Topics - Women (Military Personnel)
Who Served Their Country During the Korean War
A Tribute to the Female Patriots Who Made
Contributions and Sacrifices to the War Effort in Korea
|Most recent update to this page: February 05, 2021
Wilma Ledbetter, fatality of the
sinking of the USS Benevolence
(Click picture for a larger view)
According to government records, there were 22,000 women in uniform when World War II ended and there were
some 120,000 on active duty during the Korean War. Roughly one-third of them were health care providers.
Female patriots volunteered for service in the Women's Army Corps (WAC), Women in the Air Force (WAF), Women
Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service of Navy Women's Reserves (WAVES), and Women Marines. Those
who were medical personnel served in Korea in Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH units), onboard hospital
ships, in MEDEVAC aircraft, and in hospitals in Japan, Hawaii, and the USA that were receiving the wounded
In June 1950 there was only one Army nurse (Capt. Viola B. McConnell) on duty in Korea.
By August of 1950 there were 100 Army nurses in Korea and by 1951 there were 400 of them. In 1950
there were only 1,950 regular and 440 reserve nurses on active duty in the Navy. That number peaked
at 3,200 on active duty in July 1951. Air Force nurses pulled their weight in Korea, too, and were
responsible for evacuating 350,000 patients from Korea by war's end. Stateside, mobilization of women
Marine reservists took place in August of 1950. Peak active duty women Marines during the Korean War
was 2,787. They stepped into leadership and administrative roles in non-combat areas to free up male
Marines for combat duty. For instance, in 1952, SSgt. Hazel A. Lindahl, a reservist from Boston, was
Camp Sergeant Major of more than 40,000 Marines at Camp Lejeune--the top enlisted post.
By 1952 the government deemed it safe to send WAC personnel to the Far East. About a dozen WACs
served in Pusan and Seoul in secretarial, translator and administrative positions in 1952-53, and there
was a WAC support system in Japan and Okinawa. In 1950 there were only 626 WAC personnel in the Far
East. By 1951 there were 2,604; 1952 - 1,791; and 1953 - 1,764. After the war (by June 30, 1954),
the number of WAC personnel in the Far East had dropped to 972.
Eighteen women--16 nurses and two Air Force personnel--lost their lives in the Korean War.* Not in uniform were female war
correspondents, some of whom went along with male troops to the front lines to cover combat action. Although
some female veterans rightly received decorations for their heroism, not all who deserved them got them.
All were volunteers, and all deserve our heartfelt thanks for acting on their patriotism by
joining their chosen branch of military service to help the war effort in Korea.
To add information or photographs or make corrections to this page of the Korean War Educator, contact
Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton St., Tuscola, Illinois 61953; ph. 217-253-4620 (home), 217-253-5171 (her
store); or e-mail email@example.com.
*[KWE Note: Some references indicate that seventeen
women died while in service during the Korean War. However, 18 died that the KWE can verify. There
is a discrepancy of facts as to who two of those female
fatalities were. Commonly listed as female
fatalities are two service personnel (SN Doris Frances Brown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and AB3 Kay Sherill Olatt of
Dexter, New Mexico) whose male gender was mistaken for female gender due to their first and
middle names. Sometimes online (and published book) lists for female Korean War casualties
mistakenly include Doris Brown and Kay Olatt. Doris "Dave" Brown, a World War II and Korean War veteran,
was a seaman on the USS Bairoko CVE 115 when he died May 13, 1951 in an accident.
He left a widow. Dave is buried in Great Lakes Naval Base Burial Ground, Lake County,
Illinois. Kay Olatt was an aviation boatswain's mate on the USS Kearsarge CV33 when
he died January 22, 1953. He was mortally wounded when an F9F aircraft discharged one
round of 20mm ammunition upon making a normal landing on the Kearsarge. Olatt was a
plane director on the flight deck when he was hit by that round.]
Table of Contents:
- Korean War 60th Anniversary Committee Statement
- Army Nurses during the Korean War
- Female Armed Forces Personnel - Decorated in Korean War
- Female Armed Forces Personnel - Notables
- Air Force - Female (Non-Nurse) Fatalities during the
- Nurses - Fatalities in the Korean War
- C-47D Crash, Haneda, Japan - July 1950
- USS Benevolence Tragedy - August 1950
- Kwajalein Airplane Crash - September 1950
- Beste, Eleanor Clara (USN)
- Boatman, Marie Margaret (USN)
- Clarke, Jeanne Elizabeth (USNR)
- Eldridge, Jane Louise (USN)
- Esposito, Constance R. (USN)
- Giroux, Alice Stella (USN)
- Goodwin, Calla Virginia (USNR)
- Heege, Constance Adair (USNR)
- Kennedy, Margaret Grace (USNR)
- Liljegreen, Mary E. (USN)
- Rundell, Edna June (USN)
- C-54D Skymaster Medical Aircraft - September 1950
- C-47 Skymaster - December 1952
- Nurses - USS Benevolence Tragedy
- Brennan, Marie Rita
- Deignan, Mary
- Dyer, Mary Eileen
- Fralic, Jean C.
- Harkins, Catherine Nina
- Harrington, Eleanor Elizabeth
- Karn, Patricia Ann
- Ledbetter, Wilma
- Lipuscek, Marie
- Martin, Ruth Whitmell
- Matthews, Gail Celeste
- McCarthy, Josephine Elizabeth
- Neville, Rosemary Clare
- Venverloh, Dorothy J.
- Wallis, Helen F.
- Nurses -
African-Americans in Korean Theatre & Elsewhere
- Cleveland, Maj. Nancy Leftenant
- Decker, Capt. Evelyn
- DeVoe, Lt. Edith Mazie
- Hicks, Lt. Mattie Donnell
- Peace, Lt. Nancy Greene
- Richardson, Lt. Claudia
- Post-War Korea
- Reference Material - Women in Korea
- SPARS in the Korean War
- WACs in the Korean War
- War Correspondents
- News Clippings
(Click a small picture for a larger view. If you want, click the first picture, or any picture, and sit back and watch a slideshow... pictures will automatically change in 10
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Korean War 60th Anniversary Committee Statement
"As the nation commemorates the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended formal
hostilities on the Korean peninsula, we pause to remember the critical role of women in the Korean War.
Just two years before the North Koreans invaded South Korea, on June 12, 1948, President Harry S. Truman
signed Public Law 625 which opened the door for women who wanted to serve their country in peacetime,
establishing a permanent place for women in all branches of the military, primarily in nursing and non-professional
Women’s integration into the Armed Forces had grown during World War II when there were shortages
of qualified males. From the earliest days of World War II, they had contributed at all levels. They
had been POWs; they had been wounded; they flew planes, planned strategies, nursed the casualties and
died for their country. The basic training regimen for women during World War II included full-kit (i.e.,
four-pound helmets, combat boots, 30-pound packs, mess kit and gas mask), 20-mile hikes, poison gas
and lethal chemical identification; small arms training, and basic combat survival skills, such as navigating
obstacle courses under enemy fire, digging fox holes, and dismantling or detonating incendiary devices.
This rigorous training prepared them to serve in a myriad of roles, ranging from airplane pilots and
mechanics, to control tower operators, truck drivers, aerial gunnery teachers, logistics chiefs, cryptographers
and intelligence officers. After World War II the country shifted its focus from war to peacetime and
the military began to downsize. At the same time, societal norms governing the role of women reverted
to pre-War attitudes. This role-reversal was not lost on the military which implemented policies that
channeled women into non-professional positions and subjected them to classes in etiquette and make-up.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, there were just 22,000 women in uniform. The military rushed
to draft, call up and recruit needed manpower. When these efforts came up short, the services asked
American women to leave their homes and jobs and families and serve their country in its time of need…just
as in previous wars. This time, however, they were steered into clerical and administrative positions,
so-called “pink-collar” jobs: All that is, except the nurses.
When President Truman ordered troops into South Korea, within a few days the Army Nurse Corps was
also there. When General MacArthur landed at Inchon, Army Nurse Corps officers also went ashore
on the very same day of the invasion. The 13 Army nurses of the 1st MASH and those
of the 4th Field Hospital made the landing and by the end of 1950 over 200 Army Nurse Corps
officers were in Korea.
Anna Mae Hays and Lillian Kinkela Keil are just two of the thousands of military nurses who were
on active duty when the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953. More than 700 Army nurses served in the MASH
units; more than 4,000 Navy nurses served on hospital ships; dozens of Air Force nurses served on MEDEVAC
Army Nurses During the Korean War
[KWE Note: This section is not the work of the Korean War
Educator. It is material from an Army military website.]
25 Jun 1950 Capt. Viola B. McConnell was the only Army
nurse on duty in Korea at the start of hostilities. Assigned to
the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of
Korea, Captain McConnell escorted nearly seven hundred American
evacuees, mostly women and children, from besieged Seoul to
Japan aboard the Norwegian freighter Rheinhold, a ship which
normally had accommodations for only twelve passengers. The crew
members gave up their quarters for the infants and children.
Captain McConnell assessed priorities for care of the evacuees
and worked with a medical team organized from the passengers,
including one United Nations nurse, one Army wife (a registered
nurse), six missionary nurses, and one medical missionary (a
woman doctor described by Captain McConnell as "magnificent-and
she worked long hours. . . we will be ever grateful to her for
her assistance"). Captain McConnell requested assignment back to
Korea from Japan. She later returned to Taejon to aid in the
care and evacuation of the wounded men of the 24th Division.
Captain McConnell was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for her
heroic performance of duty in assisting with the evacuation of
Americans from Seoul and, later, the Oak Leaf Cluster to the
Bronze Star Medal for her outstanding service in Korea.
27 Jun 1950 President Harry S. Truman ordered U.S. air
and naval forces into the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
1 Jul 1950 The first U.S. Army combat units landed in
Korea after U.S. ground forces were ordered into the fighting in
South Korea on 30 June 1950.
5 Jul 1950 Fifty-seven Army nurses arrived in Pusan,
Korea. They helped set up a hospital and were caring for
patients by the following day. Two days later, on 8 July 1950,
twelve Army nurses moved forward with a mobile Army surgical
hospital (MASH) to Taejon on the perimeter. By August, more than
one hundred Army nurses were on duty in South Korea in support
of United Nations troops. During the first year of the Korean
conflict, the strength of the Army Nurse Corps increased from
3,460 on 15 July 1950 to 5,397 in July 1951.
Throughout the ground fighting until 1951, and during the
prolonged peace negotiations that lasted until 27 July 1953,
approximately 540 Army Nurse Corps officers served throughout
the Korean peninsula. They served in twenty-five medical
treatment facilities, such as mobile Army surgical hospitals;
evacuation, field, and station hospitals; and hospital trains.
Army nurses supported combat troops during the amphibious
attack and landing on Inchon in western Korea, well behind the
Pusan beachhead line; the advance across the 38th Parallel
toward North Korea in the west; the amphibious landing on the
east coast of Korea pushing toward the Yalu River, the northern
boundary of Korea; and the disastrous defeat when they were
forced to retreat well below the 38th Parallel. Their support
continued as allied forces pushed back the Chinese, regaining
practically all of South Korea plus a few hundred square miles
north of the parallel. Maj. Gen. Edgar Erskine Hume, Surgeon,
United Nations Command and Far East Command, paid tribute to
Army nurses in Korea:
"Members of the Army Nurse Corps have all distinguished
themselves by their devotion to duty, their utter disregard of
working hours, and their willingness to do anything that needs
to be done at any time. They have displayed courage, stamina and
determination. They have completed every task with which they
have been confronted in a superior manner."
No Army nurse was killed due to enemy action in Korea, but
the story of the Army Nurse Corps in the Korean War would not be
complete without mention of the tragic and untimely death of
Maj. Genevieve Smith of Epworth, Iowa. Major Smith, a veteran of
World War II, was among the victims of a C47 crash while en
route to her duty assignment as Chief Nurse in Korea.
