Veteran’s Testimony – Ruth Louise Kinzeler 4th General Hospital
The following excerpts have been taken from a diary written by Captain Ruth Louise Kinzeler (ASN:N-741075) of the 4th General Hospital. Ruth served with the unit during its entire service overseas, and regularly kept a diary in her “Little Black Book” of Army life.
Preparation for Overseas Movement:
January 20, 1942
We boarded the USAT “Thomas H. Barry” at 0515 (Betty and I were second and third aboard – respectively). We’re in #209. Our roommates are Jane Ingram and Gladys Hanes. Unpacked handbags. Dinner at 1830 hours. Arranged our bath schedule then tried to go on deck with no success. We visited around a bit, then went to bed at 2230.
January 23, 1942
We sailed at 0530. We went out on deck after breakfast and we were way out in the harbor, lining up. I shall never forget the sight! Destroyers are on all sides! We’re second of the transport ships. I met Father McKeown, Chaplain of our vessel. He’s very nice. I surely do feel the roll of the boat! If I can only keep “mind over matter”!
January 24, 1942
“Mind over matter” didn’t work! I was sick enough to die last night, but since breakfast, it’s gotten progressively better. It’s been a swell day. I spent most of the day on deck. They say we’re in the Gulf Stream. The breeze is so balmy and fresh. I haven’t had a real bath since before we sailed. Colonel William C. McCally (Chief of Surgery, later Commanding Officer -ed) invited us to their quarters for a salt water bath this evening. Six to a tub, but it was swell. I still have a horror of being dirty and smelly.
The ambulance driver from below brought his accordion up and we sang for a while tonight. I met the Finance Ofﬁcer and found out that he had spent four years at “Wright Patterson Field” (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, USAAF base, Ohio -ed). We had a nice chat about Dayton and vicinity. That was the bright spot of my day.
January 25, 1942
Up to church and communion at 0645. It’s the ﬁrst time I’ve seen an improvised altar, two card tables! We had to count off for communion.
It’s been a gorgeous day; warm and breezy. We had a bit of a start when we went on deck and saw only one other ship in sight. We didn’t meet another until around 1400. “They say” we split up because a freighter was blown up during the night, so they scattered the convoy. By 1700, all was well.
I spent all day, except mealtime, on deck. I just can’t resist it. Most of the afternoon, Betty and I were with Father McKeown. We discussed everything from how to run the war, to religious matters. Several choice ideas: “He did the work of God, but was only an ass”. The idea is not to criticize the humanness of a poor man who is trying his best to do God’s work. Father McKeown laughs at the idea of me writing a book, but still asked about dedicating it to him. That’s an idea. I have a notion that we’ll be seeing a lot of him.
January 26, 1942
Another day and how fast they ﬂy by! We had our yellow fever shot this morning. I spent quite while on deck, but not as much as yesterday. We’re probably off of Florida some place. Warm air, calm sea. We saw some porpoise today and a few ﬂying fish.
I was on duty in surgery from 1600 to 2000. Nothing to do but sit and talk. It was the first chat I’ve had with Dr. Hammon. I was out on deck with Father McKeown for almost two hours. He’s been around. He talks intelligently and has a keen sense of humor.
It was a beautiful evening. We saw the lights of either Miami, Florida or Key West. None of us can figure out just where we are. We’ll probably know later.
I had to revise my letters as rules of censorship were posted tonight and I’m afraid I’ve said too much. I’ll mail them later. It’s 2300 now, and I’m the last one up. I guess I’d better get down to some serious sleeping.
January 27, 1942
2300: Lots on my mind. I’ve spent an awful lot of time thinking today. We were very busy this morning Typhoid shot #1 at 0900. Then the water came on, and did we ﬂy! We took showers. I never dreamed bathing would be such a luxury! We washed all the dirty clothes in the place. We had a cooperative plan: one washed, one rinsed and two hung up. The cabin looked like a Chinese laundry! I’m glad we don’t have clothes that need ironing.
The mail went out at 1400. It’s to be left off at Panama — if we ever get there. I have my doubts at the rate we’re moving. Fiddled around this evening, played a little Bridge and to bed at 2300.
January 29, 1942
Today went a little better. We had typhoid shot #2 at 0900, then typed Father McKeown’s report from 1000 to 1145. It was grand to have something to do. We had a Variety Show tonight! There is some grand talent among the enlisted men. Accordion player and tenor singer were outstanding. I stayed up on deck until 2300. Awfully warm, but beautiful!
January 31, 1942
This has been the day of days! Breakfast at 0700, then arrived on deck shortly after to see the hills of Central America staring us in the face. It was a bit hazy, but soon, trees and grass – good old green grass became a reality. Our convoy straightened out in single ﬁle and slipped through a channel into the bay (Limòn Bay -ed) at Colón. The port here is Cristóbal Colón (the Atlantic Ocean entrance -ed).
We were heartsick when the “Kingsholm” pulled right into port and we dilly-dallied around. It did not take long for us to ﬁnd out that she stopped there for a coat of paint and soon we were steaming along and found ourselves facing the locks of the canal. This was really the biggest thrill of the trip so far. Again, I had to pinch myself to realize that we were about to pass through the Panama Canal! How many times I have wished that I had paid more attention to geography! Ours was the ﬁrst ship of the convoy to go through.
We steamed right up to Gatún Locks at 1000. We were up the three levels by 1130. There is no doubt that this is an engineering feat that would be hard to surpass. They’re widening the locks at Gatún. After the third level was reached, (4 little engine mules pulled is through), we were again on our own and traveled up Gatún Lake (Gaillard Pass) through the most gorgeous country one can imagine.
It is hot — comparable to a moderate day in August at home. I was surprised at the country through which we passed. Densely wooded hills on both sides. Many trees and bushes which no one could name. But we were sure of cocoa palms and banana trees, more like bushes. Hibiscus and some purple vines (Bougainvillea) were recognized. We saw several lizards slithering about.
All along, troops are stationed. They certainly are guarding the old canal. Lookout blimps are anchored over each set of locks. The channel was fairly narrow, but the old boat blasted away at each bend. Soon, we were at the next lock — a single —the Pedro Miguel.
It didn’t take long to come down one level and across a rather small pond. Then the Miraflores Locks. Almost immediately after passing through these locks, we rounded a bend into the Balboa Reach.
We docked into Pier 18. This is the port for Panama City (and the Pacific Ocean entrance -ed). We’ll be here tomorrow. More then.
February 1, 1942
It seemed like a long passage yesterday in this little black book, but even then it didn’t cover it all. We slept with our portholes opened for the ﬁrst time since we’re aboard. Lights had to be out by 2300, so records were closed with a bang. I didn’t mention that I’ve acquired the worst sunburn I’ve ever had, but it was worth every blister and twinge of pain. The port of Balboa is unique. It’s just a little place with some densely wooded hills all around. The few buildings around the dock are shaded by small trees with heavy, very green foliage. And over them all a palm tree here and there makes it most picturesque.
From the deck, we could see the road winding away over the hill to Panama City. Most outstanding was the fact that the trafﬁc moved up the left side of the road. I think it would be complicated driving here. A few of the girls went ashore and brought back yard goods and dresses. Betty and I got material. We were docked next to the warehouse and they loaded the boat all night long.
I went to church at 0700 and received communion. That last confession will hold a good long time.
There’s no chance to sin aboard this vessel, especially since our group are not glamor girls.
After breakfast, we got real busy washing, ironing and sewing (on Sunday, too). We left dock at 1220 while we were at dinner. It didn’t take long to clear the rest of the Canal and tonight we’re sailing the Paciﬁc. Wonder where next?
I’ve acquired a beautiful cold — but had excellent treatment. Father McKeown and Lieutenant Brown ﬁxed me a little nip. It also helped pass an otherwise ordinary evening.
February 2. 1942
Tetanus shots today. I have a hell of a cold and I don’t care if school helps or not. The Paciﬁc is really blue calm too – so far. I sewed all day — dress almost ﬁnished.
February 3, 1942
Typhoid shot #2 surely hit with a bang. I’ll be glad when they’re all over. Maybe I’ll perk up a bit. Am still working on the dress — will really ﬁnish tomorrow. It’s been raining since noon. I had an invitation for a cocktail before dinner, but couldn’t even make that.
February 4, 1942
The 108th Quartermaster Company put on a good show tonight, dancing, singing and funny stuff. Very amusing. It’s hot and sticky as the dickens and no bath since Sunday. Boy! Do we smell bad!
February 11, 1942
Day of days! We washed our hair today, crudest shampoo ever. At breakfast, the early birds informed us that the rain was pouring down in sheets. We gulped down the food, ran for a cake of soap, towel and an old tin can and went on deck. Everyone had the same idea. Such a scramble! Everyone helped everyone else work up a lather. We caught water under the spouts from the upper deck and proceeded to douse each other. Of course, we found a cigarette and a few odds and ends in our hair, but at least the scalp shines through and the terrible odor is gone. We looked like a bunch of drowned rats. Each brought a can of water along down two ﬂights and did a bit of laundry. The cabin looked like a Chinese laundry with four wash lines stretched all day. We had our last typhus shot. It has rained all day and it’s a bit damp tonight. But all in all, we’re pretty happy.
