Skip Navigation and Jump to Page Content    The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center  
Veterans History Project (Library of Congress) ABOUT  
SEARCH/BROWSE  
HELP  
COPYRIGHT  
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Jeannette Marshall [Undated]

Ruth F. Stewart:

Jeannette, start by telling us about your early life. Where were your born and where you went from there.

Jeannette Marshall:

Well, I was born in Sheraton, Wyoming, way up in the coal country, and at 10 I went to California, had my education mostly there. And I trained at Saint Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles, and with the Sisters of Charity there, and had a good training in Los Angeles College. So I came out with a 3-year degree. And, let's see, I did private duty and general duty, and then I had an early marriage and was married for 10 years. And that failed. Why, I jumped into the Air Force at the last minute because I was getting to the terminating age. I was 37, but at that time they were taking people after 35 because of the Korea conflict.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What year was that?

Jeannette Marshall:

1952.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Jeannette Marshall:

And I went in in September of '52 at Bergstrom, Texas, and I went to flight school soon after, and then my first assignment was Japan. And I flew air evac from Korea to Japan during that time - 2 years of flight. I had a thousand hours in un pressurized planes, which accounts for my deafness. Let's see, and during that time the most interesting flight I had was one to Vietnam where we took out the French. I don't think many people now realize that the French were trying to protect Vietnam, too, and I took the first load out. It was about 104 patients, all litter, and mostly amputees, and we took them to the Philippines, at RON in the Philippines one night and then went on to Japan, which they were picked up from the state side air evac group then. But that was on interesting flight because I couldn't speak French, nor could they speak English, but they were so delighted to get out of the country that anything would've passed as a language. And they couldn't understand why we didn't have wine for them. They drank up everything we had on the plane as is was. And it was a very interesting flight. We had French nurses and doctors along on the trip, so that alleviated some of the problems. And the rest of the time I was taking the wounded out of Korea back to Japan. Those were always interesting flights. And our planes were pretty crude compared to the air evac planes now, but we managed. And, let's see, from there I --

Ruth F. Stewart:

Before we go on Jean, about telling us about your life in Korea? How did you live? What did you eat? Did you have any-

Jeannette Marshall:

We had Kwanzaa fests. And we had a potbellied stove, and we had a Westinghouse electric oven. And when Sigmund Reed left the electricity on we could bake things. But often we'd start a cake, and the electricity would go off, but we'd leave the cake in the Westinghouse oven and it would eventually bake. So we had some very interesting meals, to say the least. We also had a fire, was it K14, and the Koreans were lined up against the fence because they thought they were going to be able to confiscate some of the materials, like refrigerators and, I don't know what they would do with them because their electricity didn't work as good as ours. But we had papers all over the side of the mountain from that fire, and trying to assemble that and get is back into shape was a real chore, and quite an excitement, I guess, for everybody concerned. We had two nurses that were stayed there temporarily. We rotated, and then the other girls would fly in and we'd rotate, and the others would take them out. So that was the program there. And in Japan we flew as far as Guam and the Philippines and Iwo Jima and Northern Japan and Southern Japan. When I first got to Japan the interesting thing was they changed the script, the money, and took all our script and said they would reissue the money. And then they assigned me to go to Southern Japan. And I flew down there and was met by a Japanese man that drove me to the base. And it was in the middle of the night. And he stopped the jeep and got out, and I didn't know what in the world for. It was about 12 or 1 o'clock in the night, and here I have no money and I'm off in a foreign country, and I didn't know what in the world to think or to do, but he was just relieving himself and he hopped back in the jeep and on we went. Nothing damaged, except my pride, I guess. Let me see, that's about all the interesting things there. I did meet my husband --

Jeannette Marshall:

What?

Jeannette Marshall:

No. We had on base housing, and that was Kwanzaa that dressed up pretty well. Pretty comfortable. And the nurses had one of the bigger ones on the base. And we had nurses that were stationed at various places, but the headquarters were attached to Kawaa as far as air evac was concerned. And we kept a bridge game going all the time, 24-hours a day, because there were nurses coming in and out, and they were always in force and waiting, so that was our interesting past time. And we had a very lively club at Kawaa, and so our social life was active. And that's where I met my husband, which I later married after I got back to the states. And I went back to California, stationed at Edwards, and was there two and half years. And my husband and I got married while I was there. You want me to go on?