Aug 1950 The Army Nurse Corps was exempted from the
Army-wide requirement that all commissioned officers hold or
achieve a baccalaureate degree. The majority of registered
nurses nationwide were graduates of a three-year hospital
(diploma) program. By August 1950, only two years had passed
since the last of 124,065 Cadet Nurse Corps participants had
Relatively few degree-completion programs were
available for diploma graduates. Nonetheless, the goal set in
1950 was for Army Nurse Corps officers to complete an accredited
program leading to an undergraduate degree, preferably in
5 Sep 1950 The first course in nursing administration,
which later became the Military Nursing Advanced Course, was
established at the U.S. Army Medical Field Service School, Fort
Sam Houston, Texas. The twenty-week course included principles
of nursing administration, current trends in nursing, principles
of supervision and teaching, hospital organization and
functions, personnel administration, psychology of leadership,
and orientation to all departments of an Army hospital.
Maj. Elizabeth Pagels became the first Army Health Nurse to
be assigned to the Preventive Medicine Division, Professional
Service Directorate, Office of the Surgeon General, to assist
with issues related to the practice of Army health nursing.
2 Feb 1951 The fiftieth anniversary of the Army Nurse
Corps was observed throughout the world.
26 Jun 1951 The American Red Cross awarded the
cherished Florence Nightingale Medal to Col. Florence A.
Blanchfield (Ret.), seventh Superintendent of the Army Nurse
Corps, "for exceptional service on behalf of humanity rendered
through the Red Cross."
29 Jun 1951 Department of Defense (DOD) Directive
750.041 (renumbered 1125.1) established a definitive policy on
the utilization of registered nurses in the military services.
Registered nurses were to be relieved of custodial and
housekeeping duties and clerical, food service, and other
nonnursing functions in patient care areas. The DOD directive
also instructed the various military medical services to
institute programs to train and utilize more practical nurses
and other nonprofessional nursing service personnel in staffing
for patient care.
Even before the Department of Defense policy was established,
plans were being developed and projects had been initiated under
the aegis of management improvement which would work toward
solving the problems of defining and staffing the nursing
service. The studies ultimately resulted in the reorganization
of nursing service in Army hospitals. Duties and functions of
registered nurses were defined. A 48-week pilot course of
instruction for enlisted personnel on the practical nurse level
had already been instituted in 1949. On-the-job training
programs were developed for both professional and
nonprofessional nursing personnel. As a result of concerted
efforts to comply with the DOD directive, Army Nurse Corps
officers were authorized, after 8 September 1953, technical
control of enlisted personnel assigned to nursing service.
11 Aug 1951 The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in
the Services (DACOWITS) was established by the Secretary of
Defense to interpret to the public the role of women in the
services and to promote acceptance of military service as a
career for women.
30 Sep 1951 Col. Mary G. Phillips retired. Colonel
Phillips was the first Chief of the Army Nurse Corps to complete
the statutory four-year appointment as Chief of the Corps. Among
the honors received by Colonel Phillips was the Legion of Merit
on 23 October 1945 for her outstanding service as First
Assistant to the Superintendent, Army Nurse Corps.
1 Oct 1951 Col. Ruby F. Bryant became the ninth Chief
of the Army Nurse Corps. Colonel Bryant was the second graduate
of the Army School of Nursing to serve as Chief of the Corps.
Jun 1952 A career guidance program for Army Nurse
Corps officers was established in the Office of the Surgeon
General. Capt. Harriet H. Werley was assigned as the first
career guidance counselor.
Back to Page Contents
Female Armed Forces Personnel - Decorated in Korean War
Air Medal recipients
- Brown, Capt. Vera Maude (posthumous)
Captain Vera Maude Brown, AN763137, distinguished herself
while performing the duties of Flight Nurse on unarmed
transport aircraft airlifting urgently needed military
supplies and personnel into the battle area of Korea and
airlifting sick and wounded personnel from Korea to Japan.
Despite adverse weather conditions, hazardous terrain, and
threat of enemy attack, Captain Brown successfully completed
ten (10) missions from Japan to Korea and return. By
her courage, ability, and devotion to duty, Captain Brown
has brought great credit upon herself and the United States
Bronze Star recipients
- Brandvold, Capt. Florence Clara
A member of the Army Nurses Corps, Captain Brandvold was born April 13, 1908 to L.H. and Karen Amundson
Brandvold in Waseca County, Minnesota. She graduated from Waseca High School and then the
Swedish Hospital School of Nursing. Florence enlisted in the Army in 1944 and served until
she retired in 1964. She was awarded the Bronze Star medal for her service with the Mobile
Army Surgical Hospital, 8067th Army Unit, in Korea from July 24, 1950 to May 1951. She completed
three overseas duty tours, including a 13-month tour of duty in the Korean combat zone. After
Korea she was assigned a duty station at Ft. Eustis, Virginia. She died January 26, 2005 at
Austin (Minnesota) Medical Center at the age of 96, and is buried in LeSeuer River Cemetery.
She was preceded in death by her parents, three brothers and two sisters and was survived by one
sister Evelyn Luella Marquardt of Austin, Minnesota, and nieces and nephews.
- Cohen, Lt. Ruth M.
Navy nurse Lieutenant Cohen was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service from September 1950
to July 1951 onboard the hospital ship USS Haven. She received her nursing degree from
Mt. Sinai Hospital, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a Bachelor of Science degree from the Teachers College,
Columbia. Immediately after serving on the USS Haven she was assigned to the U.S. Navy
Hospital Corps School at San Diego.
- Lange, Lt. Cdr. Estelle Kalnoske
Navy nurse Lange was born December 06, 1904 and was trained at St. Agnes School of Nursing in Philadelphia.
She received the Bronze Star for service between August 1950 and March 1951 onboard the USS Consolation.
After her assignment on the Consolation she was assigned to duty as assistant chief nurse at the
US Naval Hospital, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. She died July 21, 2002
and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
- Lewis, Sgt. Margaret B.
Margaret Lewis was born in 1930, daughter of C.B. Lewis and Carolyn A. Lewis. She graduated
from Media High School in the Class of 1948 and then joined the Women's Army Corps, where she served
in the 71st Signal Service Battalion. In April 1951 she was the chief clerk in General Headquarters,
Tokyo, Japan, and married Navy veteran John Robert Snelling that same month in Tokyo. John
(1929-2004), was the son of Mr. and Mrs. James Arthur Snelling of Florence, Kansas. During the years
of their short marriage (Margaret Snelling died at the age of 26 in 1957), they were the parents
of three children: John R. Snelling, Marjene Snelling Neve, and Nadine Snelling Boiling. Margaret
is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Aston, Pennsylvania. Following her death, her husband John
remarried and he and his wife Elizabeth had two more children, BethAnn Snelling Penner and William
R. Snelling. John R. Snelling died July 25, 2004 and is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery, Florence,
- McConnell, Capt. Viola B.
She was the only Army nurse in Korea when the war broke out in June 1950. It became Captain
McConnell's job to arrange and manage the evacuation of hundreds of people from Korea to Japan.
Many of the children were suffering from health conditions which required regular nursing care,
and our women were pregnant and near their due dates. For helping to evacuate nearly 700 Americans
to Japan, Captain McConnell was awarded the Bronze Star.
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Distinguished Flying Cross Recipient
Bonham, Jonita Ruth
Jonita (Bonnie) Bonham at Pusan, Korea, 1950
(Click picture for a larger view)
Lieutenant Bonham was born on April 2, 1922 in Bennington, Oklahoma, and joined the Army Air Corps,
where she was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Medical Corps. She served in the Philippines
and Japan after World War II, and then returned to the United States, resigning from active military
When the Korean War broke out she rejoined the military, this time as a 1st Lieutenant in the United
States Air Force. On September 26, 1950, she was serving as a flight nurse with another nurse,
Vera Brown, in a C-54 cargo plane that had been converted into an emergency hospital. Bonham
and Brown were two of three medical team members on the flight that day. About a half mile
from shore the plane stalled, descended, and slammed into the Sea of Japan, breaking into three
pieces and sinking.
Bonham, who was completely submerged in the aircraft, managed to fight her way to the surface, where
she found herself swimming for her life in a sea churned up by high winds. She hung onto a
floating barracks bag until she was able to grab a life raft rope. She stayed in the water,
grabbing other survivors and guiding them to the rope. It was not until 17 of them were safe
that she allowed herself to be pulled into one of two available rafts. Although she was seriously
wounded, she forgot about her own injuries as she encouraged panicked survivors to stay in the raft
until rescue. Unfortunately, nobody at base operations knew that the plane had crashed.
Once rescued, Bonham spent nine months in the hospital recovering from a broken cheek bone, skull
fracture, broken shoulder and broken left wrist. She was transferred to Maxwell AFB for further
recovery, and there she became the first female recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Soon thereafter she was promoted to Captain.
The Cavalcade of America radio program aired a story, "The Nurse Who Forgot Fear"
about her on April 9, 1952, and articles about Jonita appeared in Everywoman's Magazine and
Reader's Digest. Jonita Bonham later married Col. Clifton Willard Bovee (1913-2007) and they
had children Tony Bovee, Greg Bovee, and Renee Bovee. She lived for many years in Colorado
Springs, spending the last six months of her life in Cheyenne, Wyoming with her daughter.
She died of cancer there on December 24, 1994.
[See also: "Extraordinary People in Extraordinary Times: Heroes, Sheroes, and Villains" by
Patrick M. Mendoza."]
Bonham's Distinguished Flying Cross citation:
Autographed photo of Jonita receiving DFC by Gen. George Stratemeyer, Tokyo
(Click picture for a larger view)
First Lieutenant Jonita R. Bonham performed meritorious service and distinguished
herself while acting as Flight Nurse in medical air evacuation flights totaling one hundred seventy
(170) hours from 25 July to 26 September 1950. Lieutenant Bonham flew in unarmed cargo type aircraft.
On many occasions these aircraft were operating in and out of advance airfields which were being
subjected to enemy fire; transporting ammunition, rockets, bombs and other types of high explosives
and inflammable material, under adverse weather conditions and over hazardous terrain. Despite these
conditions, Lieutenant Bonham carried out her missions willingly and without complaint, continually
comforting and caring for her patients. By her courage, ability and unselfish devotion to duty,
Lieutenant Bonham has reflected great credit upon herself, her profession and the United States
- Brown, Vera M.
The posthumous awarding of a Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain Brown is mentioned in
A Fit, Fighting Force: The Air Force Nursing Services Chronology
(Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, Washington,
D.C. 2005). The Korean War Educator located the
citation for her award in copies of her records sent
from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
On 18 October 1950, Headquarters, 801st Medical Air
Evacuation Squadron issued the following posthumous
"During the period 10 August 1950 to 26
September 1950, Captain Brown flew a total of 146 hours
in order to attend sick and wounded personnel in aerial
flight. Both in Japan and in the Korean Combat
zone, Captain Brown flew in unarmed cargo type aircraft.
On many occasions these aircraft were transporting
ammunition, rockets, bombs, and other types of high
explosives and inflammable materials, leaving no margin
for air crew error. Despite adverse weather
conditions, hazardous terrain, and at times, the threat
of enemy attack, Captain Brown carried out her missions
willingly and without complaint, continually comforting
and caring for her patients, many of whom were on their
initial flight. Because of her devotion to duty,
loss of life and limb was appreciably reduced.
While departing from Ashiya Air Force Base, Japan, on 26
September 1950, Captain Brown was fatally injured in an
The award was presented on January 11, 1951 to
Captain Brown's mother by Colonel Thomas H. Holbrook,
Commanding Officer, 2587th Air Force Reserve Training
Center, Birmingham Municipal Airport.
Back to Page Contents
Female Armed Forces Personnel (serving during the Korean War) - Notables
- Blatt, Margaret Erdsman
At the time of her retirement on July 31, 1962, Margaret
Blatt was stationed at Murphy Hospital in Waltham,
Massachusetts and became the highest ranking woman to be cited for the 1st
Oak Leaf Cluster for the Army Commendation Medal for
exceptionally meritorious service during the period April
1956 to July 1962. She
was also the recipient of seven Bronze Stars and nine
overseas stripes for combat service. Born on December
20, 1911, a daughter of William H. and Grace Blatt of
Freedom, Pennsylvania, Margaret graduated from high school
around 1929 and entered the Army Nurse Corps
on January 4, 1941, in Rochester, Pennsylvania. She served in World War II from
March 1942 to September 1945 in the southwest Pacific area
from Australia to the Philippines. She first served in
Australia, then New Guinea. After that she served one
and a half years in Manila, leaving there August 30, 1945 to
report to New Jersey for future assignment. From March to
September 1946 she was engaged in transport duty from New
York to Southampton and LeHavre, France, making a round-trip
every month with a complement of 15 nurses and 15 WACS to
bring back groups of war brides and their babies, and
orphans. She served in the Korean War from August 1950
to February 1952 at the 121st Evacuation Hospital in Korea.