February 13, 1942
The most outstanding thing today was time going “backward”. Altogether, set our watches back 72 minutes. Every time we thought the day was pretty well underway, back went the time 23 minutes. Sea’s still rough, but not much breeze. We are now in the “Doldrums” says Mr. Kelly. Quite a character, that one. I love to hear him talk though. As Father McKeown says “Ruth’s learning about the sea tonight”. He tells some wild tales about the life of a sailor but it’s fun getting first-hand information. We left the convoy at around 1000. We only have the Jarvis (USS “Jarvis”, DD-393 -ed), a destroyer with us. We’re going to stop for fuel. Tomorrow should be interesting.
February 14, 1942
Day of days! We were up at 0600, out on deck. LAND in sight! It was the island of Bora Bora (northwest of Tahiti -ed) and just as native as it sounds. It’s a French possession. They dipped the ﬂag as we entered. The island is surrounded by a coral reef with an opening about as wide as our ship is long. We maneuvered carefully in. Inside the reef, the water was a picture which we can never hope to see again. It looked just like a rainbow splashing against the shore. There were the most vivid shades of green, purple and blue. We learned that it is only about four feet deep except for this lane and a small bay.
We drew up side a tanker, the Ramapo (USS “Ramapo”, AO-12, oiler ship -ed), met the Navy ofﬁcially, then the fun began. The Navy really treated us royally. We traded everything from soap, cigarettes, chewing gum and clothes for beads, grass skirts and hats.
In the meantime, they passed a huge hose aboard and started filling the oil tanks.
All of the movies about the South Sea Islands were veriﬁed. Natives came out in homemade “outrigger” boats and peddled their wares. They spoke French and Tahitian. We spent five hours hanging out portholes and running from room to room to see the latest bargain.
February 19, 1942
Outstanding item today in passing the International Dateline – 180°. We don’t know just when, but according to laws of navigation, going west we lose a day. So at midnight it automatically becomes Saturday, February 21. No Friday this week- no February 20 this year. I stayed in all day, sewed and ironed a bit. I was out on deck an hour after supper. Listened to Major O’Brien a while, he bores me stiff. Then the news and in for an evening of Bridge with Essie, Betty and Helen L.
Days seem to go more quickly now. We should without a doubt land sometime next week. “They say” Thursday. We shall see. The weather is much cooler – happy day!
February 20, 1942
We lost one day — to be returned on our way back.
February 25, 1942
We had orders to have baggage ready by 1800. Still rocking and rolling but we managed to pack and get things together. The sea quieted down around 1300. And we were all ready for the Captain’s dinner. What a dinner! Steak, mushrooms, plum pudding and ice cream. Sure went down smoothly.
Sighted land today around 1000! Betty and I stood at the porthole in the john crying like a couple of babies. We didn’t know we were quite so fed up with all the water. All afternoon and evening, we saw land at intervals. The moon was beautiful. It made a path of gold and silver right up to the very edge of the ship.
Had a bit of a dance tonight and everyone was particularly gay. Went to bed under protest at 2300 just like the night before Christmas. Breakfast scheduled at 0615.
Melbourne, Australia (1942):
February 26, 1942
Australia is our ﬁrst reality. Everything has had to be considered a rumor up until now. At 1030, pulled into Port Phillips Bay, again, a beautiful sight. The convoy is lying at anchor. It was funny, fooled again. We got up at 0530 and all dressed ready to go ashore. Breakfast at 0615 then out on deck. Beautiful country coming up thru the Bare Strait into the Bay. Before we dropped anchor, heard that we would not debark till tomorrow.
As usual, we didn’t believe it but it was true. Laid at anchor until 1800. In the meantime, a customs boat and another steamed around to each of our ships and left off Her Majesty’s Representatives. Yellow Flag (quarantine) was hoisted on each of our ships until the Medical Ofﬁcer came and went. About 1300, we were all bored stiff again so went to bed. But not much sleep. I have never been so hungry. Appetites seem to return full force with the absence of the rock and roll. We ate at 1630, then out on deck. Good show. Then the tow boats started to take our ships in. “Santa Rosa” ﬁrst, we were fourth. We had a meeting at 0700 telling us ofﬁcially that we would debark at 0900.
One of the Australian “sisters” came aboard to discuss the arrangements for us. The nurses are to go ﬁrst. Then out on deck to watch the city lights, which are few. “Blackout” is enforced. The sky was beautiful. Southern Cross and Orion close enough to touch (almost). Went to bed about 2330, but up at 0015. We were invited down for a nightcap of scotch — then to bed really.
February 27, 1942
Land under our feet at last! It is all so wonderful! Right after breakfast, we were told to be ready by 0830. As usual, had our hats and coats on much too soon. Around 0915, we started for the gangplank! We marched down to the pier. The British “sister” and several British Officers were awaiting us. The boys all waved and shouted as we went ashore. We were the ﬁrst to get off the ship. They took us in private cars. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and we went ripping right down the left side of the street. Funniest thing yet.
We arrived at the Victoria Palace Hotel and were assigned rooms. Betty and I have one together, cute little arrangement with a washbowl in the corner. The bathroom with two tubs and two johns are at the end of the hall. Essie and Tessie are next door. We’re on the third floor. The rest of the kids on the eighth. We ﬁddled around and after lunch, were free for the afternoon. We started out in a bunch, but Betty and I got off alone and really made tracks. We came in looking like a couple of peddlers. The paper shortage necessitates economy in wrapping. Betty had a whole bunch of cosmetics that we had purchased between us. I had a little bundle hanging from each ﬁnger on my left hand and a bundle in each arm.
March 24, 1942
I feel a little better today, but still wonder. Betty is taking over the anesthesia and had to teach three people. She asked for me but the “powers” refused, as they say they have other plans for me. So I suppose that they know that I’m around. That helps a bit. We got our shoes today. We came home again looking like peddlers. We had two boxes of shoes apiece and I bought ﬁve books. These are to be personal souvenirs. We got home too late for tea, so went in the kitchen and had the kind of sandwich I’ve dreamed about ever since we left home. Really built it! Two of the Australian boys stood by and looked on in wonder. They wanted to see just how we would manage to get around the sandwich. We showed them!
Then walked on the beach. It’s bit cloudy tonight. We saw eight search lights combing the skies. How they watch! I hope they never find what they’re looking for. Tomorrow is Dad’s birthday. I must send him a letter tonight.
March 29, 1942
The happy day has come and gone. Received the ﬁrst mail yesterday. I had decided to sleep in for a change. I was snuggling down for another nap when I heard Murphy yell out the window “Did you bring mail?” No sound but a rush of feet. I hopped out of bed, had my pants, dress, shoes and socks on in a ﬂash. Tore my hairnet off and ran over to the living room, praying all the way that it was true. Sure enough, there were most of the kids yelling and running around. Someone was trying to sort it into piles on the ﬂoor, but everybody grabbed and handed. I ended up with ﬁfteen. Waited long enough to get Betty’s, tore back, tossed hers in her room, ﬂew into mine, slammed the door, grabbed a handful of Kleenex, plopped into the middle of the bed and started.
Oh! But it was grand! Two from Mother, one each from Dad, Elsie, R.J. and Bill. Two from Polly, G. Lake, M. Sneaner, W.R.U. Alumni, and a business letter. I just can’t explain the relief of knowing all is well at home. I’ll always remember Charles’ 35th birthday. On Friday, thirteen of us went riding. Today, twelve of us are going up into the hills. More about that later. — We went and had a swell time. We spent most of the day at Patterson River Country Club. We bowled on the green and some of the kids played golf. Then six of us rode in a little 4-cylinder Ford.
March 30, 1942
We had tea with Lady Dugan, the wife of Sir Winston J. Dugan, Governor of Australia. Beautiful mansion. They’ve turned the ballroom over into a Red Cross dressing station. [They] make supplies. Wonderful set up. The Lady was very gracious. We had tea in the Reception Room — butlers in uniform and everything! Quite impressive!
April 1, 1942
Pay day — nice! We spent the afternoon at the “Beaufort” Division of the Department of Aircraft Production. Most interesting. I wish they could see Wilbur Wright Field in Ohio. They’re so proud of their little setup here, but it is a brave start. They’ve only been assembling planes here for two years. They use Pratt & Whitney engines and Curtiss Wright propellers from the good old USA. I stopped at St. Francis for confession. The priest was Father Morin. We had quite a little chat. He has spent some time in Cleveland, small world. He’s been here ﬁve years. I told him I hoped it wouldn’t be that long for me. I wonder?
