Fayette Woman – Essie Moseley - Part 3 Of 3

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Back to civilian life…

After 14 months, the 25 nurses of the 803rd were rotated back to the States and Lt. Baer’s next assignment was a war bond drive in the form of an air show throughout the western states.

The 803rd was dispersed, as nurses were assigned to air evacuation units all around the country. And then, after almost three years, Essie Baer became a civilian again, “and that crazy, incredible movie was ended.”

In Lady Don’t Stop Here, Essie wrote of the uncertainties of her life in the CBI: “Each morning, as we all flew off in various directions over the vastness of India, the dreadful hazards of the Japanese-infested Burma jungles, and the even greater hazards of flying the ‘Hump’ over the Himalayas, we could never know if we would return to our comfortable home base and 803rd family by evening, or, indeed, if we would even be alive by evening. At this present time, when we are safely home and so many years have passed, and we have reared children of our own into adulthood, the above conditions and situations seem to be of little relevance. At the time, these factors were very relevant.”

Life as a domestic flight attendant somehow lacked challenge to the young war veteran, and so she transferred to American Overseas Airline. Flying Constellations and DC-4s for the 15-hour Atlantic crossing, the crews included captain, co-pilot, engineer, purser, and flight attendant. It was in Ireland that Essie Baer met AOA pilot Luke Moseley, and fell in love.

They married in 1947, and soon welcomed the arrival of four children. When AOA merged with Pan American, Moseley left the airline for better pay and more frequent flying as chief pilot for the Pepsi Cola Company. His wife’s book details their flying adventures all over Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa.

They had been with Pepsi for 29 years when Moseley retired. He died suddenly in 1991, at age 77.

Their firstborn, Thomas, lives in Woodstock, Ga. Daughter Cindy lives in Tallahassee, and Susan in New Hampshire. Younger son Robert teaches writing in Connecticut. They’ve given Essie five grandsons.

Of the original 25 nurses, only seven or eight are living, and none of the seven doctors of the 803rd survive. Three of the 10 original American Airlines stewardesses are still living, still keep in touch and have reunions every few years. “We’d swear we’ll never have another, but we always do,” Essie smiles at the thought. “We always seem the same to each other, only older.”

Her beloved friend Mac died in a head-on collision in Texas in 1973. She was on her way home from the hospital where she worked. Polly had a stroke and died about three years ago.

At the 1989 memorial event, the National Women Veterans Foundation asked, “Who will remember that thousands of the grandmothers of today were the soldiers, sailors, SPARS and Marines of World War II?”

Esther Baer Moseley remembered.


Additional information from U.S. Army Center of Military History by Judith A. Bellafaire:

An evacuation plane could be loaded and airborne within 10 minutes. Usually one nurse and one medical corpsman were assigned to a flight. A doctor briefed the nurse on each patient’s condition prior to takeoff, and during the flight she was responsible for the safety and comfort of up to 25 patients.

It is a tribute to the 500 Army nurses who served as members of 31 medical air evacuation transport squadrons operating worldwide that only 46 of the 1,176,048 patients air-evacuated throughout the war died en route. Rapid evacuation by plane did lower the battle casualty fatality rate, but it cost the lives of 17 flight nurses during the war.

The nurses’ performance during the North African invasion taught the Army several lessons that applied to the invasions of Sicily and southern Italy. Commanding officers noticed that nurses acclimated quickly to difficult and dangerous conditions with a minimum of complaints. Their efficiency and professional accomplishments made them essential members of the field armies.

The presence of nurses at the front improved the morale of all fighting men because soldiers realized that they would receive skilled care in the event they were wounded. Hospitalized men recovered sooner when nurses cared for them. Troops in the field figured that “if the nurses can take it, then we can.”

Nurses received 1,619 medals, citations, and commendations during the war, reflecting the courage and dedication of all who served. Sixteen medals were awarded posthumously to nurses who died as a result of enemy fire. These included the six nurses who died at Anzio, six who died when the Hospital Ship Comfort was attacked by a Japanese suicide plane, and four flight nurses. Thirteen other flight nurses died in weather-related crashes while on duty.

Overall, 201 nurses died while serving in the Army during the war.

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Submitted by Matthewsdaddy on Tue, 04/14/2009 - 3:53pm.

I showed up to play golf at Flat Creek one day by myself and asked the starter if I could get on. He said I could if I didn't mind playing with " a couple of older ladies". I said I'd be delighted to, and it was indeed a memorable afternoon with Ms. Moseley and her friend. She spoke with a great deal of knowledge about being a long time PTC resident and of her military nursing career. When she told me she had written a book, I jumped at the chance to purchase a copy.
I never bumped into her again, but I still have the autographed book in my library and a great memory of that afternoon with the delightful Essie Moseley.

Thanks for the great send-off, Ms Satterwaithe. The article clippings are in my book that I will keep forever.

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