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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Frances B. Turner, 2002

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Object ID: WV0236.5.001

Description: Interview primarily documents Frances B.Turner’s service in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC).

Summary:

Turner briefly describes growing up during the Depression, her reasons for becoming a nurse, her training at Watts Hospital, her work for a tobacco company, Pearl Harbor, and joining the ANC. She recalls the living situation at Camp Butner, North Carolina; traveling to the Philippines; and celebrating V-J Day.

Discussion focuses primarily on her time in Korea in 1951-1952. Topics include: working in a combat zone; a typical workday; relieving stress; and moving the hospital when the front moved. Other service topics: working in surgical units; overview of her second stint in the service; her opinion of women in the service; and misconceptions of the military.

Creator: Frances Bradsher Turner

Biographical Info: Frances Turner (1918-2009) of Durham, North Carolina, had a career in the Army Nurse Corps, serving during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Collection: Frances Bradsher Turner 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 am with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is an interview for the Women Veterans Historical Project at the university. Today I'm in Durham, North Carolina, and fortunately, the snow has stopped. It is January 7, 2002, and I'm at the home of Frances Turner.

Ms. Turner, thank you very much for doing this very strange exercise: having somebody come in and talk to you about your entire life in one afternoon. But it's a brave exercise, and I appreciate you doing it. There are wonderful experiences, a variety of experiences, that people have had in the service. And the other thing we're interested in is how in the world people got connected to the service, and that sort of starts at the beginning. So for the benefit of this tape, could you tell me, like you've already told me, where were you born, and where did you grow up?

FT:

I was born in Orange County.

EE:

Orange County, which is right next door to here.

FT:

Next to Durham County, yes. And my family moved to Durham when I was three years old, here on Cole Mill Road.

EE:

So are you in the family homestead?

FT:

No, I'm not in the family homestead, but the family homestead is just up the street on the other side of the church. That was where I grew up. I was very familiar with this, because these people were neighbors here, and Mrs. Scoggins[?] and her sister, who lived with them, usually babysat for my mother when she had to be out and didn't have anyone to take care of the little ones.

EE:

What did your folks do?

FT:

What did my folks do? My father had a barbecue business right next door to where I am here, Jack Turner's Barbecue.

EE:

So you grew up having lots of barbecue.

FT:

Oh yes.

EE:

Was it an open-pit barbecue place?

FT:

Yes.

EE:

So you're used to doing everything you can do with a hog, then.

FT:

Well, no. I didn't do much with hogs. Daddy raised his own for a long time, but—

EE:

Now, are we in the down east part of barbecue in North Carolina, or are we in the Lexington style? Which style of barbecue is around here? Is it vinegar-based?

FT:

It was probably the down east style, I would say.

EE:

Well, I know it fades in and out. I'm over in the Lexington area now, so that's what I get. So your dad ran the restaurant. Did you have any brothers and sisters?

FT:

I had three sisters.

EE:

Are you the oldest, youngest, or in the middle?

FT:

I'm next to the youngest.

EE:

And your mama was raising all of you all, then.

FT:

Oh yes. That's right.

EE:

So you went to school here in Durham?

FT:

Yes. I went to Hillandale [Elementary] School right up the street here until I finished the fifth grade. They only had first through fifth grades there. And then from there I went to Bragtown.

EE:

How do you spell that?

FT:

B-r-a-g-t-o-w-n.

EE:

That's where you graduated from high school?

FT:

That's where I graduated from high school.

EE:

Probably, back then, was North Carolina still eleven-year high school?

FT:

Yes.

EE:

So you got out in probably '36 or '37?

FT:

It was '36, I believe.

EE:

Now, were you somebody who liked school, growing up?

FT:

Did I like school? Yes, I liked school.

EE:

Did you have a favorite subject?

FT:

I'm trying to think. I'm sure I had. It doesn't come back to me right now.

EE:

Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to be a nurse?

FT:

No, not from the very beginning, but I think by the time I was getting close to finishing high school, I decided that I wanted to be a nurse. And I had a good role model. I had a cousin who went to nursing school at the Watts School of Nursing, and she graduated from college and had taught for a year or two, then decided that wasn't for her, that she wanted to get into nursing. So then she went back to school, to a nursing school.

EE:

Watts is here in town. It was a separate hospital, Watts Hospital? What hospital was it affiliated with?

FT:

Well, the old Watts Hospital is now a school, you know, a school now of science, North Carolina School of Science [and Mathematics].