April 10, 1942
I’ve neglected my little black book. A little back tracking…
Good Friday was spent packing. We were ordered at last to move. There was such wind and rain all day. We were up early on Saturday morning. Breakfast at 0730 and ready and sitting on bags in the hall at 0830. I hated in a way to leave Hampton. We had a lot of fun there. They took us in private cars through rain again to the New Melbourne Hospital Nurses’ Home. It’s still very much under construction, but we think it’s HOME for the duration. I hope so, as it’s lovely.
I don’t know how we rate such breaks but it’s a swell big room on the end of the building. One disadvantage is that if a bomb hits or the Japs make a short turn, we go ﬁrst! The worst feature is no heating arrangement. Australians just don’t believe in it. Next bad feature is the nightly blackout. Stove pipes over ceiling lights. Makes you think of sitting in trenches. We’ve managed though. The lounge is boarded up and we all congregate in there with crocheting and the Victrola. We expected to go right to work but they’re not nearly ready for us. I went to church at St. Francis Sunday morning, my ﬁrst Easter in foreign parts. I wonder how many more? It was rainy, cold and miserable so we came back to dinner and stayed in. The meals are elegant, good old American cooking. The thrill of the day was mail in the afternoon. One from Mother, Maudie and R. J. All week, we’ve been getting uniforms piece by piece. We drilled yesterday and this morning so we will look presentable for pictures in uniform. Sunday, we hope. This morning, a new batch of nurses arrived. Poor lost souls. Now to make some new acquaintances.
April 30, 1942
And so ends another month. I’m back on duty troubleshooting 4-12. One minute I’m up and the next down. If only someone would give me a word of encouragement, or tell me if I’m doing my job good, bad, or indifferent. I just plug along but nobody seems to care. I realize most vividly that I’m just spoiled — used to having people tell me how good I am. I suppose this will be good for my soul in the end, but right now, I’m a little discouraged. I was just a little disappointed. I thought I might get a cable from somebody or other on my birthday, but didn’t. Oh well. By the way, I was fortunate enough to be one of the ten lucky girls to get a chance to broadcast home. It’s the first time in my life that I drew a lucky ticket, I don’t know anything deﬁnite yet. More later.
May 6, 1942
Busy week. We had our ﬁrst death yesterday (5/5/42) quickly followed by a second one shortly after midnight. Seems pretty good at that. Four weeks we’ve been open now and that’s the ﬁrst. Makes me so confounded mad! Between trams, trucks and assault and battery, they’ll finish off our troops before we get a crack at anybody!
Some excitement last night. Ten Nurses arrived evacuated from Bataan. All they had was a pair of pants and a shirt and a few little things in a bag. The tales they tell —whewie! We helped to outﬁt them all this morning and now I feel a little more contented with our lot. It looks as if we’ll get to do the thing we came for — nursing, instead of running all over the continent.
The mail is terribly slow these days. If only I’d get one letter from home or somebody. We saw ourselves in the newsreels this PM. Gosh! But I hope the family gets a peek at them. They can’t miss me if they see it.
May 7, 1942
I met Colonel Wilson today, a patient recently in Corregidor and the Bataan Peninsula. He impressed me with many tales but most of all about “Hold the Horses”.
June 2, 1942
I really got behind this time and a lot has happened too. Still can’t get steamed up over. Wonder if I’ll ever get a kick out of anything again? A week ago Sunday, had quite a day. Betty and I went out with Alice Haines, a local gal, for the day. We had a nice dinner at a restaurant of her choosing. Nice place too. Then to her ﬂat, which wasn’t so nice, but she thinks it is. Then out to Mrs. Boans for tea. Lovely little old lady. Puts me in the mind of Aunt Rose. As usual, had to show off to the neighbors and friends. After they left, we settled down to a nice homey Sunday nigh supper. Just the four of us and that was fun. We had Chicken Paprikash. Thought of Charles and Carm. That’s their dish. In the evening, went over to Alice’s boyfriends’ ﬂat. Met two Australian Irishmen and drank beer. At the time it seemed like fun, but afterward, it occurred to me that it was time wasted.
During the week, things were a bit slow. We all harped on how much we dislike the Australians and even the country itself. But I think it’s just the abominable weather. Rain, cold and no heat. That makes us gripe so much. In the meantime, Betty has had some excitement and I wonder if maybe it will be more than a passing fancy. She met “Chuck” Masters at the Hospitality Centre and the boy’s sure got it bad. Don’t believe Betty is far behind. Will be interesting to see what comes of it.
Last night, we had some fun. Nine of us went to the Menzies Hotel for dinner. Celebrated Mahins’ birthday. Quite a nice place. Good dinner with Sparkling Burgundy thru out. Toward the end of the meal, two bottles of Champagne arrived from a man from New Zealand who sat across the room. After we drank our toasts, we sang the Star Spangled Banner for those assembled. The “man from New Zealand” came over and invited us to his suite for coffee and liqueurs. We went and really enjoyed it a lot. Demitasse, Cognac and gay chatter. But today, I’m as uninterested as ever! No pep.
Finished my Afghan last week. I started knitting a bed jacket today. That’s all.
July 3, 1942
Long time again since I wrote. I’ve been in a foul mood. I know I’m not in the spirit of the “war” at all. Just can’t somehow. Wonder if I’ll ever develop the devil-may-care, live-for-today attitude that men and women in the service are supposed to have. Still can’t get over the feeling that this is a blank page in my book of life, that all activity and emotion on my part is suspended during this period. If it lasts too long, I certainly am wasting a few of my allotted 3 score and 10. Can’t get steamed up about the boys for anything. I was out last week with Lieutenant Bob Mountain. He was nice and called me about going to a dance on Saturday, but I reneged with a cold. Somehow, I’m content to sit. Makes me ill to think how differently Elsie would react to all of this. She’d be up and doing.
I must say that I do enjoy my work. I’m on the Orthopedic Ward and get such a bang out of those kids. They’re such fun!
Mail is just trickling again. Perhaps that is partially the reason for the low ebb of emotion. Have been thinking about my book again Wonder if I ’ll ever get around to writing it. Essie suggested that I read Ilka Chase’s “Past Imperfect” for a working outline. Guess I’ll have a look.
July 12, 1942
This winds up a powerful weekend. As Betty says with a tone of amazement: “So gig is war”. It all started with a birthday party for Ethel Cadiss. Twelve of us went of to the Menzies. This time, the local people came through. Champagne & toasts, toasts & Champagne. I think we really gave the Menzies the ﬁrst bit of hearty laughter ever. It’s such a staid and proper place. Anyway, the party grew. Tables were moved together, everybody sang, etc. But the aftermath was even better. Mr. Hodgkiss invited us out for “tea” on Sunday. They called for seven of us and took us out to Mrs. Joes’ estate, “Ripponlea”. It’s just what you see in the movies. Everything from swimming pool to ballroom. I shall never forget it. There were lovely people in for cocktails and supper. It’s fun hob-knobbing with the upper crust and being treated as one of them. But, we saw for ourselves what we’ve so often heard. They live fast and furious to hide their aches, mostly heartaches, because they certainly are unhappy underneath the oh so thin surface. For mine, I’ll take 641 Wilfred Avenue — a good middle class family, and my second hand “love”.
July 23, 1942
And so, tonight, we celebrated our anniversary. Even Colonel Buous was there! Started the celebration here at the Melbourne Hospital with a few highballs. Then by ambulance, no less, to “the Palms”. It was fun. Just the 4th General Hospital and a few Officers who came with our convoy. Danced and danced, drank a bit, supper, then home in a Command Car (WC57 Truck, Command Reconnaissance, 3/4 ton -ed). Lovely party, but it evoked deep thoughts and longings.
There was considerable mail this last week. I got a package from Polly. Wish my shoes would come, but we’ve heard of two ships deﬁnitely “down”, so perhaps Davey Jones is strutting his stuff in the brine deep in my white shoes! Oh me! Those GI’s rub my heels to pieces!
August 17, 1942
Well the big week is over and it was really quite a success. Wednesday night, Bob and I went out to Captain Tobias’ apartment. Very informal, but fun. There were two WAAFs (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force -ed) and another Aussie gal. We had a few drinks, then oyster cocktails (on our laps). Then they trotted out two big bowls, one of rice and the other something like chop suey. [It] was served on platters, then Toby brought around a big dish of asparagus and mayonnaise. Then, the “sweets” and coffee. [We] sat around and talked and it was a lot of fun.
Thursday, went out with Ted Kazinsky and a gang. Dancing and a bit of drinking. A very successful evening. Friday, with Bob again. Dinner and Gilbert & Sullivan “Princess Ida”. Sunday was the best of all. I went to the Sanctuary with Bob and John Shrivers. Most enjoyable day. From 0900 to 2100 with two men, a new role for me. We left Flanders Street Station at 2115, rode to Lillydale, and then took a bus to Healesville. We had two hours to kill, so we walked up to where we could see the dam which supplies all Melbourne with water. We stopped at a little place (Suzanne’s) for steak. Then really clipped down to the bus and off to the Sanctuary. We saw everything: platypus, wombats, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos by the dozen, and koala bears. Bob took my picture holding one. We saw kookaburra birds and other gorgeous birds from the little blue wren to the lyre bird. We left there at 1630 and had to wait two hours at Healesville again, so had tea at the Hotel. We just sat around and chatted, then bus, train, and home. I surely did enjoy it all.
