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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Janet Froome, 1999

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Object ID: WV0120.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Janet Hester Froome’s experiences with the Army Nurse Corps in Australia and New Guinea from 1941 to 1945.

Summary:

Froome chiefly discusses her service during World War II. She details her decision to join the Army Nurse Corps; the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; waiting for embarkation; unequal pay for women; hearing news of air raids on Tokyo, Japan; living quarters and hospital set-up in Brisbane; types of injuries treated in Brisbane; hospital assistants; Australian people, accents, and animals; sleeping outside in Rockhampton; her social life overseas, including music and dances; her lack of awareness about battles and other events; censorship of mail; and overseas uniforms

Froome also describes the emotional toll of working with battlefield casualties; the difficulty of getting supplies, especially women’s clothing; air raids; church services overseas; anxiety and fear in New Guinea; tropical diseases, including malaria and dengue fever; taking care of patients during air raids; her opinions of President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt; visiting Sydney, Australia, on leave; food overseas; military inefficiency; advantages of her Army Nurse Corps service, including increased independence and experience; and her opinion of women in combat.

Froome also briefly describes her nursing education and career both before and after World War II.

Creator: Janet Hester Froome

Biographical Info: Janet Hester Froome, of Cincinnati, Ohio, served in the Army Nurse Corps from August 1941 until December 1945, and continued a career in nursing and nursing education in Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio.

Collection: Janet Froome Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

EE:

My name is Eric Elliott, and I'm with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and I'm in Brevard, North Carolina, at the home, this morning, of Janet Froome.

Miss Froome, thank you for letting us come in and sit down with you today. Today is November 9, 1999, and this is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project. Miss Froome, I've had a chance to read Mr. [George] McDermott's book [Women Recall the War Years] about you, and some of the questions I ask today will be going over familiar territory and some probably won't, but I ask of you, the first thing, the same thing I ask everybody, which is, where were you born and where did you grow up?

JF:

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and that's where I grew up and went through high school. I wanted to be a nurse all the time, but my mother was a little ahead of the time and she thought getting out of high school was too soon, so I went to Ohio Wesleyan for two years, where my sister had graduated from just the year before.

Then the Depression hit and my father had found a job in Muncie, Indiana, so I transferred—they were starting a five-year nursing program there, which was a new thing, so I transferred there to—it was Ball Memorial Hospital, and it was Ball State University then. It's now just—no, excuse me, it was Ball State Teachers College.

EE:

Now it's Ball State University.

JF:

Now it's Ball State University.

EE:

What did your dad do for a living?

JF:

Well, he was mostly a sales manager and he traveled quite a bit.

EE:

How about your mom?

JF:

She didn't work. She was a—

EE:

Housewife. So you had a sister. How many brothers and sisters did you have?

JF:

Let's see, there were six of us. Three girls and then three boys, so I had two sisters and three brothers.

EE:

And you were somewhere in the middle?

JF:

I was the second of the girls, so I was the second child.

EE:

So all three girls came first, then three boys? Patience for your mother. That's great, that's great. Obviously, you must have been somebody who liked school. What was your favorite subject in school?

JF:

I can't remember what that was. I liked English and I liked some of the sciences.

EE:

What was the name of the high school you graduated from in Cincinnati?

JF:

Ball Memorial Hospital.

EE:

Memorial Hospital High School?

JF:

Ball Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. It was in connection with Ball State Teachers College, and then I got my BS [bachelor of science] degree from Ball State Teachers College.

EE:

What was the name of the high school that you graduated from?

JF:

Oh. Hughes High School, in Cincinnati.

EE:

You were telling me before we started that your family helped settle a particular suburb in Cincinnati.

JF:

Winton Place is the name of the suburb, and in fact, it was a little community itself. I think it joined the city in, I don't know, I've forgotten what the date was, but it had its own mayor and so forth. One of the grandfathers was the mayor for a while, on my grandmother's side.

EE:

You lived, or some of your family still lived on Froome Street?

JF:

Well, that's the only place I remember living, but Daddy and Mother for a while had lived in a different place, and then they moved to Froome Avenue, which was the house the grandfather had built originally. That was the grandfather. And for a while, my grandfather was in, I don't know, cement-making and coal, but anyway, on many of the sidewalks for a long time till they began to wear out, was his name, John R. Froome, whatever his title was, as having laid that sidewalk.

EE:

That's great. You graduated in, what, '27, from high school?

JF:

From high school, was it twenty—let me think. I think it was, wouldn't it have been '30, 1930? I'm trying to think, let's see. I'm trying to think backwards.

EE:

Well, the stock market crashed in '29. Were you at college then?

JF:

Yes, I was in college. So I must have graduated in '26, that was it.

EE:

Was there eleven years or twelve years in high school then, for you?

JF:

Twelve years.

EE:

We were slow in North Carolina. We didn't have twelve years till '34. You say you wanted to be a nurse, and you remember wanting to be a nurse from a long time?

JF:

Yes. I don't know why, but that always appealed to me.

EE:

Nursing, at that time, was a two-year or three-year program, when you went the first—

JF:

It was three-year.

EE:

And you went and worked at a hospital and had classes at the hospital, is that right?

JF:

Oh, yes. We lived in the nurses' residence, and the hospital and nursing school were just across the street from the college, so when we had—and even some of our science programs, for everybody, were given—we took them at the college. So then I took, let's see, extra. After I'd finished the nursing part, then I took extra at the college.

EE:

Were you looking to specialize in a particular kind of nursing?

JF:

Well, I hadn't decided at that point, I think, yet what I wanted to do. But when I graduated I was one of the few people in that class that had a job. I remember going to some kind of a tea or something the president was having and they said, “Oh, she has a job when she gets finished,” because I was going back to Cincinnati then to be an instructor at the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing there.

EE:

This would have been in '34, '33?

JF:

Let's see, it would have been '36. I finished, technically, the nursing in '35, and then I graduated from the college—got my degree in '36. That was it, yes. And then I went to Cincinnati.

EE:

And when you moved back, did you go back with relatives, or did you get a place on your own?

JF:

Oh, then you always lived at the nurses' home, everybody.

