Korean War Legacy Project

Janice Feagin Britton


Janice Britton, after receiving her nursing degree, was encouraged by her father to join the military towards the end of World War II. Because of her interest in flying, she wanted assignment to the U.S. Army Air Corp, but at the time, they were not accepting nurses. After basic training, she worked with psychiatric patients who today would be considered suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Still desiring to fly, she finally received orders for training as an air nurse with the U.S. Army Air Corp. She spent the remainder of World War II in Japan. After World War II, she was stationed in the United States until the Korean War broke out when she was then sent to Korea. During her service in Korea, she helped evacuate injured soldiers to station hospitals. One highlight of her service was recognition as the first female service member to cross over the 38th Parallel. After her service in Korea and honorable discharge, she taught nursing at the college level, and at the age of seventy-eight, she volunteered for the United States Peace Corps, serving in Africa for two years.

Video Clips

Duties as a Wartime Flight Nurse

Janice Briton explains her role as a flight nurse during the Korean War. She describes how they used information about the patients to place them in the plane where they would receive the best care. She details how, because there were not good places to land, they took the smaller C-46 and C-47 planes that could only hold twenty to twenty-five patients. She adds that when they were able to access better landing strips, they flew in the C-54 which could carry twenty-eight soldiers. She recalls almost being surrounded by the Chinese at the Jangin (Chosin) Reservoir and how they loaded planes as full as possible to help evacuate as many people as possible.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Chinese,Front lines,North Koreans,Weapons

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First Nurse to Fly Over the 38th Parallel

Janice Briton recalls being featured in a newspaper article as the first nurse to fly over the 38th parallel. She admits she did nothing different than other nurses, and it was just by chance she was assigned to be on this particular flight. She did not regard her job as dangerous and reflects on knowing the U.S. Marines had secured the area before her flight. She shows pride in knowing she played a role in taking injured soldiers from a bad situation to a better one. She shares she knew her job was to go as close to the front lines as safely possible to evacuate wounded soldiers.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Chinese,Food,Front lines,North Koreans,Pride

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Experiences in Korea after World War II

Janice Britton discusses her time in Japan and Korea at the end of World War II, during which she helped transport patients from Korea to the station hospital in Japan. She marvels at the progress that has been made in Korea. She comments not the changes from the first time she went there, throughout her service during the Korean War, to modern day.

Tags: Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Prior knowledge of Korea

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Making Sure Hungry Patients Had Food

Janice Briton remembers learning wounded soldiers had not eaten for a log time while waiting to evacuate wounded soldiers to Japan. She recalls going to the mess hall and telling them she needed food for her hungry patients. She remembers the mess hall did not have mess kits and how wounded soldiers used celery, with one soldier even using his toothbrush holder to eat. She recalls telling a soldier she was glad the meal was not a steak dinner since there were no knives. She recalls the soldier responding the meal was better than a steak dinner since he was so hungry.

Tags: Food,Front lines,Pride

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


I:          This is Mary Ann Sison and Doug Mansfield.  We are at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Jackson campus.  Today is February 16, 2005.  And we are interviewing Mrs. Janice Britton for the Veterans’ History Project.  Okay, Mrs. Britton.  Why don’t you tell us how you came to be involved with the military?

J:         Well after I graduated from college,



I was considering going on to get my master’s degree in nursing.  I graduated from Vanderbilt University.  And my father said Janice, your country needs you.  You’re a nurse, and you have a skill that your country needs.  And unlike most situations, my father had been in World War I, and he was a real patriot, and he believed that.  He said you’ll have an opportunity to travel, and you will meet people that you would not otherwise meet.



And that’s exactly what happened.  So, then I wanted to get in, I had a friend in the Air Force.  But at that time, the Air Force was not taking any nurses.  So, I went into the Army and did basic training at Camp Rucker near Dothan, Alabama. And that was quite an experience when we learned how to pitch a tent and wear gas masks and drill and,



and uh, military courtesy and how to wear a uniform.  And it was exciting.  There was over 100 in our class.  And uh, somehow once I got in the Service, I did enjoy it all.

I:          Okay.  Tell us about your first assignment there.

J:         After basic, we went to Camp Buckner, uh, in North Carolina near Durham.



And uh, we went by bus and train and so forth.  And of course, they all had the tickets and there were a group of us going together.  And Camp Buckner was a hospital that was enlarging.  And the first patients, I had liked psychiatric nursing.  So, I had asked and was put on psychiatric nursing.  They call it NP, Neuropsychiatric Nursing.  And uh, I, again, that was a good experience.  I uh,



learned to be the patient’s advocate.  And in several situations, I felt I was able to make things, uh, better for them.

I:          What kind of patients were you working with?

J:         Well, these were people that now uh, probably wouldn’t be hospitalized.  But the stress of battle, they were not psychotic.  They were not uh, schizophrenics or uh, manic depressive.  What’s our new word for manic depressive?



I:          Um, bi-polar.

