1LT Yetta Moskowitz, Army Air Corps
“The world should be made aware of what the flight nurses did. We started air evacuation medicine, which helped save thousands of lives.” —Yetta Moskowitz
A pioneer of air evacuation medicine, Yetta Moskowitz received an air medal for flying over 100 hours through combat zones in New Guinea and the Philippines to evacuate wounded soldiers in World War II. Moskowitz was fresh out of nursing school in June of 1943 when she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps as a flight nurse. She trained in the Air Force School of Air Evacuations before deploying to the Philippines, where she helped extract seven thousand troops from enemy territory and keep them alive until they could reach area hospitals. Her courage under fire earned her a promotion to first lieutenant and chief nurse of the 804th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron.
While nurses were technically noncombatants, they had to carry revolvers in case they were shot down over enemy territory, and Moskowitz’s best friend was killed while rescuing wounded soldiers. Have you seen the movie Pearl Harbor? Where Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnet vie for the love of Kate Beckinsale, a WWII nurse with perfect banana curls, crisp white uniforms, and an impressive collection of high-waisted bikinis? The real story, it seems, was far less glamorous, significantly more dangerous, and, well, simply awe-inspiring.
[Editor’s Note: Moskowitz received an air medal for flying over 100 hours above combat territory to evacuate wounded in New Guinea and the Philippines.]
I can’t even begin to imagine what it meant to serve this country as a Jewish woman during World War II. These women were likely discriminated against for their gender and religion in the U.S. and still chose to do whatever they could to support the war effort. There weren’t women’s bathrooms on many Air Force bases. They had to deal with quotes like this one from LIFE magazine: “Girls are very serious about their chance to fly for the Army, even when it means giving up nail polish, beauty parlours and dates for a regimented 33 weeks.” (REALLY) This Memorial Day, remember the women who rarely make it into the movies and the history books. Visit jwa.com to learn more about Jewish women in the military, and help us expand the archive by sharing your own story.
[This article republished from the Jewish Women’s Archive with permission of the author].