HomeNewsArticle Display

Women's history: Honoring WWII AF flight nurse

Lt. Reba Z. Whittle was an Air Force flight nurse who served during World War II. She became the only female U.S. military member held prisoner of war in the European Theater.  (Air Force photo)

Lt. Reba Z. Whittle was an Air Force flight nurse who served during World War II. She became the only female U.S. military member held prisoner of war in the European Theater. (U.S. Air Force photo)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) -- During World War II, an American flight nurse was captured, becoming the only female U.S. military member held prisoner of war in the European Theater. Her name was Lt. Reba Z. Whittle.

In 1943, Whittle joined the Army Air Forces School of Air Evacuation, where she trained as a flight nurse. It would be just over a year later when Whittle would find herself wounded as the result of a crash, before being taken prisoner by German soldiers.

During flight nurse training, Whittle learned to attend to patients in the absence of a physician. She trained to treat pain, bleeding and shock. Whittle graduated in November 1943 and began flying on missions in January 1944. Until the time of her capture in September 1944, Whittle logged over 500 hours of flight time and flew on 40 missions.

The fateful day was Sept. 27, 1944. Whittle was on a mission to gather casualties in St. Trond, Belgium. Without time to react, Whittle’s C-47 Skytrain was attacked and crashed to the ground. Of the flightcrew, one pilot was killed and the other was badly injured. Whittle’s surgical technician was also wounded and Whittle suffered a concussion. As they crawled out of the wreckage, the crew was captured by enemy soldiers.

The crew was treated for their immediate injuries in a neighboring village before taken to a nearby hospital. It is reported that a German doctor told Whittle, “(It is) too bad having a woman as you are the first one and no one knows exactly what to do.”

After being taken to an interrogation center north of Frankfurt, Whittle was separated from her crew and transferred to a prison camp hospital, which provided immediate aid to wounded prisoners.

In the prison camp, Whittle remained isolated in her cell when she was not treating fellow prisoners, until her release was negotiated in January 1945.

Whittle was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the crash and later promoted to first lieutenant. On Sept. 2, 1983, Whittle was given the status of official POW.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @ArmedwScience: Do you know B.A.T.M.A.N.? Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided Knowledge is the @AFResearchLab's advanced technology de…
RT @AETCommand: How are you staying active today? Last Saturday, Airmen from @HollomanAFB, @CannonAFB_ & @KIRTLAND377ABW competed in the "B…
RT @AETCommand: In order to support #readiness & build a more #lethal force, leaders must foster & promote resilience among their Airmen. D…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, Lt Gen Briguez said it best, our relationship is etched in stone — iro…
RT @HQAirUniversity: What is @usairforce culture? AU's Command Chief Simmons talks about organizational culture and how the actions modele…
RT @thejointstaff: #DYK today marks the 70th anniversary of the Chairmanship? Watch recently discovered footage from the historic swearing…
This week really flew by fast. Be sure to #Follow, #Like & #RT our @AFThunderbirds for more info on the premiere a… https://t.co/5BM8N7sZTR
RT @AFSpace: Chief Towberman, AFSPC Command Chief, knows the importance of recharging, and implements it in his work-life balance. @AF_SMC
RT @AETCommand: What happened in #LasVegas...will help foster a culture of collaboration & innovation in the #USAF: the July 23 @AFWERX Fus…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: It was absolutely impressive getting a first-hand look at the mission and innovative efforts of the 15th Wing’s Sky Wa…
.@EielsonAirForce Red Flag-Alaska is a series of @PACAF commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. & part… https://t.co/0bKkyvsVf9
RT @US_Stratcom: #24/7 #AlwaysReady 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron #Airmen work together to #GetErDone. #CombatReadyForc
RT @DeptofDefense: Cockpit view. Press ▶️ to ride along with the crew of an F-15 Strike Eagle from RAF Lakenheath, England 🇬🇧. The @48Figh
Exercise Agile Lightning concludes after showcasing agile operations essential to the defense of U.S. assets and p… https://t.co/vVR32kvtaP
What innovative way would you like to ease your job and the jobs of other Airmen? #InnovativeAF #USAFhttps://t.co/fKqcPisybt
RT @HAFB: Workers at #HillAFB recently installed the last of 173 new wings on A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, finalizing a project that began…
RT @AFWERX: HAPPENING NOW: We're hosting the first-ever @usairforce #SparkCollider. Tune in live: https://t.co/gTKMNPM9fK https://t.co/xIlJ…
RT @EdwardsAFB: Fix these broken wings – part fabrication saves Air Force time, money - https://t.co/UCvLQ0fAqy #ForTheWarfighter #TheCente