In October of 1950 she was promoted to the rank of major.
In June of 1952 she was a member of the Defense Advisory
Committee for Women in the Service, and was decorated at Ft.
Myers, Virginia with an Army Commendation Ribbon and medal
pendant for meritorious service while serving as the
assistant chief nurse and administrative supervisor of the
nursing staff at the 121st Evacuation Hospital in Korea from
September 25, 1950 to February 9, 1952. After duty in Korea and then completing the administration
course at the Army Medical School at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas,
Margaret served from April of 1956 to April of 1958 as
assistant chief nurse, 5th General Hospital, US Army, in
Europe. She also served as chief nurse during the
absence of that officer in Stuttgart, Germany. In
September of 1961 she was serving as Chief of Nursing
Service, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Aberdeen, Maryland. She
ended her long career as an Army nurse during a ceremony at
the Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1962, and then retired to
her new home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her siblings
included a sister Mary Blatt of Freedom, Pennsylvania
brother Richard B. Blatt (1906-1974) and his wife and daughter
Christine of Brighton Township, Pennsylvania; and retired
colonel and brother Dr. John Frederick Blatt (1902-1967) of
Scottsdale, who had served in the
US Army Medical Corps for 30 years, was the recipient of the
French Croix de Guerre and Legion of Merit, and was an
orthopedic surgeon. John's wife was Maryetta L. Blatt
(1912-1982). Margaret E. Blatt
died April 3, 2002, and is buried in the National Memorial
Cemetery of Arizona at Phoenix.
Col. Ruby Bradley
One of the most decorated women in US military history was Col. Ruby Bradley. Born December
19, 1907, Colonel Bradley died May 28, 2002 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. She entered the
Army Nurse Corps as a surgical nurse in 1934. She served in World War II and then in Korea she
served as chief nurse for the 171st Evac Hospital before being named Chief Nurse for the Eighth Army
in 1951. She supervised over 500 Army nurses throughout Korea. She was promoted to the rank
of Colonel in 1958. She was the recipient of 34 medals and citations for bravery, 2 Legion of
Merit Medals, 2 Bronze Stars, and other awards.
Bradley began her service in the Army Nurse Corps as
surgical Nurse in 1934. Her risky service followed on 1941,
while assigned at Camp John Hay, Philippines. Only three
weeks after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Bradley was
captured, and tended to fellow captives after being moved to
Santo Tomas Interment Camp on 1943, in Manila. There, she
and several other nurses were given the name “Angels in
Fatigues” for feeding starving children and risking their
lives in smuggling surgical equipments into the POW camp so
as to provide medical aid. The U.S. Army liberated Bradley
and the rest of the captives from the Japanese three years
later, and then, she headed back home to West Virginia.
However, military service has not yet ended in the
Philippines for Bradley. She went back to the battlefield as
chief nurse of the 171st Evacuation Hospital during the
Korean War only after 5 years. In 1951, Bradley became chief
nurse for the Eight Army, shouldered the responsibility of
supervising 500 Army Nurses all over Korea, wherein she had
to face near-death situations while ensuring the sick and
wounded were safe. Ruby Bradley managed to escape 100,000
Chinese soldiers holding guns on her back, and ambulance
exploding right after she’s gone off it.
Col. Bradley’s military service lasted three decades, and
retired in 1963. Her life ended on May 28, 2002 due to heart
attack, but her courage and valor remain. [Excerpted from
the website "25 Famous Nurses".]
- Brewer, Margaret A.
Born in 1930 in Durand, Michigan, Brewer joined the United States Marine Corps in January of 1942 after
receiving a bachelor's degree in geography from the University of Michigan. By March of 1952 she
was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, making her the first Woman Marine to attain
flag rank. [Source: A Few Good Women, page 266.]
- Duerk, Alene Bertha
Born March 29, 1920 in Defiance, Ohio, Alene Duerk was in the Navy Reserve when she was recalled to
active duty in March 1951. For three months she was a
nurse on a ward for head injury patients at Naval Hospital,
Portsmouth, Virginia. After that she was asked to
teach in corps school on the Portsmouth Naval Hospital
compound--a duty she held for five years
throughout the Korean War. A veteran of World
War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, Duerk was
the first woman to be appointed Rear Admiral in the U.S.
Navy (1972). She died July 21, 2018. Among her many achievements
• Ohio Governor's Award, 1973
• First Nurse Corps Officer assigned as Special Assistant to
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health and Environment,
• Chief, Nursing Service, U.S. Naval Hospital, Great Lakes
• Director of Navy Nurse Corps, 1970-1975
• Director, United Services Life Insurance Company
• Director, Visiting Nurses Association, and Foundation,
• Member, Navy Nurse Corps Association
- Griffin, Sarah
LTJG Sarah Griffin was recalled to duty making history as the only Navy nurse amputee serving on
active service. Throughout the Korean War, LTJG Griffin served as a physical therapy nurse in Naval
Hospital Oakland’s amputee center. LTJG Sarah Griffin’s work at Naval Hospital Oakland served
as the inspiration for an episode of the CBS television series Navy Log in 1956. The episode, entitled,
“Not a Leg to Stand On”, featured actress Veda Ann Borg as LTJG Griffin.
- Hays, Anna Mae V. McCabe
Commissioned in the Army Nurse Corps in 1942, Anna Mae
Hays served in a hospital unit during World War II. When War
broke out in Korea, she mobilized with the 4th Field
Hospital in 1950 and participated in the Inchon Landing. The
hospital unit cared for more than 25,000 patients during the
next 10 months, one night receiving 700 wounded men. On June
11, 1970, she became the first woman in military history
to attain general officer rank. On March 12, 2013 she was inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation
Hall of Fame. [Source: Korean War 60th Anniversary website. See also VFW Magazine
special edition, "Women at War From the Revolutionary War to the Present", 2009, page 14.]
Brigadier General Hays died in January 2018 at the age of
97. Included in her obituary was this reference to the
Korean War: "She went to Korea after war broke out there in
1950, serving with the 4th Field Hospital, one of the first
medical units to arrive at Inchon after the U.N. invasion of
the Korean peninsula’s west coast. “I think of Korea
as even worse than the jungle in World War II because of the
lack of supplies, lack of warmth in the operating room,”
Hays told an interviewer at the Army Military History
Institute in 1983. In particular, she remembered the
intensely cold weather and “the many, many patients who were
severely wounded and those patients who were so acutely ill
from hemorrhagic fever.”
- Keil, Lillian Kinkela
One of the women who served was Captain Lillian Kinkela Keil, a member of the Air Force Nurse Corps
and one of the most decorated woman in the U.S. military. Captain Kinkela
flew over 200 air evacuation missions during World War II as
well as 25 trans-Atlantic crossings. She went back to
civilian flying with United Airlines after the war, but when
the Korean War erupted she donned her uniform once more and
flew 175 more missions as a flight nurse in Korea.
She flew on 425 combat missions and took part in 11 major campaigns that included the D-Day invasion
and Battle of the Bulge in World War II and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. Captain
Kinkela-Keil was the inspiration for the 1953 movie "Flight Nurse" and served as technical advisor to
the film. Her 19 decorations include the European Theater of Operations with Four Battle Stars; The
Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters; The Presidential Unit Citation with One Oak Leaf Cluster; The
Korean Service Medal with Seven Battle Stars; The American Campaign Medal; The United Defense Medal;
and Presidential Citation, Republic of Korea. Captain Kinkela has been honored several times in her
home town of Covina Hills, California. Captain Kinkela Keil died in June 2005 at the age of 88.
Back to Page Contents
Air Force Female (Non-Nurse) Fatalities during the Korean
C-47 Skytrain 47-76266, December 30, 1951
- Garafalo, Jeanne J.
WAF Sgt. Jeanne J. Garafalo, 20 years of age, Plainfield, New Jersey, was assigned to the 4th
Weather Squadron, Continental Air Command. While a passenger on C-47 Skytrain 47-76266, the
aircraft crashed in the Armer Mountains, Central Arizona, on December 30, 1951, killing Sergeant
Garafalo and 27 others on the plane. The full story of
this crash can be found on the Airplane Crashes Topics page
of the KWE. Jeanne was the daughter of James Garafalo
(1905-1983) and Lillian Garafalo (1909-1995). She is
buried in Saint Gertrude Cemetery and Mausoleum, Colonia,
Back to Page Contents
C-54G, November 28, 1952
While en route to the United States mainland from Fairbanks,
Alaska, a C-54G transport plane crashed in South Tacoma,
Washington in thick fog on November 28, 1952. Of the 39
persons onboard, 37 were killed, including numerous women and
children. According to newspaper accounts, included in the fatalities were two female Air
Force personnel. To read details about the aircraft
accident, go to this
Airplane Crash page of the Korean War Educator.
- Bentley, Patricia Jean
Airman 3C Patricia Jean Bentley was born August 24, 1928 and
was a member of the 84th Air Traffic Squadron when she was
killed in this plane crash. She is buried in Park View
Cemetery, Manteca, CA.
- Swang, Marion E.*
Major Marion Swang was born March 3, 1911, a daughter of Benjamin L. Swang
Sr. (next of kin living in Porterville, CA at the time of
her death) and Harriet E. "Hattie" White Swang (1875-1936). She
was the sister of Benjamin L. Swang
(1915-1932). The KWE believes that she also had a
sister Mildred, but this has not yet been confirmed.
It is certain that Mildred and Marion were the
granddaughters of Benjamin D. and Lena Swang of Oconomowoc,
Wisconsin. At the time of the aircraft accident,
Marion was returning to the States from Alaska after having
served at Ladd Air Force Base as assistant personnel officer
for the 5001st composite wing since January 1951.
Marion Swang was supervisor of health and physical education
at Watertown, Wisconsin and Rochelle, Illinois from 1936 to
1942. She attended LaCrosse State College and Peabody
College for teachers in Nashville, Tennessee before she
entered the Army Air Corps in August 1942 and attended
officer candidate school in Des Moines, Iowa. She
received instruction in personnel administration at Purdue
University in 1945, and attended an air inspector's course
at Craig Air Force Base in Alabama in 1950. In her
post at Ladd AFB, she managed personnel activities,
including career guidance, classification, assignment,
promotion and separation, effectiveness rating and transfer
for personnel at the air base. In 1952 she was named
Military Woman of the Year at Ladd, and she was active in
church work at the base. According to the Waukesha
Daily Freeman newspaper (August 11, 1952), she was the
niece of Mrs. Charles White Sr. of Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
She was also related to Gordon B. Swang (1901-1954) of
Porterville, California. Marion is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery,
*[KWE Note: Marion Swang's name is incorrectly listed on
casualty reports as Marion E. Swann, and that incorrect spelling
is also shown on her government tombstone.]
Back to Page Contents
Nurses - Fatalities in the Korean War
Three accidents in 1950 took the lives of 13 nurses who were on their way to Japan and/or Korea to care
for American troops who were being wounded in combat in the Korean War.
C-47D Crash, Haneda, Japan - July 27, 1950
Maj. Genevieve Smith
(Click picture for a larger view)
Twenty-six persons were onboard a C-47D scheduled to fly from Haneda, Japan to Pusan, Korea on July 27,
1950. The aircraft took off about 4 a.m. and became airborne at 4:05 a.m. Sixteen minutes later
the plane had difficulties and shortly thereafter the tail of the plane snapped off. The plane descended
and crashed into the Pacific Ocean, sinking to a depth of about 1500m and causing 25 of those onboard to
be lost at sea. There was one survivor, Sgt. Haru Sazaki. Army nurse Major Genevieve Smith was
the only female among the fatalities.
