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"We would cry, but no one would be angry enough or disgusted enough [to give it up]." (Audio interview, 20:27)

   Evelyn Kowalchuk
Collection image
Evelyn Kowalchuk at time of interview
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: 818th Squadron
Service Location: England; Normandy, France
Rank: First Lieutenant
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First Lieutenant Evelyn Kowalchuk’s mother so strongly opposed her daughter’s military service that she ripped up all of her applications to the various service branches. Sidestepping her mother and persevering, she was accepted by the Army Nurse Corps as a flight nurse. Stationed in England, she cared for patients as they were ferried by plane from the Normandy beaches. It was a particularly difficult position to be in as a nurse--providing a personal touch to patients during the short flight to England, and then never seeing them again after they reached the ground. While she and her fellow flight nurses were "bound together" by the horror of what they observed, they were also scarred: she was haunted by post-war nightmares, and more than one flight nurse she knew committed suicide after they returned home.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (4 clips)
»Audio Interview 
Download: audio (106 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (4 items)
Started applying to various service branches, and receiving no response; learning that her mother was ripping up the applications; mother believed service was for the boys; post-war, her mother had no tolerance for post-traumatic stress disorder. (02:31) Staying overnight in a foxhole or in the plane; hearing sounds of battle nearby; initially talking about what they saw, but then discussion stopped; nurses only left to get married. (01:52) Making trip to Normandy three or four times a day; typical flight across the Channel; cabins weren’t pressurized; dealing with patients who vomited. (03:39)
Talking to soldiers who had received Dear John letters, and didn’t want to go home; soldiers who showed pictures of wives or girlfriends; patient asking her not to let him die; her work made her feel useful, like she offered a personal touch; never saw patients after landing. (02:48)  

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  October 26, 2011
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