EE:

Oh, okay. They converted that building when they did that.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

Now, you probably were old enough to remember the start of the Depression, my guess is.

FT:

Oh yes.

EE:

Since your dad ran a business, how did that affect your family, the Depression?

FT:

Well, I guess it affected it like it did all families, except for one thing. I always felt that people who lived in the countryside were more fortunate than those who lived in cities, because we were never hungry. We raised our own food.

EE:

Yes. It's hard to realize now, because Durham has so developed, but this was a lot more out in the country then, wasn't it?

FT:

Oh, this was countryside then, yes. And so we managed the Depression, I would say, quite well. I never felt that there was a time—

EE:

And the business still kept up?

FT:

Yes, the business kept up.

EE:

In '36, you went to school. Were you still living here at the house, or did you live there at the school?

FT:

I lived on campus over there.

EE:

Tell me about the school experience for you. What was it like, nursing school?

FT:

Nursing school. Well, it was very interesting. And, of course, what we did then, we had—I guess it was the first few months we were there, we were just attending class. And then when we had attained enough skills to get on the ward and take care of patients, then we started working on the wards, and we would still have to—we'd work, not an eight-hour day, because we had to be in class part of that time, but we would work on the wards.

EE:

Most folks I've talked with, they'd kind of get a sampling of the different kinds of nursing that you could do. Was there a kind of nursing that attracted you more than another kind when you were in school?

FT:

Yes, I think that was the point at which I became interested in the surgical intensive care.

EE:

So you had a chance to do that rotation as a part of your training. Yet when you got out in '39, you told me, you were doing private duty nursing.

FT:

Yes, I did private duty nursing for a while, and then I went to doing industrial nursing.

EE:

Industrial nursing. Do you mean like being a company nurse for some place?

FT:

Yes. Right.

EE:

I guess it was a sort of a form of public health in a way, wasn't it?

FT:

Well, it was. It was more or less that.

EE:

Which company did you work for?

FT:

I'm trying to think now which one it was. Was it Liggett & Myers? I don't really remember what company it was.

EE:

One of the tobacco companies here in town?

FT:

One of the factories here in town.

EE:

Do you remember where you were Pearl Harbor Day?

FT:

Yes, I do, because at that time I was working in the infirmary at the University of North Carolina, and I recall very vividly that day when we heard it on the radio.

EE:

Did somebody just break in with the news, or did you hear it on the radio?

FT:

It was on the radio.

EE:

Did you have a sense before then that we might be heading to war?

FT:

I don't think I really felt that we were. I knew that things were very tense over there, but I guess I was some shocked when we [unclear].

EE:

When you were in nursing school, did anybody ever talk to the nurses there about the possibility of joining the service as a nurse?

FT:

When I was in nursing school?

EE:

When you were in nursing school.

FT:

No, it had never occurred to me at that point. But when the war started, that was when I decided that was [unclear].

EE:

So you decided on your own to check it out at that point in time.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

I know some people had talked about that they had—I guess the cadet nurse program started about that time, and they started seeing these cadet nurses coming on that you could sign up. But you had already gone through your training, so that was of no good to you. You had to be twenty-two to be a nurse, to get into ANC [Army Nurse Corps]?

FT:

Twenty-one, I guess. Twenty-one.

EE:

You signed up here in Durham. When you signed up, what made you choose the army as opposed to being a navy nurse or another branch of the service?

FT:

I guess because the army actually had a larger group of nurses. The army was larger, and there were more of them, and I had just heard more about the army, I suppose.

EE:

What do you think was the main thing that motivated you to join?

FT:

Well, I think it was the fact that we were at war, and that I felt that this was something that I could do, and I couldn't have been involved at that time otherwise.

EE:

You ended up going to the Philippines. Did you have a chance to express an opinion about either the kind of nursing you would be doing or where you could be doing it? Did you get a say in that at all, or were you pretty much at the disposal of the country?

FT:

Well, I guess more or less at the disposal of the country. But I didn't go to the Philippines until just before the war was over, but meanwhile, I was stationed out at [Camp] Butner, as I said, and then in Georgia.

EE:

How long were you at Butner?

FT:

I was at Butner—I'm trying to think—maybe a couple of years. I can't remember.

EE:

That's not too far from here.

FT:

No.

EE:

You lucked out.

FT:

I lucked out.

EE:

You probably got to come home on weekends, I would imagine.

FT:

I could come home frequently.

EE:

Were you doing more specialized nurse training there, or were you learning military decorum? What were you learning at Butner?