- Smith, Maj. Genevieve Marion
Genevieve Marion Smith was born April 25, 1905 in Epworth, Iowa, daughter of Thomas Aphonaius Smith
(1875-1947) and Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Smith (1874-1965).
In addition to her mother, Major Smith was survived by siblings Mrs. Frank (Veronica) Dagenais, Mrs.
Edwin (Catherine) Horsfield, Mrs. Alfred (Alice) Arensdorf, Joseph Smith and Thomas K. Smith.
Genevieve Smith graduated from St. Joseph Mercy
Hospital School of Nursing in Dubuque, Iowa, on August 15, 1925, and joined the Army in 1928.
After World War II she spent two years in Germany and then in October 1948 she was transferred to the
Philippines. She was later transferred to Japan, where she was serving as chief nurse of the 155th
Station Hospital in Yokohama, Japan when she was selected by General Douglas MacArthur to be chief nurse
Although the former World War II Army nurse was due to retire in January 1951 after 22 years of military
service, she accepted the position and sealed her destiny on a fatal air flight to Korea. On July 27,
1950, a three-man aircrew, twenty-two male passengers and one female--Genevieve Smith, left Haneda,
Japan for a flight to Pusan, Korea in a C-47D. Less than a half hour later the plane veered to
the right and flipped onto its back. The tail section broke off and the plane crashed into the
ocean. There was only one survivor--saved because he was sucked out of the airplane and was able
to pull his parachute ripcord before he lost unconsciousness. He was picked up out of the water
by a Japanese fishing boat eight hours later. All others on the aircraft were lost at sea. [See
A Few Good Women by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee, pp. 252-253.]
Further information about Major Smith can be found in: A
Concise Biography of Maj. Genevieve Marion Smith by Mrs.
Genevieve Comeau, General Reference & Research Branch,
Historical Unit, USAMEDS, Forest Glen Section, Walter Reed
Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, published in April of
1962. Click here to read it.
Back to Page Contents
On a foggy August 25, 1950, the hospital ship USS Benevolence (AH-13) was rammed by the commercial
freighter, SS Mary Luckenbach about four miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Less
than an hour later, the Benevolence had capsized with only a part of its hull and its big red cross
showing above water. Twenty-three persons on the ship were dead and hundreds more were struggling to stay
afloat and alive in freezing cold water. One Navy nurse, Lt. Wilma Ledbetter, lost her life in the
tragedy. For more information about the USS Benevolence, click
- Ledbetter, Lt. Wilma (USN)
Wilma Ledbetter was born April 27, 1912 in Chillicothe, Texas. Her father, William L. "Bud" Ledbetter
moved to Chillicothe with his brothers George Mitchell, Henry, Hiram and Dick Ledbetter in the early
1900s. Bud later became mayor of Chillicothe for a number of years and also served several years as
a city councilman. He was the last surviving member of the original Chillicothe Volunteer Fire Department
that was organized in the early 1900s. Bud also had a feed and seed store for years and was manager
of the Kell Mills for years.
There were five girls in the Ledbetter
family. The eldest three, Lucretia (1907-1996), Edith (1909-1982), and Wilma
(1912-1950), were the daughters
of William Luther "Bud" Ledbetter (died 1978) and Christina Hale Ledbetter. Christina Ledbetter
died of influenza in 1918. The youngest two Ledbetter sisters, Jacqueline
"Jackie" (1923-2000) and Emily, were
the daughters of William and Emma Jane Powell Ledbetter (died 1961). Wilma's aunt and uncle were
Davidson Victor York and Nell Pitcomb (Powell) York of Ada, Texas.
Although Emma Ledbetter was not the
birth mother of Wilma, family members told the KWE that she loved Wilma as her own daughter and
Wilma's death took a terrible toll on Emma. Wilma's sisters each married: Lucretia to a Wickliffe,
Edith to Thurman McPherson, Jacqueline (Jackie) to Bennie Emile Reynolds, and Emily to a Shoemaker.
Jacqueline had two children, Jerry William Reynolds
(1947-2011) and Jane Reynolds Howard of Collinsville,
According to her sister Emily, Wilma graduated from high school in Chillicothe circa 1929. Naval records
show that she attended Texas State College for Women, Denton, Texas, from 1929 to 1930. She then attended
Central State Teachers College, Edmond, Oklahoma in 1933 while thinking about becoming a teacher. After
deciding to become a nurse, she received three years of nurses training (1936 to 1939) at the Northwest
Texas Hospital School of Nursing in Amarillo, Texas. The school closed in 1985. (See also: American
Journal of Nursing, Vol. 50, October 1950, page 680.)
Prior to becoming a Navy Nurse, Wilma Ledbetter was employed at Northwest Texas Hospital, Amarillo (general
duties) from 1939 to 1940. She then worked at Charity Hospital, New Orleans, Louisiana, where she not
only had general duties from 1940 to 1942, but also took nine hours of nurses education (1942) at Louisiana
State University, Baton Rouge, LA. She then had general duties at Brackenridge Hospital, Austin, Texas,
in 1942. She reported for a physical examination to join the Navy Nurse Corps on March 4, 1943 in Norman,
Oklahoma, where it was found that Wilma was physically qualified for appointment in the USNR Nurse Corps.
Naval records show that she proceeded to active duty as Reserve Nurse, USN, on July 6, 1943. Her service
number was 219499. Ensign Ledbetter had duty at the Naval Hospital, San Diego, California, before receiving
orders to Hawaii. She sailed from the USA on the USS Antigua on September 9, 1944, arriving at Pearl
Harbor on September 15, 1944. She served as a nurse at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Aiea Heights, Hawaii,
and then at the Naval Air Station, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, until November 8, 1945. According to her income
tax report for that year, her total taxable pay in 1945 was $2,137.25. Her military exclusion was $1,500.00.
She returned to the States on November 13, 1945 on the S.S. Monterey, and then traveled from
San Francisco, California to the U.S. Naval Hospital in New Orleans, LA. She was released to inactive
status effective May 17, 1946, but proceeded to active duty as Reserve Nurse USN again on January 14,
1947. She was assigned to a duty station at the US Naval Hospital, Houston, Texas. Records show that
she was transferred from there to the dispensary at the Naval Ammunition Depot in Hawthorne, Nevada.
She received permission to travel from her duty station at the US Naval Hospital, Houston, Texas, to
Hawthorne, Nevada on 14 November 1947. The orders gave her permission to travel there via an automobile
owned by Lt. Marie Edith Charron, NC, USN, and described the auto as a 1947 Kaiser Special, 4-door.
In 1948 she received a permanent appointment to the rank of Lieutenant, NC, USN.
Wilma was also a nurse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but the dates of her service there have not yet
been determined. Lieutenant Ledbetter rejoined the active Navy Nurse Corps when the Korean War broke
out and was assigned to the USS Benevolence.
Back to Page Contents
Kwajalein Airplane Crash - September 19, 1950
On September 19, 1950, an aircraft carrying 11 nurses refueled for the third time at Kwajalein
before taking off for Japan. Within 90 seconds the plane had crashed, killing all 26 onboard.
To learn more about this tragedy, click
here. View information below about the nurses
whose lives were sacrificed that day. See also News Clippings on this page.
- Beste, ENS Eleanor Clara (USN)
Eleanor Clara Beste was born February 20, 1925 in Freeport, Minnesota, daughter of Henry F. Beste (1883-1941)
and Regina G. Haselkamp Beste (1886-1968). She graduated from St. Cloud, Minnesota Hospital School
of Nursing in 1946. She was assistant head nurse before joining the Navy Nurse Corps in January
1948. She was assigned to the naval hospital at Bremerton, Washington before receiving transfer
orders to Japan in September 1950. Her siblings were: Ulric Conrad Beste (1914 - 1989), Emmeline
Mary Beste (1916 - 1968), Regina T Beste (1918 - 1990), Mary Helen Beste (1920 - 2000), Julitta Magdalen
Beste (1922 - 1997), Francis Bernard Beste (1927 - 1931), Al Beste, and Clara Beste Klobe.
- Boatman, ENS Marie Margaret (USN)
25 years old, San Antonio, Texas. Marie was born March 8, 1925 in Abilene, Texas, daughter of
Rev. Clarence Otto Boatman (1896-1969) and Ruby Ellen Clark Boatman (1894-1942). Reverend Boatman
was pastor at Government Hill Methodist Church. Marie attended Southwest University, Georgetown
for pre-med and then graduated from Harris Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in Ft. Worth.
She was employed at Harris until she was commissioned in the Navy Nurse Corps on March 10, 1948.
She was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Long Beach, California, from that date until January 5, 1950.
On January 11, 1950 she reported to the US Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, where she remained
until receiving overseas orders for Yokosuka, Japan on September 11, 1950. She was survived by
her father, step-mother Ethel May Hickman Boatman (1895-1977), and two brothers John Harvey Boatman
(1924-1990), a World War II veteran, and David Boatman. Dave (also a World War II veteran) was
in the Navy in the Korean War at that time and came home to attend his sister's funeral. Marie
Boatman is buried in Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Clarke, Lt. JG Jeanne Elizabeth (USNR)
Lt JG Jeanne Elizabeth Clarke
Image #23.E1.16. Courtesy of Providence Archives, Seattle.
(Click picture for a larger view)
Born May 12, 1918 in Oregon, Jeanne was the daughter of George Henry Clarke (1878-1939) and Eleanor
Jane Clarke (1882-1932). Her hometown was listed as Portland, Oregon. Her siblings were
Margaret C. Clarke (a WAC in World War II), George T. Clarke (also a World War II veteran), and John
H. Clarke, all of Multnomah County, Oregon.
Jeanne graduated from Washington High School and then graduated from St. Joseph's School of Nursing
in Vancouver, Washington in 1943. She enlisted in the US Navy Medical Corps on December 27, 1943.
She was commissioned in the Navy in 1944 and served until 1946. In November 1949 she volunteered for
active duty again. She had assignments at Puget Sound, Washington and San Diego, Long Beach
and Oceanside, all in California.
An article in the St. Joseph Hospital Chronicles of May 14, 1943 told about her graduation as a nurse:
"Nineteen Nurses received diplomas. Their services are greatly needed at this time both in the hospitals
and in the armed forces. They are Misses: Sue K. Aklin, Marie M. Allaire, Barbara C. Argianas, Isabelle
M. Berning, Mary K. Butler, Jeanne E. Clarke, Marian Elliott, Ann C. Gomulkiewicz, Corrine T. Hanson,
Georgean D. Haskin, Caryl E. Hewitt, Mary E. Klein, Anne M. Lulay, Ellen Lerfold, Marianne Mc Cullough,
Martha E. Partanen, Joyce B. Reed, Rufina C. Parish, Helen E. Steyaert."
- Eldridge, ENS Jane Louise (USN)
The daughter of Harold and Lillian Eldridge of Detroit, Michigan, Jane entered Providence Hospital School
in 1943 when she joined the U.S. Cadet Nurses Corps. She remained for a year as a nurse at Providence
Hospital after graduation and then entered the U.S. Navy Nurses Corps in September 1947.
She reported to the US Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington on December 10, 1947, and Jane was still
stationed there when she came home on leave September 2, 1950. Four days later her leave was cancelled
and she returned to Bremerton, where orders transferring her to the Naval Hospital at Yokosuka, Japan
awaited her. On the trip to Japan the plane stopped three times for fuel. After the final
stop, the plane crashed after leaving Kwajalein Island. See also: The Michigan News, November
1950, pg. 148. Her hometown was listed as Detroit, Michigan. She was 27 years old.
An article about Jane's death appeared in The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin (September
21, 1950), stating: "The fiancee of Lt (jg) Arpad Masley, Madison Navy doctor, and 25 other persons
were killed Tuesday in the crash of a Navy transport in the Pacific Ocean near Kwajalein. Lieutenant
Masley, the son of Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Masley, 3626 Spring Ctr, was to have been married to Ensign Jane
L. Eldridge, daughter of Mrs. Lillian Eldridge, Detroit, Michigan. The elder Masley is director
of physical education for men at the university. Mrs. Masley said her son and Miss Eldridge had
been engaged since June and that they planned to be married on their next trip home. Lieutenant
Masley is in Korea, and Miss Eldridge had been ordered recently to report for duty in Japan. Mrs.
