On March 4, 1945, a Naval Air Transportation Service plane took off carrying blood, medical supplies and the first flight nurse ever to set foot on an active Pacific battlefield.
Ensign Jane Kendeigh was just 22 when her plane broke through the clouds of volcanic dust and smoke to land on Iwo Jima. She and her fellow flight nurses evacuated nearly 2,400 wounded Marines and sailors between March 6 and 21.
When she was later asked how men reacted to seeing a woman on the battlefield she had a quick-witted response. “The same as other places—they whistled.”
After completing her work on Iwo Jima, she was sent stateside to participate in a war bond drive. But she asked to go back to the Pacific. Her request was granted and she landed on Okinawa on April 7, 1945, just six days after the invasion. After the war, Kendeigh and her husband, Navy Lieutenant Robert Cheverton, had three daughters. She passed away in 1987.
Though medals may have been appropriate for Kendeigh and her fellow nurses, she required nothing as formal as a medal. “Our rewards are wan smiles, a slow nod of appreciation, a gesture, a word—accolades far greater, more heartwarming than any medal.”
We honor you, Jane Kendeigh.