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: March 25, 2017


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 from Korea.

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 lynnita@thekwe.org.

*[KWE Note: Some references indicate that seventeen women died in Korea.  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.]


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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 jobs.

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 aircraft."


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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 Air Force.
       
  • 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, Kansas.
       
    • 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
     


    • Jonita (Bonnie) Bonham at Pusan, Korea, 1950
      (Click picture for a larger view)

      Bonham, Jonita Ruth

      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 duty.

      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
      October 18, 1950

      (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 Air Force.
       

    • 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 award:

      "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 aircraft accident."

      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.


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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 (1904-1973); 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

    Bradley, Ruby

    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

    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).  Among her other achievements are:
    • Ohio Governor's Award, 1973
    • First Nurse Corps Officer assigned as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health and Environment, 1966-67
    • 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, Central Florida
    • 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.
     
  • Hayes, Anna Mae

    Commissioned in the Army Nurse Corps in 1942, Anna Mae Hayes 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 because 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.]
     
  • 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 conflict erupted she donned her uniform once more and flew several hundred 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.

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Air Force Female (Non-Nurse) Fatalities during the Korean War

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.

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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 Topics - 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 Jr. (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, Pewaukee, Wisconsin.

*[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.]


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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 for Korea.

    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.

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USS Benevolence

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 here.

  • 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, Oklahoma.

    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.


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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.
     

  • Lt JG Jeanne Elizabeth Clarke
    Image #23.E1.16. Courtesy of Providence Archives, Seattle.
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    Clarke, Lt. JG Jeanne Elizabeth (USNR)

    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
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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.

 


  • Lt. JG Alice Stella Giroux
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    Giroux, Lt. JG Alice Stella (USN)

    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 School photo
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  • Lt. JG Calla Goodwin
    Picture courtesy of Needham B. Broughton High School
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    Goodwin, Lt. JG Calla Virginia (USNR)

    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.
     

  • Lt. JG Mary Eleanor Liljegreen
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    Liljegreen, Lt. JG Mary Eleanor (USN)

    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.

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    Photos courtesy of the
    Harn Family Archives

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  • 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 death.

    Photographs and news clippings relating to Edna June Rundell are located in another section of this page.

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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 "Victor" Brown.

    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 Baptist Church.

    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 thereafter.

    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.

    A 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 her.

    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.


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C-47 Skymaster  - December 22, 1952

  • McClure, Virginia May


    Virginia McClure


    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.]
     


  • Margaret Fae Perry
    (Click picture for a larger view)

    Perry, Margaret Fae

    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).

 


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Nurses - USS Benevolence Tragedy
 

There were 15 Navy nurses onboard the USS Benevolence when she sank.  One perished.  [See also Stateside Tragedies-USS Benevolence on the KWE.] The fifteen nurses included the following:
  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. Dyer, Mary Eileen - From Cleveland, Ohio, Mary married a Sherwin.  No further information has been found to date.
     
  4. 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.
     
  5. 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.
     
  6. 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.
     
  7. 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.)
     
  8. 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.]
     
  9. Lipuscek, Marie - Married Frank Cassani and now (2013) is 94 years old and lives in East Weymouth, MA.  (See Eyewitness Accounts.)
     
  10. 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 Accounts.
     

  11. Gail Matthews
    (Click picture for a larger view)

    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.
     
  12. 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.
     
  13. 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.
     
  14. 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.
     
  15. 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.


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Post-War Korea

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.

Mrs. Balcombe 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."


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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 War.
     
  • 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., 1952.
     
  • 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 PresentVFW 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", p. 14.
     
  • Witt, Linda, editor.  A Defense Weapon Known to be of Value: Servicewomen of the Korean War Era.

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War Correspondents

  • 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 National Cemetery.
     

  • Sarah Park
    Photo courtesy of
    Honolulu Star-Bulletin

    Park, Sarah

    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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News Clippings

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 transport.

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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Miscellaneous

  • U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Uniform Booklet (donated to the KWE courtesy of the family of Edna June Rundell)

 

 

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