FT:

Well, actually, I guess you're always learning when you're working in anything. But I guess what I learned most about that was how the military operated and what you would be facing.

EE:

Was Butner a training facility for army nurses, or was it simply a—because I've talked to some nurses that went through really a boot camp, and others that didn't have much of a boot camp. They pretty much just did their nursing work within the confines of the army. Is that what you started out with?

FT:

Yes. I think this boot camp came along much later, because at the time that I went in, you were a nurse, you joined, they assigned you to a station somewhere, a camp somewhere, and you went to work in the hospital just like you would go to work anywhere else.

EE:

So there wasn't a whole lot of difference in being a military nurse and being a nurse, as far as you were concerned, as far as the work goes.

FT:

So far as the work was, there wasn't that much difference.

EE:

How many people were stationed up there at Butner when you were there? How big was the hospital?

FT:

I really don't remember, but it was a very large hospital because of all the soldiers there.

EE:

Were you staying in a dormitory up there?

FT:

Yes. We lived in a dormitory.

EE:

Well, you had sisters, so I guess there wasn't a total—and you'd already been in nursing school, so you'd already had the dorm experience. It wasn't as traumatic for you as it might have been for some people.

FT:

Oh yes.

EE:

And you were at Butner for a couple of years, you said.

FT:

I think it was a couple of years.

EE:

The geography, with the road construction and the growth of houses, it's just really—that was farther away then than it is now, I guess. What I'm getting at is the distances were different. You went from Butner down to Georgia. I'm still trying to figure out exactly where, but a military hospital in Georgia. And you were there for how long, a year or so?

FT:

I'm not just sure. It may have been close to a year, but it wasn't an awful long time.

EE:

And I should have asked you about Butner, but I guess at Georgia, too, what kind of nursing were you doing at Butner and in Georgia? Was it surgical nursing at that time?

FT:

Mainly surgical nursing. That was my choice. I always liked surgical nursing.

EE:

What kind of folks were you getting as far as injured at Butner? Was Butner a training facility for—

FT:

A training facility.

EE:

For folks going overseas?

FT:

Yes.

EE:

So you got people who were injured in training exercises and things?

FT:

Well, they could be injured in training exercises, or they could just have, you know, some of the health problems that everybody has.

EE:

Just everyday problems, not necessarily related to the military.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

You were close enough at Butner to come home. In Georgia, did you travel outside the base much, or were you working five-day weeks, seven-day weeks? What was the work schedule like?

FT:

We didn't work five-day weeks, I know. I think it was probably six-day weeks. I think you'd have a day off periodically, so I think it was about six days a week.

EE:

Were you in Georgia in June of '44 when D-Day happened? Were you still there?

FT:

No, I may have already gotten to the Philippines when it happened. Yes, I'm pretty sure I did, because, as I say, that was when they were getting ready to invade Japan, so I would have been in the Philippines by then.

EE:

How long were you in the Philippines altogether?

FT:

I think it was about six months, because as soon as the war was over, they didn't need us anymore.

EE:

Did you leave out of Camp Stoneman to go to the Philippines, or where did you embark from?

FT:

You know, I can't remember now where it was, but I don't think it was Stoneman. I'm pretty sure it wasn't Stoneman.

EE:

You probably had never been outside, that far away from the state before. Had you traveled much before joining the service?

FT:

I traveled some, but not to the West Coast, for instance. Travel had been confined mainly to the East Coast.

EE:

What did your mom and dad think? It was one thing when you were nurse and at Butner. That was no problem. But when their daughter is going off overseas, how did your mom and dad react to this?

FT:

Well, unfortunately, my mother had died. She died when I was seventeen years old. She had died. But of course, my father was—he was concerned. He was concerned about me and was concerned about my friends, because when I was at Butner, my friends and I would come to my home, because a lot of them were so far from home, you know, [unclear]. They'd come, and my father always welcomed them. They called him “Pappy Turner.” They thought he was great. He thought they were great. He made them feel very much at home in our home.

EE:

So it was a whole bunch of daughters he was [unclear].

FT:

Oh yes. He sure had a bunch of them.

EE:

And what did your sisters do? Where were they? Were they still in this area?

FT:

Yes, they were still in this area. My oldest sister, I think, by that time, I'm pretty sure she was living in Henderson. She had gotten a job with Rose's, and they had—

EE:

I think their headquarters were in Henderson, weren't they?

FT:

Headquarters, yes. That was their home. And so she had moved over there.