J:         They were not bi-polar.  But they were people that had had given under stress.  And so for that reason now, they were limited to the ward.  They could go.  But by the same token, uh, they just needed to get control of themselves.  And so, uh, I made friends with them.  And I remember one of them that was telling me about his girlfriend at home.  But he was, his, he was



Getting a military uh, discharge.  But he was so aesthetic.  He got flowers for me, and he did all kind of, got uh, chocolates and so forth.  And usually, I had been trained that you didn’t take tips from patients.  But I felt for these psychiatric patients, that I would do something to their confidence in themselves, and it was just a natural thing.  So, as it worked.  As I said, I enjoyed it, and I did feel that I was



doing some good.  And so, we had a happy arrangement.

I:          So, these were guys with what we would call post-traumatic stress disorder?
J:         That’s right.  Yeah.  That’s it.

I:          So, how long did you stay there?
J:         Well, I wasn’t there very long actually.  Uh, I got transferred, I’m not sure, maybe three or four months.  And then I was transferred to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia to teach because I did have a bachelor’s degree and not,



and I think that put me in line to be a teacher.  And I was teaching Surgical Techniques to WACs.  And Fort Oglethorpe, of course, had been a Cavalry post.  And they had cleared out the stalls that were uh, where horses stayed, concrete floor and made classrooms out of them because they had hundreds of WACs there studying.  And I would have classes of 50, and we would talk about uh,



I remember classes I had on sutures and needles and so forth for surgery.  And that could be pretty dry and boring.  So, I really had to uh, figure some stretch breaks and tell jokes and so forth to keep the students awake and keep the instructors awake.

I:          I know.  Okay.

J:         But that was a spit and polish.  I remember that Officer’s Club so much.



And there were a number of the officers there that wore jodhpurs.  And it was really uh, it was an old town, a very fine Officer’s Club and a nice swimming pool.  But again, we were uh, just having fun.  I do recall that the military, because it was a training place, the military courtesy we had to wear our Signet.  We had to salute.  We had to abide by the military rules as was proper at such a place.



But we still had fun.

I:          Okay.  And from there, from your teaching assignment, you moved on.

J:         Yeah.  Then uh, well, I wanted to get into the service, into the Air Force.  I still had this Air Force in my mind.  Actually, I should say when I was in college, I took a course in flying.  But uh, my instructor, I was ready to solo,



and my instructor got called into military service, and I didn’t get to solo.  So, I never got my wings.  But that desire to fly has always been with me.  So then I asked, I made it known, I’m pretty vocal about things, I guess, assertive, and I made it known that I wanted to get in the Air Force if, when there was an opening.  So, they told me to go see a Colonel in Atlanta, see something, I mean Oglethorpe wasn’t too far from Atlanta.



So, I went in, I made an appointment.  I think I spent a week in Atlanta.  And I went to see the top lady.  Well, I wasn’t intimidated.  I knew what I wanted, and she was extremely kind.  And she said do you want to uh, she said I signed some nurses to the Air Force last week.  If I had known, I would have assigned you.  She said well, I’ll have to do that again.  And I’ll see that your name is on the list.  Do you know anybody else



that wants to go?  Well, I tried to think of the people I heard back that wanted, said they wanted to get in the Air Force, every nurse, Air Force Army Air Corps.  It was not the Air Force.  Let me correct.  It was the Army Air Corps.  And I couldn’t think of anybody much.  But at least I put the name in, and I felt good about seeing her.  I went back to Fort Oglethorpe.  And very soon I got orders to go to Drew Air Force base to the Army Air Corps.



So, in my first year in 1945, my first year in the Service, I moved around.  But I was moving in the direction I wanted to go, and that was my experience in the military.  I let it be known what I wanted, and I got it.

I:          Okay, great.  Now, you’re in the Army Air Corps.  Tell us about it.

J:         So, then I uh, do feel uh, I remember



this sprawled out hospital and the fact that we had so many mosquitos.  You know, the old military hospitals, and I think maybe there’s some around the Mississippi that are spread all out.  And you had to go from war to war.  So that was exposure to the mosquitos.  And so, we felt like we were given transfusions from the mosquitos.  But again, I can recall some patients I had there that had, um, penicillin was just coming in.



And this is a time, you see, when uh, it was the miracle drug.  And it was just a whole new thing in medicine.  In fact, physicians gave the penicillin.  But to see the results of a person that had a temperature of 106 and see how they responded so quickly from one injection of penicillin was really miraculous.  And I recall even patients realizing that they had been so near death and how awesome they felt about themselves.