Now today, mail and ‘Bill’ is going to be a 2d Lieutenant. I am so thrilled!
August 27, 1942
Such fun! It was hectic getting around to it, but it was worth the wait. We had planned all week to take the boys out to the house for dinner. Menu was planned, steaks, et al. And then Captain Clement decided to come out to have a chat with us. Five couples involved so we had to do a bit of discussing and reorganizing. We concluded that it would be best to switch to a supper party and go ahead. A change of nights was out because the boys are leaving any day now. So, we got all dressed, laid out coats, food ready to snatch and then to the meeting. It was really most interesting, but of course, we wiggled around a lot when the “chat” lengthened into a two hour discussion. We heard all about what the [other] nurses throughout the country are doing. In a way, it looks like we’re on a wild goose chase. As for the most part, they’re all sitting around getting chubby. It seems like we’ve actually got a better set and working more than the other group.
Most of the units are quite disgruntled over the lack of causalities — hence no work. Most places, they have more nurses than patients. And to top it all off, no means of recreation. Morale is low. At least, we have many more patients than nurses even though we’re not very busy. And recreation is to be had with the ﬂick of an eyelash. I still think that the Captain doesn’t think much of our little group.
And then to the recreation: the minute the meeting was over, we all ﬂew to our respective duties. We all wound up in the lobby, then into a cab. (The boys left the Chevron at the same time), and off to Toorak. It was fun. Hugged the ﬁre and relaxed to music. Then, all to the kitchen. The maid had set the table and it looked beautiful with Staffordshire dishes and camelias in the center. Bob and I broiled the steaks, and made the coffee. Tessie and Johnnie did the tomatoes and lettuce. We also cut the bread, good old stuff. Chuck and Betty ﬁxed the ice water and put the little cakes on. Pete, Ed, Jane and Stet were elated to do K.P. It was cute how the Sam Browns and blouses were draped over chairs while we were in the kitchen.
Then everything was ready and we quickly donned brass and braid and slipped into place. There was a certain amount of dignity. Just can’t get away from it when the uniforms predominate, but we laughed a lot and everyone enjoyed it. I couldn’t help but make a mental note of the picture we made grouped around the table and wished that Mother could see it. We had to be out by midnight, so we had to keep moving. We ended by running down Toorak Street and ﬁghting for a cab. (Bob was swell and really relaxed for a change). If he wouldln’t have to go away, I think we could have some pleasant times together. But again, there must be a reason for everything.
September 5, 1942
Helen Hicks is with us no more! A terrible blow! Our ﬁrst tragedy in the entire unit. I’m back on 4 to 12 in the ofﬁce and I hate it! But I hope it’s not for long this time.
September 8, 1942
Our ﬁrst military funeral today. It never occurred to me that we’d get in on one of those. Very solemn and impressive. Almost all of the girls went, quite a few ofﬁcers and a few of the boys. We all went in regulations cars. Quite a line of them. Short service at the chapel, then out to the cemetery, way out. A few words by Reverend Drimmel, taps by E. Rutan and that was all. I sincerely hope that this will be the ﬁrst and last time for that.
September 10, 1942
Fire! Real ﬁre, blaze and all! It was our ﬁrst real emergency. 10th floor of main building really blazed away for a while. Once more, we were impressed with the general inefficiency of these people. Fire “brigade” all dressed up even to the brass hats, but no equipment! Such a mess! Boys from the detachment formed a bucket brigade and soon had things under control. Had a little experience in evacuating patients from two floors. Litters sat and ready on the others. The calmness and general air of efﬁciency on the part of the whole personnel was remarkable.
September 18, 1942
And so my term of Relief Duty ends, thank heavens. It hasn’t been too bad because I’ve really been a woman of my word this time and went out a lot instead of sleeping. It gives me a certain satisfaction because I feel that at last maybe I’m coming out of my shell, I hope. I have a new interest too. I’m helping Father McCord in a project to raise money for a local Kindergarten. We’re going to town too. Sent my big box for Christmas on the 10th.
October 4, 1942
And so my Night Duty turn is over. It hasn’t been half bad. Surely haven’t worked hard, but the time ﬂew by and I’ve been contented. It just occurred to me that this is the ﬁrst time I’ve been able to come right out and say that and mean it.
And now off to Marysville for two days. Should have a little to write about when we return.
October 9, 1942
And now, I’ve been asked to take a job, all on my own. Most unusual as far as nursing, especially Army nursing is concerned. Captain Olga Benderoff has asked me to run the annex for a month. My heart sunk at ﬁrst, because I did come along to take care of soldiers. And now to do a bit a housekeeping, well at least she assured me that it would only be for a month. So I agreed to try it. No doubt, there will be many headaches attached, but I’m willing to try it and will surely do my best to make a go of it.
October 17, 1942
And today, ﬁnished another assignment. 73 Ofﬁcers. I haven’t liked it too well. I enjoyed taking care of Captain Block, a dentist from LaSalle, Indiana and Captain Glenn, one of our own doctors. Nothing else very exciting. Now, to take care of the Annex. Wonder how I’ll do?
October 27, 1942
Whewie! Long time since I wrote in here. The job is ten days old and I’m really on the run. For the ﬁrst time since we hit Australia, I’m really busy and I love it. Going from morning to night. Not many snags so far, but one never can tell in this Army game. Just when you think everything is OK, things blow up in your face so I’m still proceeding with caution. Will not bother to describe this “villa” as Mr. Sord the gardener calls it. I know I’ll never forget most of the nooks and corners. Can only, and must say it is the loveliest, most luxurious place I’ve ever lived in and ever hope to manage. If only Mother, Dot and Elsie could see it! Mr. Sord, by the way, is a character. He’s been a gardener all of his life and worked for a time at Windsor Castle under Edward (King Edward VII -ed) and then for six years at a castle in Scotland. He’s been in Australia for 32 years. He tells the most interesting tales and certainly knows flowers.
And now to stop again. Perhaps it will be another week or ten days before I get to this. [Little Black Book]. A big Halloween party Friday night. No mail for a long. Last letter from R.J. was August 25; Mother and Elsie, September 2. It’s awful!
November 2, 1942
Another month has started. How many more? Mail is trickling in again. It’s grand. Received one from Elsie on her birthday that she had written October 14. Doesn’t seem possible after that long wait, that such a late one should come so quickly.
The party was a huge success. The house looked beautiful. We all dressed in anything but uniforms. I wore Jeromes’ black jersey formal, white satin sandals and a black ribbon around my head. Guess I looked rather pretty and surprised a few people. I’ve decided that a uniform is certainly not my most attractive outﬁt. Anyway, I had a lot of nice complements both on my appearance and management of this domain to date. It’s done me a lot of good mentally and physically. Haven’t worked so hard since I left Glenville, but it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Tonight, a party is in full swing. The kids are running it themselves, so I’m free. Must make hay and address Christmas cards. So, here goes.
December 5, 1942
A description of the scene would be in order. I guess I should say my family is well settled for the moment. Had twelve for dinner — just a few for a change. Dishes are all done, several walks in the garden, blackout shades pulled and now, it’s evening. Six kids are gathered around, across the room playing poker. The radio is adding to the home atmosphere with a little mood music. A couple just dropped in, no dinner, so had to go out and carve down a little ham and now, they’re happy. Then, the telephone — a couple of the boys just in town — can they come out? Sure – “are you hungry”. Okay, come ahead.
And so it goes. I’m sure I know what it’s like to be the Mother of a large (a very large) family. And I love it! People coming and going. The boys bring me flowers, a bottle of sherry, or something and say: “Ruthie, this is just like home”. Somehow, it all seems worthwhile. I’m glad now that I came along. I guess this is one phase that was in the cards. I know I’m making them a little happy. Oh yes! I must mention Admiral Good. His name will pop up in the historical end of this war. Guess it will be nice to be able to say “Oh yes! -— I entertained him at dinner one night!” He too, came back with ﬂowers, practically brought out the florist shop! We like the Navy. Gentlemen through and through – but fun! Tonight, just a year ago, the white orchid! If only I could go back one year for just that one dance.
December 17, 1942
Still “mothering” and so weary. A bit discouraged and low. Hazel Lockhart left today and I feel as if I’ve lost one of my children. She’ll write to Mother — I hope, which is more than I do these days. Just can’t sit still long enough to write. When I do start, have to jump up so often that I lose track of the thought I’m trying to convey. Captain Glenn is a member of my family now. It means more work, but yet if only we can make him happy for a few weeks, it will be worth it. I’m even too tired to write in here. Haven’t written to my love for weeks. Wonder if he’ll forgive me this gross neglect? Still love him more than anything in the world but can’t get around to telling him about it.