EE:

Were you on a troop ship over to the Philippines? Is that how you got there?

FT:

Yes.

EE:

Did you go into Manila and then back out to Bataan?

FT:

Well, we never made it to Japan, because—

EE:

I mean to Bataan.

FT:

Oh, Bataan. It was all by ship. We didn't do any traveling, I think.

EE:

Did you stop in Hawaii on the way over?

FT:

No. Missed it.

EE:

So you must have been zig-zagging for forty days.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

How did the first ocean voyage sit with your stomach? Did you have any trouble?

FT:

Well, not a lot. It was relatively easy.

EE:

Tell me about where you're stationed in the Philippines. Is it an established hospital building or are you in a field hospital? What kind of conditions are you in?

FT:

Well, it was an established hospital there.

EE:

So your living quarters weren't as dire as they might have been had you gotten there earlier in the war.

FT:

Yes. Right. Not too bad.

EE:

How many women were you stationed with when you were over there?

FT:

How many women? I don't remember. There were quite a few of us. That was a general hospital there.

EE:

Do you remember getting the word when [Franklin D.] Roosevelt passed away?

FT:

I'm sure we got it. I don't recall how we did.

EE:

How about V-Mail? Did you get mail from home when you were over there, on a regular basis, or were you pretty much—

FT:

Well, I guess I did get some mail periodically.

EE:

The war ended so fast.

FT:

Yes, it did.

EE:

In a surprising way, because nobody knew we had that kind of a weapon. What was it like to be in the Philippines when the word comes, Japan has surrendered?

FT:

A lot of joy.

EE:

Did they give you the day off?

FT:

Well, no, we didn't get the day off, but—

EE:

That's the trouble with being a doctor or nurse; you don't get days off.

FT:

That's right. There are no days off. Someone has to be there all the time.

EE:

At that point, when they were sending you back home, did you ever think about making a career out of the service?

FT:

Well, I considered it, but you didn't have many options at that point. As I said earlier, there were so many of us in the army, and they no longer needed us, they weren't offering you the opportunity to stay in. It was, “Out you go.” I'm thinking that perhaps the ones who did stay in were the people who were career nurses and doctors and corpsmen and so forth prior to the time the war started. And, of course, they would have the option of staying in.

EE:

Actually, I think the nursing branches were the only ones that had women in them before the war started. Everybody else was a wartime emergency.

FT:

Right. Yes.

EE:

So you came back, and it was the fall of '45 when you came back to the Philippines.

FT:

No. No. I came back—when was it—January.

EE:

January of '46?

FT:

I came back and got out immediately.

EE:

Somebody told me that one of the reasons that they thought they didn't want to stay in because it was so hard to advance in rank. They didn't really give you a lot of opportunities to—did you hear that, or remember hearing that from women when they were in in the forties?

FT:

No. I don't recall being—

EE:

Did you come back to Durham?

FT:

Yes. Yes, I came back here.

EE:

So what did you do up until the time Uncle Sam—then you have a conversation again?

FT:

It was that point, I think, that I went into industrial nursing. I don't think I was in that prior to going in the army. And I did that then, I guess, until I went back in the army.

EE:

So you were working for American— or whoever it was, the tobacco company around here?

FT:

Yes.

EE:

This would have been in '50, I guess. June of '50 is when the Korean War started. Did you look to volunteer, or did Uncle Sam come calling on you and asking for your services? How did that happen?

FT:

I signed up immediately on my own.

EE:

Were they making a public call for nurses, that you recall?

FT:

Oh, yes.

EE:

Did your employer say, “Go ahead. We'll hold a job for you,” or what was your understanding when you—

FT:

No, nobody said about holding the job for me.

EE:

Nobody said that.

FT:

But I'd decided that was what I wanted to do, so I just went back in.

EE:

When you went back in that time, were you looking to go to Korea itself?

FT:

Yes, I wanted to go.

EE:

You'd missed out on it before. You were getting close. So you're back in. You don't have any training. You're signed back up. Do you go to someplace before you go to Korea? Is there some way station, back to a Butner or someplace before you go, shipped over?

FT:

Well, of course, you were shipped out of a military setting, and I was at Fort Bragg and then went from there right on over to Korea.

EE:

Was the Korean War the first time that they had the MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] units?

FT:

I think it was. I don't recall.

EE:

I guess the helicopter was a big thing for transporting folks back, which they did not have five years earlier in World War II.

FT:

Right.

