Nursing School

Various Nursing Jobs

Army Nurse Overseas

Joining the Army

Meeting Her Husband

Married By Proxy on Tinian

Returning Home

War's End

Reflections

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Anna McCalla Noren was born in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1921. She grew up on a farm with her parents and four siblings during the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: The Great Depression, a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1945]. Two of her brothers served for the Navy during World War 2, but Noren outranked them both. Life was not fancy, but they were better off than some of the other families in the area because they had various animals on the farm. Noren and her sister helped her mother with the house while her brothers worked the farm. They also had a tenant farmer that helped the family with the farm duties. Some of the people in her community were suffering, but most people were not. Some of her classmates were suffering. Her mother would fix baskets for those having a hard time. Noren and her siblings went to a one-room school for most of their education. After graduating high school in 1939, she briefly worked for a dry goods store before starting nursing school at Grant Hospital [Annotator's Note: now OhioHealth Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio]. Her best friend convinced her to go into nursing. They drove to Columbus and interviewed at two hospitals before choosing Grant. Noren started nursing school on Labor Day weekend 1939 and completed the program in 1942. While attending school she lived in the nursing school dorms. She would have minimal number of holidays and breaks for three years. At times school was stressful but she made it through. She was not yet 21 years old when she graduated and therefore, she was not able to take her State Boards [Annotator's Note: examinations] right away. She had to wait until March 1943 to take them.

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[Annotator’s Note: Anna McCalla Noren graduated from Nursing School and took the state boards in March 1943]. In the summer of 1943, Anna McCalla Noren and a friend decided to take a road trip to California taking route 66. She remembered they accidently left their stamp rations at a gas station and had to go back and get them. Her friend was engaged to a man out in Los Angeles [Annotator’s Note: Los Angeles, California]. Her husband contracted diphtheria and Noren and her friend remained there for a few months while they took care of him. She also started working for a local hospital for two months then returned to Ohio when her friend’s fiancé was feeling better. Noren remembered keeping up with the war news by reading the newspaper and listening to the radio when she was not working or studying for exams. Upon her return to Ohio she went to work caring for a man who had been injured while working on the Big Inch pipeline [Annotator’s Note: A petroleum pipeline built from Texas to New Jersey for war production] for eight months. This, however, was not the type of job she wanted to do, and her friend took over the case for her. Since she wanted more excitement so in April 1944 Noren joined the Army Nurse Corps [Annotator’s Note: Interviewee pauses to sip water 0:22:03.000]. She was issued clothing, but in July the military took all the uniforms back and issued new uniforms because the Army had inducted the nurses in the regular Army. She was inducted in Columbus, Ohio and had to sign a waiver because she was shorter than regulation. Noren was then sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana for basic training. After completing four months of basic training, Noren remained at Fort Benjamin Harrison for some time before being transferred to Crile General Hospital [Annotator’s Note: Crile Military Hospital, near Cleveland, Ohio] in November 1944. Upon her arrival at Crile General Hospital she volunteered for overseas duty. During her time at Crile, she was snowed in which delayed her departure overseas.

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In November 1944, Anna McCalla Noren received orders to report to the 304th General Hospital at Fort Knox, Kentucky. She began training for overseas duty. At first, she was assigned heavy clothing but then the Army took it back and issued light weight clothing. They began preparing for the invasion of Japan. In early July 1945 Noren and the rest of the 304th General Hospital traveled by train from Fort Knox to Seattle, Washington. From there they moved down to Tacoma [Annotator's Note: Tacoma, Washington] and shipped out aboard the SS Matsonia. At one time during the voyage, the ship stopped the engines and they bobbed around in the ocean. They might have been in danger of the enemy nearby. After a few days at sea the Matsonia stopped in Hawaii. While in port, Noren and many of the other nurses hung over the side of the ship and bought leis [Annotator's Note: garland or wreath of flowers] from some native Hawaiian girls. The Hawaiian girls tossed the leis up to the nurses and the nurses dropped the money down. Three days after the Matsonia arrived in Hawaii, it set out to sea again for Tinian [Annotator's Note: Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands]. Since the Matsonia was not able to dock anywhere in the harbor the men and women of the 304th General Hospital going ashore had to climb over the side on a cargo net and climb into LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personal]. [Annotator's Note: Noren and the interviewer have a personal exchange and then the interviewer fixes her microphone from 0:39:58.000 to 0:40:52.000.]

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Anna McCalla Noren was working as a dietician nurse in late 1941 in nursing school. She learned about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] after coming home that evening from the hospital. She discussed the incident with her fellow nurses. They did not dwell on the event because they were busy. Noren was convinced by a fellow nurse to join the Army in April 1944. She chose the Army because the Navy had stricter regulations and she probably would not get in because of her height. Her family was a little apprehensive about her decision to join but by that time both of her brothers were serving in the Navy, so they supported her. She was in the United States when she learned Germany surrendered. She celebrated the end of war in Europe and was glad to know her brothers were okay. One of her brothers flew the DEW line [Annotator's Note: Distant Early Warning Line] after the war was over. She wrote V-mail [Annotator's Note: Victory Mail; postal system put into place during the war to drastically reduce the space needed to transport mail] to her brothers while she was away from home. When she headed overseas, she was on a SS Matsonia which used to be a cruise ship. She crossed the equator, but they did not do any kind of ceremony. Everything on the ship was fancy. She ate in the dining room with china and silver because she was an officer. She felt sorry for the enlisted men because they were packed in at the bottom of the ship.