Melbourne, Australia (1943):
January 10, 1943
Long time again little book and lots has happened. The holidays, well they’re over. Won’t have to write about the nice things because I’ll never forget those. The unhappy moments, I’ll never forget either. I had loads of packages. I counted twenty four. No mail, except cards. That will have to suffice. I came back to work as a nurse again on January 2. I was lost at ﬁrst without my household responsibilities, but I’m glad to a have few moments to myself. Saw the kids off to Tasmania today, a thrill. Would like to have gone along.
The next big event is our Anniversary party on 23 January. Each and every day is crowded with memories now. January 8th was our anniversary. By coincidence, received a swell letter. Time does not dull the ache and the longing.
January 12, 1943
New experience for me. We’re on alert awaiting the arrival of patients. It happened twice while I was out at the house. Once got over 400 in, another time, 150. Today, the number is indeﬁnite. We got around 100 yesterday and expect anywhere from 600 to 1000 today. We’ve been watching two boats coming into the Bay since 1300. We think it might be our patients. We’ll soon know.
We had a farewell party for Jayne Haskagen last night. She’s going home (a swell person from Georgia). It was quite a’ memorable occasion with a drop of ﬁre water. We talked, danced and potted around. It was fun. (Will it be Colonel William C. McCally or Major Sidney E. Blandford?). Probably neither.
January 13, 1943
They came -705 strong! Marines, really just a bunch of little boys with the average age being 22. It’s pathetic to think that they are the ones who “took and held” while we were preparing. They all look as if they should be home playing with sail boats in the park instead of having this grim work. Ward after ward of malaria. Approximately 2/3 of the admissions are diagnosed as such and chances are the other 1/3 will have a ﬂare up before they’re discharged. They’ve all had it “up there”. I was amused, yet could have cried. We admitted 20 on our ward in one hour. Four of them came together and as they stood there, I couldn’t help but say “Hello boys, honestly you youngsters look as if you should all be at home with your Mothers”. One big blonde kid said – rather quietly — “I wish I was”. And so it goes. But still it isn’t satisfactory work somehow. This has the earmarks of being a huge clearing station for patients. They come here having had primary treatment, surgery, etc. And we clean, cheer up and send them home or back into the mess.
I couldn’t help thinking how different it would be if that had been twenty OB patients. That would have been real work. My share was writing in a half dozen books, ﬁlling out charts and saying “hello” to the boys. Not a brow to mop or even a bath to give. They all took showers. Modern wartime nursing — some stuff!
January 20, 1943
We’re busy, terribly busy. The Marines have landed, 16,000 strong and all of them are victims of malaria! When they landed we got 700 in one fell swoop and since then, they’ve been rolling in anywhere from 30 to 100 daily.
Last Saturday, I had the tremendous satisfaction of being handed a slip of paper with a ﬂoor plan and told to set up a ward for 120 patients and I think I did a good job of. By 1900, I had it in shape to start business. I didn’t get my ﬁrst patient until 1815 Sunday night then got 12 in forty-ﬁve minutes. To date, have had 75. Discharged the ﬁrst 29 after forty-eight hours, but I’m now accumulating some star borders. It’s good! At last I’m doing what I came for, some actual nursing care! Such a feeling of anticipation. These boys are such swell kids and so proud of us to think we’d come so far to take care of them. When we walk down the street, we hear them say “Those are OUR nurses!”
“Compensation” — yes, I suppose again I ’ll have to admit that this was deﬁnitely in the cards for me and I never would have been quite satisﬁed down inside if I hadn’t come along. I still think that it was meant to be and that I ’m doing the right thing in spite of the moments of almost despair! So all I can say is — I wonder what my attitude and reaction will be when I skip another page and write.
I wouldn’t dare tell another soul. And from the way I feel tonight, I wonder if I ’ve really touched bottom yet.
January 23, 1943
My greatest satisfaction these days is in my work and that is grand. I’ve had my ward open just one week today. I didn’t get the ﬁrst patients until six days ago, but have admitted 178 and transferred 113 — a lot of work and I don’t mean maybe! And all malaria — a new experience for me. Most interesting. Last night, had a most pleasant surprise.
February 9, 1943
Much has happened. The streak of being anti-social was short lived. The Marines landed — AND HOW!
The December mail is trickling in, so all is well.
March 13, 1943
A whole month and again much has happened. The Marines are still here in full force and full of malaria. I’ve had my two weeks of 1900 – 0700 night duty. The work was swell. I worked hard all night and the twelve hours just ﬂew by. But oh, that sleeping all day. I’m bored stiff! It was fun when I’m still happiest when I’m on duty. I have a pretty slick running ward with 110 to 120 patients all the time. All malaria. I surely am learning a lot.
May 2, 1943
I could have had the “Navy Cross” tonight. Enough said! I met Colonel Lewis B. Puller and Lt. Colonel Merrill B. Twining.
May 6, 1943
On duty tonight. I’ve been crocheting, thinking and talking. Funny in a strange way – this war. Yesterday, orders came for ten girls to relieve another unit. Tonight, they’re packing; bedrolls and all the gear necessary for the tropics. Shlabach, Malone, Polofsky, Gierisch, Norris, Amidich, Yamnick, Melluiger and Sokol awaiting orders. I wonder where they’ll go and when they’ll return. Betty and I had a good time the other night. We went out to the Fraters — people we met in Lorne. Most unusual family. He’s an artist — very Bohemian. She’s lovely and such a comfortable, motherly person.
Last night, I broke a date with Colonel Puller. We had a birthday party for Gladys Hanes and enjoyed that much more. I forgot to mention that Bob Mountain was down again two weeks ago. He crops up occasionally and is the nicest man I’ve met in this “area”.
Mail is very slow. I sent my three packages home last week. I’d love to be there when it arrives!
May 18, 1943
And now another assignment is under way. Full time teaching! What a job too! I think they’re expecting me to pull a rabbit out of my hat! I have six weeks to make 24 boys into orderlies! Orders came from Headquarters and I’m it. Sure will try my best, but I wonder? Anyway, it’s a challenge. Ten replacements arrived for our girls who went north. These new ones are straight in from the States with all kind of stories. Makes us wonder what the good old American way is coming to.
The War news is very good this last week. Tunis and Bizerte wound up the North African Campaign and they’re following through toward Italy. The U.S. occupies Attu in the Aleutians and things seem to be on the verge of popping. What next?
June 1, 1943
Another month. Lord, how long? Classes are humming along. Lots of cooperation so far and I’m really enjoying it. I found myself the subject of a rumor today, but I only laughed at the mere idea as I’m hoping it will never happen. Me, a 1st Lieutenant! Ha! Ha! – and truly, I am not so keen about the idea anyway.
I would rather be just one of the girls. I like my own little corner in the affairs of the unit. As long as I have a little responsibility and my work is appreciated, I don’t ask for any more.
June 4, 1943
I could giggle right out loud! I have 18 of the big lugs (God love ‘em!) stewing over an exam. Poor kids, they take it so seriously. Two weeks of this ﬁrst course are over and I must say I am more than pleased with it. Of course, today will tell the tale. We’ll see just how much I’ve gotten across to them. Yesterday was a big day. Miss Benderoff was promoted to Captain. Everyone is so thrilled! We had a party for her last night up in quarters. It was on the edge of a brawl, but everyone was happy. Circumstances justiﬁed it. I surely am tired these days. Sometimes I believe I’m getting to feel my years. This is harder work mentally than I have done for a long time. Possibly, that accounts for a certain amount of weariness.
June 27, 1943
Saw snow today and threw a couple of little snow balls. Imagine, all this the week before the 4th of July! Doesn’t seem right somehow. I went out to Mt. Moudon with Major McGlynn and Ann Dixon. It was fun. Beautiful drive, upward and onward. Wound up 3315 feet above sea level. Cold, crisp and windy. It seems as if Christmas should be in the ofﬁng.
July 16, 1943
Another job. How many more, Little Black Book? They will call me “Liaison Officer”, but I call myself “Miss Professional Services.” Trying to keep the boys happy as well as ward ofﬁcers, head nurses and just plain people. I’ll probably be #1 on the “Hate List”. Oh, for the wisdom of Solomon!
July 22, 1943
So! Now I’m a 1st Lieutenant! It happened at 1030! It was one of those things that you don’t have to write the particulars about. I will never forget the thrill and the brief “ceremony”. I could only think of Mother and the Family. How proud they would be! To me, it will mean more responsibility and work, but I can take it.