EE:

Tell me about when you come into Korea. When did you get there, late '50? We already had Chosin Reservoir, Inchon, or were you there before then?

FT:

Let me go see if I can find the dates.

[Tape recorder paused]

FT:

Manila, August through December of 1945 at the 80th General Hospital. Then I was discharged January of '46 from active duty at Fort Bragg, and I did stay in the army reserves they had. I think I said I didn't, but I did anyhow. Then I went back on active duty in July of 1950 and was assigned to the 2nd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and moved with this unit to Korea in March of '51.

EE:

So that would have been after Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir.

FT:

We staged in Japan from January to March of '51 and then to Korea, and I stayed until March of '52.

EE:

So you were a year there.

FT:

Let's see. Yes.

EE:

In that unit.

FT:

I was there a year.

EE:

And you say at some point during that year, you recall you all had to move at least that one time.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

But you were near the 38th when you were out there. You said the number of beds available in a MASH unit were not that many. About how many people were working in that unit?

FT:

How many people were working with—

EE:

In that MASH unit. Were there two hundred folks?

FT:

Yes. There would have been at least two hundred, and that would include the doctors, the nurses, and the corpsmen. They were trained as medical technicians.

EE:

That unit is a lot closer to action than women nurses had been before. You were telling me before we started the tape, that at nighttime you were close enough to see the artillery five or ten miles away.

FT:

Oh yes.

EE:

Tell me what a typical day in a MASH unit is like in 1951.

FT:

Well, we worked twelve-hour days, and you went to work at eight o'clock in the morning. I think it was eight when we went on duty. And then we were busy. When you're in a combat zone, you've got critically injured people coming in all the time. Some were not so critically injured, but an awful lot were critically injured. And you have to staff the operating room, of course, and that's a busy place, and then the intensive care unit where the critically wounded patients are.

EE:

Had they given you some special training in this kind of surgical trauma stuff while you were waiting in Japan? Because you had come from four or five years of being—we were talking about how industrial nursing is not intense like a MASH unit.

FT:

Yes, nothing like it.

EE:

And your experiences before even in the Army Nurse Corps, they were not combat.

FT:

No, not combat.

EE:

This is a different order of intensity.

FT:

Of course, you're always going to have critically ill patients wherever you are, because there are injuries from other reasons and then, of course, there are people who have other critical illnesses and so forth.

EE:

You're there for a year. I guess you had to stay very close to the base. You had no leave time for that whole year, my assumption would be. Pretty much an independent group?

FT:

Well, I don't recall having any leave time during when we were working in a combat zone.

EE:

What was the relationship between the men and the women in this high-pressure area? Did you ever have any trouble being a woman officer from any of the men there?

FT:

No. You're working with enlisted men, and they were always very reliable people, and I don't recall ever encountering any problems.

EE:

I think nurses, probably, in World War II and then later, probably had less resistance to working in the military than some of the other folks who were not professionals, because their roles were understood, I think, before going in. I think the folks that I've talked to haven't had the kind of—the nurses did not have the kind of negative experience, “Well, what are you doing here?” and that kind of stuff. They weren't freeing a man to fight, in a sense; they were doing their own work in the service.

Your CO [commanding officer], I guess, was a man.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

Was there a woman CO to give assignments as a chief nurse?

FT:

Yes. You had your chief nurse in any situation, and you responded to her, and she directed the nursing services, assigned people, and you reported to her, rather than—of course, you'd have to report to the doctors. You're working with doctors where patients are concerned.

EE:

What was the scariest thing about working in that environment to you?

FT:

In a combat zone? Well, the scariest thing might be at a time when they felt that the enemy were moving in the area.

EE:

The time that you had to leave? Was that one of those times you had to leave because the enemy were getting close?

FT:

Yes. We had to move at one point, because they were coming closer in to the American zone.

EE:

Was your base ever hit with shells while you were there?

FT:

No.

EE:

So you were close enough but—so that was the only time that you maybe felt personally physically in danger?

FT:

Well, I guess you had that feeling, but with the urgency to try to get the patients moved and the unit moved and so forth, everybody working together, you concentrated more on that, I think.

EE:

You had so many tasks at hand, you really didn't have time to personalize it, is what you're telling me.

FT:

Right.

EE:

You still keep in contact with any of the folks who you served with back at that time?

FT:

Yes, I do. Some of us, you know, nurses in particular, we have a meeting every two years, and a lot of us still attend, even though there are lots more of the younger ones now than those of my era.