EE:

Because everybody was on call, is what it amounted to.

JF:

Yes, so everybody, the students plus the head nurses, and so forth, lived there.

EE:

I guess that meant that you had a long time living in a dormitory with other folks. Did you all have private apartments?

JF:

Yes, we had, the staff had private—I think—well, we had adjoining. There were two rooms with a bath between.

EE:

At Jewish Hospital, were you a floor nurse, or what were your duties?

JF:

I was an assistant instructor, and then when I left I was an instructor.

EE:

So you went from—as soon as you got your degree, you went to teach other people how to do the same work?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

Was there a shortage of nurses then like there is now?

JF:

I don't think so, so much.

EE:

How long were you at Cincinnati Jewish Hospital?

JF:

And then I was there till '41. And at that time I was full instructor. I mean, that was the only titles they had were assistant instructor and instructor.

EE:

I would imagine the probably was pretty good, compared to a lot of folks at that time.

JF:

Well, I don't know how it compared, but of course, you got your room and board.

EE:

Which counted a lot.

JF:

So actually, when I went into the service, I was paid less, I think about five dollars less.

EE:

So you had a pay cut joining the service. Why was it that you joined the service? And I think you joined early in '41, didn't you?

JF:

Yes. In, I think it was August of '41. Well, that was the time of the draft, and I was ready to change jobs anyway. I was interested in going on to get my master's and I had three younger brothers, so I figured they'd all be in the draft, so I figured I could do my duty, too. So I was planning to go for a year.

EE:

And that's all you signed up for, was for a year?

JF:

I think so.

EE:

Why did you pick the army to join, as opposed to any of the other services?

JF:

There may have been but I just never heard anything about it, I don't think.

EE:

There wasn't a Navy Nurse Corps?

JF:

There may have been but I just never heard anything about it, I don't think.

EE:

Had your father been in the service?

JF:

No, because during the First World War, he had four children, I think, and he was with what they called the Home Guard, which was some kind of a local kind of a thing that got called up.

EE:

It was a reserve or something.

JF:

Yes.

EE:

You were joining and you were in your, I guess, late twenties, when you joined. Where did you report for duty?

JF:

I went to, let's see, Billings, I think. Billings General Hospital at Fort Harrison, Indiana, which was just outside of Indianapolis. I'd hoped to go someplace like Texas or California or something.

EE:

Did they not send you to a basic training or anything?

JF:

No, we didn't have any kind of basic training.

EE:

So basically, it was just another job.

JF:

Yes, because—and I don't even remember where I got sworn in for the army. I think it was the post office or something. They told you to—and there was no big to—do or anything about it.

EE:

So there wasn't a big group of women that joined at the same time that you walked in?

JF:

No. At least not from where I was. I just went there, and we just started to work.

EE:

Billings General was in Indianapolis?

JF:

Yes, outside of Indianapolis. It's sort of connected with Fort Harrison. But Fort Harrison was a small place and this was a big general hospital, they called it, and they were beginning to get people in.

EE:

The draft had started for men, and you're right, in '41, there certainly was no talk of drafting women or having women join the service. How long were you at Billings General?

JF:

Till February of the next year, I guess it was. Of course, Pearl Harbor had happened and we kept watching the bulletin board after that for notices about your going someplace. And we had about two days' notice from the time the notice went up and then they gave us a foot locker and a bed roll and nobody knew what to do with any of these things. I think in here, as I was looking over the book, and I think it said we got some gloves and a muffler or something.

EE:

And a gas mask.

JF:

We didn't the gas mask till later.

EE:

What did your family feel about you—of course, when you joined in '41, they probably didn't think about you going overseas, did they?

JF:

No.

EE:

Were you working on Pearl Harbor Day, when Pearl Harbor happened?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

How did you hear about it?

JF:

I was on night duty, so I was asleep, but all the commotion woke me up to find out about it. And then that night on the ward I was on, there was a Japanese American corpsman, and that poor boy was scared to death.

EE:

I bet. I would imagine—of course, that was—I think they immediately started rounding up Japanese Americans on the West Coast. Did your family express any concern about you going overseas?

JF:

Well, I don't think—I never—well, of course, they were worried and so forth and there was time that my mother got to come to see me before I left. In fact, she saw me get on the train to go. But they didn't ever say, “We wish you weren't doing this,” or anything like that.

EE:

You joined for a year, but at wartime, was everybody who was in, they were kept from leaving until the end of the war?

JF:

I guess so.

EE:

You didn't have an option to get out after your year?

JF:

No, I didn't ever hear of anything like that.

EE:

I was reading in Mr. McDermott's book, your brothers—were they drafted after Pearl Harbor, or what did they do?

JF:

No, they actually weren't in yet. They hadn't been drafted yet. I think one of them had begun to look around for—you know, see, because they knew it was coming, so they could choose what they wanted.

EE:

Right. So they'd rather have a choice in it.

JF:

Yes.

EE:

But you were the first one then in the service?

JF:

I was the first one in, actually.

EE:

You say your mom came down to see you off from Indianapolis on the train. Where did you go to?

JF:

We went to New York, port of embarkation. But we stayed in some hotel suite there, and I've forgotten what the name of it was. Some place there.

EE:

Just waiting to get your ship assignment.

JF:

Yes. And then we went from that hotel every day out to this port of embarkation to get our instructions and our shots and fill out all the papers. And supposedly—oh, they told us to—some place along the line, they said, “Bring an extra empty suitcase so you can send your civilian clothes home when you get your regular outdoor uniforms.” This is dress uniform. So I got two shirts. So we had that extra suitcase then to carry. In fact, we had our civilian clothes most of the time, except when you were on duty. We serviced—while we were on the ship going over, we serviced the sick bay, so they got that organized and we were on duty sometimes, I think.

EE:

Did they tell you—I assume most folks don't know where they're going to be, they just know to report some place. You didn't know where you were going?

JF:

No, we figured we'd be going to some place in the European area.

EE:

Because you figure, if you're going to the Pacific, you'd be leaving from California.

JF:

Yes. It wasn't till later, till after we got on the ship, that we actually found out where we were going.

