Winnie Woll, the daughter of an Army nurse who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attacks, has spent years collecting the memories and experiences of other women who were there that day. Here are a few that she passed along to me.
A Classic Love Story
Lenore Terrell Rickert was a Navy nurse on Pearl Harbor during the attacks. She spent her time that day caring for the wounded and getting able-bodied victims to help bring in those who were in worse shape.
Lenore was an officer at the time, so the fact that she was dating Bud Rickert, an enlisted man, was pretty taboo. So their relationship went on in secret.
After Pearl Harbor, Bud was assigned to Wake Island. He became a prisoner of war when that island was attacked by the Japanese. He spent about four years in Japan as a POW before being freed in 1945. When an official in charge of the POW evacuation of Japan caught wind of his love affair with Lenore, he flew Bud directly to where she was stationed – the naval base at Bremerton, Washington.
Lenore knew Bud was alive, but there had been little communication between them over those four years. She didn’t know what was going on when Bud and the other POWs arrived in Bremerton – she was just told to go help the incoming wounded.
“So she did, and here comes Bud, hobbling across the tarmac as best he could,” Woll said. “He looked at her and said, ‘We have so much catching up to do.’ And they married that same night.”
Lenore ended up representing the Pearl Harbor women that introduced President George H.W. Bush at the Pearl Harbor 50th anniversary Memorial Day service.
Grace B. Lally was a seasoned military nurse by World War II – she served in the Army in World War I before transferring to the Navy in 1923.
“She was unusual in that she was in two different wars – World War I and World War II, and she was in the Army and Navy. A lot of men don’t have that,” Woll said.
Lally, who was the head nurse on the USS Solace during the Pearl Harbor attacks, recalled how the Solace was caught in dangerous crossfire as the battleships surrounding the hospital ship started to fire back at the Japanese. Thankfully, because of the laws of the Hague Convention, which say that any hospital ship with a white hull and red crosses should be spared, the Solace wasn’t harmed.
Fun fact about Lally: She didn’t learn how to swim until she retired. “She was on the ships all those years and never learned how to swim,” Woll said.
Riding with Gen. Patton
Army nurse Kathryn Doody was also stationed at Tripler during the Pearl Harbor attacks. She was awakened by the bombings and quickly reported for duty as a surgical nurse, where she helped to take in the wounded from Hickam Field. She said that all civilians helped out – even prostitutes, since they were “out of work” for the time being.
Doody was sent to England a few months after Pearl Harbor to head up the efforts to set up nursing stations there. Her ride over was pretty eventful: She got to ride on the same ship as the famed Gen. George Patton.
Doody served in the Korean War, too, before retiring as an Army major.
Returning a Purple Heart
Annie Fox was the head nurse at Hickam Field Army hospital, which opened about a month before the Dec. 7, 1941 attack.
Fox wasn’t injured during the bombings, but she received a Purple Heart for her efforts. About three years later, though, officials discovered that she shouldn’t have received it, so she had to give it back. Instead, she was awarded the Bronze Star.
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