EE:

So you're still making connection with somebody who you served with.

FT:

Oh yes.

EE:

One of the things that's been good about this project is that, for a lot of people, they had lost touch with others that were in service, and so it was a way to at least put a face with a name and have somebody to talk with.

You were there for a year. Was a year the normal tour of duty for a combat operation? You had one year and then they got you away from combat? Is that what the normal cycle was?

FT:

Well, no, because when you're at war, there's combat going on. There's got to be staffed all the time, so I don't recall ever having worked one where we just were relieved at the end of a year.

EE:

You had to watch a little bit about that TV show that was on for fourteen years called M*A*S*H.

FT:

Oh yes.

EE:

That supposedly was about Korea. Did you recognize anything from watching that show? Were there personalities that rang true?

FT:

Well, people ask me about that so much, and I said, well, one thing, all the crazy things that they did, it's a stress-buster, because you're working under stress all of the time when you're dealing with so many critically injured patients and you have so many of them and you're so concerned about them. And so then when you're not on duty, if you can have a little time to sort of rest and relax, if you do a lot of silly things, a lot of crazy things, then it helps relieve the stress.

EE:

So what were the silly crazy things that you all did?

FT:

Oh, I don't know. There were a number of them, but I can remember one time, we did—this is really crazy. One night there were a bunch of us outside the tents, and the ground was covered with snow that had just iced over. Most of it had, you know. And we were out there walking around. And the guys decided they'd carry the gals on their shoulders, and so they hoisted us up on their shoulders and walked around. [laughter]

EE:

This was their way of being chivalrous?

FT:

Yes. [laughter]

EE:

I can see.

FT:

But we all worked together like a family, I guess you'd say, in that we tried to work together so that we could achieve what we needed to achieve, and we all got along together well. And there was not a lot of stress in our relationships with one another.

EE:

When you're that close and you've seen that many combat injuries, if you had the time to think about it, reflect about it, you could get very down on humanity that we do this kind of thing to one another.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

But yet you're in a place that's helping to save life and to keep it going. How does that experience rate for you in your scheme of things that you've done in your life? What special things do you take about that year in combat?

FT:

About that year in combat? Well, I think that when you're taking care of people in a situation like that, they have no family close by, they're injured, some of them so critically, and you sort of feel like you almost have to be their family for them as well as taking care of their medical needs, and you form a relationship with the patients and try to take care of their needs, the emotional as well as physical ones.

I know I had an experience that I'll always remember. We had a patient who went into cardiac arrest, and at that time they hadn't developed the CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] that they do now, and they took him into surgery, went into his chest to do massage, manual massage. And I was so concerned about him, I went into the surgical tent, and I just stood there, and I was praying. I wasn't praying aloud, I know, but I was praying. And when finally they got his heart back into rhythm and finished, one of the surgeons looked at me and said, “Thank you so much, Fran.”

I said, “For what? All I did was stand here.” I thought, what is he talking about?

He said, “Thank you for praying.”

And I thought, this is really, really strange, that he had realized.

EE:

It's nice to be needed. Prayer is a necessary part of that process.

FT:

Right.

EE:

You know, when I talk to folks in World War II, I didn't realize how many Red Cross folks were up there. Did you have any Red Cross people? Sounds like you all were basically writing letters and counseling people there on the front lines, like a Red Cross person might have done back in a station hospital or something.

FT:

Well, I don't recall that during the war. Now, when I went back later and was with a MASH unit, of course, we were in combat, the Red Cross had a representative there all the time, and maybe they had them come and go during the time that we were there during the war. I just don't recall contact with them at that time.

EE:

You later had another tour of duty in Korea. Did you go back to where you all were stationed before?

FT:

Well, I went back to a MASH unit, and we were stationed, of course, right up by the demilitarized zone. That's where we were the second time. So we were essentially up right at the border.

EE:

That must have been about the time that [Douglas] MacArthur was recalled. Do you remember that?

FT:

Yes.

EE:

What was the general GI view of that incident?

FT:

I don't recall what the reaction was.

EE:

You didn't have the political poll out that day. Well, I know he certainly made some decisive moves in Korea.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

When you finished the year in combat, did you come back to Japan, back stateside? Where did you come to?

FT:

Back stateside.

EE:

Where did you come back to, North Carolina?

FT:

I came back to Fort Bragg.

EE:

And you were at Bragg until you left for Germany?

FT:

I came back to Fort Bragg after Korea, and I was there for three years and then went to Heidelberg, Germany.