EE:

Did they tell you, give you any indication as to where you might be, in some station hospital, or the kind of work you're doing?

JF:

No, they just said—I don't think we'd been assigned any actual unit yet, I don't remember that. But we went to—I guess we got our gas mask drill when we were on the ship, and somebody told us something about Australia, and we found we were going there. And of course, we went through the canal. And on Easter Sunday, I think it was, when we were in the Pacific, the ship just stopped running. And there we were. We'd joined a convoy by then. The rest of them, most of the convoy went on and these other ships that were left kept going around us a long time. But we finally got started again. I don't think it was too long, but it was sort of scary.

EE:

Because you don't know if they're protecting from something out there, or what the deal is. This is a long way from you working in Indianapolis. Had you traveled much in your life? Going to New York was a new thing?

JF:

Yes. It was a new thing.

EE:

So it's got to have some excitement about it. Did you know any of the women—did you take along some of the folks from your unit?

JF:

I think there were—well, there were several of us that left at that time, and I guess we all pretty well stayed together at that time, yes.

EE:

So your group from Indianapolis sort of stayed as a cluster?

JF:

Yes. Eventually, we got separated along the way, but then we had pretty much the same—

EE:

When you joined as a professional, as a nurse, you were, I think, immediately commissioned as second lieutenant?

JF:

Went in as a second lieutenant, but we didn't get the same pay as the male second lieutenants. It wasn't until after, I guess, after the women in the other services got in, that we began to get the same pay for our rank.

EE:

And you already said that that was a pay cut for you, considering where you'd come from before anyway. But I have a feeling you probably weren't doing this just for the money, anyway.

JF:

No.

EE:

Did patriotism factor into your decision to join?

JF:

Oh, probably, I guess. I figured I was “doing my duty.”

EE:

Right, right, right. You were on a ship leaving New York. I think you went through the Panama Canal, and then it was, what, forty days?

JF:

Well, we figured, yes, about forty days. We landed in Melbourne, Australia, vowing and declaring not to get on another ship till we were ready to go home. So one week later, we got on a ship and went up to Brisbane. I don't remember exactly what we did in Melbourne. We couldn't do much. I don't think we got any uniforms.

EE:

Could you get off the ship?

JF:

Yes, we got off the ship and were there for about a week. And it was while we were on the ship going to Brisbane that we heard about the first air raid on Tokyo, when they had that early one there. I've forgotten what the name of that was. I don't know, we were all together in some recreation room or something, and for a minute, there was a dead silence and then everybody just let out a whoop.

EE:

How afraid were you? You talked about on Easter Sunday it was a little nerve-wracking not knowing when they stopped. How afraid were you on that trip over?

JF:

I don't think we were afraid too much, because we'd sort of—well, we heard when we got on the ship first that it had been a commercial ship and it had only been licensed to go and down the Atlantic Coast or something like that. So actually, I don't think we were too afraid.

EE:

How long were you in Brisbane?

JF:

I think it's in here someplace. It was a year or so, maybe, and then we went up to Rockhampton, which was up on the coast, pretty much, in Australia.

EE:

What was your work like at Brisbane?

JF:

In Brisbane we were set up in a boys' school. It was called Nudgee Junior College. And when we first came there, we lived in that building, the big building, and had the hospital in the same building. There was a big room which apparently had been their auditorium, which we set up as a ward, and then they set up a place for an operating room. In fact, I think my room was almost directly opposite the surgery. And then eventually, then they began building the huts and so forth that we lived in, in the field there, and so eventually, we moved there.

EE:

Were you seeing battlefield casualties?

JF:

Oh, we got some—because there was the, what was it, the Coral Sea and some of those island ones, we were getting casualties from. And then also, I think we began to see the malaria and the dengue fever there, too. And then something I was reading that I hadn't realized that we got several burn cases from some of those navy battles, that there were several of those that were—

EE:

Was this called a station hospital?

JF:

Well, I don't remember. I guess it must have been.

EE:

Sounded like you saw a wide variety of cases, so your work was—were you, I guess, the equivalent of a general floor nurse, whatever you saw on the floor?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

How was that work as far, I guess it's—nurses is sort of interesting, in that unlike other military jobs, I think the kind of work really isn't as different in the military as it might be for some people.

JF:

Well, from what we used to—and I don't know, this is off the record, but what we used to hear was that the navy nurses didn't give as much individual care as the army did, that they were sort of overseers and corpsmen or whatever they were called. But we bathed patients, if necessary, or you know, the real sick ones. And gave the medications, kept the charts, and so forth.

EE:

You didn't have as many other support—you didn't have a lot of orderlies?

JF:

We had some of those, yes, but it depended on their—

EE:

Did you use local people for that?

JF:

What?

EE:

Did you use local people for that?

JF:

No, they were hospital personnel, corpsmen. And I don't remember, I guess we were—we were originally the first evacuation hospital, that was our name, I think. And I think we had our name there, I'm not sure.

EE:

Was your immediate supervisor a woman Army Nurse Corps member?

JF:

Yes, yes. She was—I can't remember who it was there, the name.

EE:

So she would make the assignments for the women working the different shifts?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

What was your work week like? Was it six days a week?

JF:

You had some time off, but if you got a lot of patients in at one time, everybody worked till they were all taken care of. So we had some free time, because we'd go into Brisbane occasionally, or go to the tea leaf readers and find out we were going to go on a long trip, or get mail from home right away.

EE:

What did you think of the Australian people?

JF:

Oh, they were lovely. They were nice people.

EE:

Did you find yourself picking up an Australian accent?

JF:

Well, you'd have some “fair dinkum mate” and whatever, some of the other things they used to say. That's where I saw my first koala bear, was this little—there was a little place down not too far from the school. They rented boats and they had little things there. But anyway, they had a couple of koala bears there, so that's where I saw my first one.

EE:

Did you work with—did you have any male supervisors in your work, too? Were some of the doctors—I guess your head nurse assigns you to a position and then you're basically following doctor's orders with the other patients?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

Typical day for you, depending on the patient load, might be a long day, but if there was not an overrun on patients, you'd work a normal eight-hour shift?

