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Flight nurses were angels for WWII wounded - NavyTimes.com

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Flight nurses were angels for WWII wounded

VANCOUVER, Wash. — In the movie, the flight nurse and the wounded G.I. trade smiles as the C-54 transport plane flies two dozen casualties across the Pacific to a stateside hospital.


Ronald Reagan was supposed to play the G.I., by the way, but wasn’t available.


On the screen, the nurse chats with more wounded soldiers and Marines. She looks at photos of their sweethearts. She shares their excitement when the Golden Gate Bridge comes into view as their plane — nicknamed the “Purple Heart Express” — approaches San Francisco.


That’s the Hollywood version of air evacuation during World War II. The 15-minute movie was filmed as part of a Victory Bond sales campaign.


The film, now being shown at Pearson Air Museum, was a nice salute to a breakthrough in military medicine. But it left out a few things, said the Vancouver woman who was the Army Air Corps nurse shown in the film. It was too tidy, too upbeat, too ... well, Hollywood.


“We took a lot of hurting people home,” Helen Smith said. “The movie doesn’t show it. Civilians in those days were not informed about what was going on.”


One of those hurting soldiers was “a young man who’d lost both arms and both legs,” said Smith, who was known as Lt. “Taffy” Logan when she served as an Army flight nurse.


Soldiers who still had their arms and legs offered other indicators of what they’d gone through. Smith saw it in their eyes, she said, the glassy stares of young men haunted by some of the fiercest combat in the Pacific.


That was the war that Smith saw in places that became synonyms for brutal, bloody combat: Okinawa; Tarawa and Guadalcanal.


She was at New Caledonia and Bougainville, Kwajalein and Saipan, Luzon and Manila, as U.S. forces and their allies fought their way toward Japan.

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