It was inevitable that the U.S. entered World War II. President Roosevelt knew it, so he ran for a third term in 1940. He wanted to be at the helm, believing he was the obvious one to lead this country. He already had eight years working with world leaders. How long would it take for someone else to get up to speed?
Another war. Soldiers, bravery, horrid injuries, death. The women who stand out in World War II are again, the nurses. “Nurses consistently rank at the top of the country’s most trusted professionals,” was reported by CNN during the celebration of National Nurses Week, ending on May 12, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday.
The Historical Society can find no Fairview women who served as nurses during that war, but not too many years ago during the Memorial Weekend Open House, JoAnne Davis spoke at the Sturgeon House and shared her experiences as a nurse in WWII. We will claim her as a Fairview resident for this retelling of her memories.
JoAnne had been working as a nurse prior to the start of the war. Answering the call she joined the Army Nurse Corps. First she was assigned to a military hospital in San Diego then sent on to the Pacific Theater of War. She landed in Guam. The hospital there was a temporary structure in an open field. She lived in a tent with no windows. Bugs and lizards came in and out at will. The nurses slept in double-decker bunks and malaria was a frequent complaint.
She later learned that the whole operation had been set up in 57 days… warehouses, housing, operating rooms, recovery rooms, etc. Actually, the wounded were kept in Quonset huts. They were flown in by helicopter within hours after the battle in which their wound was inflicted.
The nurses saw everything, every type of wound. Only one was sent back to the States “because she couldn’t’ take it,” JoAnne said.
(Here’s a note: though not generally known, many nurses suffered PTSD after World War II. Their secret suffering was hidden just as much as that of the soldiers who fought and saw more hideous scenes than anyone should ever see.)
JoAnne’s hospital worked around the clock, even treating Japanese prisoners. For those few brief free times she and other nurses had, they either visited the beaches or the officers’ club.
We would be remiss not to mention a couple of ladies who told us of their homefront service during this war. Men and women both volunteered for the Civil Defense Corps. They patrolled the streets at night as Air Raid Wardens making sure that all windows were covered and that no planes flying overhead could see light on the ground and possibly bomb it. Others worked in pairs to watch the skies in the daytime to identify all planes that flew over. They were trained as “spotters” for this purpose and were ready with a phone number they could call to report enemy (or other unusual) planes. This program had 500,000 volunteers at various observations points across the U.S. and 12,000 more at information points.
We know of two women who worked as spotters through the war. They were Esther Hetz and Ruby Cobb; both women were volunteers in many other areas of the community’s wellbeing as well. As volunteers they were steadfast in their assignment no matter the weather. When asked about this work Ruby said that not too many planes flew over Fairview (at all). “So to pass the time we played a lot of cards.” Nevertheless, they were there and ready if an enemy plane should appear. (Esther is left, Ruby is right.)
The war inserted itself into every aspect of home and family. Meals changed when many foods were rationed. Women became the head of households when their husbands went off to war. They learned skills for jobs that never would have been open to them had there not been a great need for workers. Because there was such a need, women came forward.
Simply said, women were outstanding in World War II.