Gee, I’m alive, and I almost died.  And that wasn’t on the battlefield.  That was in a bed in Tampa, Florida.  But nevertheless, the nearness to death was an awesome experience.  So, uh, I did that for a while.  And then the orders came for me to go to Flight Nurse school.  That was the next thing that I wanted to do.  And that was in Randolph Air Force base, Texas, near San Antonio.  So, I got on the train



and went to San Antonio.  And that was in August of, uh, ’45.  See, I came in the Service in March, and this was in August, and it was hot.  I mean, it was hot.  And we marched to classes, and we studied physiology and uh, physiology of flight.  And we went into uh, pressure chambers



to see how it felt to be at 1,000 feet, 5,000 feet.  And then we had to learn about administering oxygen to patients and how we cared for them and the different kind of conditions that we might have and particularly how patients with lung conditions or wounds and so forth and so on might because in those days, and this is extremely, this is a reason that was important, we did not have pressurized cabins.  And so, um,



the planes flew certainly much lower than they do now, uh, sometimes as low as three or four thousand feet.  But 5,000 feet was a pretty average cruising speed.  But then, there were times, and here in the United States I remember going to the West Coast when uh, we had to fly over the mountains.  And if there was bad weather and it was icy, uh, we had to fly higher.  And so, you know, we did.  And you just um,



had to have that oxygen.  We always thought the patients got it. Sometimes we were pretty exhausted after a flight cause we didn’t have time to take the uh, oxygen ourselves.  Whereas the pilot and all the crew members could, you see.  They could have their oxygen masks on.  But you can’t have your oxygen mask on and do too much caring for many patients.



I:          Did anyone ever

J:         So, in the training we did learn those things.  Then we went on trial, you know, we went on real flights in the central part of the states, and we had an instructor.  And so, we got to practice uh.  Another aspect of that that I should mention is watermanship and ditching.  Now, they sound funny.  And when I say ditching, I’m not talking about digging a ditch.  But I’m talking about



how you handle yourself in the water or uh, and the first course we had was on being able to handle yourself in the water.  Now, the lungs have the capacity to float if you can be relaxes.  But if you’re fighting and nervous, you will sink.  And that was it.  And I had always, I didn’t never take swimming lessons.  But I always loved the water and could float.  And so, I didn’t have any trouble with that.  And of course, you do have [INAUDIBLE], and you do have inflatable things.



But again, they may go wrong.  And sometimes you can’t get them going inflated until you can get yourself situated in the water.  So, those were again exciting, and as I say, I was young and everything for me was good.  The other course that was particularly interesting in Flight Nurse school was on survival and how to survive in the desert or survive in the [INAUDIBLE] or wherever.  And um,



those, those were uh, that would prepare us for situations that I never had encountered.  So, but nevertheless I, we, I think we were all motivated to learn because it was a possibility that that could happen.  So then after Flight Nurse school, I went back to Drew.  And then, uh, I wanted to go overseas.  And so, I let that be known.  War, VJ was 1945.



See, we had VE Day.  Roosevelt died I guess, and then we had VE Day.  And uh, so here everybody’s joyous and I am except I wanted to go overseas.  And I didn’t think that I would, they would send people overseas with air evacuation.  I was a flight nurse then and had my wings uh, after the War.  Well, that showed I didn’t know what I was worried about because



I did get sent overseas.  And we went uh, to Randolph Air Force base to what they called Staging, to prepare to go into the uh, foreign field.  And then we were sent by train to uh, to Los Angeles and then north of Los Angeles, north of San Francisco actually.



We went, we stayed at Camp Stoneman.  And from there, we got on the ship and were going to the Phillipines.  I think there were 24 flight nurses and 5,000 troops.  Well, I tell you.  The naval officers decided that they would show us around which we welcomed.  We hadn’t, I don’t know that any of us had ever been on a ship before.  And see, this was after the War.  So,



I thought of it in a way as a cook’s tour.  We went on the US Randolph.  But it was the first time they had not had troops.  And on the ship, there were a number of people that were returning to, civilians who were returning to the Phillipines.  So, we got out, were leaving the harbor.  It was the time when that, that song Harbor Lights was popular.  And I remember I got back,



back of the ship, the stern of the ship, into where I wasn’t supposed to be.  But nobody had found me, and I was enjoying myself.  And then later on I found out I was not where I was, but I watched the harbor lights fade, and I was enjoying that.  And then I went down to the stateroom, and then they began getting rough.  But uh, so everybody kind of went to bed early.  But then after that, we weren’t in rough water,



and I didn’t get uh, seasick. But the next morning, we had the news that we were gonna have to stop in Hawaii.  So, we didn’t go straight to the Phillipines.   But we were gonna stop in Hawaii because we had to let soldiers aboard.  And this was a typical military story because we got to sail and then they found, we had people that are not going to the Phillipines.  So, we have to let them.  So, we got into the Harbor in the Phillipines, and then they decided they had to pick up some cargo.



So, we had two-days leave there.  Well, we had a ball.  A couple of naval officers had decided my friend and I were nice girls, and they were both married.  But they want, in the Navy, they had been, they knew Hawaii.  They knew places to go, and they had friends there.  And they took us to their friend’s home, and we just had the nicest time playing with their children, you know.  And there was nothing like



fearsome at all about this.  We were just going on a new adventure.  So, we stayed there a couple days.  And Hilo Hattie was a person that tried to keep all people on the ship how to do the hula, you know.  And you don’t do it much with your show, they tell the story with the hands.  And I have nice movies of those.  So anyhow, after a couple days in Hawaii, then we did sail on down.  It was a nice sea, and we saw the Southern Cross Horizon Star.



