The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Frances Buckley [Undated]

Louise Jacobs:

2003, and we are conducting this interview in San Diego. The name of the person being interviewed is Frances Buckley who was born February 26, 1929. She and I are the only two people attending the interview, and my name is Luise Jacobs, and I'm her friend and also her neighbor. And that's all the introduction I think we need. So, Fran, if you'll just tell us what war or wars, and what branch of service you served in; what was your rank; and where you served. I think that would be a good way to start.

Frances Buckley:

Well, actually I served during the Korean War and in Vietnam and was in the Navy for 32 years and retired as a Rear Admiral. And I had had duty in Spain; on military sea transports in Boston, Washington D.C., San Diego, Portsmith, Virginia; and so I had, also, recruiting duty in Virginia. So I had a--multiple assignments during that 32 years.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum. Umhum. And several ranks, I imagine, beginning--

Frances Buckley:

Yes.

Louise Jacobs:

--and slightly lower than Rear Admiral.

Frances Buckley:

Right, and then some.

Louise Jacobs:

What made you go into the service and when did you do that?

Frances Buckley:

Actually, I graduated from college in June of 1950 and went to work in Manhattan in a medical center. And that was about the time--that was the time that the Korean War started, and they put on the bulletin board that there was a plan to draft nurses. They needed to draft 45,000 nurses, and I made up my mind--and another nurse, that we were not going to be drafted. So we went down to the recruiting station down in Time Square. It happened to be at lunch time when the only people that were there were the Marines, and we asked the Marines--we told the Marines we were interested in joining the military as a nurse. And since the Navy nurses take care of the Marines, the Marines just told us to go down to the Navy recruiter--nurse recruiter. And that's how I ended up in the Navy. I didn't really have a plan, whether is was going to be the Army, the Air Force, or the Navy. But that's how I ended up to the Navy.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay. So you were a registered nurse.

Frances Buckley:

Yes.

Louise Jacobs:

This was during the Korean conflict--

Frances Buckley:

Right.

Louise Jacobs:

And a--to a--to be--to be enlisted rather than drafting you went--being drafted, you went into the service.

Frances Buckley:

The draft never actually passed. That law never actually passed, but it was a threat.

Louise Jacobs:

I see. I see. Do you remember your original days in the service?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, I certainly do. Unlike today where they have officer orientation programs, I reported to Portsmith, Virginia. And because they were getting casualties back from Korea, I--this was in July of '51, they immediately assigned us to wards. In the afternoons, we had classes on military discipline and things of that sort. Actually, since I had gone to a catholic college and nursing program where there was considerably more discipline than the military, it was not a problem for me. And it was--what was interesting was that we were taking care of patients who were casualties from Korea, frostbite, gunshot wounds and things of that sort. And a--I--I remember doing that. But they were so busy, they didn't even have time to get the--get us in the proper uniform--the proper ward-white uniform. We brought our ward-whites from home. And this started right into work.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum. So this was still in Manhattan, that you--

Frances Buckley:

No. This was in Portsmith, Virginia.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, that's right. I think you did say that. Your training, as you say, was not much stricter than what you had had in med school as a registered nurse?

Frances Buckley:

That's right.

Louise Jacobs:

And do you remember your instructors in the service?

Frances Buckley:

Yes. We had to--a woman, a nurse by the name of Neiva Forsland who was from Louisiana, and she was a very proper person but very kind and very sympathetic to us. And in the afternoons we had to have drillings and things of that sort, how to march and all. They recruited two Korean casualties, two Marines that were Korean casualties, to teach us how, and that was really--we did not do well, actually. And they did not push us very hard either. So it was, more or less, just the best they could do with their time. Shortly after that, they had a more formal program but up until that time, because of the need, they didn't have a formal program.

Louise Jacobs:

Did that bother you, that part of the training as opposed to the nursing?

Frances Buckley:

Not at all. It wasn't difficult.