EE:

So you went to Germany in '55?

FT:

Yes. Stayed there till '57.

EE:

Were you working in a surgical unit there in Heidelberg at the base hospital?

FT:

Yes. I worked in the surgical recovery, the intensive care unit.

EE:

You must have made the decision sometime, I guess at Bragg, that you weren't in just for the duration of the war, but that you were in for a career.

FT:

Yes. Yes, I wanted to make a career of it, obviously.

EE:

I guess at that point, you'd had enough years in and you weren't—I guess it was still, what, twenty years to retirement at that point?

FT:

Yes. Twenty years to retirement.

EE:

Did you get bonus points for service for the overseas, the overseas and the combat?

FT:

No.

EE:

You were in Asia, and now you're in Europe. I can see where you're seeing the world through this career. Tell me about your time in Heidelberg. Well, I'm going right over Bragg as if nothing happened here in North Carolina. You were there for three years. Were you at the base hospital at Bragg?

FT:

Yes, at the army hospital, in Bragg. Then, as I say, '52 to '55 I was at Bragg, and then '55 to '57 I was in Heidelberg, and I worked there in surgical recovery and intensive care, which was the area that I liked best.

EE:

And I guess you're moving up in rank, probably, at each of these stations, I would assume.

FT:

Yes. Well, over time, you know, you keep moving up in rank. Then I came back from Germany. I went to the Army Medical Services School at Fort Sam Houston and took advanced nursing administration.

EE:

And this was so you could be basically a supervisor role?

FT:

Yes.

EE:

So you would have had to have that experience to be named chief nurse at one of these locations?

FT:

Well, I moved on up to supervisory positions and then assistant chief nurse and then chief nurse at the hospital.

EE:

After coming back to Germany for those three years, is that when you went back to Korea, in '57?

FT:

No. I went back to Korea in '69. I was there '69 to '70.

EE:

So after Sam Houston, you came back, and where were you stateside after that?

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EE:

After you finished with Fort Sam Houston, you then moved into a supervisory position?

FT:

I went from there to Fort Stewart in Georgia, and I was a head nurse there. But then, in '62, I went to Hawaii to Tripler [Army Medical Center], and I was a night supervisor there. And then in '65, I came back to Fort Lee, Virginia, and I was the assistant chief of nursing service and education coordinator there.

EE:

That sounds like a different kind of position. As opposed to a floor supervisor, you're actually training people at that point.

FT:

Yes. Then I went back to Korea in '69. I was there '69 to '70. I was chief nursing service at the 44th Surgical Hospital there. I came back in '70, and I was at Fort Bragg from '70 to '71. I was the supervisor of the outpatient clinics there and then retired in February of '71.

EE:

And after retirement, did you work anyplace else as a nurse?

FT:

No. I just decided I was retired. I did volunteer work. I teamed up with the Red Cross. Of course, the Red Cross was always there, wherever you went in the army, so that was a natural for me when I decided I wanted to get involved in volunteer services, and I started working at the local chapter here.

EE:

And I guess you've got the VA [Veterans Affairs] Hospital here and you've got Bragg not too far down the road, so it's kind of nice to be close to facilities.

FT:

Yes. Actually, I don't use them.

EE:

Well, now, you made a full career out of this. Do you think, looking back, that the army was a good place to grow your nursing skills, to have [unclear] experiences?

FT:

Yes. I felt it was an excellent place, and they gave you educational opportunities as you went along so that you could enhance your nursing skills, and I just think it was a great place to do my career in nursing.

EE:

If a young woman came to you today and said, “I'm thinking about joining the armed services,” what would you tell her? Would you tell her it's a good spot to be in?

FT:

I would tell her that it was a great idea.

EE:

You know, the role of women in the services has changed since you first went in, so much. Nurses were sort of the ones that they got access to get close to the front. Now, you've got women who are fighter pilots.

FT:

Yes, I know.

EE:

What do you think about that as a development? Do you think it's a good thing that women are not just helping those out of combat but actually engaged in combat themselves?

FT:

I think if that's what they want to do, go for it. I do.

EE:

Some people worry about readiness or abilities. In your experience, that's not an issue. It's just whatever the woman feels she's able to do.

FT:

Yes.

[Telephone rings. Tape recorder paused]

EE:

Let me ask you, because you have been so many different places in your career, and you were telling me a couple stories about folks, instances that meant a lot to you that year as a combat nurse, are there some memorable characters, just kind of people that come to mind or instances that come to mind? I'm supposed to ask of everybody, what's the funniest thing that ever happened to you? [Turner laughs.] For some people, that's a hard one. For others, they're too afraid to tell about themselves. Do you have a funny story you can share with me?