And then we said it was pretty going through the Philippine Islands.  And we got up early in the morning to see the different islands.  And then we landed in Manilla.  But Manilla Harbor, uh, in fact, we had to slow down to get there.  Manilla Harbor had been so bombed during the War that the Harbor was not clear for many ships to get in.  And uh, we had to kind of wait our turn.  But uh, and we got in and



offloaded about 10:00 in the morning.  And we got, and would you know they didn’t know we were coming.  Thirty-two flight nurses on flying status going to the Phillipines, and they didn’t have any facilities for women.  So of course, our chief nurse was very concerned.  But I thought when we, so they had to make a plan.  And so, we went to, uh,



the BLQ, there weren’t a lot of really, very fancy uh, Bachelor’s offices quarters.  But they did, um, arrange something.  But at first, wait a minute.  We did have a detour.  They found, a guy had a place that was not, I don’t know if they kept prisoners, I don’t know who had stayed there.  But it was, we had a common shower, and it was really pretty rough in the first times.



I remember our solar heating system because we, if we wanted a warm shower, you took it, you know, when the sun had heated the water.  But uh, and we slept on cots and so forth and so on.  But even then, and on the ship we’d been in pretty tight quarters, too, you know, and slept in bunk beds.  But uh, what were we gonna do.  So, in the long run, we uh, couple things.



We, there were still Japanese in the Philippine Islands and didn’t know the War was over.  And once they identified them, uh, they would arrange for us to go and pick them up.  Well, none of us spoke Japanese.  And the places we had to land had almost been overgrown by the vines and the jungle.  So, I can remember on more than one occasion



the pilot would fly, circle three or four times before he decided to come down and land.  And we might pick up just three or four people.  Well, these poor Japanese were scared to death.  And they didn’t know they were going home in our.  It was such a shame.  I couldn’t say, couldn’t pat you on the back and say you’re going home.  But uh, and sometimes we hit rough weather.  Sometimes down in those tropics, you could hit turbulence in the air.  And uh,



we didn’t have any really air evacuation.  The planes were not equipped for air evacuations.  So, we just went along to accompany them and uh.  But those were short flights, usually an hour or less.  So, we did that.  And after, it was about six months before they finally decided uh, that they’d have to find a place.  Some of the nurses would go to the hospital that was at Clark Field which was about, when we went to Clark Field first.



See, we were the first women going overseas.

I:          Um hm.

J:         So, I must say the men really didn’t make over us.  And we, they expected us to dance and go to anything they had.  But we flew up to Clark Field and spent the night, and they had a dance.  But the nurses, they didn’t need any nurses there.  Ell finally by natural attrition, they did take, I think, about six of the nurses there.  And they made arrangements for some nurses to be



stationed in Okinawa and Guan and all the Pacific Islands.  But 20 of us went, 15 of us went to Japan.

I:          Um hm.

J:         And the vision was for us, and there was a General, Innis Whitehead, a four-star General.  I remember the first time I met him.  I thought I didn’t know how to, I didn’t remember military courtesy,



how you were supposed to act in the presence of a four-star general.  But I decided if I tried to be a lady, that would be the best I could do.  He had the vision of uh, of nurses being stationed to take care and move patients in peace time.

I:          Um hm.

J:         And so, that is what it ended up after we got to Japan.  Conchita Bobbitt was um, the person who was in charge of the group of us.  We went to Tokyo.



And Tokyo was really busy trying to come out from under the War, you know.  It had been heavily bombed.  But we stayed in a place that had been, it was called, we called Army Hall.  It had been quarters for the officers of the Japanese Army.  And uh, we had nice rooms and showers, and they’d fixed it up so we had a nice dining room.  There was a chapel there.  I have a bulletin from the Easter service I went to in Meji Chapel in Army Hall.



And so, here I was in this foreign land on Christian nation.  But I was in an American, uh, quarters that Americans had provided.  But again, how are we gonna fly?  This is in Tokyo.  So then arrangements were finally made for us to go to a town named Tachikawa.  And that’s what I have a number of pictures of.  And that was the Headquarters.



We actually worked in the hospital.  But now, this was 1946.  And uh, we moved patients from a hospital in Korea because the history is that Japan had occupied Korea and Manchuria.  And after the occupation, after the Japanese surrendered, those countries were supposed to be guided back into their own way of life.


But they, the whole structure of the land had been so destroyed that we were trying to help them, and there’s a word that doesn’t come to mind of our official status in the land.  But we weren’t occupying the land.  It wasn’t, we were in the uh, in uh, Japan.  We were in the Army of Occupation.



But that was not true in Korea.  But nevertheless, the Koreans did not understand why we were there.  And we were really not very well welcomed.  But uh, there was a large Army hospital, and we moved patients from that hospital.  They had to be driven over very country muddy or dusty roads into Seoul.  It was about a two-hour



ride on the bus for the patients to come.  And we had to get a weather clearance in the morning to fly before we called, and we had a terrible telephone. But we yelled and through many relays, we telephoned that we were gonna fly.  So, the patients then were loaded into the uh, ambulances or the big buses and gotten on the road and gotten to us.