Ruth F. Stewart:

What were you doing at Edwards then?

Jeannette Marshall:

I was the ward nurse at Edwards.

Jeannette Marshall:

general medical ward. And then from there I went to Germany, and I was stationed at Rheinland, and my husband was base commander at Eaglestock, which was 90 miles away. And no autobahn. And it was down in the heart of the mountain, and when you went back and forth you got behind a huge laurie, as they called them, or truck, and you went their pace. So it took about three hours to make that 90 miles. And it was a drudge, but we managed it. Then we transferred to Ramstein, and we got to live together then. So we finished out our German assignment, and then were sent to California. And then my husband retired. And he had had 27 years in the Air Force, and having been born in Belfast, he never wanted to go back to the British Isles, and he never had an assignment in Texas, and he had 27 years in the Air Force. As soon as he retired, I was assigned to Wilford Hall, and from there I went to Lakenheath, England. And he became a camp-follower anyway. And from there I finished up my career in England, and came back for retirement in San Antonio where we had built a home and have lived here ever since. My husband passed away in '77 and we had built a house right next to the Air Force Village, and watched them build it, and said, "We'll never go in there where all those old folks are going to live." And here I am, a resident and happy to be here.

Jeannette Marshall:

Yes, I like it. I like the security and the safety and the friendship.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Tell us a little more about how your nursing career went throughout all of the this. Your started out as a fight nurse and then --

Jeannette Marshall:

I started out as a flight nurse and then, let's see, a ward, and then I went into clinic work. And I was very fond of the clinic work. In fact, one of my clinic nurses was Diane Hail, who's a general retired and was in charge of the Air Force Nurse Corps at one time, and, you know, a delightful person. She's been out to see me several times. Let's see, from there I went to - when I went to England I was assistant director and the director was Lee Williams, who also was a personal friend of mine. We decided that if our friendship lasted through that assignment, why we really had a true one. We got along fine, and then Mary Burns came after Lee William retired and I worked with her, so I finished up as assistant director of nursing at Lakenheath.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Jean, tell us a little bit about some of the challenges you had from the medical side of things. You mentioned that the cabins were not pressurized in the aircraft, but what other limitations did you experience?

Jeannette Marshall:

Well, there were limitations in carrying the litters on the airplane, because if you had a full load it's hard to get four litters stacked. They had very little space in between, so you had to make allowances for feeding and returning, or positions that had to be changed. And you did a lot of improvising. And it was real tricky. I brought two boys up from Aichi, Japan, which is South Japan, up to Tachi that had swimming accidents. They'd broken their necks, and they had weights on. You know - traction. And we had to sit on the floor and hold the sandbags while we took off so the sandbags wouldn't swing and distort the traction on their necks. And that was exciting because you knew their life was in your hands. And - I can't think of things. I will tomorrow, think of more exciting things.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Did you always feel like you had sufficient medicine and equipment wherever you were stationed?

Jeannette Marshall:

It was amazing. If you didn't have it, you made do. And it was outstanding the way you could work out things. And the corpsmen were marvelous to help. They were well trained in those days and you couldn't do without them. You know, they just, they were your right hand practically. And we had everything in that small medical kit. All the kind of bandages and immediate medical attention that we could, well that we were authorized to give, or if there was anything special they would send it with the patient. And we had transfusions going, and IV's going. And we had to learn to get one going if it clogged up. And so you learned a lot fast. Sometimes without any help or guidance, sort of on your own. But it was worth every bit of it. It was very rewarding.

Jeannette Marshall:

Yes, I think so.

Jeannette Marshall:

I was sorry to get in so late. But better late than never. They kept telling me in personnel that they had to get me out when I was 55. Well, okay, 55 came and they extended me the 2 years to make up for the 20, I guess.

Jeannette Marshall:

Yes. It certainly was. Pension wise and satisfaction of having fulfilled the 20 years, too.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Did you ever feel any sort of discrimination or feel like you were treated as not quite a member of the team?