Eldridge explained that her daughter was home early this month on a 30-day leave, but that she had been
home only six days when ordered to report in Bremerton, Washington, in preparation for going to Japan.
A 1947 graduate of the university medical school, Lieutenant Masley began his navy service in September
1949. He and Miss Eldridge met at the Bremerton Naval Hospital while both were stationed there."
Ens. Constance Esposito
(Click picture for a larger view)
Esposito, Ens. Constance Rita "Connie" (USN)
Daughter of Frank and Maria Carmella "Millie" Parrenzi Esposito, Brockway, Pennsylvania, Connie
was born on September 07, 1923. She graduated from Brockway High School in June 1941, and was
a 1945 graduate of the Indiana, Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing. After graduation she
was employed at DuBois, Pennsylvania Catholic Hospital before joining the Navy in 1948. She had
assignments at Bethesda, Maryland and San Diego, California. She is buried in St. Tobias Cemetery,
Brockway. Her siblings were: Gerald Esposito (died age 5), Theresa Mae Esposito Prosper, Yolanda
Geraldine Esposito (1925-2013), Anna Marie Esposito Benson, John Henry Esposito, Richard James
Esposito, Josephine Pauline Esposito Bruzga, Patricia Jean (Patti) Esposito, and Francis Joseph (Cheech)
Esposito (1930-2013). Connie was engaged to be married to a fiancé in California.
Just prior to
Memorial Day 2015, the bridge spanning Toby Creek on Route 28 near Brockway was officially named the
"Ens. USN Connie Rita Esposito Memorial Bridge". Several hundred people attended the ceremony,
organized by Parson-Marnati Post 95 of the American Legion in Brockway.
Giroux, Lt. JG Alice Stella (USN)
Lt. JG Alice Stella Giroux
(Click picture for a larger view)
Born January 5, 1910,
she was the daughter of Euclid T. Giroux (1881-1954) and Celia Langlois Giroux (1881-1927). Her hometown
was listed as Seattle, Washington. Her siblings were: Lionel P. Giroux (1905-1992), Geneive Giroux
(1907-1907), Desniega Giroux (Mrs. Ed Lick - b. 1911), Olene Giroux (Mrs. Robert Joseph Fletcher - 1913-1991)and
Lillian Giroux (Wilson - born 1923). Alice was a nurse in World War II and was in the US Naval
Reserve when she was sent to Korea to take care of the wounded. She died in the plane crash en
route. She graduated from St. Mary's Hospital School of Nursing in Rochester, Minnesota in 1932.
She had varied experiences as a nurse, including special duty at Saint Mary's a year at the American
Hospital in Paris, and civil service at the Gorgas Hospital, Ancon, Canal Zone (1940-1942). She
joined the Navy Nurse Corps, reporting for duty at the US Naval Hospital in Long Beach on November 18,
1944. After serving as a nurse at the Naval Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, she was released to
inactive duty on June 22, 1946. She was a naval reserve nurse at the US Naval Hospital in Long
Beach for over six months. In April 1947 she was at Building #102, Birmingham General Hospital,
Van Muys, California. By October 1947 she had a new address in Pasadena. After a period
of inactive duty from 1946 to 1949, she went back to active duty on January 6, 1949 at the Naval Hospital
in Corona, California. She was transferred to the US Naval Hospital in San Diego, California on
October 6, 1949.
Saint Mary's Alumnae Quarterly had an article sent in by Alice from the Canal Zone on May 17,
1942. She wrote: "I am on night duty at present, on a white men's ward, patients with pneumonia,
malaria, etc. and some surgical patients... Misses McCue ('27) and Beavan ('30) are also on the night
shift, so we often have pep fests over the supper hour. Miss McCue leaves for vacation shortly,
and may stop in Rochester. I spent thirty days of my vacation in Guatemala and the remaining thirty
here and in the interior of Panama. I greatly enjoyed Guatemala city, also Antigua, a city of
ruins, destroyed by earthquakes of 1773 and eruptions of a nearby volcano. Two other nurses joined
me on a trip to Chichicastenango, about 170 miles from in the highlands and away from Guatemala city.
There we met the famous priest Reverend Rossbach, who has lived with the Mayan Indians, educating and
teaching Christianity to them for the past thirty-seven years. He also is a noted jade collector.
He actually did all this work on his own and has a display of evacuations made in a museum connected
with the church. In this village we saw processions of pagan Indians worshipping idols, climbing
mountains and offering their prayers. Father Rossbach says he has converted many of them.
He allows them to enter his church, but without their idols. He goes about it gradually and much
remains to be done. All in all it was a most enjoyable trip. I did get some grand pictures,
and wish I had my color movie camera with me. Please give my best wishes to the Sisters."
Alice Giroux Nursing
(Click picture for a larger view)
Goodwin, Lt. JG Calla Virginia (USNR)
Lt. JG Calla Goodwin
Picture courtesy of Needham B. Broughton High School
(Click picture for a larger view)
Born on April
25, 1922 in Tyrrell County, North Carolina, her hometown was listed as Raleigh, North Carolina.
She was the daughter of Frank O. Goodwin Sr. (1895-1976) and Madelyn B. Goodwin (1900-1976), both of
whom are buried in Concord, Contra Costa County, California. She was also survived by a brother,
Frank O. Goodwin Jr., who is now deceased. Calla was a 1940 graduate of Needham B. Broughton High
School in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she was a member of Latin Club, Glee Club, Typing Club, a staff
reporter for the school radio, member of Girls' Athletic Association (GAA), German Club, and the RHS
Glee Club, and participated in school operettas and the State Music Contest.
After high school graduation she received her nursing degree from Rex Hospital School of Nursing in
Raleigh in 1943. She joined the Navy Nurse Corps on January 6, 1944, and reported for duty at
NNH in Ports, Virginia on February 16, 1944. She left there on May 15, 1945 and on May 20 reported
for duty at the Naval Hospital in Bainbridge. On July 23, 1945, she began duty at the Naval Hospital
in Charleston, South Carolina, and remained there until May 1948. On May 13, 1948, she reported
to the Naval Dispensary at the Charleston Naval Shipyard Naval Base in South Carolina, where she remained
until July 6, 1949. On August 5, 1949, she reported to duty at the US Naval Hospital in Long Beach,
California, where she remained until going on duty at the US Naval Hospital, SMR, Oceanside, California,
on February 18, 1950. She remained there until receiving overseas orders to the US Naval Hospital
in Yokosuka, Japan.
- Heege, LTJG Constance Adair (USNR)
Constance was born July 2, 1918, daughter of George Frederick Heege (1891-1983) and Clara K. Wegener
Heege (1892-1982) of Kirkwood, MO. From suburban Kirkwood, Missouri, she graduated from the University
of Missouri in 1941. She graduated from St. Louis University School of Nursing in 1947 and taught
school for two years before joining the nurses' cadet training corps at St. Mary's Hospital, St. Louis,
MO. She was formerly a staff nurse and clinical instructor at St. Louis University Hospital before
taking her oath of office as Ltjg NCR on December 3, 1948. She was stationed at the US Naval Hospital
in Long Beach, California, from January 5, 1949 until February 17, 1950. The next day she went
on duty at the US Naval Hospital, SMR, Oceanside, California, and remained there until receiving overseas
orders to the Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. In addition to her parents she was survived by
sisters Shirley (Ohlson) and Mourine (Marco) and a brother George Frederick Heege III (1930-2001).
She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Kirkwood, MO.
- Kennedy, LTJG Margaret Grace (USNR)
"First from Webster to be killed in the Korean War is a woman, Lt. (jg) Margaret Kennedy, 27, daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. Edward J. Kennedy, May Street. Word of the death of the Webster Naval nurse was contained
in a telegram received yesterday by the parents, states that she was one of 26 who were killed in the
crash of a Navy Transport plane Sept. 9, 1950, off Kwajalein, the Pacific's worst military air accident.
Not only is Lt. Kennedy the first woman to give her life, but the first woman in any war to be killed,
and who claimed Webster for her home. News of the death of their daughter was received by her parents
in the following telegram: "It is with deep regret that I officially report the death of your daughter,
Lt. (jg) Margaret Grace Kennedy, USNR, on 9 September, as a result of a plane crash which occurred in
Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands. When further details concerning recovery of remains are received,
you will be informed promptly. Your daughter dies while serving her country and in the performance of
her duty. Admiral John W. Roper, Chief of Naval Personnel." Miss Kennedy served as a naval nurse in
World War II, and at the end of the war, entered Denver University, graduating last year. She recently
re-entered the Naval Service, and was stationed at San Diego. She volunteered for overseas duty and
was on her way to the theater of war when the plane disaster occurred. She was born in Webster, attended
school here and graduated from Bartlett High School. She entered Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and graduated
from the training school, later entering the service in World War II. Surviving are her parents, a sister,
Helen Kennedy in California, and a brother, Thomas of Webster, who served in World War II and was a
member of L Company, which was Federalized from here." [Source: Webster (Massachusetts) Times,
September 21, 1950]
According to a 1951 issue of the American Journal of Nursing, Lieutenant Kennedy graduated from
Peter Brigham Hospital in Boston in 1944 and was a general duty nurse for a few months before joining
the NNC in 1944. She had a period of duty at Portsmouth, Virginia, Chelsea, Massachusetts, Newport,
Rhode Island, and at Long Beach and San Diego in California.
Liljegreen, Lt. JG Mary Eleanor (USN)
Lt. JG Mary Eleanor Liljegreen
(Click picture for a larger view)
Mary Eleanor Liljegreen was born on August 31, 1925, one of three children born to Carl Joseph Liljegreen
(1892-1976) and Agnes Elizabeth Wyse Liljegreen (1890-1968). A 1942 graduate of West Seattle High
School and Seattle University, she took her nurse's training at Providence Hospital School of Nursing,
graduating in 1946. After graduation she was employed at Providence Hospital until signing up
for the Navy on July 1, 1947. She reported for duty at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California,
on September 2, 1947, and remained there until December 5, 1949. On December 28, 1949, she reported
for duty at the US Naval Hospital in Bremerton, where she remained until receiving overseas orders for
Yokosuka Hospital in Japan on September 11, 1950. She was the sister of former World War II POW
LeRoy Randolph "Lee" Liljegreen (1916-1997), who was the husband of nurse Miriam Jeannette Smith Liljegreen
(1921-2012), and sister of Mrs. Timothy Hugh Harn Jr. (Elizabeth Louise "Betty") (1923-2001), who was
also a nurse and graduate of Providence Hospital School of Nursing. Mary Eleanor's hometown was
listed as Seattle, Washington.
(Click picture for a larger view)
Photos courtesy of the
Harn Family Archives
(Click picture for a larger view)
(Click picture for a larger view)
- Rundell, Ens. Edna June (USN)
Born August 1, 1926 on a farm near Stafford, Kansas, Ensign Rundell was the daughter of Lee Harold Rundell
(1891-1949) and Gladys June Vincent Rundell (1895-1983) of Stafford. Her siblings were sisters
Anna Lee Rundell Lee (1917-1989), Evelyn Rundell (Gilmer) (1922-1981), Dorothy M. Rundell Hathaway (1930-1996),
and Helen Marie Lofland (1916-2001), and brothers Harold and Jay, both World War II veterans.
Her grandmother, who was living at the time, was Mrs. J.W. Vincent of Stafford.
Edna June attended Liberty Grade School and then graduated from the Stafford High School with the Class
of 1944. In June of the same year she entered cadet nurses training at the St. Elizabeth Hospital
in Hutchinson, graduating in 1947. She worked as a nurse in the hospital at Wellington, Kansas,
and while there she enlisted as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. She reported for duty at the UN Naval
Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, on December 30, 1948 and remained there until receiving overseas
orders to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan on September 11, 1950.
She was a member of the Methodist church in Stafford. Her obituary stated: "She was a loveable
and pleasant girl, very sincere in her work of helping others. She made many friends in her work
and varied interests in life. Edna was fond of music and the piano was her constant companion.