And then we flew them from Kimpo Air Base which is near Seoul, Korea, into Tachikawa, Japan.  And that was about a 2 ½ hour flight.  So, the bus trip, the surface trip was almost as much as the, timewise, as the flight.  But they changed countries.  And of course, we’re in an entirely different environment in the hospital



where they had better medical care and beds with mattresses and qualified uh, specialists and so forth to care for them.  So, that’s what we did, uh.  Those flights were made according to the need.  But at least every weekend it was enough for us to stay on flying status.  But we also had a nice time at the hospital where we worked.



There was about 150 bed-stationed hospital.  And we kept the patients with appendicitis and uh, some common, ordinary illnesses uh.  And we had, uh, an interesting group of medics.  And we used to have a little martini club in the afternoon at 4:00.  But I think sometimes after drink, I could get more business done with the supply officer and this and that.



But then I could try to contact him with a lot of requisitions, you know and do it the official way.  But uh, I had some nice memories of.  And Tachikawa is close enough to Mt. Fujiyama that we could see, we could see the snow come down.  July and August are the months of the year for climbing the mountain.


And I did climb the mountain while I was there.

I:          Hm.
J:         But uh, the uh, beauty of the land because uh, out in the countryside, it hadn’t been bombed, and you saw less of, and Japanese are very neat.  And of course, it’s a heavily populated land.  And I always said they manicured it because you just didn’t have any countryside like you drive, like I drove through today.  But nevertheless,



it was not messy, and people took care of their own places.  And uh, I remember the people in Japan seeing them walk on those shoes, and they’re like stilts, you know, the wooden sandals they wear.  And uh, with the kimonos and the obis and so forth.  But in Korea, I don’t remember studying about Korea.  The first trip I made to Korea and saw these people with these stove pipe hats and, see Korea had been



Isolated from the world in a way that Japan hadn’t been. And they really and truly, uh, it’s interesting in the 50 years to realize how they have, you know, so much a part of the [INAUDIBLE] world today, and they make so much computer equipment and the cars and things they make there now in South Korea.  But uh, it was certainly not that way.  After my, I was overseas two years.



And then we came back by ship, back to uh, to San Francisco.  And uh, then I came back home for leave and, my friend and I, my friend Ellen Adams, had enjoyed each other so much.  She was from North Dakota, and I was from uh, Mobile, Bay Minette, Alabama.  That’s where my mother lived.



My father was in Montgomery, Alabama.  They were divorced.  And so, we were either gonna be in Alabama, uh, or North Dakota.  We wanted to be stationed together.  Well, we got to be stationed in Elgin Air Force Base in Florida.  And when she first saw the beautiful sands, she said they looked like snow.  So, then I was stationed at Elgin for a couple years.



For about a year and a half.  And Elgin again was a station hospital. And we uh, one of the interesting things that nurses do in a place like that is uh, most of us were single and dating.  And so, we’d work 12 hours night shift.  And then we had a day shift and an evening shift which would be uh,



sometimes we’d have a split day.  We’d work in the morning from seven till ten and then the afternoon from 3:30 to 7:00, so we’d have more free evenings.  And there’s nothing spectacular about that assignment.  But somehow, I still wanted to be in flight nursing.  And I asked to be transferred to the School of Aviation Medicine where I had learned flight nursing.



And I got that assignment.  So, I went back to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.  And I was there. And when the Korean War, when the North Korans invaded the South Koreans, at least I knew where Korea was.  And in truth, a lot of people did not know where Korea was.  And I felt I’m very secure because they’ll need a lot more flight nurses



And technicians.  I was helping train air medical technicians.  But I was wrong because this friend and I had planned to go to, we had orders.  We were going from Berkley to Mexico City believe.  And instead, we went to Korea.



And they needed us in Korea.  They really did.  Uh, we had not been prepared, you know.  There was a lot of discussion, and people called it Truman’s War, and we didn’t know what we were doing, and we had underestimated the North Koreans and the whole situation.  So, we got ourselves into something that we weren’t prepared for.  But as Rumsfeld says now, you do,



when you go to war with what you got.  But because the group that I had been with had really been deactivated almost after we were there.  And they were mainly in the Phillipines.  So, as soon as the Korean crisis came, and we did call it a crisis, uh, they sent the squadron



and the few nurses that were with it back to Tachikawa.  But they also needed other people.  And so, uh, when I got back to Japan, then I was immediately assigned to a southern island of Japan, and you can, I’ve got a map there that kind of shows clearly to Isiha which was just one island from the southern tip of Korea.



And so, that was the quickest way to get because actually, the fighting, that was the tip of a peninsula where the fighting was and where we almost got pushed off the peninsula.  So uh, that was, made it a busy place.  And so, I was stationed down there.

I:          What’d you do there?
J:         Well, uh, we flew



for the night and day.  I kind of described we’d have a 5:00 wake up, and then we’d have breakfast, and then we’d go down to the line, we’d be in the line at 6:00 uh, for 7:00 take off.  But uh, we could fly, there were a lot of planes going to Korea taking supplies.



