Battle For Okinawa: World War II     |     home

The US Army Nurse Corps and Okinawa...Angels of Mercy

The 374th Station Hospital was established on the island of Tinian in the Marianas in late January 1945. One month after the arrival of the 374th, the hospitals on Saipan, Guam, and Tinian began receiving battle casualties from Iwo Jima. Over 18,000 casualties arrived within a single month.

After Iwo Jima was secured in late March, the Okinawa campaign began almost immediately. For the Allies, the island of Okinawa was the last step toward the main islands of Japan. But Okinawa was fiercely defended. Within three months, from April to June 1945, more than 50,000 US soldiers, sailors, and marines were wounded and 15,000 killed. Casualties sustained during the Okinawa campaign were evacuated to Guam, Saipan, and Tinian via plane and hospital ship.

Although the twenty-four flight nurses stationed at Guam went on 273 missions during which they cared for 5,529 sick and wounded patients from the front lines to Guam, Saipan, or Tinian, the vast majority of Okinawa casualties arrived at the station and general hospitals of the Mariana Islands by hospital ship.
Nurses stationed on the Marianas worked twelve-hour days, seven days a week. Many patients arrived in severe shock, others in hemorrhage. Some had sustained multiple wounds, and many required traumatic amputations. Nurses assumed responsibilities handled by doctors in the United States. They gave transfusions, debreeded and dressed wounds, and removed sutures. Nurses trained wardmen to give infusions and change dressings, duties traditionally reserved for nursing personnel.

Medical personnel set up special wards for the many severely burned patients who had been on oil tankers attacked by Japanese suicide planes. Nurses stabilized burn patients with plasma, blood, and morphine in the shock ward before taking them into surgery for debreedment and Vaseline pressure dressings.

As the Okinawa campaign drew to a close, the 232d General Hospital, including eighty-one nurses, was established on the island of Iwo Jima. The Japanese bombed and strafed the hospital periodically. Nurses who were off duty took refuge in two air raid shelters located in back of the nurses' quarters. Those who were on duty stayed with the patients and settled them in a cave located behind the hospital.

Next Page