cannot do a better job
on this story than History.com has covering one of our darkest days in
American history, Sept. 1, 2001. These are their words...
8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767
loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashes into the north tower of
the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping,
burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly
killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher
floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway,
television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared
to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a
second Boeing 767--United Airlines Flight 175--appeared out of the sky,
turned sharply toward the World Trade Center, and sliced into the south
tower at about the 60th floor. The collision caused a massive
explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and
the streets below. America was under attack.
attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other
Arab nations. Reportedly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden's
al Qaeda terrorist organization, they were allegedly acting in
retaliation for America's support of Israel, its involvement in the
Persian Gulf War, and its continued military presence in the Middle
East. Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for more
than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight
schools. Others had slipped into the U.S. in the months before September
11 and acted as the "muscle" in the operation. The 19 terrorists
easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East
Coast airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen
because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental
journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorists commandeered the four
planes and took the controls, transforming the ordinary commuter jets
into guided missiles.
As millions watched in horror
the events unfolding in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 circled
over downtown Washington and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon
military headquarters at 9:45 a.m. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused
a devastating inferno that led to a structural collapse of a portion
of the giant concrete building. All told, 125 military personnel and
civilians were killed in the Pentagon along with all 64 people aboard
Less than 15 minutes after the terrorists
struck the nerve center of the U.S. military, the horror in New York
took a catastrophic turn for the worse when the south tower of the
World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. The
structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess
of 200 mph and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the
tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel. At 10:30 a.m., the
other Trade Center tower collapsed. Close to 3,000 people died in the
World Trade Center and its vicinity, including a staggering 343
firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers, and 37
Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an
evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on
higher floors. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the
time of their collapse survived. Almost 10,000 other people were
treated for injuries, many severe.
Meanwhile, a fourth
California-bound plane--United Flight 93--was hijacked about 40 minutes
after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the
plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of
events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to
the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport
as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants
planned an insurrection. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr.,
told his wife over the phone that "I know we're all going to die.
There's three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you,
honey." Another passenger--Todd Beamer--was heard saying "Are you guys
ready? Let's roll" over an open line. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight
attendant, called her husband and explained that she had slipped into a
galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to
him were "Everyone's running to first class. I've got to go. Bye."
passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have
attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped
over and sped toward the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour,
crashing in a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. All 45
people aboard were killed. Its intended target is not known, but
theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Camp David
presidential retreat in Maryland, or one of several nuclear power plants
along the eastern seaboard.
At 7 p.m., President
George W. Bush, who had spent the day being shuttled around the country
because of security concerns, returned to the White House. At 9 p.m.,
he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring
"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings,
but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter
steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." In a
reference to the eventual U.S. military response he declared: "We will
make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and
those who harbor them."
Operation Enduring Freedom,
the U.S.-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden's terrorist network based
there, began on October 7, 2001. Bin Laden was killed during a raid of
his compound in Pakistan by U.S. forces on May 2, 2011.