She will be sadly missed by all who knew her, especially her family."
At the time of her death, Edna's sisters, Helen Lofland and Dorothy Hathaway, were residing in California,
and their mother had gone to California to visit them and see her daughter Edna June before she left
for overseas duty. Mrs. Rundell was still in California when she got the news of her daughter's
Photographs and news clippings relating to Edna June Rundell are located in another section of this
Back to Page Contents
Douglas C-54 Medical Transport - September 26, 1950
There were forty-three passengers and eight crew members onboard this Douglas C-54-DC (DC-54) Skymaster
medical aircraft (registration number 42-72457) when it crashed in the Korea strait one mile from the end
of the runway after taking off from Ashiya Air Base. The aircraft was assigned to the 6th Troop Carrier
Squadron of the 374th Troop Carrier Wing based in Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. Killed were eighteen passengers
and five crew members, including one of two females on the flight, Vera M. Brown.
- Brown, Vera Maude
Captain Brown, a World War II nurse from Birmingham, Alabama, was assigned to the 801st Medical
Air Evacuation Squadron and was on this air evacuation flight. According to the Office of the
Air Force Surgeon General in Washington, D.C., Captain Brown received the Distinguished Flying Cross
posthumously. She also received an Air Medal
posthumously. (See the Awards section of this page.) It should be noted that in an official preliminary accident report transmission
from Far East Air Forces headquarters, Vera Brown (Service Number 763137) was listed as flight nurse
Vera Maude Brown was born in
Cragford, Alabama on November 10, 1920, which meant that she
was 29 years old at the time of her death. She was the
daughter of Mrs. H. W. (Arizona Mackey) Boone of Birmingham, and the sister of Mrs. Virginia
(Hodnett) Covington, both of whom lived at 8605 3rd Avenue
North, Birmingham 6, Alabama. In addition to her
mother and sister, she was survived by a niece and nephew.
Her father was deceased. She was a member of the
Vera graduated from Randolph County High
School in Wedowee, Alabama in 1939, and then from the
Training School for Nurses at Norwood Hospital, Birmingham,
Alabama, on September 01, 1942. She was a nurse at the
Knight Sanitorum in Roanoke, Alabama before working as an
obstetrical supervisor at Norwood Hospital in Birmingham,
Alabama from September to December 1942. She served
one month in January 1943 as Head Nurse at Norwood Hospital.
She joined the Army Nurse Corps
In October of 1944 1st Lieutenant Brown was
transferred from the 28th AAF Base Unit, AAF Regional
Station Hospital No. 1 at Coral Gables, Florida, to the AAF
Convalescent Hospital in Miami, Florida. She was
ordered to the School of Aviation Medicine, Randolph field,
Texas, on July 8, 1945 for a course of instruction in
aviation nursing that lasted nine weeks. After she graduated from the AAF
School of Aviation Medicine on September 8, 1945, she had a tour of duty in a general hospital in Japan.
She was designated "flight nurse" in October of 1945 at
Randolph Field. On March 31, 1946, she filled out a
request for an allotment of $75-$85 per month for her
mother's living expenses. She was stationed at March
Field, Riverside, California, in 1947 in Squad M, 420th AAF
BU as a 1st Lieutenant. Records in her file indicate
that she had participated in regular and frequent aerial
flights (air evacuation) since 1 April 1949, and was
recommended for flying status as of May 1, 1949.
commander's report from March Field stated that Vera Brown
was: "An attractive, cheerful nurse, has a pleasing
personality, is extremely well liked by all her associates,
carries on her duties in an efficient manner, gives the
patients excellent care." Another similar report
stated: "This officer possesses a very wholesome attitude,
she is friendly and feels her responsibility toward her
superiors and toward those who are under her jurisdiction
and care. Accepts responsibility cheerfully and is
conscientious." Vera's job proficiency reports from
all of her commanding officers were full of high praise for
In July of 1949, at her request, Vera Brown was
transferred from Department Reserve, US Army, to the US Air
Force Reserve. She had temporary duty with the 19th
Medical Group in Guam in 1949, and then received orders for
further TDY to the 347th Troop Carrier Wing for five days in
November of 1949 for the purpose of evacuating patients.
That same November, Capt. Vera Brown certified that she
elected to remain on active duty from November 30, 1949 to
November 30, 1950. She was transferred to Japan on
February 29, 1950. On June 5, 1950, she received
orders for temporary duty with the 51st Medical Group.
While on temporary duty with the 801st M.A.E.S. in Honshu,
Japan, she received the following report from Capt. Louise
Bainbridge, her superior officer, on June 15, 1950:
"Subject officer has prerequisites of an excellent nurse.
Does not hesitate to seek advice. Conscientious,
aggressive and cooperative. This officer shows a high
degree of judgment in economical management of personnel and
resources under her supervision, commensurate with her
responsibilities. One who willingly accepts her
responsibilities toward the control, supervision, direction
and instruction of subordinates, and exacts a high degree of
conformance to standards of conduct and discipline expected
of Air Force Officers. A financially responsible,
trustworthy officer who has high moral standards. A
reserved and serious officer who has a most pleasing
personality and would be useful as a staff duty nurse or
chief nurse. This officer could easily assume a more
important position and greater responsibilities. She
endeavors to keep herself informed of new developments and
techniques in her profession."
Captain Vera Brown perished
in an aircraft accident on September 26, 1950. Her
remains were recovered following the aircraft accident and
she was taken to the 118th Station Hospital, where se was
pronounced dead on arrival. The official government
report lists cause of death as, "Drowning, secondary to air
crash." Soon thereafter, permission was granted to
remove the remains to the United States Cemetery in
Yokohama, Honshu, Japan. They were later transferred
back to the States via the USNS General Walker on October
16, 1950 to San Francisco, California, and then transported
to Alabama, where she was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery. In
her honor, in May of 1951 the Future Nurses Club of Phillips High School. Birmingham, Alabama, became
the Vera M. Brown Chapter, Future Nurses of America.
George Truman William Waters of Heflin, Alabama,
a World War II Prisoner of War and author of the book, No Thought for Tomorrow, remembers Vera
Brown because they were both graduates of Randolph County High School in the Class of 1939. Carolyn
Johnson of Roopville, Georgia wrote to the KWE in February 2014 to say, "What memories you brought back
with your mention of Capt. Vera Maude Brown. Her mother, Mrs. Boone, was a very caring neighbor
of my parents before I was born. My parents lost a child in a car accident, and Mrs. Boone was
a great help to them. Vera Maude must have been a teenager in 1937 when my sister was born.
She stayed and helped until Mama was able to do her housework. I don't know whether they paid
her. I was three and don't remember her, but have heard them speak favorably of her so many times.
Her nursing instincts must have come in early, as they told of one time they thought I had been hurt
and the care she gave me. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of her. I don't recall ever seeing
one. I would love to know more about her."
Funeral services for Capt. Vera Brown were held at
Brown-Service Chapel with Dr. Lambuth Archibald and Rev. H.O.
Hester officiating. Burial was in Forest Hill
Cemetery. Members of Irondale Post No. 160, American
Legion, were pallbearers. North Jefferson Post No. 102
of the Legion conducted graveside services.
Back to Page Contents
C-47 Skymaster - December 22, 1952
- McClure, Virginia May
Virginia May McClure was born to Edgar R. McClure (1885-1972) and Lena M. Talcott McClure (1886-1945)
on June 13, 1922, in Tabor, Iowa. She went to school there until her last year of high school,
when she transferred to Springfield, South Dakota. Her father was the former editor of the
Tabor Beacon newspaper in Tabor, and was a former co-owner of the Fontanelle Observer newspaper
in Fontanelle, Iowa. In 1938 he moved his family to Springfield, South Dakota, where he became
editor of the Springfield Times in Bon Homme County.
Virginia graduated from high school in 1939 and then went to Southern State Teachers College for a year.
After that she went to the school of nursing at Lutheran hospital in Sioux City, Iowa. Virginia graduated
from the nursing school in 1943 with a degree in nursing and x-ray technology. Before she enlisted into
military service, Virginia was employed in her field in Sioux City.
Virginia joined the Air Force nursing service in June of 1951. Lt. McClure was assigned to the hospital
at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi, then applied for overseas service, and was assigned
to duty in the Far East, which allowed her to fulfill a dream becoming flight nurse. Lt. McClure was
assigned to the 801st Airborne Evacuation Service and served as a flight nurse on a C-47 Skymaster transport
stationed first at Tachikawa Air Base in Tokyo, then to Brady Air Base, southern Japan, before being
flown to Korea for a 30-day temporary assignment on December 20, 1952. In a letter home, written December
21, the day before her death, she told of her arrival in Korea and described the nurses’ Quonset huts.
Her assignment was to fly on the planes bringing the wounded from the forward areas back to the hospitals.
First Lieutenant Virginia May McClure was killed along with the eleven other occupants of their C-47
when it collided on the runway with a jet fighter plane on December 22, 1952, in South Korea. The body
of Lt. McClure was returned to the United States and was buried next to her mother at Fontanelle Cemetery,
Fontanelle, Iowa. Surviving her death was her father and her brother, Lucien McClure.
One colleague remembered that Virginia was kind to everyone she met and was generous to all. A superior
officer wrote, “…her eagerness, attention to duty, and personality were of the very best, and it was
a pleasure to have her under my command.”
Lieutenant Virginia May McClure was awarded the Air Medal, Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the
National Defense Service Medal, the Korean War Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal.
[Source: South Dakota Korean War Memorial - A portion of this biography was respectfully submitted to
the South Dakota Veterans Memorial by Chantelle Rae Janke, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish,
South Dakota on May 11, 2004. Also, the American Battle Monuments Commission, SD National Guard Museum,
and the January 1, 1953 issue of the Springfield Times provided information for this entry.
Other material was found by the KWE online.]
Perry, Margaret Fae
Margaret Fae Perry
(Click picture for a larger view)
Born on January 31, 1923 in Morgantown, West Virginia, she was one of ten children born to Pasquel Perry
(1889-1963) and Serafina Marra Perry. Margaret graduated from University High School and St. Mary's
School of Nursing in Clarksburg. Before joining the Air Force, she was an employee of the General
Hospital as a supervisor of the second floor hall and at one time was in charge of the maternity ward.
She was also an industrial nurse at Heyden Chemical Corporation in Morgantown, West Virginia.
She furthered her education at West Virginia University and Fairmont State, completing postgraduate
work at the University of Chicago. She joined the Air Force in February 1950 and trained at Ft.
Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
After her commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, she attended a six-course program at military flight school
in Montgomery, Alabama for training in air evacuation of wounded personnel. After that she was
assigned to the 1453rd Squadron at Hickam Air Force in Hawaii. She flew numerous air evacuation
flights from Korea to Guam, Japan, Hawaii, and mainland USA while serving in the Korean War with the
801st Medical Air Evacuation Squadron. She was nearing the end of her military commitment and
was scheduled to ship back to the United States after completing her final mission from Suwon Airfield
(K-13) in Korea on December 22, 1952. That day, because of confusion over takeoff instructions,
the C-47 plane on which she was aboard collided with an F80C Shooting Star fighter. The C-47 was
being flown by the Royal Hellenic Air Force. Both planes had been cleared for takeoff. When
the two planes collided there was an explosion and nurses Margaret Fae Perry and Virginia May McClure
were both killed, along with 11 others onboard.
Margaret Fae's siblings were brothers Sgt. Samuel Perry (KIA while serving with the 979th FAB in World
War II), Martin A. Perry (1914-1993), Frank Perry (1919-2006), and Jack Perry, and sisters Teresa A.
Perry (1917-2009), Pasqualyn Ann "Pat" Perry Peelish (1921-2011), Rose Perry Yedlosky, Mary Perry Baliker,
and Virginia Perry Como (died 2013).
Back to Page Contents
Nurses - USS Benevolence Tragedy
|There were 15 Navy nurses onboard the USS Benevolence when she sank. One
perished. [See also
Benevolence on the KWE.] The fifteen nurses included the following:
- Brennan, Marie Rita - Born April 19, 1917 in Buffalo, New York, Lieutenant
Brennan married John Richard "Jack" Leister (1919-1998), a Navy veteran of World War
II and the Korean War. Marie died July 5, 1982 in Los Angeles, California.