FT:

I'm trying to think. It doesn't come to me right off the top of my head. I know there were funny [unclear].

EE:

Well, I know military people are so straight-laced. They have no sense of humor. [laughter]

FT:

Where did you get that idea?

EE:

I haven't talked with anybody yet who wasn't a card. [laughter]

Do you think that the service experience made you more of an independent person than you would have been otherwise?

FT:

Yes, I think it probably did. I can't think of anything negative about my experience with a military career.

EE:

What's the biggest misconception you think that people who are not military have about people who are in the military?

FT:

I probably don't have an answer to that. I think they wouldn't share it with you if they had them, the misconceptions that they have.

EE:

Well, what do you wish people knew more about people in the military that they don't seem to—I think a lot of us, since this last couple months, have realized that we take a lot of things for granted that we shouldn't, like firemen and policemen and servicemen. But are there some other things about service life that maybe people need to know more about, need to be reminded of?

FT:

Well, if they have misconceptions about the military, for instance, if they think that because you're in the military, you feel that you have a right to take command in any situation, that's absolutely not true, because in the military, we're like other people. We work together to reach solutions to problems.

EE:

My experience has been much more teamwork in military folks than elsewhere. I mean, rather than having rank sort of confine them, I think it just makes evident the fact that everybody has to work together to get something done.

FT:

Right. Yes. Absolutely.

EE:

I'll take you back to Korea, because you had an experience in Korea which I have not talked with anybody who's had, actually been as close to the front as you have, and it's a function, I think, of the changing generation, because Korea, I thought, was somebody who worked in a field hospital who was maybe twenty miles back behind the line. And the first aid unit back in World War II, it was mainly men that were getting them back, and basically, the MASH unit comes in and does that, but it's women and men that are closer.

Is there a movie or a song that takes you back to that time in Korea that you might have heard on Armed Forces Radio where somebody had as kind of a stress-buster? Is that part of your memory of those times back then?

FT:

I can't recall.

EE:

Did you all ever have the USO [United Service Organizations] folks come up to visit you?

FT:

I'm trying to think if we did. We might have and I would have forgotten about it. I don't know. No, I don't recall it. As I say, they may have and I let it slip.

EE:

Well, it's very difficult for me to do justice to forty years, fifty years ago, sixty years ago, because a life with so many stations and so many faces that you've had the chance to share with and grow with. Has being a nurse been what you thought it was going to be?

FT:

Well, it has in some respects, where patient care, relationship with other staff members, and so forth. Maybe when I started out, I didn't realize that there were so many different areas in which you could perform nursing. It's not all confined to a hospital.

EE:

What's the quality that makes a good surgical nurse? That's a very intense specialty. What qualities make a good surgical nurse?

FT:

Well, you have to be able to, I guess, work under stressful situations, but that's true in a lot of other areas [unclear]. You have to, of course, work with the other people who are also involved, because you've got your physicians and you have the, I guess, the students.

EE:

It's a very intense focus you have to have on what you're doing at the moment, I would imagine.

FT:

Well, yes, but that's true in a lot of other situations where patient care is concerned or where medical care is concerned.

EE:

Well, I appreciate you sitting down with me this afternoon, because, like I say, I had not had a chance to talk with somebody who'd been that close in that particular conflict. Whenever I've talked to people who've been in Korea, the main thing that I get from Korea is how cold it was. You were in Korea twice. What can you tell me about your memories of just Korea as a place? What do you think of that place?

FT:

As a place? Well, it's not easy to say what you think of it as a place because of the fact that we were isolated, these units that I was in. We were pretty isolated from the Korean people, although when I was there, when there wasn't combat going on, we did have more contact with local people that way, and they all seemed very friendly and very supportive. I think they were glad they had us there, because they might have faced some very difficult situations if we weren't right there.

EE:

It's hard to believe that, I guess, to this day, there's still not a peace treaty that has ended that war, is there?

FT:

Not that I'm aware of.

EE:

They, a couple of years ago, got friendlier and had some exchanges after fifty years of people who had been separated by the war, and yet it still—was still probably the area outside of the U.S. where we had the most troops stationed, I guess, at the moment, is there at the DMZ.

FT:

Yes.

EE:

Well, thank you for your contributions there and elsewhere throughout these years.

[End of interview]