Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2001

Nurses recall Day of Infamy 'brought out best in people'

 •  Advertiser special: Pearl Harbor — Major Movie, Real Memories
 •  See KHON-TV's Kirk Matthews reporting on the Pearl Harbor story. QuickTime is required.
 • Pearl Harbor: Hollywood & History— Part I (2.4 Mb)
 • Pearl Harbor: Hollywood & History— Part II (1.9 Mb)

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Helen Entrikin and the other Navy nurses remember the Japanese fighter planes swooping past their quarters so close you could see the goggles on the pilots' faces, to say nothing of the bright red rising sun on their fuselages.

Navy Cmdr. Karen Neimantsver-Driet-McDonald shares a laugh with Rosella Nesgis-Asbelle of Oakland, Calif., who was among the World War II nurses honored

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Neither she nor any of the other 28 Navy nurses at the Pearl Harbor medical facility on Dec. 7, 1941, had any time to see more of the attack. The casualties were coming in within minutes, burned, broken bodies of so many men, and so young.

Helen's twin sister, Sara, an Army Air Corps nurse who had just been transferred from Schofield to Hickam Air Field so she could be closer to her sister at Pearl, had a clearer view of the hell breaking loose.

"We could see them coming off the (air field) mat at Hickam, and they were very low, fifty feet; you could see the gunner and the pilot. The bombers I don't remember, but the fighters came in, and they circled that flag which flew in front of the hospital and strafed it to ribbons, and the bullets were ricocheting."

The planes at Hickam had been concealed behind redoubts earlier, but that morning they had been placed out on the field so they could be seen clearly by sentries in case there were any saboteurs trying to come at them on the ground.

"That was the sad part," Sara Entrikin said. "They were really lined up, and they (the Japanese) went boom, boom, boom, down the line.

"I went to the emergency room, and we had casualties right away. You see, those barracks were right on the flight line and they dropped incendiaries. They were bringing them in on doors; they took the doors right off the hinges."

The Entrikin sisters, 88 years old ("nearly turned to stone," Sara said), and four more Navy nurses came back to Pearl Harbor yesterday to share in the 93rd birthday of the Navy Nurse Corps and to help Disney premiere a Pearl Harbor movie in which a nurse's love story is wrapped around the infamous attack.

Lt. Cmdr. Kathy Bayne was one of the nurses consulted during the making of the movie.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Among those greeting the veteran nurses was Lt. Cmdr. Kathy Bayne, in charge of health promotion at the clinic today and one of the Navy nurses who coached movie star Kate Beckinsale how to give Ben Affleck a shot. "Don't call it poke," she told the writers. "Jab, or stick, but not poke."

It was Bayne who put stitches into the fake prosthetic flesh of one of the injured, and Bayne who suggested a true-life scene, which may or may not have made it to the screen, in which nurses use rum to wash the oil from sailors pulled out of the water, and then give the sailors a slug of the drink as well.

She found Beckinsale to be "a very classy lady. It was real fun to work with her. She was sincerely interested in what we were thinking about, how would you handle a situation, how you would take care of a person.

"It made me feel very good to have an actress like her playing a nurse. I am hoping it will have a very positive effect on nursing," she said.

The movie love story struck some of the veteran nurses as a little much. There was little thought of romance, and the love was of a different kind, on Dec. 7, 1941.

Lenore Rickert remembers patients already in the hospital getting out of their beds to go rescue their buddies, and then sleeping on the floor under the beds to make room for them.

"It brought out the best in people," Rickert said, and somehow the nurses handled the trauma. "I didn't have one single person that fell apart," despite the stream of wounded day after day.

Helen Entrikin and her twin sister, Sara, were among the six World War II nurses who returned to Pearl Harbor yesterday.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

"They were stacked up like cords of wood right outside the ward if they were dead, and later they took them over to the morgue," Rosella Nesgis Asbelle remembered.

Bringing relief to dying young men "was very much a part of night duty," she said. "These kids who were burned so badly, between the hours of five and six o'clock in the morning, in the early morning hours, that's when they would expire, when we had most of the deaths.

"And you knew ahead of time that they were pretty low, and you sat there and you would hold their hand and they would tell you about their family and all you could do was share their feelings, and that was it.

"At least they were talking about something that was close to them. And when you are in a situation like that, your family is everything, and these kids, I mean they were kids, 17 to 21. . ."

The world had changed forever, Asbelle said.

"I always tell the story about several days after the attack, in the burn ward, these sailors were young kids and they always had the radio going full blast. And so this announcer says, 'The next song will be, 'I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire' and this young fellow in the back of the ward said, 'Lady, you're too late. It's done been set.'"