She and Jack are buried in the St. Johns Lutheran Cemetery, Spinnerstown, Pennsylvania.
- Deignan, Mary - Born May 28, 1922 in Seattle, Washington,
Mary resigned from the Navy Nurse Corps on September 26, 1951. She was married
to LTJG A.P. Lesperance, US Navy. Her sisters were Therese Marie Deignan, Barbara
Deignan, and Helen Deignan. Her brothers were Joe and John Deignan. Mary
had twin daughters, one of whom is still living. Mary lives in Seattle.
- Dyer, Mary Eileen - From Cleveland, Ohio, Mary
married a Sherwin. No further information has been found to date.
- Fralic, Jean C. - born May 7, 1913 in York, Pennsylvania,
Jean died July 30, 1990 in Gulfport, Mississippi. [Her name is also found spelled
in various newspapers as Frolic]. Jean's most recent duty station before the
Benevolence assignment was at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
- Harkins, Lt(jg) Catherine Nina - From
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she was the daughter of Mrs. Margaret Harkins and sister of Margaret
Harkins, both of 2650 N. 60th Street in Milwaukee. Age 43 at the time of the
Benevolence sinking, Catherine had been in the Navy eight years. She did
not know how to swim. It is believed her father's name was Richard Harkins of
Milwaukee as the names Richard, Margaret, Catherine, Margaret and Francis (or Frances)
Harkins show up as a household on the 1930 census there.
- Harrington, Eleanor Elizabeth -
From Lowell, Massachusetts, she was born on November 3, 1911 in Rhode Island, one of
three daughters of Timothy J. Harrington of Lowell. A graduate of St. Elizabeth's
School of Nursing in Brighton, Massachusetts, she joined the Navy Nurse Corps in 1935.
She was transferred to the USS Relief in 1939, where she served as senior nurse
officer for three years during World War II. Later she survived the sinking of
the USS Benevolence, and thereafter became chief nurse on the hospital ship
USS Haven off the Korean coast. She was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1955.
Her sister Mary Dolores Harrington [believed to later be Mrs. Frank Fox] was an Army
Corps Nurse at the same time Eleanor was a Navy nurse. In 1958 Eleanor married
and her name changed to Eleanor Ritter.
- Karn, Patricia Ann - Born March 17, 1923 in
Indiana, Patricia was 27 when the Benevolence sank. She was the daughter
of Harry D. and Lucille J. Rannels Karn. She died December 17, 1997 at Point Loma,
California, at the age of 71. She was the niece of Robert Rannels and Kathleen
Carithers. (See News Clippings, Logansport Press, August 29, 1950.)
- Ledbetter, Wilma "Leddie" of Chillicothe,
TX - The only fatality among the nurses who were on the Benevolence when she
sank. After memorial services at the U.S. Naval Hospital Chapel in Oakland, California,
on September 2, 1950, her body was accompanied back to Chillicothe from California by
fellow Benevolence nurse Josephine McCarthy. Wilma is buried in Chillicothe
Cemetery, Chillicothe, next to her parents. Her sister Emily told the Korean War
Educator that Wilma was more like a mother to her than a sister. Wilma paid for
Emily to attend McMurry College in Abilene and Emily then taught school for about 30
years, retiring in 1986. Emily's daughters are Wilma Sandra and Marsha Diane.
In 2013, Emily was the last living Ledbetter sister, residing in Clyde, Texas. [See
"Tribute to Lt. Wilma Ledbetter" in the Fatalities-USS Benevolence section of
this KWE page.]
- Lipuscek, Marie - Married Frank Cassani and now
(2013) is 94 years old and lives in East Weymouth, MA. (See Eyewitness Accounts.)
- Martin, Ruth Whitmell - Born April 23, 1925
in Thibodaux, Louisiana, Ruth married Frank Siso Deus on November 25 1955 in Thibodaux
after resigning as a Naval Lieutenant. They have four children: Roderick, Frank
Jr., Karin and Pamela. Ruth currently lives (2013) in Mandeville, Louisiana.
Ruth's account of the sinking can be found in the book, A Few Good Women, by
Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee. See also on this page: Eyewitness
Matthews, Gail Celeste of Scranton, PA
- Born February 2, 1920 in Scranton, she graduated from Central High School, Scranton
and the Sherman School of Expression. She then went on to graduate from the Moses
Taylor Hospital School of Nursing in Scranton in the Class of 1941. At Moses Taylor
Gail was president of the student government. After graduating from Moses Taylor
Miss Matthews studied at Cornell Medical Center in New York. She was a member
of the American Red Cross. She joined the U.S. Navy on September 1, 1942 and was
on the hospital staff of the Monmouth Memorial Hospital at Long Beach, New York, for
six months. She was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy Nurse Corps on January
5, 1943. Her first duty was at St. Albans Naval Hospital in New York for six months.
She served in the dispensary at USNHS in Brunswick, Maine from August 1943 to September
1944. From September 1944 to March 1945 she was at the US Naval Hospital in Brooklyn,
New York. During World War II she served on the hospital ship USS Tranquility
from March to November 1945 before returning to St. Albans from November 1945 to January
1946. She was out of the service from January to March 1946, and then reentered
the service in March of 1946. She served at the naval hospital in Portsmouth,
Virginia almost two years (March 1946-March 1948) and then was assigned to Pensacola,
Florida USNHS Hospital from March 1948 until August 1950 before being transferred to
the US Navy Hospital ship USS Benevolence in August 1950. Her last duty
was at the US Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was a supervisor (night
duty) in the Dependents Hospital from October 1950 until she was discharged November
26, 1952. After serving in the Navy Nurses Corps during World War II and
the Korean War, Gail married Dr. Charles Fain, a Navy veteran who served with the Marines
as a dentist/physician in the Chosin Reservoir campaign. Gail died on August 13,
2011 while residing in Holly Hill, Florida. She was predeceased by a daughter,
Betsy Fain Bryant. She was survived by her husband of 60 years and a stepdaughter,
Loretta Parzenti of San Diego, California. Ironically, Gail was on a ship that picked
up many survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Her diary about
that is held in Indianapolis. Gail's mother was Elizabeth Stover Matthews and
her siblings were Carolyn, Abel S., Chester, and Edward S. Matthews.
(Click picture for a larger view)
- McCarthy, Josephine Elizabeth -
Josephine was born August 13, 1912 in Renovo, the daughter of Charles and Mary E. Russell
McCarthy. She graduated from St. Bernard High School in Bradford, Pennsylvania,
and then graduated from St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing in Erie. She served
in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was injured in the Benevolence accident.
She was later assigned duty as a Navy nurse in Italy. She retired after 12 years
as a lieutenant. She was a plank member of the U.S. Naval Memorial Association.
She married Paul J. Paparella in Bradford in 1954. He died in 1988. Josephine
died on July 22, 1991 in the U.S. Naval Hospital Center, Bethesda, Maryland, and is
buried in St. Bernard Cemetery, Bradford, PA. She had one brother Charles R. "Rick"
McCarthy, who died in 2005.
- Neville, Rosemary Clare of Omaha, NE -
Believed to be the daughter of Francis M. and Rose Neville and sister of William F.
Neville (he died 1998), Rosemary was born February 14, 1921 and died December 13, 2012.
She is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Omaha, NE.
- Venverloh, Dorothy J. - Graduated from
St. John's Nursing School in 1941. In 1947 she volunteered for the U.S. Navy Nurse
Corps. When she retired she spent the remainder of her life caring for elderly
relatives and neighbors who had no family to care for them. She died July 17,
2005 and is buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis.
- Wallis, Helen F. (could not swim) - Grew up in
Malvern, Arkansas, graduating from Malvern High School and the Baptist Hospital School
of Nursing in Little Rock, Arkansas. She joined the Navy in 1947. In 1952
she married Chaplain George L. Martin and they became one of the very first dual-career
military couples. She resigned her commission in 1957 prior to the birth of their
daughter Mary in 1958. Helen died October 20, 2009 and is buried in Hillside Cemetery,
Purcell, Oklahoma. Chaplain Martin died February 23, 2002.
Eleven of the nurses were tied together before they stepped off the sinking ship into
the frigid water. Mary Deignan swam by herself to a nearby life raft. Marie
Lipuscek and Patricia Karns stuck together until they were rescued by a tugboat. Helen
Wallis was assisted by an MSTS crew member until she was rescued by an Italian fisherman.
Back to Page Contents
In Remembrance of
Sgt. 1c Jeanne M. Balcombe
Sgt 1c Jeanne Balcombe
While on duty
on August 21st 1999, Balcombe's quick thinking and selfless response safeguarded and protected others
at the Troop Medical Clinic at Camp Red Cloud, Korea. She placed herself in harm's way between three
soldiers and an armed gunman.
News-Register, McMinnville, Oregon, August 28, 1999
A funeral for former McMinnville resident Sgt. 1st Class Jeanne M. Balcombe of Lakewood,
Washington, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the chapel of Macy & Son Funeral Directors,
McMinnville. The Rev. Steve Ross of McMinnville United Methodist Church will officiate. Vault
interment with military honors will be held in Evergreen Memorial Park, McMinnville.
died August 21, 1999, in Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, after being mortally wounded in the line of duty
as an Army military police officer. She was 32.
Born November 8, 1966, in Fort Lewis, Washington, she
was the daughter of Willard Edward and Alice Anne Robinson Hamilton. She moved to North Carolina as a baby,
then to Sheridan when she was three years old. She attended first grade in Sheridan. Her family moved
in August 1973 to McMinnville, where she was raised and educated. In 1984, she joined the Army. She
was stationed at Camp Red Cloud at the time of her death.
She and Mike Balcombe were married April 9,
1989, in McMinnville. Mrs. Balcombe loved to play softball and soccer. She was an avid bowler and
liked to bike with her family.
Survivors include her husband, of Lakewood, Washington; two daughters,
Alice Balcombe and Kristin Balcombe, both of Lakewood; her parents, of McMinnville; four brothers, Dave
Hamilton, John Hamilton and Tom Hamilton, all of McMinnville, and Rick Hamilton of Nevada; and a sister,
Jennifer Wolfe of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Soldier's Medal - Jeanne M. Balcombe
On September 1, 1999, Sgt. 1st Class Jeanne M. Balcombe, of the 1st Platoon, 55th Military Police Company, was
posthumously awarded the Soldiers Medal for heroism in the face of danger.
"Sergeant Jeanne Balcombe was shot and killed at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, by one of her own soldiers.
The suspect, who was drunk at the time, was upset that Sergeant Balcombe had ordered a blood test on
one of the suspect's friends. He then overpowered a South Korean soldier stationed at the base and took
his sidearm. He shot Sergeant Balcombe three times, including once in the head, before fleeing the base.
He was captured later in the day by Korean National Police officers with the murder weapon still in
his possession. The suspect was convicted of capital murder by General Court Martial and sentenced to
life in prison. Sergeant Balcombe was a member of the 55th Military Police Company. She is survived
by her husband and two daughters."
Back to Page Contents
Reference Material - Women in Korea
- Baron, Scott and James E. Wise Jr. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Conflicts. Naval
Institute Press, 2006. References Margaret Fae Perry and Vera M. Brown, who died in the Korean
- Bellafaire, Judith. Called to Duty: Army Women During the Korean War Era.
Army History: The Professional Bulletin of Army History 52 (2001), pp. 19-27.
- Cherpak, Evelyn M., compiler. A Guide to Research Source Materials on Women in the Naval
Historical Collection. Naval War College, Newport, RI. 2005. Although most of
this material is related to World War II, Dr. Cherpak lists references for the following female Navy
personnel who served in non-combat areas during the Korean War: Eleanor Landgraff Gustafson, Lola Krueger,
Helen Martin, Barbara Flaherty, and Florence Job.
- D'Amico, Francine and Laurie Weinstein, editors. Gender Camouflage: Women and the U.S.
Military. New York University Press, 1999.
- Feller, Carolyn M. and Constance J. Moore, editors. Highlights in the History of the Army
Nurse Corps. U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1995. See pp. 24-26.