JF:

Yes, you'd work at night sometimes, yes. They had it divided. I can't remember. Some places, it was just twelve-hour shifts. Other places it was shorter, more like eight hours, depending on the needs and so forth.

EE:

You were living in a—it was inside this boys' school, so the accommodations for a while—

JF:

For a while till we had our places, and then they built these, what they called huts, and I think we had two in each one, and they were sort of back to back, you know, two back to back.

EE:

So the women were barracked in one area and the men—

JF:

Oh, yes, the men had their own, yes.

EE:

But the accommodations, overall, were not too bad.

JF:

No, no, it wasn't too bad.

EE:

You were there through early '43?

JF:

I think so. I can't remember what those dates were.

EE:

You went to Rockhampton, although you were only in Rockhampton for a short time?

JF:

I don't remember.

EE:

I'll double-check the dates on it. It's not critical.

JF:

I think I've got them in here but I don't remember what they were now.

EE:

When you got to Rockhampton, what did you do?

JF:

Well, they didn't have anyplace for us to live yet, so we said, yes, we'd be willing to live in a tent. So they fixed a big hospital-size tent with lots of beds in it for us to live in till they got our individual places fixed up. And I think they, out in a field someplace, they fixed a shower with a curtain, one of those dumb things. But anyway, then when they began to get the patients in and got the hospital organized, they had—there again, we had these sort of huts with, I think, I guess there were two of us in there. We slept under—mosquito nets—that was our first—

EE:

First time sleeping outside.

JF:

With the mosquitoes and so forth, they had mosquito nets over you, and you checked your shoes before you put them on in the morning, to see there weren't any bugs in them.

EE:

You joined the [Army] Nurse Corps with no basic training, no physical workout, no PT [physical training], and yet here you are, starting to get into some very stressful physical conditions. Could all the nurses handle it?

JF:

Well, I think I remember a couple that had some problems along the way. Some place along the line when we were moving, they told us how to—gave us lessons in marching.

EE:

So you did pick it up, the more army you became?

JF:

Yes. And that was more just sort of, to give us something to do, I think, in one of these places where we're between moves or something like that.

EE:

I guess in the off hours, as an army nurse, you had access to the officers' club and things like that?

JF:

Yes. In Rockhampton, there was one in downtown Rockhampton. We were just outside, and they had one there in the town, a little place. And in Brisbane, I don't remember anything about one there at all. There may have been.

EE:

Was there much socializing between the nurse corps and other folks, after hours?

JF:

Well, in, I think it was in Rockhampton, there were some other military groups stationed around there, and what happened was, they'd just send transportation and no dates as such. You just went with a group and met with them there, like that.

EE:

So they'd have like once a week a dance or something?

JF:

Well, it just sort of depended on how things were. They had music and dances and just conversation, and maybe some refreshments, coffee or something like that. And then when, periodically—of course, it was a men's place, so when people had to go to the little girls' room, why, they'd take a bunch of us and stand outside so nobody else could get in. And eventually, one of them did set up a special little girls' room right by the officers' club there, but it was kind of funny.

EE:

When you were in Brisbane and Rockhampton, that's early enough in the war, or in the Pacific, anyway, the Japanese are still making advances. How concerned were people about the course of the war? Were people worried that we might not win that thing?

JF:

Well, I don't think we really knew too much about what was going on in other places. We'd hear about, you know, getting the casualties from some of these battles and so forth. And then I guess on D-Day, I've forgotten where we were on D-Day, you know, not Europe. We knew that was going to go on and they had special chapel service, but that was really all we ever knew of—we never really knew too much about what was going on in the other theatre.

EE:

Were you able to keep contact, I guess, with your folks back home, and family?

JF:

Oh, yes, you had the mail and of course, it was all censored and you had to be careful what you put in. I had this one picture. I don't know where I had this taken but you see, they cut out the name of the place, see?

EE:

What, you had written it in and they cut it out?

JF:

Yes. So they wouldn't know where you were or anything.

EE:

It's a good picture.

JF:

I don't know whether it was censors.

EE:

Yes, that's where it's stamped in there.

JF:

I don't know whether that was in Brisbane or where that was taken or when. And that was when we still had those blue uniforms, I think. Those are the kind that they'd had before. It was a light blue skirt and a darker blue jacket and a cap, and then eventually, we went to the OD uniforms. Actually, I've forgotten where we were when the change was made, but that's what those were.

EE:

And you got those issued to you once you got to Australia?

JF:

Some place over in Australia. I don't know what these are. I think they're some kind of passports or ID cards or something.

EE:

That allows you access to, I guess, the post. That looks like, this is the identification for that position, with fingerprints and how you—Red Cross ID card.

JF:

Oh, you had to be a member of the Red Cross Nursing Service before you could join the Army Nurse Corps. When you went in, that was—

EE:

Now this was a white uniform here you're wearing. Was that when you were back in Indianapolis, they took that?

JF:

I don't remember what that was. That must have been an early one then because we got—most of the time overseas, we wore these duty uniforms, were sort of a drab blue uniform. We called them our reform school uniforms because they were such a drab blue.

EE:

This is the kind of thing that our group is collecting, and would love to borrow it, if not to have it for our collection. Certainly we can take a copy with pictures like that, and shoot that because we're trying to get at least one picture of everybody in uniform. I'll put these over here. You were at Rockhampton. Were you there through D-Day in '44, or had you already left for New Guinea?

JF:

I think we were in Rockhampton on D-Day. I don't remember. As I said, I think some of the dates, they've been removed.

EE:

But then after Rockhampton is when you went to New Guinea?

JF:

Yes. Let's see, how did we go? Oh, we went by Australia hospital ship up to New Guinea.

EE:

Did you go into Port Moresby?

JF:

[unclear] from Port Moresby. And the thing about that hospital ship was that they had to be kept lighted, because they weren't supposed to be bombed or anything like that. So that was kind of scary because coming over, everything had been black out. The portholes had to be covered over.

EE:

Was that a pretty well-respected rule, that people did not bomb hospital ships or were you worried about somebody—

JF:

Oh, I think that was supposed to be a ruling somewhere or other.