Jeannette Marshall:

You mean the Air Force team?

Ruth F. Stewart:

Yes.

Jeannette Marshall:

No. I think we were recognized. Like the flight crews were especially attentive and courteous to us in air evac, and the doctors and medical team were always, I think generally speaking, receptive to the nurses and helpful. And it wasn't an alien service like it seems to be now. They, you know, don't work together like teams. They have all separated into different groups now. And I don't know about the military, you know, how it works up there, but I know they have beautiful equipment in some of the newer planes. Not recently, but 5 or 10 years ago I saw how well equipped they were compared to ours. But I think we helped them learn what they needed.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Right. I know you did. You paved the path for many women.

Jeannette Marshall:

We weren't aware of it.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Were there numerous incidents throughout your career that you laugh about now?

Jeannette Marshall:

Oh, I'm sure there were. We had lots of good things happen, you know. We'd write up fake histories for a flight. I remember our last fight in Japan we wrote up a pseudo history on make believe patients and turned it into the office, and put them in a tizzy because they couldn't understand what had happened to the patients. But it was our farewell gesture and it was fun. And another thing, in England when anybody retired the thing to do was to rent a Rolls Royce limo for the event, and that was always a big do.

Jeannette Marshall:

Yeah, we saw several retire over there, so we took advantage of that pleasure.

Ruth F. Stewart:

When you came back to San Antonio here in your retirement, did you --

Jeannette Marshall:

I took retirement here yeah.

Ruth F. Stewart:

-- did you work as a nurse anyplace after that?

Jeannette Marshall:

Not after I got out of the service. I volunteered.

Ruth F. Stewart:

You volunteered then? In what ways?

Jeannette Marshall:

I volunteered in many different organizations, but not as a nurse.

Ruth F. Stewart:

What were your volunteer activities?

Jeannette Marshall:

Oh, let's see. Now you got me. I'll remember them tomorrow. Well, the WSL did a lot of different volunteering. We had different sales and things to promote help for different organizations. The blind and the USO downtown we worked with and I remember being the parades for different events. I had a Mercedes SL with the top down, you know, so, and that was always a prerequisite. And Terry Baker and some of the old ones that were in the higher regime, then we'd take them up and down with the other orginations in the streets of San Antonio. And that was kind of exciting. And then let me think what else we had done. It doesn't sound like it was anything very notable now, but we thought it was then.

Ruth F. Stewart:

It kept you busy.

Jeannette Marshall:

Yeah.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Any volunteer work is very notable. It is always appreciated. Let me go back for just a moment, though. Did you just fly into Vietnam that one time to pick up those French people?

Jeannette Marshall:

Yeah. I never got back there for anything.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Okay.

Jeannette Marshall:

Air force nurses. I helped start that. I was on the pilot group that started the original 11. It started here in San Antonio in 19 - it was right after the Army started their's. It's the society of retired Air Force Nurses now, and its national. So that was sort of interesting to be on that team to get that thing going because we went up to 2,500 members at one time. I don't think it is now, but it's still going strong. So that was a good. I didn't join the VFW or any of those. I'm not much of a joiner. I had joined the WSL in '77 and enjoyed all of the that. And I was vice president with Doris Cobb, so that's been a very interesting group of people.

Ruth F. Stewart:

And still is.

Jeannette Marshall:

Yes. Growing all the time, and I'm glad.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Well, we certainly appreciate this. Is there anything else you would like to say before we go?

Jeannette Marshall:

That I think it's wonderful that they are going to recognize the women in the service, and I know the WSL especially, you know not only those in the military but those in the Embassy and the USO and the Red Cross were recognized. And I think they played and very important part, I know they did in like in Korea, the Red Cross, the USO, and those were so vital things for those soldiers. They really looked upon them for consolation, entertainment, and support. More so than the medical, I think. So that was interesting to be associated with them and hear some of their stories, too.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Well, Jean, we really appreciate the time you have taken and this is a review of your very interesting career in the U.S. Air Force.

Jeannette Marshall:

I'm flattered that you asked me.

Ruth F. Stewart:

Yes. Thank you.

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us