Lt. Col. Genevieve “Jimmie” Guitrau Harrold
Army Nurse – World War II
Air Force Flight Nurse – Korean War
Career Air Force Nurse
“I came back to the states [after WWII] and I was in Fort Jackson, SC until I completed my tour and paperwork…talk about paperwork now – it was bad then! Hadn’t improved.
“I got out and I lived in Daytona Beach – three or four months – and then I came home and I went to work for the Lady of the Lake Hospital. I couldn’t make ends meet. Here again — food, transportation, uniforms, and this, that, and the other. I just couldn’t make it on 100 bucks a month. No health insurance, no dental, no nothing!
So you joined back up?
“That time , I joined the [newly formed] Air Force, and I stayed.
One of her first assignments was with Strategic Air Command at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, TX in 1950.
“Then I decided I wanted to go to flight school. I went to Alabama for my flight training in ’52. And after that I got flying status. You got extra pay for flying status and I flew air evac out of Hawaii for three years during the Korean War.
What would you do on these flights?
“Took care of patients! (The following information describing air evac flights is from an earlier interview done with her in the early 1980s by the University of Nevada for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project)
She says her job was to pick up patients in the Pacific on all the islands where the US had military people who needed evacuation to a larger hospital — Japan, Midway Island, Johnson Island, and others. They flew C-54 prop planes, before jets. So it was a long haul from Japan to Honolulu — about 10 hours. They refueled at Midway or other islands.
During the stop which could last for 2-3 hours, the plane was refueled, the inside of the plane was cleaned, and they were resupplied with food and clean water. The nurses had a chance to refresh themselves during a stopover while a ground medical crew took care of patients. Ambulatory patients could walk around, but the litter patients stayed on board.
After a stop, they continued on to Hawaii where the patients were off-loaded to the Army hospital. There they were triaged and put on another evac plane to Travis Air Force base near San Francisco, and then on to hospitals in the US.
“The configuration of the [air evac] airplane took all the seats out. Except when you had ambulatory patients, you left seats. Now we had staunchions for the litters–three litters to a staunchion.
What is a staunchion?
“It’s nothing but a piece of metal that you put one end of a litter in and put the other end of the litter on a staunchion.
Ok, so it held the litters for you.
According to Mrs. Harrold, this was the first time transporting a patient in an iron lung on an air evac flight. This photo with Capt. Guitrau (Harrold) appears to be on the third leg — Hawaii to the United States — of the flight for Airman 3/c Warren Beatty of Detroit, Mich. which originated in Korea and flew to Japan on a C-54, Japan to Hawaii, then Hawaii to the United States on a C-97.
Immediately after the Korean War, she was the Charge Nurse in setting up a building to receive air vac patients in a 60 bed facility at Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, California for several months then she was transferred to a position in Spain. She drove herself cross-country from California to New Jersey to get on a plane to go to Madrid.]
“I was in Spain for three years [1957- 1960] at a base called Torrejon Air Force Base outside of Madrid. I was a Senior Nurse on a surgical floor [of a 100-bed hospital]. I was a Captain at the time and I got promoted [to Major] while I was over there.
“We lived in the BOQs – Bachelor Officers’ Quarters. Well, the lady next door had her bedroom and a living room and I had the same thing and we had connecting doors. So we decided, well, we took a foot locker and made a table out of it. And I had an electric skillet. And she had some things and we went out and bought what we wanted.
“And we had a maid. She cleaned up and she taught us how to eat and prepare Spanish food, so we didn’t have to go to the dining room.
“And that’s where I was when Tyrone Power died. He died in Spain. He’s an actor and we got the body in our morgue.
“And there was this gal, I can’t even remember her name. She was a big girl. And she was a nurse on the other ward and I was on the other. She came and said, ‘Let’s go down to the morgue!’
“And I said, ‘What for?’
“Well they got Tyrone Power down there!”
“Yeah! Come on! Let’s go!”
“It was midnight or after midnight when we went down there and flipped on the lights. Ole Tyrone was sitting on the litter there. I mean, laid out on the litter. Still handsome!
Wow…that’s an experience.
“And they flew him out a couple of days later. I thought he was a beautiful actor myself. I think he was a good looking guy!
He was making a movie over there?
“Yeah, he had a coronary, I think. And then they took the body over to our facilities.
“But I learned a lot…in Spain. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
“[From Madrid] I’ve driven south, east, and west. And I took leave – vacation time. And my roommate and I went through the French Alps and up into Germany. I did a lot of traveling!
“And then [from 1960-1962] I went to Clovis, New Mexico. And I said, “Where in the hell is Clovis, New Mexico!” I was Director of Nursing Service there — Chief Nurse of a 100-bed hospital – Chief Nurse is administrative.
While stationed in Clovis, she attended an event in Texas. After the event she was able to hitch a ride back in a jet piloted by Chuck Yeager. She needed a way back. He had and extra seat. So he told her to get her parachute. It was an hour and fifteen minute flight.
“Then I got orders to go to Maine — Dow Air Force Base [in Bangor] as a Senior Nurse, Director of Nursing Service. And I got there – I’ll never forget it – the twelfth of September. It was a gorgeous fall day, the leaves were changing. It was beautiful! The sun was shining.
“And the housing people had no billets on the base for military people such as me [single and female]. So I had to go on the civilian market. And the lady who was running the housing said she had a vacant apartment. I went there and she had an old house, very old. She had the upper deck the second floor and a basement. What the hell do I know about a basement! So anyway, she rented it to me
“It was there [at the base] I was in an in-service meeting and the door flew open! ‘The President was killed!’ Kennedy was killed. Of course everything came to a standstill. At the facility, all the patients were upset. It was a small facility –sixty beds. And here again, you work your behind off.
In Maine, she expressed that she felt she was stationed at the end of the world. But she also shared about many new experiences that she had while living there, like snow, skiing, lobsters, and corned beef!
In Part 3, Mrs. Harrold finishes telling her story of a full 27-year military career and a very full life.