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Anna McCalla Noren wrote to her boyfriend, Carl Noren, to occupy time. She had met him when she first arrived at Fort Benjamin Harrison [Annotator's Note: also called Fort Ben, Lawrence Township, Indiana] for basic training. He had joined the Army after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He served in Hawaii for one year and then returned to the United States for Officers Training School. Carl Noren served in North Africa and Italy. He returned to the United States when he heard from the Red Cross that his father was deathly ill. He was assigned to Jefferson Barracks [Annotator's Note: Jefferson Barracks Military Post in Lemay, Missouri] and, after his father passed, he was sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison to be reassigned. He was sent to France and worked on filling medical supplies during the Battle of the Bulge [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Bulge or German Ardennes Counter Offensive, 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945].

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When Anna McCalla Noren arrived on Tinian [Annotator's Note: Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands] on 3 August 1945 with her unit [Annotator's Note: 304th General Hospital] she had to climb over the side on a cargo net and climb down in to LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personal] waiting alongside to take them to shore. She could see the island of Saipan [Annotator's Note: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands] off the Tinian shore. She would watch B-29s [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber] take off and land all day. Noren worked in one of the hospitals on Tinian but there was not much work to do. The Japanese surrendered less than two weeks after her arrival. To get Noren back home sooner rather than later she and her boyfriend decided to get married. Her boyfriend, Carl Noren, drove to Lordsburg, New Mexico to apply for a marriage license which would allow him and Noren to be married by proxy [Annotator's Note: by proxy is the authority to represent someone else]. After sending the application to Noren to be signed, they were ready for the ceremony. On 22 October 1945, they were married by proxy in Lordsburg. Standing in for Noren was a young lady named Rachel Atkinson. Once the ceremony was performed and the license was signed her husband mailed Noren a copy of it. Although they were married in October it was not until the middle of November that Noren knew she was married. Being married provided a benefit to Noren. She would be able to return to the United States and leave the Army sooner than unmarried service members. Noren had been transferred to the 374th General Hospital shortly after arriving on Tinian. When the 374th General Hospital began preparing to deploy to Korea she was transferred to the 274th General Hospital. She was soon given orders to return to the United States.

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In November 1945, Anna McCalla Noren boarded a transport plane and flew from Tinian [Annotator's Note: Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands] to Saipan [Annotator's Note: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands] then from Saipan to Guam [Annotator's Note: Guam, Mariana Islands]. There she had a brief layover. Noren spent Thanksgiving Day 1945 swimming and hanging out on the beach on Guam. From Guam, she flew to Hawaii then continued to San Francisco [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California]. She stayed with her mother-in-law and some cousin-in-laws in Oakland [Annotator's Note: Oakland, California] for five days. This was the first time she met her husband's family. She received orders to fly to Chicago [Annotator's Note: Chicago, Illinois] to be discharged. However, on the way over, the plane had to land due to bad weather. She took care of a sick officer that came down with malaria [Annotator's Note: mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite] while she waited for the weather to calm down. She reunited with her husband in Chicago, and they made their way to Chillicothe, Ohio where they had a wedding ceremony, even though they were already married by proxy [Annotator's Note: by proxy is the authority to represent someone else] when she was in the Pacific. They went to New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana] for their honeymoon. They settled in Jefferson City, Missouri and had five children. Noren did not work for a while but raised her children because her husband had to travel for his work.

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While stationed on Tinian [Annotator's Note: Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands] Anna McCalla Noren was thrilled when she heard the news that the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945]. To celebrate the Japanese surrendered, she attended a religious service. The Army did not take long to leave the island when the war ended. When the 374th General Hospital began preparing to deploy to Korea, Noren was transferred to the 274th General Hospital and eventually sent back to the United States. She was very sad to separate from her friends, but she saw them off when they went to Korea. She was discharged in December 1945 as a Second Lieutenant. Noren and her husband did not take advantage of the G.I. Bill. When they tried to use it to purchase a house, for some reason it did not apply.

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Anna McCalla Noren's most memorable experience of World War 2 was the trip across the Pacific and having to sit in silence for 18 hours because of enemy threat. She was so relieved when the war finally did end. Noren took a cruise recently and saw the remnants of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapon dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945]. She went home once to celebrate her father's birthday and it was a lengthy trip because of bad weather. She was sure she would be kicked out of the Army because she was AWOL [Annotator's Note: Absent Without Leave] for eight hours. Noren served in World War 2 because it seemed like the right thing to do. She felt compelled to be in the service because she wanted to help, and her brothers were in the service. World War 2 changed her life because she met her husband. She never would have gone out to the Pacific if it were not for the war. She is proud to have served and feels rewarded to be part of it. She believes most Americans today do not know much about World War 2. Since it was almost 70 years ago, people got busy living. Noren believes it is important to have institutions like The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] and that it should continue to teach about the subject to future generations.

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