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"He said, 'Nurse, am I going to make it?' And I said, 'Piece of cake, honey.'… Seventeen surgical procedures later, he died. And I never, ever, ever told another patient they’d make it." (Audio interview, 17:18)

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   Frances Buckley
Image of Frances Buckley
Studio portrait of Frances Buckley [n.d.]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Navy Nurse Corps
Rank: Rear Admiral
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Serving on a hospital ship off the coast of Vietnam in 1968, Rear Admiral Frances Buckley was already a seasoned veteran of the Navy Nurse Corps, having served stateside during the Korean War as well as overseas in Rota, Spain. Sailing up the coast from Da Nang to Quang Tri to Phu Bai to Chu Lai, she supervised the operating room nurses and corpsmen. Conditions in a hospital ship operating room were chaotic: often, patients had multiple wounds requiring several surgical teams to work on them simultaneously. While much of her job focused on logistics, she was also deeply affected by the patients that she treated—and sometimes lost. After the war, she continued her career in military nursing, eventually serving as Director of the Navy Nurse Corps from 1979 to 1983.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview  (75 min.)
»Photo Album (1 photo)
More like this
»Vietnam War: Looking Back, Part 3
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Volunteering for service because of rumors they would draft nurses; serving in Portsmouth, VA; taking care of patients who were casualties from Korea. (02:09) Deployment to Vietnam; supervising the operating room aboard a hospital ship; conditions; sailing up the coast of Vietnam toward the DMZ; treating patients with multiple wounds; other nurses she worked with. (05:22) Incident in which she reassured a patient he was going to be fine, only to lose him after surgery. (02:12)
Other memorable patients; treating Vietnamese civilian and children. (02:54) Feelings of bitterness that the general American public did not support the troops during the war. (00:56) Didn’t consciously feel stress; concerned with making sure the other nurses and corpsmen had enough food and sleep; responsibilities as commander of operating room. (01:37)
Assignment as Director of the Nurse Corps; people thinking that as a woman, she would discriminate against men. (03:16) Thoughts on how service affected her life; enjoyed the experience and has no regrets about serving; military gives women an equal chance to succeed. (01:26) 
Home » Frances Buckley
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  October 26, 2011
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