This was when cargo, when General Turner said 50 years ago.  Time magazine featured him on the cover.  He had been with the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift, and we can fly anything anywhere, anytime.  And so, that meant that they could get the ammunition, the gas, the food supplies, the clothing.  Whatever the troops needed, we could get them there by air.  So, that means the train, the planes, the Navy and so forth had a different role.



So, we were a part of that combat cargo.  There were a lot of planes going over, but there were not many planes that were equipped special for air evacuation.  Well, General Turner got there to Japan about the time I did.  And by the time they got things organized, and he had appointed to General Allen Smith to be head of the Medical Air Evacuation Squadron.



And those two things got things going for the system to evacuate patients by air because formerly, even in Korea where there weren’t very much rail, the Army had claimed a lot of the transporting patients.  So, history books do show that there was some battle between the Army and the Air Force for the, and the Air Corps for the evacuation of patients.



But uh, and again, one of the articles later, before I left in the second tour, uh, the President of the American Medical Society came, and the death rate was reduced so greatly from World War II to Korea by that more people were evacuated by air.  And the quicker you get a wounded person, and MASH was a part of that.  Now, we evacuated patients from MASH.



And sometimes the helicopters would bring the patients into the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and they would just be treated briefly, and then they would be put on airplanes.  So, there was a lot of variance in the kinds of planes in the early days because I was there, this time I went over in the uh, I went over on September, in September of 1950.  And the second time, I was there only



10 months.  I was there until June of ’51.  But that was the early days and when things were being set up because uh, and caring for the loads of wounded people were quite different than the loads we had had before of the sick people



from the hospital.  So uh, we uh, a nurse was assigned to a technician.  And I can’t paise the technician too highly because they uh, they helped with all kinds of things and lifting.  I guess it would be appropriate for me to talk a little bit about what you do as a flight nurse is when patients are brought aboard.  Number one, they have them, they don’t



Have a real medical record.  But they have a sheet.  And we usually had like a uh, we called it a manifest with the list of the people that were gonna be evacuated and what was their diagnosis and maybe something they needed, oxygen or they were getting intravenous, or they had a cast on or some of that sort of thing.  And so, uh, then we’d try to position them in the plane so we could care for them.  The patients with casts, you know, if they had a heavy leg cast,



We’d put them on the floor and then other patients.  Or if they had something out their right side, we’d put them on the left, and we tried to arrange them as, so the plane then after it had taken, its cargo had been taken out, the plane had straps to uh, fasten the uh, stretchers, or they had bucket seats so that you could get the patient, and we had a number of ambulatory patients uh.



Sometimes psychiatric patients would be uh, accommodated as ambulatory patients.  And on occasion, we had a person who was just afraid to fly. And so, if you gave them a sedative so we could help them relax.  And although it wasn’t a long flight, you know, if you’re in pain and if you’re gasping for air, 2 ½ hours can be a long flight.  But, so we had, in those, we were flying in the early days.



And we, because the air strips in Korea were so poor that the larger planes couldn’t land.  So, we were flying in C46s and C47s.  And anytime you want me to stop this, I can.  Uh, so those patients, we’d carry 20 or 25 patients.  But then when we were gonna have the heavier C54, that was a four-engine plane that could carry uh, 30,



28, I believe was the specified number.  But when we were almost surrounded by the Chinese in the incident that they called the Chosin Reservoir, we took anybody we could get in the plane.  So, we had patients strapped down to the aisle, in the aisle where the aisle had been.  And uh, there were patients then when we, flight nurses and flight,



and air medical technicians flew separate from each other because we were trying to get as many people out as we could.  And of course, we did.  And for that special work, we got special uh, presidential citations and some uh, some medals.



Then uh, as things got a bit more organized and we pushed them back uh, and reached, well we took Kimpo which the North Koreans had taken.  And then we went North of the 38th Parallel, and one of the headlines in one of the Air Force papers said



I was the first nurse to fly across the 38th Parallel.  And it only happened, that was my assignment.  It wasn’t that I did anything any different than any other nurse.  It just happened that that was my, my day to fly and they decided to fly and to uh, we knew that the Marines had secured the place.



And there were no patients to be picked up that day. But then later, there were many patients to be picked up.  But, we, but by this time, there were some station hospitals in Korea.  So then, we might move them from the fighting area to the station hospital.  And some of them were returned to duty.  And particularly at the time of the Chosen Reservoir, there were sometimes when the fighting



was so intense and as you recall, MacArthur’s headquarters and they had not figured the Chinese were as massive as they were and that they were coming in and we were unprepared for there, although they had been secretly coming into the country, and there was a lot of discretion in military history about who knew and who didn’t know and who made errors and so forth.  But uh, the truth was that uh, we had,



we got into, our attempt was to get as far as they could possibly safely go and pick up patients to bring them back to a safer area.  And that’s why I always thought I had such a good job because I was taking wounded people from a bad situation to a better situation, and I never saw my job as being one that was hazardous.  I thought it as being one that was needed and that we were doing a good job.