July 26, 1943
Out to Mt. Martha to “wet down the bar” as Fritz puts it. But helped wet down an eagle and a star. Guess I should feel rather honored to be celebrating a promotion with a Colonel and a General. I met General Shepherd (Brig. General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Asst. CG 1st Marine Division -ed) — real nice, as well as Colonel Rosecrans (Lt. colonel Harold E. Rosecrans, 5th Marine Regiment -ed). I saw my ﬁrst regimental parade and awarding of decorations. It was very impressive. We stood at “salute” while the band play the “Star Spangled Banner”, with the rain running down my glasses. I didn’t mind though. When one hears that tune, the feet just naturally seek the ground.
July 31, 1943
I had a chat with Lt. Colonel M. Jane R. Clement (appointed Chief Nurse USAFIA Command, 12 Apr 43, replaced Captain Floramund Fellmeth -ed) this morning. She gave me some food for thought. “…when and if you get your own group of nurses…”. I wonder if she’s thinking of such a thing. It scares me in a way. But just in case, there are several things I must remember:
- The soldier is your best friend.
- Rotate your personnel everywhere, including through the ofﬁce.
- Train your soldiers. It’s an interesting and remunerating hobby.
- Be straight forward and sincere with your new rank. Keep your old friends and make new ones.
- You will meet opposition, but insist on things you “feel” are right.
I shall remember. How I need strength, courage, ability and wisdom!
October 3, 1943
Quite a blank Little Black Book! But life has been anything but a blank. Many, many things have happened! I took over the personnel in the Detachment Building on September 1. I have my own little corner, telephone, etc., including many, many troubles. So far, I’ve been able to solve most problems, but it is some job!
The social angle has really run a course. Outstanding events since August 17: Eleanor Roosevelt visited us. The Marines left us in a blaze of glory.
Major McGlynn was telling us today that the officials had “wiped us off” in Washington on January 23, 1942. It seems incredible, but he said that General Heileman (Brig. General Frank A. Heileman, Director of Supply, ASF, later Chief of Staff USAFWESPAC -ed) told them that they never expected our convoy to reach its destination. We were the first “[medical] task force” sent in this direction and they thought we were doomed! More and more, I can understand why “ignorance is bliss”.
It reminded me of another social occasion. [We] spent an evening aboard the “Cape Flattery”. Captain Ford was grand to us and we covered the ship from the control deck down to the propeller shaft. It was quite an education. I was most impressed by the gyroscope and the engine room. I had no idea that all of those things went aboard a ship. That’s all for now. I will try to be more faithful. I haven’t heard from my love since July. Perhaps it’s all over as far as he’s concerned.
November 20, 1943
Betty and I went to Sydney. We planned to go there originally so that we could travel by air but wound up taking the train both ways. Sydney is very much like Cincinnati, narrow streets and rather dirty. We stayed at the Nurses’ Leave Club which is run by the Red Cross. A swell set up! We got caught up on a lot of the shows and did the things tourists do. We went to the zoo, took a harbor cruise, walked across “our bridge”, saw the shrine and visited the 118th General Hospital. (barracks are of cantonment type). Still satisﬁed with our set up.
December 7, 1943
Yep! An anniversary. It seems like more than two years ago. What a lot has happened in that time. Anniversaries, etc., but still life goes on in the same old way. I’ve started an elementary class of ten kids. They’re sailing right along. Last weekend, the good Colonel Jane Clement paid us a visit. She threw a scare into us. The Colonel talked to the First Lieutenants for an hour and a half on responsibilities of a Chief Nurse and the advisability of shifting the present bunch to allow for promotions of the other nurses. She looked at me so much, I began to pack mentally.
December 31, 1943
It doesn’t seem a bit like it. Betty and I are spending a few days at Sorrento. We were out in a sailboat all day ﬁshing. I caught eleven myself and Betty caught ﬁfteen flatheads. One of the boys caught a three foot barracuda! It was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen pulled in. It surely was fun and we got pretty sunburned, but it was worth it.
Tonight, we’re going to watch the New Year in. I personally don’t have much heart for it, but one must keep up a front I guess. I’ve been feeling awfully low lately and can’t get pepped up to do a thing.
Christmas went over with a bang for the patients. It was a lot of work, but they enjoyed it. As usual, I received a lot of packages from home.
More than anything though, I’d just like to go home!
New Guinea (1944):
January 19, 1944
And so little book, we start our third year, but on such a different key than either the ﬁrst or second. Now, we’re really going to war! As I write, I’m practically exhausted, but must get ready for a farewell party which is already in progress. Barrack bags, trunks, bed rolls and purse and pure and simple junk all around our usually “so neat” 1017.
Orders came Sunday, the 16th. We didn’t know about it until Monday morning and here we are practically ready to board the ship. No matter what, I would’ve had to take timeout to start this today. I will catch up after we get on our way. Again, I start with “I wonder what will come of this and where I’ll be when I start the next chapter.
February 9, 1944
Looks as if the whole thing has fallen through and we are straining at the leash!!! Working part time and trying to keep out of each other’s hair. We’re down to 430 patients which is an all-time low since the Marines landed a year ago. I’m working between nursing, the office and my old stand and still have time to spare. All kind of rumors ﬂoating around, from going north to being relieved for the homeward journey. I’m getting more and more in the mood for the latter. Oh boy! Would I love that!
February 21, 1944
Back to the old stand in the office. Just ﬁnished making rounds. Just 88 patients! If that isn’t tapering off! Sounds like the beginning of this little book. But, we’re really moving. Should be all set by the latter part of March. We’ve transferred all our slower convalescents to Sydney on the 18th and are now closing ward by ward as they go [back] to duty. Started crating today and will keep going steadily up till the old place is empty. Then, we’ll close the door, lock it and hand the keys back to the Aussies.
Tomorrow, the officers and men leave, relieved of foreign duty. No word on the nurses yet. Tony Tomaso, Wartiman, Trisky go. Tony isn’t too happy. Jerry got her silver bars (1st Lt.) yesterday and I’m so glad.
March 20, 1944
Seems like I can’t get going on with this year’s “book”, but perhaps from here on it will be different. Much has happened in the past few weeks. Packing and packing. Ward after ward closed, until ﬁnally, last Friday, March 17th, we moved our last ﬁfty patients over to the barracks which is now the 89th Station Hospital, with Miss Brown and Captain Peterson in charge.
Spent a week at Sorrento. Had a fair time, but wasn’t much in the mood for anything but sitting. We did go out on our little landing barge (by courtesy of the Navy) every chance, but it was pretty rough most of the time. In spite of that, ﬁshing was pretty good. Also enjoyed climbing around the cliffs. A new sport for me!
Came back on the 11th to ﬁnd the promotions had started to ﬁlter in. Betty was made a Captain along with Deeds and Hanes on the 12th. Elsie got her silver bars on Friday the 17th.
March 27, 1944
And so, we’re on the go again. I’ve been trying to get to this for two days, but no time. Started from Melbourne at 1840 on Saturday the 25th, by train for Brisbane. At the moment, I’m alone in our sleeping compartment. We’re sitting along a siding, waiting. So far, really haven’t had to wait much. We’ve kept rolling along. Getting our gear strapped on and loading in the train was a chore, but fun. Had plenty myself, but several beat me a mile. One girl had her accordion in a huge case beside the regular overnight bag, gas mask, helmet, musette bag and purse. The ofﬁcers were a big help to us getting us settled on the train, but after that, we were on our own. Changing at Albury was a riot. The ofﬁcers were as bad off as we were — with all of their gear. So, we had to fend for ourselves.
In the old “sure footed” manner, I slipped and fell into the train, I almost dropped a blanket between the platform and the car, but retrieved it. I was fortunate enough to have a berth both nights, although I felt like a lug with some kids sitting up both nights. However, I’m afraid my martyr’s complex is lacking, so I was really glad.
We stopped every so often to eat. Everyone piles off [the train] and files into the station dining room and the actual eating doesn’t take more than about twenty minutes for the whole gang. Food is the usual Aussie stuff, but it ﬁlls the space and that’s all that’s important now.
Again, we’re rolling and it’s hard to write. We should get in tonight sometime and then, we shall see. It’s funny that we closed the hospital on Dot’s birthday and started on our trip on Dad’s.
March 29, 1944
Settled, temporarily, I hope, at Camp Columbia (US Army camp at Wacol, Brisbane –ed). Our ﬁrst taste of War! I’m living in a tent with ﬁfteen other girls. It has wooden floors and screens. Lots with mattresses, but that’s all. The ﬁrst night, they sent into town for a truck load of blankets and we slept on the mattresses. We wore sweaters, as it was pretty cold.
The big joke (as there are several little ones) are the showers and johns, community affairs. The ﬁrst night, it was dark and chilly. We went tearing out to take a shower to get the train dirt off. We found this big room with twelve showers right smack in the middle of the room. We gulped, stripped and hopped under the cold water just like the old times. The johns are in stalls, but have no doors, but we manage that too. The chow line is a little long, but the chow is worth waiting for. This morning, the boys brought our bed rolls out and we took out the rest of our necessities; mosquito nets, “boondockers” (service shoes -ed) and wool socks. They rolled them up and carted them back to the warehouse. That was our only ray of hope in the last two days. Rothschild says that we’re stuck here for at least two weeks, but we’re hoping.
