Memories of war still vivid

first_imgMillions of young Americans in uniform 75 years ago would learn about the toll of war in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific.Elaine Fletcher got her first lesson in Iowa.As an Army nurse, her service in the Pacific included stops in New Caledonia, the New Hebrides islands, New Guinea and the Philippines.But her first experience with military patients was in a hospital ward in Clinton, Iowa.“Fellows back from Guadalcanal. They were being treated for malaria,” she said. “Most of them exhibited even greater psychological need because of their experiences fighting the Japanese.“The stories of their suffering and its impact are still vivid.”On a day when the nation remembers those who lost their lives in war, the 97-year-old veteran represents a group that helped reduce the toll. Fletcher was one of 59,000 nurses who served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. That marked an impressive growth spurt: There were fewer than 1,000 Army nurses on Dec. 7, 1941, according to www.history.army.mil.Fletcher volunteered shortly after finishing nursing school.“At the time, there was a great deal of interest and eagerness to be part of what was happening. Friends were going in,” she said recently in her home near Hockinson. “I had an interest in going overseas; I don’t know why.”Their introduction to the Army included basic training. It featured long hikes, gas-mask experience, carbine training and crawling on their bellies under barbed wire, with live fire above them.Pack her helmetPacking a helmet, bedroll and mess kit, the second lieutenant and her fellow nurses boarded an ocean liner in San Francisco in mid-October and docked in New Caledonia on Nov. 4, 1943.last_img

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