I remember one time uh, things were getting organized and uh, I’d flown over.  There were two of us flew over together.  But one flew with the patients that were waiting. And there were more patients than there were planes to take them back to Japan.  So, we were waiting, and I said to the guys when did ya’ll last eat?  Well, they hadn’t eaten in a long while.



So, I thought I gotta do something about this.  So, I said, some of y’all are ambulatory, and some of them were on stretchers.  Just out there on the ground and landing field.  So, we walked up to the mess hall, and we walked in and number one, everybody looked because the women.  It’s kind of no woman’s, no, it’s in no man’s land.  So, I said is the Mess Officer here?  So, the Mess Sergeant said no, but can I help you?  And I said,



well, I’ve got some hungry patients over here.  I wondered if you could fee them.  Oh, they were happy to feed them.  But they didn’t have any mess kits, uh.  They didn’t have any extra mess kits for these patients.  Well, these patients didn’t have any mess kits either.  So uh, one of my, I heard somebody say well, I’ve got an extra mess kit.  And I said well, they decided to get some food together.



And we’ll just see.  And they found enough containers to take food to them, and they uh, had thermoses.  We had some thermos bottles of water and coffee when we got fresh coffee and fresh water.  And uh, they used celery, and one of them used his toothbrush holder to scoop his food up, you know.  They were hungry enough.  And I’ve forgotten what we had.  But it was not very often.  And I said I sure am glad that this wasn’t a steak dinner



cause we didn’t have any knives to cut it.  And one of the guys said, piped up and he said ma’am, this is better than a steak dinner because I was so hungry.  So, that’s a nice kind of a memory, and then eventually the plane did come, and we did get them back safely.  I never lose a patient.  And in flight, I had some very critically ill patients and some that I was very happy when we landed.  And I would like to say that the pilots were always very



accommodating in trying.  They were always interested in what they uh, could do to make the fight comfortable.  And they always tried to make it safe as, as uh, as smooth a landing as they could and to fly as low as they could and uh, so, it was a team effort.  And when we were in difficulty, I never figured that the cockpit was mine.  The cabin was mine,



but not the cockpit.  And so, I didn’t worry about what went on in there.  And there were times when we had emergency landing.  And one of the pilots, I guess, this was in my first tour of duty if I can jump back to that.  We were making an emergency landing.  And they had taught us in Flight Nursing school not to get excited, to act as normal as we could.  So, I was putting on my cap and



putting on my lipstick and trying, you know, we were gonna land.  And the pilot said, he looked back to see what was going on, and he said that, my maiden name was Feagin.  He said I was scared to death.  So, he had been in World War II, and he was still there, had not rotated back to the States, and he was war weary, and I was scared to death.  We were landing on one engine.  I looked back, and Feagin was putting on her lipstick.



And he just couldn’t quite get over that.  But then I didn’t have any of that kind of experience in my second tour.  And it did seem to go quickly because we were very busy.  And in between, we did get some R & R, and I had some trips to go to places in Japan, and it was a pretty country.



And they had rebuilt a lot.  And uh, so I uh, but then as I mentioned, the President of the American Medical Association was out.  They came on this inspection tour, and it happened that they were on my flight, some of the big important, big wigs were on my flight.  And I was so impressed.  They talked with the patients



and got the patient’s story.  And of course, the patients, we were psychologically, an airplane taking you away was a psychological thing.  People could be depressed and feel a lot better when somebody came.  And so, they were, again that impressed them about what we were doing in terms of not only for the mental health as well as physical health.  Well, along with that inspection crew was a person who was again, the Commander of the School of Aviation Medicine



which had moved from Randolph Air Force Base to Gunter in Montgomery, Alabama, my home town, my birthplace.  And did I want to go back to Gunter.  Well, yes, I did.  And the theory was that I had battle experience, and I could go and teach which was plausible to me because the routine duty, our tour of duty, you see, was two years.  So, I came home in 10 months.



Well again, I was very happy to come back as I said, and it completed my time.  And uh, I enjoyed teaching at Gunter.  And when you go to Gunter now, there’s not enough flight line up there.  It’s an adjunct to Maxwell.  But we were a part of the school of, we were part of Air University back then.  And somewhere in my career, I did have some courses with Air University



in which we had college professors teach.  I never did get college credit for that.  But they were good experiences such as courses in map reading and uh, weather and meteorology.  I remember uh, and those courses uh, are lifelong, lifetime courses, you know.  So, I came out of the Air Force after eight years.  I met my future husband at Maxwell Staff and Command School,



and we were married at Gunter Air Force Base chapel in a real wedding.  And uh, I was in the Service for eight years.  And I asked to be discharged, and I was.

I:          Um hm.  What a great story.  Would you explain some of these photographs for us?  I’ll get them for you.



You’re wired.  I’ll get it for you.  You sit down.  You can’t go too far with being hooked up.  Let’s see.  Tell us about this picture. You can stand up.

