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Charlotte Goerlich

U.S. Navy

I reported to Hunter College in New York City in August 1944. I had never slept in an upper bunk, and the first night I slept on my stomach and held on tightly. We were on the 6th floor and walked that several times a day no use of any elevators. We were given aptitude tests, and I qualified for 6 things - 5 along the clerical line and one for medical corps. That's the one I chose had always wanted to be a nurse when I was a kid. I was sent to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, MD. We worked and studied so hard that it was the first time that I was ever homesick. I think that we spent 8 weeks there, only to learn about 50 years later that previous classes had been 3-4 months. My rate there was hospital apprentice 2nd class. We learned to give a hypodermic to an orange, only to learn later that that's not the same as giving it to a human being.

We took our meals in the hospital, and I could tell from the patients we saw there that we weren't even beginning to see the worst cases. We studied a lot, but the time went quickly. We worked hard, and I remember polishing the floor with a buffer. When we were finished there and took our tests, I was promoted to HA 1/C. then it was time to choose the hospital we wanted. We were told that if we were from the East coast not to even think about applying for a hospital on the West coast or in Hawaii. They were saved for the WAVES from those areas. Philadelphia wasn't available then. I think that the next nearest hospital was in Camp Lejeune, NC, which is probably the largest Marine base on the East Coast, if not in the country. I chose that. The town nearest the camp is Jacksonville, NC. At that time, it was just like a town in the western movies - stand at one end of the street and look straight through to the other end of town. Jayville has grown quite a bit since then. They had a wonderful USO right on the lake there, though; and it was still there when my husband and I drove through there in the '80s. Since I was in the hospital corps, most of my experiences were people experiences. The first ward I was assigned to was the ulcer ward. We had very few bed patients there, perhaps about 8 or 10. I remember one time that it was my turn to take TPRs (temperature, pulse, and respiration) that the one black marine we had there told me that I wasn't from the South. Being a military institution, they couldn't discriminate; so his bed wasn't the last one in line. I just took his TPRs right in line. If I had been from the South, I would have taken his TPR last.

One night, we had an unconscious marine brought in with a bleeding ulcer. One of my friends insisted in going into his room to take care of him and wouldn't let any other WAVES in there. On our way back to the barracks, she told me that she was going to marry him. I tried to convince her that she knew nothing about him - what his voice sounded like, if he were married or had a girlfriend - nothing; but she insisted. It reminds me of the movie, "While you were sleeping". Anyway, about 3 months later, I was her maid of honor. She got out of the navy soon after that. While I was in that ward, a marine in his early 40s died; and his wife gave permission for an autopsy to be performed. We were told that if we could get the time off from our post and wanted to attend, we could. I did. The body is an amazing piece of machinery. I went to lunch immediately after that. Needless to say, I wasn't very hungry. Shortly after that, I was transferred to the Family Hospital where I worked in post delivery. Nothing exciting happened there. President Roosevelt was visiting the base one-day, and we had to clean like crazy for him. He went right on past our hospital. I never did find out whether or not he went into the main hospital.

Before too long, I was transferred to the enlisted women's ward in the main hospital. That was interesting, because they had all kinds of cases there - surgery and medical. Then I took a test, for pharmacist mate 3/C and was made secretary on the women's ward. We had one woman marine brought in late one night unconscious. A bunch of them had been out partying and had been involved in a car accident. She must have hit the windshield. Her face was a mass of tiny little cuts. Her parents lived in the Aldan Park Manor in Phila. Her mother came to the hospital and stayed with her until she was transferred to Bethesda. She never regained consciousness while at Camp Lejeune. We didn't have the plastic surgery then that we now have. If she regained consciousness, she would have been scarred for life. While I was working on this ward, someone told me that a marine on the surgical ward knew me and wanted to see me. I visited him but didn't know him. It turned out that he had graduated the year behind me from Lower Merion High School. How he knew that I was there, I'm sure that he told me; but I don't remember. Right about that time, two marines from Cherry Point, NC were brought in. They had been in a foxhole; and their heater had exploded, burning both of them on their buttocks. When they stopped hurting so much, even they had to laugh. Soon after that, I passed the test for second class and was made secretary to the chief of medicine. He didn't spend much time in the office. One of my jobs was to call the type and number of contagious diseases we had that day to the Center for Contagious Diseases Control in Georgia. (I think that that's the name for it.)

Just because you had an 8 - 4 job didn't mean that your nights were all yours. You still had to do some special duty. One in particular stand out with me - standing watch on a 19-month-old boy whom had spinal meningitis. There was another case in the hospital at the same time - a marine. I was discharged in March 1946 and met my husband just 10 days later. There were other things, but the above stand out most with me.