Today, we’re going into town to see what we can and celebrate Betty’s birthday. More later.
April 4, 1944
The boys were right. Here we are sailing the blue ocean. We left Camp Columbia last night around 1800. It was rather exciting. We got all geared up: high shoes, safari jackets, slacks, canteens, musette bags and all of our stuff. Climbed in buses and were conveyed through town like a ﬂash. We marched down the dock in front of all the boys feeling like a bunch of pack horses. Climbed over everything imaginable and landed in a little room accommodating thirty. We’re only twenty-ﬁve though and use the spaces for baggage. We started out early this AM before we were up. Now, our ﬁrst night out, everyone is pretty much flat on their backs. But they’ll be better tomorrow. At least we’re on our way.
April 7, 1944 (Good Friday)
Laying on my little, middle bunk. It’s a bit difﬁcult to write, but I’ll manage. We’ve spent the day sitting in Port at Townsville waiting for those damned Aussies to ﬁnish loading the ship. Will really be glad when we pull out of here tomorrow and leave the sunny shores of Australia behind. We’re crowded like sardines, short of water, two meals a day, but we manage. We were pleased to hear one of the Sergeants say today that the boys’ opinions of the nurses have certainly gone up during the last two weeks.
April 13, 1944
Thursday. We left Milne Bay early yesterday morning. Calm sea all day — Happy Day! Spent the whole day on deck. It’s a most interesting shoreline and we did hug it all the way up. Ranges of mountains, frosted with clouds, looked like a chocolate cake with frosting running down in folds. We weaved in and around Oro Bay and stopped overnight in the harbor at Buna. We all talked about the difference one year has made in this area. It was pretty “HOT” in these parts last year at this time.
Today, packing is in order. And some mess too. If we get there today without a row in our cabin, I’ll be both surprised and thankful. Here’s hoping!
April 15, 1944
We have arrived! We pulled into the harbor about 0900 yesterday but had to wait until 1600 to disembark. I was bowled over when we were called on deck to ﬁnd Dr. Newell waiting for me. He had ﬂown over from Gloucester the night before. He gave me all the lowdown on the Marines in a few minutes, but found the attention diverted for fear I’d miss the cue to go ashore. But I didn’t and when we fell in, he carried my radio which was wonderful, as I needed a spare hand going down the gangplank.
That was a thrill I’ll never forget. Another one of those things you don’t have to write much about. You keep it in your mind’s eye forever. The apalling thing is that just four months ago, this was Japanese territory! In fact, our hospital set up is on a former Jap airﬁeld!
Men on all sides let out cheers and whoops of joy when they saw the nurses start down the gangplank. Naturally, it took them a minute to catch on, as we look pretty darned masculine in this get up. But we didn’t fool them for long. We stood on the deck for only a short time and then loaded into trucks. That was amid much laughter as most of us were so loaded down with gear that we needed a boost.
April 21, 1944
Wouldn’t you know it, I had to be on the ﬁrst list of the “New Guinea Trots”! I spent all of yesterday in bed, and must admit that I didn’t mind too much. I must backtrack a little. As we expected, the men are rolling in.
May 8, 1944
How time ﬂies! The ﬁrst patients came in on 23 April. Again, the 4th General Hospital came through in record time. Nine days after our arrival and one day after the ship was completely unloaded, we swung into action. In no time, we had 400 patients and the wards were practically full so they started to pitch extra tents. Now we’re really doing some rugged nursing! But it all seems to fall in order without too much confusion.
May 20, 1944
I’ve been tired in my life, but don’t know when any more than at his moment. I’ve just ﬁnished interviewing eighty-ﬁve men and placing them on wards, clinics, etc. and that ain’t easy!
May 27, 1944
Tired again tonight. Mail is terribly slow and that’s bad. I’ve had several good times lately. We’ve joined the 1872d Engineer Aviation Battalion (Colored) (arrived in New Guinea 18 Feb 44 -ed). A nice gang! My ﬂame of the moment is Captain Ray Seelye of Seattle. Nice enough, a little bit old for me, but easy to handle, so I guess I’ll hang on to him. (Still miss Lou Coltan far more than I want to).
June 9, 1944
It’s early AM, but I’m just in the mood to jot a few lines in here. Though I’d better make a few comments on the “crazy” things we do after ironing from midnight until 0200. But then, one must keep up an appearance. I’m also making with the pick and shovel, trying to set up a ﬂower bed. Another amusing situation is the plumbing. Our “ﬂush johns” are forever getting plugged up, so they’ve built us an “eight-holer”. Quite an experience that is! It makes you think of song titles such as: back to back, cheek to cheek, and I’m in the mood! I’m still thankful for a sense of humor. It’s all that save some situations.
I had two letters from Lou this week! He sounds as if he’s well and on the way to the promotion he’s been wanting so badly. I hope he continues writing.
June 30, 1944
Winding up the month. The outstanding wind up was sending the good Captain on his way. I was just filled up with him and could not stand it another minute, so I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore. I felt like I had slapped a child, but although he was grand to me, I could never get steamed up about him. So I decided to call the whole thing off.
We hear the Sixth United States Army is on the move. That means there’s little hope of Lou (Lou Polcan -ed) coming back this way. It makes me most unhappy. I lost his [West Point] insignia two days ago and I’ve hunted high and low with no results. Bad luck!
July 11, 1944
Big day! We started wearing leggings today and boy are we griping! We look like a bunch of Girl Scouts. This war is getting tougher by the moment. But, orders are orders and I guess we’ll manage somehow. I’m on duty again tonight. In my odd moments, I was checking back in the Book and see that I was quite a regular customer in it for a while. During the time that Lieutenant Polcan appeared in the book as an escort, it was all too short. When it changed to Captain Seely, it was all too long. Guess that’s enough said.
July 22, 1944
The problem of keeping the wards covered is a major problem and occupies my mind day and night. I’m afraid that’s not good for me as I’m terribly irritable and hard to get along with. Part of it I know is that darn thyroid kicking up again.
July 26, 1944
Time still marches on. For the most part people are getting pretty irritable. Same old business of waiting. So many things started and so few ﬁnished. Still waiting for our new barracks. Plumbing holds it up now. Also have the recreation hall, but no lights and it’s like pulling teeth to get carpenters, etc. But I suppose we’ll survive. We always have. Business has fallen off. We evacuated over two hundred patients yesterday and haven’t had a new load for several weeks.
July 29, 1944
It’s a rumor, I know, but such a good one. In fact, the ﬁrst real rumor we’ve heard since back in Melbourne when we started living on them. The “Fourth General Hospital” is being relieved of foreign duty and will take over George Washington Crile General Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio (designated US Army General Hospital by WD GO # 48, dated 24 Aug 43, opened 8 Apr 44, 1,867-bed capacity, specialty: general, orthopedic, ophthalmologic, and plastic surgery and psychiatry -ed). The ﬁrst part is what I like. As for the Crile General, don’t like that so well. But I would like to go home! I’m convinced that we should while we’re still doing good work and have a reputation. Call it “war fatigue” or what have you, but we’ve got it, almost 100%.
August 12, 1944
Serious business these last few days. Pressure on manpower. I’ve fought with everyone including the Colonel this week Sometimes I think they have an idea that because I’m a woman, they could walk all over me. However, I’m sure they’ve learned that I can think for myself and have a pretty good idea of what this job entails. I can’t help remarking that I’ve certainly learned a lot about forming opinions and not being afraid to fight for what I feel is right! I remember a time and not too long before I came into the Army when I agreed with anyone just to keep peace. I’ve learned that when one does that, that people only deride you and dub you an easy mark. One commands much more respect by having the courage of her convictions.
August 16, 1944
Yesterday, Edith Keyser and V. Carter left, assigned to the 134th General Hospital – part of the family. Edith is bitter and Betty very upset and taking unfair criticism. Today, Gladys Hanes leaves. Personally, that is from a professional angle, a great relief. Complications arise though, as now, I’ll be a Captain in nothing ﬂat. If it weren’t for the family, I would be most unhappy about it. But it will mean so much to them. To me [it means], only more headaches and heartaches. I still don’t give a damn about rank as far as I’m concerned!
September 13, 1944
Time flies, but not fast enough these days. Busy! I have never been busier. It seems like the old days when OB was running wild and there were always about six things to do. I have interviewed men until I swear I never want to see another one – well maybe one! I think my batting average is now well over 400. Personal work should supersede all abilities after this.
As for Ray, he is the port in the storm these days. I’m getting awfully tired of war, New Guinea and just the Army. We had a wonderful weekend. We’re making outside contacts these days and standing the test. Saturday night, we went to the 1872d. Ray fits in swell with the gang.
