I would like to tell you about an incredible factual narrative. It is the extraordinary account of a courageous group of women who gave so much in the service of their country at a time when women were not often seen as military heroes. The story of these remarkable women veterans deserves to be told I realize that you receive hundreds if not thousands of requests from people asking for your attention to their stories. I would be so very grateful if you would consider this wonderful true chronicle. Soon after Pearl Harbor, a call went out from all branches of the military for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to enlist and form medical units to be sent overseas and serve in the European and South Pacific Theaters of War. My mother was Captain Ruth Kinzeler of the WW2 4th General Army Hospital (originated and formed at Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio - January, 1942). The 4th General Army Hospital was the very first United States Military Medical Unit sent into the South Pacific Theater, stationed first in Melbourne, Australia. Then as the Allies pushed north, they followed, building a tent hospital on an abandoned Japanese air strip in the jungles of New Guinea. Many years later, when Mother had to go into nursing home care, I discovered a journal that she had maintained all through her three and a half years of military service. It was begun on the night of January 20, 1942, the night she and this brave group of nurses boarded the Navel Destroyer – “Thomas H. Barrie” in New York Harbor. They were part of a convoy of seven other naval ships. Their destination was unknown. (One of the ships in their convoy was torpedoed in route!). This was not merely the day to day ponderings of an ordinary diary. It was the first hand account of historical events, professional and career challenges, personal triumphs and struggles. She wrote of her intense homesickness and terrible loneliness, broken (even one tragic) love affairs and friends made and lost. Over the course of the next 3 ½ years, Mother wrote of terrifying times especially as the Allies pushed the Japanese north. Then they (the 4th General Army Hospital) moved up too, setting up tent hospital wards in the jungles of New Guinea. They remember operating while standing in mud up to their knee caps! Mother’s years in military service defined her whole life. Even years later, when Alzheimer’s had ravaged so much of her mind that she no longer knew me or her family, she could remember with crystal clarity incidents and situations from her time as Captain Ruth Kinzeler, United States Army Nurse Corps! I would appreciate anything that you could do to help bring the story of my mother and these brave women Army nurses of the 4th General Army Hospital to light! The story of this "Band of Sisters" is true gold and holds so much promise and potential and will be of interest to many - those who have served our country and those who are serving now. There are numerous reasons this saga will hold significance to many. But foremost and most notible to me is the patriotic fervor of these valiant women who enlisted, without hesitation in the Army Nurse Corps soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Above all else, my ultimate goal is to honor my mother, her nurses and the 4THGeneral Army Hospital. They deserve to be honored and remembered! My heart swells with pride when I think about the dedication and sacrifices these courageous women made in the service of their country. And above all, this story merits telling because their unit, the 4th General Army Hospital was the very first American military medical unit deployed to the South Pacific Theater of the War! I would be so extremely honored to send you this incredible journal for your review. If you would like to read it, I will mail it to you immediately , along with corresponding photos and news articles! What an outstanding outlook and new vision it would be to have a war story recounted through the eyes of an Army Nurse! And what a story it is!!