EE:

Geneva Convention, you don't bomb hospital ships or something. I talked with a woman whose fiancé was on a Japanese hospital ship and they did not keep the lights on and they were sunk because they didn't know it was a hospital ship. That journey over, they just moved the entire unit, or you got some who were assigned?

JF:

Well, let's see, I think going over—I don't know when the men moved to—because I think when we first got to Port Moresby, we were attached to a hospital that didn't have any nurses or something, and eventually, our own first evac moved in. I've forgotten just how that went. But we were in—and I'm trying to remember now whether—

EE:

So when you first arrived in Moresby, were you going to an already existing hospital building, or just to a camp that they had set up for a hospital?

JF:

I'm trying to remember what we did there. I guess there must have been someplace, you know, being set up already and so forth, yes.

EE:

Now were you the first—I guess New Guinea had just recently been liberated when you got there.

JF:

I had never heard of it before.

EE:

This is the thing I'm amazed of, of people. You're going to places that you have never heard of before. Was everybody carrying an atlas in their back pocket to go look—where are we going today? I mean, it's sort of, the world learns about the world in World War II. People's sons and daughters are stationed all over the planet.

JF:

And the thing I don't know now is, when we were there in New Guinea, there was part of it, one end of it, that was called Dutch New Guinea, and they had a big port called Hollandia, but I never have heard whether that is still separate.

EE:

I think there's Papua New Guinea and the Dutch New Guinea became part of Indonesia.

JF:

That's what I was thinking.

EE:

That's what happened to it. So the western end of the island became part of Indonesia, and then it's Papua New Guinea for the eastern end, where Moresby is. So you were setting up and it was another evacuation hospital?

JF:

I'm trying to remember in Moresby. I guess there was an—

EE:

In the McDermott book, I think there's two moves in Moresby, or in New Guinea, where you move closer to the front.

JF:

Yes, we went over the Owen Stanley Range there. We moved. And that's where I got separated because I was moved to be a chief nurse at a different hospital, so I didn't stay with the first evac the whole time. I went to a station hospital, I think it was.

EE:

So actually, you got promoted out of that group, is what happened.

JF:

Well, yes.

EE:

You became chief nurse.

JF:

And then eventually I became a first lieutenant. I don't know what the dates were. I've got it someplace.

EE:

I had some woman tell me who, she said, “I would have stayed in the military had I thought I would ever get promoted.” She said their promotions were just terribly slow for nurses. The kind of work—you were dealing with different kinds of patients at this location?

JF:

No, you usually got a little bit of everything, it seemed to me, even at the smaller hospitals, that they used to bring them in with ambulances. Maybe they'd been someplace else. We had surgery, so we had some with battle wounds that had to be taken care of.

You were talking about, you know, the people, and how did they manage and so forth. Well, there was one of the nurses, I remember, just kind of lost it. I mean, she wouldn't work or anything like that, she just felt too bad to do, but if they were going on some social thing, she would go to that. Eventually, she was transferred out. I don't know what ever happened to her after that. She just couldn't take it, I guess.

EE:

It's a different kind of—when you joined, you joined in '41, before the war. You're dealing with usual medical problems. Dealing with battlefield trauma is a lot different kind of work. When you see people in their teens and twenties disfigured, maimed, it takes a different emotional toll on you, doesn't it?

JF:

Yes. And all the time you kept thinking, you know, where are my brothers and so forth. Actually, the one brother was in the South Pacific someplace, I don't remember where, because we never talked about it afterwards. But he was in the South Pacific, the one that was in the Marine Corps.

And then someplace along the line, we had a chief nurse that just lost it, too. She tried to commit suicide and then called somebody and told them and she was evacuated out pretty soon. But sometimes the psychiatric wards were very depressing.

EE:

People with battle fatigue?

JF:

Yes. And the men, they just—it was—

EE:

How did they help counsel you all, as nurses, taking care of them? Did they give you all extra help?

JF:

Well, I don't know whether there were some that maybe had psychiatric training that we had in the unit, just happened to have or so forth, like that.

EE:

A lot of folks who have been in that experience—I had an uncle who was at D-Day, and he never talked about it. Didn't want to talk about it. And is it because it's hard to put into words, or what do you think it is that so many folks who—

JF:

I don't know what it is, but as I said, we just never compared notes or anything like that about what we did. You just didn't want to think about it anymore. And the thing was, you know, I don't know, you thought, well maybe people think you were bragging or something like that, or whatever. Because there were so many people in that it wasn't that different, you know, for anybody.

EE:

That's right. A terrible event for some person is terrible. They don't need to have it trumped by somebody else's terrible event. I think today, if you ever watch television, it seems like all we do is talk about stuff, and I'm impressed with the dignity with which people who served back in the war went through so much more and are so reserved about it. You were chief nurse. Was this still in New Guinea when you switched to this other hospital?

JF:

Yes, that was when I made my first switch, and then I was eventually transferred to a larger hospital as chief nurse and it was while I was there that I was promoted to captain. And I don't remember—there was one of the places where it was—it was called Dobadura, but I don't remember the other place, because everything was by APOs [Army Post Office]. You know, they never put the names down.

EE:

It was only later that you found out on the map where you were.

JF:

Yes, where it was, but I don't remember the names of the other places.

EE:

My suspicion is, is that unlike some women who were entering jobs that traditionally were done by men, you probably did not receive any overt discrimination in the work you did. You weren't harassed for being there. You were probably greatly appreciated.

JF:

No, we never heard anything.

EE:

So you were always treated professionally by the men that you worked with?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

You were at Dobadura, and then is that when you got the word that you could come back home?

JF:

No. It was at the last hospital I was, the larger hospital, after I got promoted to captain. That was a big general hospital. We had all kinds of patients there. Surgery.

EE:

As you were promoted in rank, that also means that you become more of a supervisor of other people doing the work?

JF:

Yes, you planned who was going to work where and when and so forth like that, and then if there was a shortage in some place or we got a lot of patients in, you helped out there or whatever.

EE:

Were you also responsible for securing supplies that you needed?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

How difficult was that?

