Okay, why do I keep writing about nurses? Yes, it’s a mystery unless you know why I became a nurse. Anyhow, I’m writing about a WW II Navy Nurse on a hospital ship, The USS Solace, because the majority of the war nurses stories died in history’s shadows for years. By the time Elizabeth Norman and other writers tried to find them for interviews, many had died. These nurses told the writers, “No one ever asked what I did in the war.” There is a cool article on the internet about the USS Solace, aka, The Great White Ship, written by a war nurse’s relative who found her pictures and notes in the attic. He published them wishing he’d had a chance to talk to her about her service.
WWII created an acute civilian nursing crisis because women wanted to serve their country too. There was a bill introduced near the end of the war to draft nurses because the surrenders took longer than expected. Thousands of nurses served on or near the front lines. The draft bill did not come up for a vote. After the war, these amazing war nurses were supposed to ignore the fact that they’d been doing advanced practice for years, and return to the same-old-tired routines. It’s hard to forget you went from being a handmaiden to starting IVs, giving anesthesia and blood, suturing wounds, and doing minor surgery. Yet, the majority did.
They were so silent that decades later this would happen to me: An old battle-ax head nurse told me to give up my chair to a doctor. I said, “I have a college degree.”
She said, “I can fire you.”
I want to tell the war nurses’ stories through fiction. But if you want to read their stories here are a few good books.