September 20, 1944
Another week. I’ve been happy and sad by turns. I’ve gone to the “powers” and told them that I’m ready to give my job in Detachment Headquarters back to the Sergeants. More and more, I see that I’m going to be left holding the bag in a few underhand tricks and I want no part of that. Another thing, I’m getting more and more into the personnel end of it, leaving nursing far behind. My plan is to get back in the nursing office where I belong and am really needed, then interest the wardmen in true ward teaching style. The “powers” aren’t too willing to give in, but have agreed that it’s a darn good idea. Anyway, the ball is rolling and some weight is added with Miss Benderoff’s leave to the US almost a certainty.
September 22, 1944
It’s almost a certainty that I’ll be leaving Detachment Headquarters by the 15th. It helps to clear the problem of how I can get home. By the time Miss Benderoff returns, I’m sure I’ll no longer be essential to the Detachment and a nurse can always be worked into the ofﬁce of Chief Nurse. That way, I will not be making unfair demands in wanting to go home.
September 29, 1944
Another week and all is still well. Professionally, I’m a little better off. I was called into conference on the rating question and if things go as they stand at the moment, I will get my share for the boys as well. I am so anxious for them to have their reward for the super job they’ve done here. I must admit I’m pretty proud of them.
Socially, things glide along.
Ray is becoming more and more important to my happiness. The world seems to revolve around him. I can’t say no when he wants to come up every night that he doesn’t work and I ’m miserable on the nights he can’t make it. I’ll have to get used to him not being around all too soon, so we must make very minute count!
September 30, 1944
I’ve made my decision this AM. Guess I’m a chump but just can’t let these boys down. I talked the situation with Lieutenant Holmes and told him how things must be. He agreed to cooperate, so now we shall see. I’m a little provoked at Ray at the moment. He got more than a little tight the other night and I felt pretty foolish because I made excuses on account of his malaria. The kids laughed at me and I hate to be laughed at. I’m anxious tonight. I didn’t see him yesterday, but bet he feels a bit embarrassed about the whole thing.
October 9, 1944
I’ve slipped a little behind on my progress of events. But I’ve been oh, so busy! Yesterday passed another run on the ladder. My Captaincy came through as of September 27! Now again, I’m in the outer perimeter and no longer “one of the girls”, but I can take it. Things are coming to the point where I need a little rank to support my demands. I hate to give in to that, but facts are facts.
The September quota left yesterday and ratings came through for my boys. I think I’m happier about them than about my own. Personal problems mount. Ray and I are getting to the point where we’re going to have to lay our plans on the table. To date we’ve talked around them. But now we’re beginning to depend more and more on each other and I’m afraid one of these days, we’ll do something foolish and spoil everything.
October 20, 1944
I’ve made my decision and will stick to my guns from here in, no matter what happens to my “rosy” plans. After all, I have to live with myself and I haven’t been very good company to myself this past week. I only pray that I won’t be sorry, although I feel so terribly sure that I’m right, now and last.
Business is much accelerated these days. Our merger and new set up for 2,000 beds has changed the picture completely. The 4th General Hospital is really a new institution. It was bound to happen and it looks as if we’ll profit by this deal. So here’s hoping things work out for us.
November 1, 1944
Another month starts here. Much has happened since I last wrote. Most important is that I’ve lost my job with my boys. I’ve been pretty unhappy about it, but with Miss Benderoff going home on leave, Katie needs the help in the office.
Then too, all of the NCOs in the world are assigned to us in this new merger deal, so they have to find jobs for them. It took a Master Sergeant, a Staff Sergeant and a clerk to fill my job so I guess I was doing okay.
So now I’m a nurse to a bunch of spoiled gals. I’ve been terribly depressed, mostly I think because at last I have to admin, even to myself, that the 4th General Hospital we’ve always been so proud of, is a thing of the past, and it hurts! Again my ideals have been shot and I’m floundering a bit.
November 29, 1944
I had a cruel shock on Sunday, the 26th. I had a letter returned from my favorite person, Lou Polcan marked “DECEASED”. I just can’t believe it! He had so darned much to live for! He was so young and full of verve, a brand new Captaincy and was on the right track, at least to go places. It almost makes me ill to write about it. I must admit that I was more than a little fond of him and I know that I was just a little important to him.
To me, those three weeks will always be a happy, happy memory. I’m trying to get his Mother’s address and would like so much to write to her.
December 8, 1944
We had an air raid warning last week, but no one even got excited about it. Sometimes, I wish they’d just drop a little one, way out in the harbor where it wouldn’t do any damage. At least it would cause a little excitement for a moment or two.
New Guinea (1945):
March 13, 1945
We got a load of casualties from the Philippines the ﬁrst of March and we’ve really been busy. But, it’s the kind of work we came here to do and almost everyone is glad to be busy again. It’s telling on the girls though. They’re just worn out. We’ve have sent a lot home again and there area several pending. Red Wentling and Anne Foley will be next. Then, I wonder?
Ray’s letter arrived just in time to make me decide to turn down rotation for March. I thought I’d better get my bearings before I decide.
Now, Betty writes that they won’t let her come back. I’m undecided as to whether I should take rotation or leave. I’m for the latter at the moment. Looks like they’ll need me around here for a While yet. Katie will go on leave next. Then, I can give Miss Benderoff a hand. She’ll need it. That will still give me time to make up my mind. The world (especially my world) is in turmoil. Bill is progressing nicely according to reports and will be evacuated to the States. I’m so glad!
Return to the Zone of Interior:
August 5, 1945, Camp Atterbury, Columbus, Indiana
Well Little Book, the most exciting time of the whole three and a half years has just ended. I’ll backtrack just the highlights. No need for details – they stick for always! I left New Guinea on 23 May and arrived in San Francisco on June 11. It was a rather rough, monotonous crossing, but we were on a swell ship and everybody was going home, so we were all impatient and somewhat in a daze.
Then, it was six days across country by train, from San Francisco to Camp Atterbury. I spent twelve hours at Camp Atterbury, then arrived in Dayton on 18 June.
The Leave, forty five days, was wonderful, every minute of it! Bill came home on July 6 for thirty days of sick leave and we had a grand time together. Mother, Dad and Dot were in their glory and I’m sure the five of us had about the happiest time in our lives. I spent the weekend of 13 July with Betty at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington and we caught up a bit on put chatter. I stopped at S.G.O. and talked with Major Roberts. I spent 18 July through 22 with Elsie in Cincinnati. Polly came down from Cleveland the 23d through the 25th, which was swell. Then, I had to start thinking about the day of departure.
Bill and I were both scheduled to leave today. Elsie took me to the station at 0130 and Bill, Mother, Dad and Dot left right behind us in the direction of Cambridge.
And, so it’s over. A happy, happy memory!
August 11, 1945
We arrived at Camp Stoneman, Pittsburg, California, but are still not sure about our fate. V-J Day is pending and although our orders have us headed back over [to New Guinea] and no change in sight, I’m sceptical. We’re all set awaiting a ship, but I wonder when?
August 14, 1945
The Japanese surrendered! (following the dropping of a second A-bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, 9 Aug 45 -ed).
August 17, 1945
We have learned our fate. We’re going back to Camp Atterbury for reassignment. Emotions are in turmoil. Guess I’m really happy about it, but also disappointed.
August 20, 1945
We left Camp Stoneman in a blaze of glory on a troop train!
August 24, 1945
We have arrived back at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. The trip wasn’t too bad this time, only three days on the troop train and a stop overnight in Chicago. We came via the Union Pacific Route this time. I had been across the country three times in two months, and each time traveled a different route. This time, was through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois. The scenery was beautiful. Especially interesting was crossing the Great Salt Lake by moonlight.
After returning to Camp Atterbury, we felt a bit let down because they greeted us with “What are you doing back here?” Anyway, they decided to send us home on a ten-day leave while they contacted Washington with regard to our assignment. We shall see!
I was home for ten days, then back to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, then to Fort Sheridan, Highwood, Illinois. I was separated from the Army on 13 September 1945, so this meant home for me.
Ruth was honorably discharged from the United States Army in September 1945. After leaving the service, she attended “Case Western Reserve University” and graduated from the “Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing” in 1947 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
In the early 1950s, Ruth accepted the position of Chief Nurse at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One night, while dining alone at a restaurant, she noticed a gentleman at another table who looked familiar to her; he too was dining alone. He approached her table and asked if she was Captain Kinzeler of the 4th General Hospital. He introduced himself as Corporal George Solot, who had trained and served under her command in Australia and New Guinea. They were married on 26 April 1952.
Ruth sadly passed away in 1994, leaving a wonderful legacy for her family, friends and all who knew and worked with her.
The MRC Staff would like to express their sincere gratitude to Elizabeth Solot Dick, daughter of Captain Ruth L. Kinzeler (ASN:N-741075) and Technician 5th Grade George Solot (ASN:33333661) who both served with the 4th General Hospital during WW2. Elizabeth kindly forwarded documents and photographs relating to her Parents’ service during WW2, which allowed the editing of this Testimony.