JF:

Well, not so much the medical supplies. What we had trouble with sometimes was clothes for us, because by that time, we were wearing slacks for—well, in Rockhampton, we wore culottes rather than the other, those regular dresses. And then we got up to New Guinea, we had to wear slacks and long sleeves because of the mosquitoes and so forth.

But we'd hear—some of the slacks were getting so thin, you wondered if—and then we'd hear, well, there had been a bunch of clothes come in and somebody—it was marked for nurses' clothing or something or other, and so somebody had picked it up and brought it in, and they opened it up and it was fur-lined things or something. That was one story we heard. And we heard another story that a bunch of slacks came in and they got to some mens' units and they cut them off and used them for swimming trunks. Here we were, trying to—

EE:

What was the thing that you all wanted most, materially, that you never had enough of or enough?

JF:

Oh, I don't know whether we ever thought too much about that. It was kind of hard trying to keep your—well, they did our—if you wanted to iron anything, press anything, maybe your white shirt, you know, dress shirt, if you were going someplace, that was always a difficult thing to do. They did have some kind of iron set up, and I remember that.

But really, I don't guess we—except when we saw the USO [United Service Organizations] ladies come in and they'd be in these short skirts or sleeveless dresses or something and here we were with—well, they finally told us we had to wear leggings, too, and all these clothes, and here they were up on the stage with all of these sleeveless dresses and short skirts.

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EE:

There's a nice story you tell in Mr. McDermott's book about the USO woman who comes by and wants to borrow your mirror, and you say please—

JF:

Oh, the mirror. That mirror, yes. And I think now, why in the world didn't I get her to autograph it? And so when the GIs came and asked me for it, I said, “Be sure I get this back,” so almost as soon as the thing—I didn't see the show, I guess, because, you know, I just didn't. But almost as soon as the thing was over, they came back with the mirror and said, “She wanted to keep it but we told her she couldn't, that you had to have it back.”

EE:

That's great. And one time you were watching a movie about an air raid and then you had an air raid?

JF:

Yes. It didn't hit exactly, but they got close enough, you know, that you had to take shelter.

EE:

When you see them nowadays, are there movies that take you back to that time?

JF:

I'm trying to think whether I did see any. I can't remember.

EE:

Did they ever show you Casablanca when you were over there?

JF:

What?

EE:

Casablanca. Did you ever see that?

JF:

I can't remember that I saw that one.

EE:

How about music? Were there some songs that they—

JF:

Oh, we used to, what was it, Let's Remember Pearl Harbor, As We Did the Alamo and White Cliffs of Dover, White Christmas. I think we heard that one over there.

EE:

You were at the general hospital after leaving Dobadura. When did you get the word that you could come back stateside? Was it before the end of the war?

JF:

When they told us we could put in for that, I think that was early in the year. I don't know exactly. But when we actually got—so it was several months. It must have been November sometime, yes. And we'd hear—well, there weren't any ships with accommodations for female personnel, or they were sending the Aussie brides back instead of us. We'd just hear those things.

Yes, it was in November, because I went to Oro Bay and got on a small ship that went up to Finchhaven, [New Guinea], and I was on that ship on Thanksgiving. And then we got to Finchhaven and we stayed at the hospital there, for about a week, till we got word that there was a ship coming in the next day or that day or some place, rather. And I've forgotten how many of us there were, five or six of us, I think.

And we got down to the dock where they were taking us and they said, “Well, we can only take two on this one ship, and so many on the other.” As it turned out, the ones that took the ship out there didn't go on the one we did, got to the United States before we did because they landed on the West Coast, and we went through the canal again.

EE:

Was this '45? Were you in New Guinea for VJ [Victory in Japan] Day?

JF:

VJ Day was what?

EE:

August of '45.

JF:

Oh, no, no. I was back in the United States by that time.

EE:

Okay. So this was '44 that you got to come back?

JF:

Yes, they started back then. It was something like February or something before we got back to New York, because we made some stops along the way.

EE:

And when you got back to New York, what was your stateside assignment?

JF:

Well, first, they let you go home, and then we went to Miami, Florida, to get reoriented to the United States.

EE:

It's coming back to a different world, isn't it?

JF:

Yes. And then from there, you got your assignment, and I went back to Indianapolis again. Well, no, not Indianapolis, but to Indiana. It was near Columbus, Indiana, and I think it was Wakeman General Hospital. And that, yes, VJ then happened after that, because I remember everybody got a holiday but the hospital people.

EE:

Had a lot of the people that you worked with at that hospital already been overseas like you?

JF:

Yes, some of them, and we had some prisoners of war as patients that came back, and then we had one whole ward of German soldiers who were prisoners of war of the United States, and we were in that hospital.

EE:

And they were helping to work at the hospital.

JF:

Well, there were patients there, too. We had a ward set up for the patients and they were manned mostly by their own people, but we'd go in to see, you know, if there were people that were especially ill or just to see how they were.

EE:

Had you had prisoner of war help in New Guinea, or was this the first time you worked with prisoners of war?

JF:

No, this was the first time we'd run into prisoners of war.

EE:

So you were at that job at Wakeman through the end of your time in service?

JF:

For the rest of the time.

EE:

You ended your time in service in '45?

JF:

Yes. Actually, it was, I guess, my—you got some accumulated leave. I've forgotten what the date was when I actually left, but my official termination was in December of '45.

EE:

But you actually probably got out before that?

JF:

Yes, but I actually was out before then. The chief nurse there told me she put in my—to be promoted to a major, but before that came through, there was a major assigned to the hospital so I didn't get that, but that was all right I didn't get to that point. It didn't affect me.

EE:

So you never lingered with the idea of making the military a career?

JF:

Well, I don't know. When they were interviewing us to be discharged, they didn't seem to know whether you could stay in or not, or what the arrangements would be or anything. And of course, you're wanting to get home.

EE:

And they didn't really know how many they were going to need, I don't think, at that point.

JF:

No, I think that was it. But then I wanted to go to school anyway. But then people who stayed in the army got to go back to school, too.

EE:

Right. So when you left, they were already talking about the GI Bill and that you could go back to school.

JF:

I don't know. I don't remember whether they were yet or not. I guess they were, must have been.

