My day started like any other. I was on the early morning shift and was practically bored to tears. Nothing had happened in a long time. There were no major events to speak of that needed an entire floor of nurses. The last thing I had had to deal with was a sailor’s broken hand after he had fought another sailor over a game of dominoes. That was it for weeks.
Then that morning I was writing a letter to my father back in the states when I heard a faint rumbling in the distance. I didn’t think anything of it but it grew louder and louder as the seconds passed. Then I saw a plane fly over and another and another. They were flying too low and too fast for it to be a drill, I knew that at least. I then got a sick-feeling in my stomach and the other nurses on the morning shift raced into my office, the same expressions pasted across all their faces. I immediately took charge of the situation and told them that they all knew what to do and all of them ran out to their specific areas, scared but ready.
That’s when the first casualties came rolling in and I’ll never ever forget the first injured man. He burn the entire lenght of his left side and he was screaming in agony, a sound so primal and frightening that I still hear it’s echoes whenever I’m in complete silence by myself for too long. I will admit I froze for a few seconds until I looked out the window and saw many other injured men coming in. I snapped back to reality and began doing what I needed to do. I didn’t stop for two days.
I finally collapsed in a supply closet the night of the second day. My office was currently being used to hold three injured sailors who did not have life threatening injuries. I awoke a few hours later–though it only felt like I closed my eyes for just a second–to one of the nurses banging on the door. She was yelling that we had run out of supplies to treat the more seriously injured patients, especially the burned sailors. I opened the door and told her to get anybody she could find to drive around to other parts of the island and get any supplies they could.
It was busy like this for almost a week. I’ll never ever forget my experience that day and the days following it. It is impossible for me to escape that day.
—Esther Wilson, WW2 Nurse.