J:         This is a picture, this is our flight nurse kit that had bandages and syringes and uh,



morphine syrettes, and the medications and so forth that I needed.  This is the uh, oxygen tank because we were flying in an unpressurized cabin, and we had oxygen from this tank that we administered to my, through masks.  And this is a blanket.  We had a bag of blankets.  And this, and I didn’t mention it, we used funny books and magazines.  And I had a friend who sent those to me during the Korean War



and they were like five-dollar bills to give them to the troops because they were so hungry, and they’re icons of the USA.  And so, that was my bag of magazines.  And as you see, we didn’t have any, we had to climb up.  Now, when patients were brought aboard, they lifted them up.  Also, if there was an ambulatory patient sometimes, they had to climb up those. But, usually they had a ramp.



And I can show you a ramp if you want to see it.

I:          Let’s stop there.

J:         The hat I bought in China when I was on leave.  I got a leave on Thanksgiving Day, 1947.  I flew from Okinawa to Shanghai because I knew there were Arny nurses I could stay with, and I was there.  And when I was, I spent a month in China, and I bought that hat.



And it is nice and warm and has an insignia in Chinese inside.  And when I came home in 1948, Golden Gate in ’48, uh, I didn’t need that hat, and I didn’t know what to do with it.  But when I went back to Korea in 1950 and wintertime was coming, I said mother, send me my hat.  And she did.  And everybody was envious of my hat.



I:          But we were fighting the Chinese then.

J:         And then, see, we didn’t know who we were fighting at first.  And one of these I believe will go with the story.  I believe we were flying in a C54. And uh, I’m not sure quite where we’re going.  But you see we had a lot of stretcher patients.  And the, the uh,



stretchers are tied down into the floor here. And they’re really quite secure.  They had brackets along the wall.  And when we had to, there were times when we’d put litters in here.  But I’m sitting on a blanket, uh.  We always carried extra blankets.  And I believe that’s what I’m sitting on.  And this is the cabin of the plane.  The background there is the cabin of the plane.



And people enjoyed it because if they’d been fighting, they hadn’t seen any kind of news for a long while.  And even prisoners of War [INAUDIBLE] looked at them upside down.  This is the way that uh, we got patients on and off the plane with this kind of uh,



Ramp.  And the C54 of course is high enough that you need some help.  And very soon, they got the uh, the automatic lifters.  But we had a lot of patients that were moved on and off the plane by this truck and the extra ramp they had.



As you see, the uh, these people had blankets around them.  These are Chinese prisoners of war.  And I must say that uh, that was a humane thing to do, although we didn’t have a lot of extra air space.  We did evacuate and try to do the best we could in caring for prisoners of war, even though our doctors were pretty busy caring for our own people.  But uh,



The stories were that at night, uh, they, they would count the prisoners that they had.  And in the morning, there would be more prisoners than were at night because they felt defeated being a prisoner of the USA was better of being a prisoner of the Russians or the North Koreans.  So uh,

I:          So, they actually came to you guys.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Is that

J:         Yeah, that’s one of them.

I:          You want to put this in?



J:         And it’s interesting how you communicate.  Although you don’t say the language, somehow you can usually uh, do things that show your compassion.  And here I am with some, and these prisoners are on stretchers.  They didn’t always have stretchers.  But you see the one here with the head wound?  And uh,



we did try to keep them from pain and uh, I remember on occasion there were maggots in some of their wounds because they hadn’t been dressed.  So, you did what you could to uh, take care of them.  And they were evacuated then.  They would be evacuated from Northern Korea to further south to an area where they were detained.  I don’t believe any of the, to my knowledge,



Any of the Korean prisoners ever came to Japan.  Okay.  Uh, as I said, the 801st Air Backs, Medical Air Back Squadron first originated in crisis in the South Pacific.  And at that time, uh, Walt Disney from the Disney Studios in California designed this logo.



And so, the 801st claimed it.  And we still, and we have an 801st uh, group now that meet together every few years and we use this Walt Disney logo.

MALE VOICE:  Okay, just hold it down, try to get that on there.  Okay, go ahead.

I:          Okay. You want to tell us about it?



Go ahead, you can talk now.

J:         Okay.  I was really flattered with this Air University sheet that said First Nurse to Cross 38th Parallel.  Again, that was my duty to do it.  It just happened that I was assigned to go uh, and uh, I remember we weren’t sure whether it was in uh, our hands of when, but we felt that the Marines had uh,



we knew that the Marines had secured it at the airfield.  But we didn’t see any smoke of battle.  And so, we landed.  But there were not many patients that day to be picked up.

MALE:  Okay.

J:         And flying north of the 38th Parallel was no different than flying south of the 38th Parallel.  You looked down, and everything looked about the same.  A lot of waiting for troops.  And while we did,



We decided that we would eat.  And it was cold weather.  And there was some coals from a fire.  And so, we were able to heat our C-rations.  And when we opened them, we had sausage, and one of the persons in the group, as it turned out, we were sitting around eating, was from Mississippi.  And he said he sure did wish it was hog killing time.  We started to talking



about cold weather and in the old days, they made uh, sausage and cured hams or started to cure hams when the cold weather came, they killed the pigs to make the sausage.  And so, because we were in cold weather and the Mississippian and I were talking.  We remembered the days of hog killing back in Mississippi in our, in our youths.