EE:

As an army nurse, did you get a ruptured duck as well?

JF:

A what?

EE:

A little ruptured duck pin.

JF:

Those discharge pins, like the little one up there?

EE:

Yes, yes. That was your ruptured duck.

JF:

I don't remember that name.

EE:

What was the hardest thing about your time in the service, either physically or emotionally?

JF:

Well, I can remember one time, I don't know just where it was, but we hear these things about—they had to get through the Owen Stanley, the pass of the Owen Stanley Range, because it would get fogged in or something or other, and they had to plan the evacuating patients by air. And it hit me, you know, well, what if we were getting to go home, and you couldn't get through? Little things like that came up.

EE:

I guess nurses had to help each other out when they got afraid, didn't they?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

Because everybody else is talking to you about what they're afraid of.

JF:

But I remember one day, specifically, just kind of thinking, “Well, am I going to be here forever or what?” and then the passage, the scripture, “I look up into the hills from which cometh my help,” and that was sort of what I felt at that point.

EE:

You're there next to the range. Was faith a big element for folks in there?

JF:

Well, we always usually had, we had church services somewhere in there. You didn't always get to go, depending on where you were on duty, but they always had a chaplain and had church services and I remember—and the ward, sometimes the ones that would go to Catholic mass, you know, maybe they had to go, but we let them off and then the other people would go later, if it wasn't too busy or so forth.

And there was always services going on. I remember one place where we were, the men had gone out and gathered flowers for Easter and had the place where we had our services kind of decorated with all these flowers. Some of the Aussie groups came in for the service and they were amazed that they would think of doing something like that.

EE:

You're in a beautiful place if there's not a war going on, aren't you?

JF:

What?

EE:

If there wasn't a war going on, it's a beautiful place, isn't it?

JF:

Yes. It would be interesting, yes.

EE:

You're in the service for four years, and in that time, I know you had to meet a lot of interesting characters, because that's the nature of the service. You meet people from all over the world. Are there any particular characters that stand out in your memory, people that you met who made an impression on you?

JF:

I don't remember any specific names. You just remember like the chief officer of the hospital, you know, what that person was like and so forth.

EE:

Any of the people that you took care of that stick out in your mind?

JF:

I don't remember any special—some of the soldiers you just—you felt so sorry for them but they were looking at another side, that they were going to get well and get home and everything like that. The whole thing just sort of inspired you, the way some of them reacted to—

EE:

Did you ever have any particular embarrassing moment during your time in the service?

JF:

Oh, I probably did but I probably forgot it.

EE:

You came under attack a couple of times so, unlike some of the folks I've talked with, physical danger was a worry for you.

JF:

Well, yes, they weren't supposed to bomb hospitals, but sometimes they'd come awful close to us and you took cover. I remember one night where we were, we were—well, it must have been there in New Guinea, I've forgotten what hospital. But anyway, it was up on a hill and there was an alarm, so the patients that couldn't get out and find shelter, I remember putting mattresses on top of the person and stayed with him as long as I could, and then took refuge myself, but just to protect him.

And then you'd see some of the patients, of course, with that malaria and dengue fever, they'd have these real high temperatures, and you'd see them walking around and say, “Well, you're supposed to be in bed.”

“Well, I was up on the line with a temperature higher than this. Why do I have to be in bed?”

EE:

How do you get dengue fever? Is it something that's insect—borne?

JF:

Dengue is caused by a mosquito.

EE:

Mosquito as well?

JF:

Yes. And they got real severe headaches with it. I never heard of it before. Malaria I heard of, but of course, never experienced it. We had to take atabrine and sometimes I had kind of a yellowish tint to my complexion when I got home, and people thought I was sunburned or something like that.

EE:

Did you ever have any maladies? I've talked to several people who would get the same kind of skin rashes that their patients would get.

JF:

Well, I didn't get that. I think I—I don't know how I got it. I had pneumonia for a few days and lived in—we had a little space where nurses who were sick on that base, you just put them in this one place and I was in there for two or three days, but I don't remember too—it wasn't too bad. But no, there were these rashes and things like that, and particularly some of the men, because they'd have their shoes on for a long time, or all their clothes on for a long time.

EE:

What did you think of President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt and Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

JF:

Well, I guess I thought they were—I liked Mrs. Roosevelt, you know, hearing about her and so forth, and I always figured he was doing the right thing, you know, that—so we didn't ever question, I don't think, why are they doing this or that or anything because we didn't know enough—

EE:

You all basically knew what you had to deal with, rather than what was going on in the whole rest of the world.

JF:

Yes. As I said, we didn't know anything about these Japanese on the West Coast being rounded up till much later after we got back, and things like that, and the atrocities. I was, originally, was supposed to go through the Methodist Church to go to be an instructor in a hospital school of nursing in Manila, but then, at that time, they weren't letting anybody go over there, otherwise I would have been stuck.

EE:

Could have been captured.

JF:

Well, there were nurses who were prisoners of war of the Japanese.

EE:

That's right. When I talk with people who were in the European Theatre—in fact, one woman who was in this book, who lives up in Asheville, was telling me, she's Italian, and I asked her what was it like fighting Mussolini. She says, “Well, I didn't think we were fighting the relatives. We were fighting Mussolini.” When you were in the Pacific theatre, are you fighting the Japanese, are you fighting Tojo, are you fighting—who did you all talk about that you were—

JF:

Well, we disliked Japanese, mostly.

EE:

Were there Tokyo Rose broadcasts or some other enemy broadcasts that you were hearing?

JF:

I don't remember that we heard—we heard about Tokyo Rose [female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda] but I can't remember ever—well, I don't know that we had radios to listen to. I mean, individual ones.

EE:

So you did not have access to a lot of other stuff—radios, or other information?

JF:

They put out a newspaper there called Guinea Gold and I don't remember, I can't find—I had a few copies of that, but I can't find them. But it was mostly about things there, it wasn't too much. We didn't know too much about what was going on. A couple of times, I did get leaves to Sydney. When we went on leave, you could go to Sydney, Australia. They had a place there where you could stay and there was a big club there. Of course, you couldn't buy anything.