One that thing I would like to share with you. When the nurses enlisted after Pearl Harbor, they left Terminal Tower in Cleveland by train and went to New York. There, they boarded the Navel Destroyer – Thomas E. Barrie. They sat at anchor in NY Harbor for several days while a convoy of seven Navel destroyers was formed. This was the night she began her journal or as she called it : My little black book. It was her best friend and confident throughout her time over seas. N They had no idea where they were going or what their destination was! To me, this is true courage! Anyway, after she wrote this marvelous journal, with so many experiences, dramas, anecdotes, historical witnessing, when she was discharged, she ended her journal with these simple words: “And now for me, the war is over”. Everyone who has read it, ends up in tears with her parting words! However – it gets better!! A few years later, she apparently picked up her “little black book” again and added one more chapter. This absolutely blew me away!! When I wrote her journal into a manuscript, I used her very last chapter as a preface to her story. Here it is: (THE LAST PAGES OF MOTHER'S WWII JOURNAL): PREFACE: LOOKING BACK AND REMEMBERING THE WAR November 9, 1946 While brushing the molars and inspecting the rather evident crows feet around the eyes, I became somewhat introspective and got to wondering how long I’ll hold together. Isn’t it funny at such a time, one digs up an old incident, brushes the cobwebs off, inspects it thoroughly and perhaps really sees the meaning of that situation for the first time? Or have you never done that? Tonight, I’ve become really acquainted with an incident which occurred almost five years ago. It happened while we were zigzagging across the Pacific on the way to Australia. Hours were of greater length and life seemed no longer measured by time. There was something awe inspiring about the sudden disappearance from the world of the dust of small things, of petty feelings and cares. One had a keen sensation of a lull in ones’ existence with almost nothing to see, or to meet, or to expect. As I told you before, we were never scared for a minute. Although we were on our way to war, it was hard to believe that hate, jealousy and murder were running rampant all over the world. Those rolling waves seemed to wash away so much of the tiredness, the spite, the bitterness. There was a peculiar feeling of being cut off from all lands and all countries and for a while, seeing them all from far off in a perspective of miles and smaller proportions. I know this wasn’t only a personal reaction. Leaning over the rail of the blacked out deck, looking at the stars, so close you could almost reach out and grab a handful. Or watching the phosphorescent glow sparkling in the waves as the ship cut it’s way quietly through the water, we often gathered in groups or just in couples and talked about the past or speculated about the future. It was easy to bare one’s innermost thoughts and ambitions to comparative strangers. A relationship existed which is difficult to describe to a person acquainted only with the reality of everyday life. My favorite companions were the ships’ First Mate and our Catholic Chaplain. They had both traveled over the whole world and were able to analyze this peculiar sensation that I was experiencing for the first time. Listening to Kelly, the ships’ mate, I began to understand why some men choose the sea and become enslaved to it. Often, Kelly and the Padre became so engrossed in swapping yarns about where they had been and the things they had done, that suddenly, one of them would come to with a start and realize that I was there with open ears and mouth shut. (Except for what I hoped was an inaudible gasp). At such times, the Padre would say “Ruthie’s learning about life tonight”. On one such occasion, I flipped back; “I’d say I am! In fact I think I’ll write a book after this little excursion”. The Padre laughed, but I assured him that I was serious about it. Then he became serious and gave me some advice that I stored away but didn’t quite believe. It was this, practically verbatim: “Write a book! No! You have to live before you can do that. Some desires must be realized; some must be left to strive for. You have to experience some disappointment, yes and grief. You must know good people and bad people and have some understanding of why they are that, before you can write anything worthwhile. No, Ruthie, you’re not ready yet!” I must admit that I felt pretty juvenile and over ambitious after that little outburst, but secretly I decided I’d show him! Several times over the next two months, I started stubbornly, to carry out my threat, but it didn’t take long to find out that the Padre was right. Then – too – we got busy with many things and I left the idea to gather cobwebs. That is the incident which I’ve been brushing off tonight and seeing it in it’s true sense at last. The good Father was right. I’m on the other side of the fence now. I think I could qualify. Some desires have been attained; others are still faintly aglow with hope keeping them alive. I’ve experienced joy, grief and bitter disappointment. I’ve known good people and have learned to make excuses for the bad ones. I supposed you realize that I could not chatter on in this manner to anyone but you [my little black book]. There are some who would think that I’ve gone completely balmy, but I feel certain that you understand. At this point, you’ll see that I’m struggling for an outlet for pent up energy. As usual, you’re right. But please give me credit for trying to at least keep up the strength. ONLY THE WEAK GO BACK TO YESTERDAY BUT THERE ARE LOVELY FLOWERS ALONG THE WAY! THE END
I have wonderful corresponding photographs, letters, documents and newspaper and magazine articles to support the saga of the nurses of the 4th General Army Hospital! It is time to honor these brave women! They did so much work that was before their time - setting up tent hospitals in the jungles of New Guinea, dealing with horrific battle injuries of the men that they treated, caring for the nurses evacuated from Bataan, and so much more!! My mother's journal documents their story with incredible truth and integrity! From the first few days of being boarded on to a Naval Destroyer in New York Harbor with their destination being unknown! To spending weeks at sea with little or no water for drinking or bathing! These wonderful women learned and adapted to their situation with patriotic grace and fervor!