Becoming an Army Nurse

Army Nurse in Karachi



[Annotator's Note: There is a lot of background noise in this interview.] Edith Vancheri was born in February 1923 in Passaic, New Jersey. She grew up in a small town with a brother and a sister. After graduating from high school, Vancheri knew she wanted to go to nursing school. She enjoyed her nursing school experience. When she became a registered nurse, she decided she wanted to into military service. Throughout the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States], her family moved often because her father could not afford the rent. Even though there were hardships, she still thought of her childhood as wonderful. She was on a cheerleading team and went to school. She was not very good at arithmetic. Her father worked in produce at a grocery store. Vancheri was not fully aware of the German and Japanese threats. She only knew what was going on through newspapers. Most people did not dwell on it like we do today. After hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941], she decided to become an Army nurse in 1945 upon completion of her training. Vancheri had a brother that was studying to be a priest, so he was deferred from the draft. During nursing school, she did not dwell on the ongoings of the war because she was too immersed in her studies and training. She felt compelled to help wounded soldiers and that's why she joined the Army. Her father took her to enlist. She was required to sign a waiver because she was one inch short of five feet. When they returned home, she hung a Blue Star Flag [Annotator's Note: Service flag, or Blue Star Flag, official banners displayed by families who have members in the Armed Forces during any period of war or hostilities] in the front window of the home. Vancheri's mother was initially disapproving of the decision to join the Army, but along with her father, became very proud of her service. She attended basic training in South Florida and was given a uniform [Annotator's Note: US Army Nurse Corps]. She was told by her superiors that they would not be carrying any weapons and they would not be sent anywhere dangerous because the enemy did not bomb hospitals. Vancheri was transported to a hospital in Karachi, India [Annotator's Note: now Karachi, Pakistan]. Upon arriving, she and 10 other nurses relieved nurses who had been stationed in Karachi for 20 months. She lived in barracks and enjoyed her experience overall. Vancheri supervised the hospital making rounds every day. A Black soldier suffering from severe burns died in her arms. That was a traumatic experience for her and took a while to get over. One of her responsibilities was to determine if soldiers should return to duty or sent home.


[Annotator's Note: There is a lot of background noise in this interview.] Edith Vancheri [Annotator's Note: an Army nurse stationed in Karachi, India, now Karachi, Pakistan] and the nurses in her hospital were exhausted. Every morning she would leave her barracks, head to her office, and then to the hospital to make rounds. She checked on the patients and updated the status on the patients' conditions. Many of the days in the hospital were sad but punctuated by GIs [Annotator's Note: government issue; also, a slang term for an American soldier] happy to be cared for by her and the other nurses. The soldiers were always thrilled to see when the nurses came on duty. She felt so thankful to be helping them. She thought the Army treated the nurses well and were very respectful. The Army preferred that the nurses date officers versus the enlisted men. Vancheri received word that the Army was going to raise them to First Lieutenant, but then the war ended, and she never achieved that rank. On her journey to Karachi, she stopped in England and had dinner at an officer's house. Her role in World War 2 was important, and she took her job seriously. Vancheri has no complaints about her time in the Army. She went on dates often, usually to the officer clubs where they provided music and food. People were screaming when they heard that the war had ended. The next thing she knew, people were packing up to go home. Vancheri stayed in touch with her parents through mail. She was not homesick because she was too busy. She had a person in her barracks that was assigned to her and would help her with anything she needed. She flew home. She was discharged in January 1946 with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. She used the GI Bill [Annotator's Note: the G.I. Bill, or Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was enacted by the United States Congress to aid United States veterans of World War 2 in transitioning back to civilian life and included financial aid for education, mortgages, business starts and unemployment] to buy a house for her parents before she continued her career in nursing.


Edith Vancheri's most memorable experience of World War 2 was when a soldier died in her arms [Annotator's Note: as a nurse in the US Army Nurse Corps]. She served because she thought it was where she was supposed to be and felt she needed to help. The war put some sadness in her life because of all the soldiers lost, but she carried on as she should. She is proud of her service and helped in the war efforts. America should not let another world war happen again. We lost a lot of men in World War 2, and it was a lot of sadness. There should be institutions like the National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana], and they should continue to teach World War 2 to future generations, so people know what those boys went through. She is thankful for the Army.

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