EE:

But it reminded you that civilization was there somewhere.

JF:

Yes.

EE:

I bet that you got tired of powdered eggs and powdered milk and powdered everything. I imagine it was—did you eat a lot of the native stuff?

JF:

I don't remember that we had—

EE:

Like coconuts and fruit?

JF:

—too much of that. I mean, some of the places where they were, there were coconuts. You could get them and split them, you know. I guess we did eat some, but I can't remember. I remember one time where we were, they got in a big supply of fresh meat, more than ever, or something or other. The trouble was, they didn't have enough place to keep it too long, so we had it every meal for a while till it ran out.

EE:

Too much of a good thing.

JF:

And we had a lot of, I think, lamb or mutton. Mutton, I guess it was, mostly.

EE:

When you think back to that time, do you have any heroes or heroines that stand out in your mind?

JF:

I don't know. I don't think so, particularly. I mean, as individuals, I think there were a lot of—I mean that I—there was one nurse in our unit, the first unit I was in, that, it wasn't like a hero, but I mean, I just felt sorry for her. She had been a nurse anesthetist, and she joined the army because she heard they needed nurse anesthetists, so they put her in a hospital thing, but as a regular nurse. But at the same time, they were training nurse anesthetists, you know. And I just always felt—

EE:

Military efficiency, yes.

JF:

Yes. So she just wasn't used to this ward work.

EE:

After the end of the war, you continued working in nursing. That was your career. Tell me a little bit about your life after service and what you've been doing.

JF:

Well, let's see. I went back. I worked, I guess, for a little while. I didn't go back to—didn't go to Columbia, I think, till the spring semester or something or other. So I worked in Cincinnati at the Jewish Hospital, where I'd been before, as a supervisor.

And then I went to Teachers College, Columbia [University], in the nursing division, and then was there for the spring quarter and I think the summer quarter. And then I was running out of money, so I went back to work and I went back to Muncie, I think, from there. And at one time, I was director of the school of nursing there at Muncie, from which I'd graduated. And then I finally went back to Columbia and got my, finished up, and got my degree. And I think Eisenhower signed my diploma. Wasn't he the president at—

EE:

Sure was.

JF:

But I can't find it now, but anyway, he signed my diploma. And then, let's see, what did I do after that? Oh, I spent one year in St. Paul, Minnesota, at a Children's Hospital. I didn't like that especially. Then my mother was needing help with my dad at home so I left that, and then I was back at the Jewish Hospital as head of the school of nursing there. Eventually, then, I got into the university.

EE:

Back to University of Cincinnati?

JF:

Yes, in Cincinnati, to their college of nursing.

EE:

Did you head their nursing program as well?

JF:

What?

EE:

Were you the director of their nursing program?

JF:

No, no, I wasn't the director. I went in as assistant professor and then when I left, I'd been promoted to associate professor. And while I was there, I got a second master's degree from University of Cincinnati, a master of science.

EE:

The nursing profession really changed a lot during your career, because it became so much more—certification and—I think my mother started out and was training in a local hospital and got her degree in public health and now she could go back and be a level one, level two, depending on what your certification is. I think of someone who started out in Indiana, to get to go to an Ivy League school for your master's had to be quite a wonderful thing to do, thanks to the GI Bill, wasn't it?

JF:

Oh, yes.

EE:

And they did put you into top schools in your field.

JF:

You could go, I think, wherever you wanted to.

EE:

That's right, that's right. That's wonderful. What impact do you think your time in the service had on your life, both short term and then long term?

JF:

Well, I think it had quite a bit, because I didn't—in terms of moving along, because I'd planned to get my master's earlier, so I would have maybe done things a little differently.

EE:

Think it made you more independent than you might have been otherwise?

JF:

Probably so, yes, it did. It gave me more experience, as being chief nurse in a hospital.

EE:

You weren't afraid to move, professionally.

JF:

No.

EE:

You didn't come back and be a homebody.

JF:

No.

EE:

Many folks, when they look back at our society in general, have thought that the entry of so many women into the service really change people's impression of what women can do. I mean, you're—in fact, so many women were near the battlefront during the war, and handled conditions that people thought women couldn't handle.

JF:

Well, the women in Vietnam, I guess those nurses had a lot to put up with.

EE:

That's right. Do you consider yourself a pioneer, in that respect?

JF:

I never thought of it that way.

EE:

Would you recommend an experience in the military for a woman these days?

JF:

If she thought she'd like it. Of course, I don't—you know, the setup may be all entirely different now, but I don't know. I wouldn't discourage anybody if they wanted to do it, no.

EE:

Because you were close to the action, there are some folks who are not comfortable with women completely being integrated into the service. One of the women I talked with, who was the next to last director of the WACS, said the women should be in a separate service. They should not be regular army. Do you think there are some jobs in the military that women should not be allowed to do?

JF:

I don't think they should be in combat or living in the same places with the men and things like that, that they should be separated. I don't know whether I'm old-fashioned or what.

EE:

Well, I don't think biology has changed over centuries. It may be hard to give them up.

JF:

Some of those things I see I just can't figure them out. They just seem ridiculous, they way they mix them up now.

EE:

I have about exhausted the questions that I have to ask you. Is there anything that I have not asked you about, about your time in the service that you'd like to share with us today?

JF:

I think I have most of it in there, I think.

EE:

If you could do it again—

JF:

Some people say, would you do it again, and I said, “Well, under the same circumstances, I would,” because I thought I was helping out, and so forth, like that. It was something I could do.

EE:

So you felt you contributed to the war effort?

JF:

Oh, I think so, yes.

EE:

I think you did, too. I guess your family got to put four stars in the window?

JF:

Yes.

EE:

Because you got a star just like the rest of them did.

JF:

Yes.

EE:

That's nice, that when you saw those stars, it didn't say man or woman, it was just somebody serving, and that's a nice thing, quality of service.

Well, on behalf of the school, and myself, personally, thank you for sitting down and doing this.

JF:

Well, I've enjoyed it. It's kind of nice to reminisce sometimes.

EE:

It is. It is. We'll turn this off and maybe you can show me some of those things that you have pulled out there.

[End of interview]