- Frank, Lisa Tendrich. An Encyclopedia of American Women at War. 2013.
- Higgins, Marguerite. War in Korea: The Report of a Woman Combat Correspondent.
1951. The Country Life Press, New York. A 223-page book with photo illustrations by Life
photographer Carl Mydans, War in Korea highlights the experiences of correspondent Marguerite Higgins
from the time she arrived in Korea in June through December 1950.
- History and Museums Division Headquarters. A History of the Women Marines 1946-1977.
United States Marine Corps, Washington, D.C. See Chapter 4 - "The Korean War Years".
- Mendoza, Patrick M. Extraordinary People in Extraordinary Times: Heroes, Sheroes, and Villains.
- Nanney, James S., Donald G. Smith, Jr., and Mary C. Smolenski. A Fit, Fighting Force: The
Air Force Nursing Services Chronology. Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, Washington,
D.C. 2005. See "The Fifties", pp. 13-15.
- Neidel-Greenlee, Rosemary and Evelyn Monahan. A Few Good Women: America's Military From
World War I to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Harpswell, ME: Anchor Publishing, 2010.
- Omori, Frances. Quiet Heroes: Navy Nurses of the Korean War 1950-1953, Far East Command.
Smith House Press, 2000.
- Paananen, Eloise. Dawn Mission: a flight nurse in Korea. New York, John Day Co.,
- Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Philadelphia: University
of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.
- Soderbergh, Peter. Women Marines in the Korean War Era. Praeger Publishing, 1994.
- Stiehm, Judith. It's Our Military, Too!: Women and the U.S. Military. 1996.
- Veterans of Foreign Wars. Women at War From the Revolutionary War to the Present.
VFW Magazine, 2009. See "Flight Nurse Put Others First", p. 11; "Nurses in Korea
Prove Their Skills", pp. 12-13; and "Anna Mae Hays: Army's First Female General Office",
- Witt, Linda, editor. A Defense Weapon Known to be of Value: Servicewomen of the Korean
SPARS in the Korean War
Semper Paratus Always Ready
During World War II there were 11,868 enlisted women and 978
female officers in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve. In
1947, the Women's Reserve of the Coast Guard was inactivated.
World War II was over and there was no campaign to encourage
women to enlist as SPARS. The Coast Guard's women's
volunteer reserve was reactivated in January of 1950 and opened
to all eligible veteran officers. In April of that year
the Coast Guard announced that former enlisted women of the U.S.
Coast Guard Reserve could apply for enlistment in the Women's
Volunteer Reserve, or SPARs. Enlistments would be for a
three-year period with written agreement to serve on active duty
in time of war or national emergency.
Eleanor C. L'Ecuyer
Eleanor C. L’Ecuyer rejoined the Coast Guard in 1951 after
serving in as a SPAR during World War II. Prior to her
rejoining, she earned a law degree, and was commissioned as an
ensign upon her reentry into the Coast Guard Women's Reserve.
She was assigned to Washington, D.C., and became the first
female attorney hired by the Coast Guard, although she did not
directly serve in that role. Her legal training served her – and
future generations of female Coast Guardsmen – very well. She
wrote successful challenges to several policies that would
increase career potential for women in the Coast Guard. One was
her determination that being pregnant was not a disabling
condition and therefore, should not be grounds for discharging
women. Another was that couples should be allowed to co-locate.
Another challenge she filed questioned the policy limiting women
to serving only 20 years. She served until 1971, rising to the
rank of captain. She holds the distinction of being the longest
Elizabeth Frances "Betty" Splaine
Elizabeth Frances "Betty" Splaine of Massachusetts joined the
Coast Guard in 1942 and worked in the personnel department until
the end of World War II. She was discharged, but then
became the first former SPAR from World War II to re-enlist in
the Coast Guard. From 1953 until 1971 she was a warrant
officer in the reserve affairs department in the Coast Guard
Headquarters in Washington, D.C. She was the Coast Guard's
first female warrant officer.
Other women served as Coast Guard SPARS during the Korean
War. In November of 1952 there were 215 SPAR officers and 108
enlisted women in the SPAR reserves. In addition, there were 18
officers and 19 enlisted women on active duty in the SPARS
during the Korean War. The majority of these women served
at the Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Korean War Educator is searching for the names of SPARS
who served during the Korean War. To add information to
this section, contact
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- Bourke-White, Margaret
Born June 14, 1904 in New York, New York, Margaret White attended Columbia University, University of
Michigan, Western Reserve University and Cornell University. She began her career as an industrial and
architectural photographer in 1927 and in 1929 was hired by Fortune magazine. She became one of the
first four staff photographers for Life magazine in 1936. She covered World War II for Life and became
the first woman photographer attached to the United States Armed Forces.
During the Korean War she worked as war correspondent and traveled with South Korean troops. She was
stricken with Parkinson disease in 1952, but continued to photograph and write, retiring from Life magazine
in 1969. She died August 27, 1971 in Stamford, Connecticut.
- Higgins, Marguerite
Born in Hong Kong on September 3, 1920, Higgins was educated at the University of California, from which
she graduated in 1941. She received a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University. In 1942
she was hired by the New York Tribune and 1944 she became a war correspondent in Europe. She covered
the Nuremberg Trials.
She was a war correspondent in Korea from June through December 1950 and covered the Inchon landing
in the 5th wave at Red Beach. In 1951 she published the book, War in Korea: The Report of a Woman Combat
Correspondent. That same year she won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and was voted Woman
of the Year by the Associated Press news organization.
She covered news stories in Vietnam in 1953, the Soviet Union in 1955, and then made repeated trips
to Vietnam. Her book, Our Vietnam Nightmare, was published in 1965. She was in Vietnam in 1965 when
she came down with the tropical disease leishmanasis. She returned to the United States for recovery
but died on January 3, 1966. In honor of her career as a war correspondent, she was buried in Arlington
Photo courtesy of
Born on June 22, 1927 in Honolulu to Choonha and Shinbok Park, Sarah was a Korean-American journalist.
She studied at American University in Washington, D.C. and the University of Hawaii and then began living
and writing in Asia for the International News Service and Reuters agency of Great Britain. She was
hired by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1950 and then sent to cover the Korean War from the winter of
1952 through spring 1953. "Park reported that it was necessary for troops to use candles in areas around
the frontline, as there was no electricity at that time. From this report, Hawaiian residents started
a campaign, 'Candles for Korea' which saw approximately 150,000 candles sent to troops to boost morale."
In January 1953 she was made an honorary member of the 7th Division and later Col. Arthur B. Chun wrote
to the Star-Bulletin, “Undaunted and without flinching, she stood side-by-side with men of the 3rd Battalion,
23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division, all under intense fire from the enemy on the Korean frontier.
She walked their trails, their trenches, their rugged hills and witnessed their agonizing, perilous
moments. She was more than a war correspondent or an observer: she was the understanding ‘buddy’ from
home who appreciated everything anyone did.” Sarah Park died at the age of 30 when the small plane she
was aboard crashed into the Pacific Ocean on March 9, 1957 while covering a tsunami warning. Also killed
was Paul Beam, owner of the plane, who died the next day. Surviving the crash was photographer Jack
Matsumoto. Sarah Park is buried at Diamond Head Memorial Park in Oahu next to her mother.
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5 Local Navy Nurses in Ocean Plane Crash that Snuffed Out Lives of 26
[KWE Note: The source and date of this news clipping is unknown, but was sent to the KWE by the family
of Edna June Rundell, a victim of the crash. The article appeared in a Bremerton area newspaper on pages
1 and 5.]
Navy reports identifying the 26 persons killed Tuesday when a four-engined transport crashed into
the sea near Kwajalein were especially shocking to personnel at U.S. Naval Hospital here. Five
of 11 navy nurses aboard were detached from the local hospital last week. They were Lieut. (jg)
Mary Eleanor Liljegreen and Ensigns Eleanor Clara Beste, Jane Louise Eldridge, Marie Margaret Boatman
and Edna June Rundell. The other victims were eight navy men who were passengers and the seven
crew members. Only four bodies were recovered.
Today the navy sent a special plane to drop 26 Hawaiian leis on the waters, two miles from Kwajalein
Island where the transport had refueled on a flight from Hawaii to the far east.
There was hurried excitement among the five nurses and their friends at the naval hospital here 10
days ago. The five had received dispatch orders for overseas assignment.
One of the most excited was Lieutenant Liljegreen whose promotion to that rank came simultaneously
with her orders. As such she became senior officer of the group reporting to San Francisco by
commercial air. The dark-eyed, 25-year-old brunette from Seattle was serving on her second station,
having been indoctrinated at the naval hospital at Oak Knoll, California. She had reported here
during the Christmas holidays of 1949. Among her friends and among the patients in the dependents
ward where she last worked, Lieutenant Liljegreen was known as "Mary". Her surviving parents are
Mr. and Mrs. Carl J. Liljegreen of Seattle.
Most outwardly pleased with prospect of her overseas assignment was Ensign Beste, 25, a vivacious
blue-eyed blonde from Freeport, Minnesota. Beginning with her arrival here 20 months ago for indoctrination,
Ensign Beste became well-known for her many interests and popularity. Ensign Beste wanted to be
a doctor. So, last year she attended Olympic college by day and worked evenings at the hospital.
In addition, she studied foreign languages through correspondence courses. "Ensign Beste was extremely
popular with dependents," Lieutenant R.J. Mitchell, assistant chief nurse, recalls.
Ensign Eldridge, 28, was on leave and vacationing at her Detroit, Michigan home when her orders came.
She returned to hurriedly pack her personal and professional belongings. Bremerton also was her
first navy station: she reported here in December of 1947 and served largely in hospital wards.
The tall, slender brunette was engaged to a navy doctor who left recently for assignment aboard a military
Ensign Boatman, a jolly Texan who seemed younger than her 25 years, was the only other member of
the group able to visit home before departing overseas. She visited San Antonio briefly before
her final flight. Ensign Boatman, a tall, strawberry blonde, had been here only since January
of this year, having received her indoctrination at the Long Beach naval hospital. Her duties
had been in the outpatients clinic and on the enlisted wards and her Texan humor had always been welcome.
The last of the group, Ensign Rundell, had reported here in January of 1948 for indoctrination and
her duties had been on medical and surgical wards. The tiny, 24-year-old brunette from Stafford,
Kansas, had only recently learned of the death of her father.
Lieut. (jg) Alice Stella Giroux of Tacoma, and Lieut. (jg) Jeanne Elizabeth Clarke of Portland are
among the other nurse victims. Others are Lieut. (jg) Call Virginia Goodwin of Raleigh, North
Carolina; Lieut. (jg) Constance Adair Heege of Kirkwood, Missouri; Lieut. (jg) Margaret Grace Kennedy
of Webster, Massachusetts; and Ens. Constance Rita Esposito of Brockway, Pennsylvania.
Plane crewmen were Lieut. Comdr. S.L. White, Barber's Point, Hawaii; Lieut. Comdr. I.S. Best, Pearl
Harbor, Hawaii; Lieut. W.L. Watkins, Palo Alto, California; and Lieut. (jg.) W.G. Spangle, Williamsport,
Pennsylvania. Also, Chief Machinist A.G. Sessoms, Charleston, Tennessee; E.A. Sauer, aviation
electronics man third class, Scottsbluff, Nebraska; and A.J. Johnson, aviation electronics man third
class, Beaumont, Texas.
Passengers were Lieut. J.J. Kilthau, Portland; Lieut. (jg) W.L. Horter, Balboa, Canal Zone; Lieut.
(jg) F.G. Palmer, Newport, Rhode Island; Ens. E.F. Englehardt, Cincinnati, Ohio; Ens. R.A. Harsh, Clinton,
Michigan; Ens. D.J. Jackson, Jr., Berwick, Pennsylvania; Ens. H.K. Smith, Los Angeles; and Ens. A.E.
Thrall, Colton, California.
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Edna June Rundell News Clippings
Click HERE to view the newspaper clippings (PDF)
Edna June Rundell
Edna June Rundell
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U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Uniform Booklet (donated to the KWE courtesy of the family of Edna June Rundell)