Louise Jacobs:

You had not trouble getting through it then.

Frances Buckley:

No, not at all.

Louise Jacobs:

When--where did you go from Portsmith?

Frances Buckley:

From Portsmith, actually, I--I stayed in the reserves and went back to school at the University of Chicago for post-graduate work and operating room management and also got my masters at DePaul University. And then came back on active duty. And I was assigned there to St. Albans, New York, for two years in the operating room. I was an instructor. And then from there, I went to Roda, Spain, for two years. Came back to Virginia as a recruiter for about three years, and I was stationed in Richmond, and covered the territories of Kentucky, Virginia, and part of North Carolina, and part of Indiana. So I was on the road a lot, but it was a good learning experience. And then from there, I went to Vietnam, where I was an operating supervisor on the hospital ship.

Louise Jacobs:

Remind me of the time lapse in there between the end of Korea and the beginning of Vietnam?

Frances Buckley:

Well, Korea ended around '54, around '54 or early '55. I think it was '54 because this is the 50th anniversary--is this year. So then Vietnam really started in the early '60s, but it just escalated. And I got there in '68 just after the Tet Offensive. And was there until--for 13 months until '69.

Louise Jacobs:

And what was your rank at that time?

Frances Buckley:

I was a commander.

Louise Jacobs:

What was your responsibility?

Frances Buckley:

I was responsible for the operating room the--what we call the pre-anesthesia and staging area, and the recovery room, which was the same thing, and the central supply. Obviously, I had people to help in those areas. Casualties came in immediately from the flight deck, usually, they came in by helicopter, and were taken down--it was just a routine. They were taken down for x-ray, total body x-rays, and then typed and cross-matched for whole blood and then brought in to what we call the pre-anesthesia staging area so they could be stabilized, their IV started, their blood started and then taken into the operating room. Afterwards, they came out of the operating room, and recovered enough, you know, to be alert--at least to be awake, if they were ever going to be awake--and then they went back to the wards.

Louise Jacobs:

Would you have been strictly in Saigon?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, no. The hospital ships, according to international law, could not pull into any port. They had to sail all the time. So we were up--in what--in the northern part of Vietnam, Siagon was one area where they had fighting, but they had fighting constantly up and down the coast. So we would go from Da Nang up to Quang Tri, Phu Bai, Chu Lai, all the way up to the DMZ, just below the DMZ to a place called Tiger Island, and we'd sit off the coast, as close as we could, so we could get casualties by--wherever there was fighting, that's where we went. There were two hospital ships out there.

Louise Jacobs:

Did you observe or see any--any combat yourself?

Frances Buckley:

I--you could watch it from the ship and see the fire-fights and all. And I was in Da Nang one night when the base got hit, and we got out of there very quickly. I mean, we could go ashore if you had the opportunity to which was not very often. And certainly working in the operating room, I had very little time to go ashore. And the other time I went into Quang Tri, it was on a Sunday, and the base got hit. And the Viet Cong were coming across the Perfume River, and they had to get us out of there in a hurry. So, I think, that was really the last time I went ashore. I wasn't too anxious to do that. But certainly, there were places like Da Nang, and all the bases were bombarded.

Louise Jacobs:

Were there casualties? I'm sure there were.

Frances Buckley:

Thousands.

Louise Jacobs:

Thousands.

Frances Buckley:

And most of the casualties, which I think people don't really understand, had multiple injuries. It was--we had a routine. For example, if you had an abdominal wound or a chest wound, you would most likely go to surgery first. If you had a head wound, you would go to surgery last. But that wasn't realistic because many times people had abdominal wounds or leg wounds, orthopedic wounds and head injuries, so you had to do them all at one time. And you would have two or three teams working on the patient. We always had to keep--we had so many head injuries--we always had to keep an operating room open and available for head injuries, and you could count on them almost everyday. The teams that worked on them, they did extremely well. You would have may be even an ophthalmologist operating on someone's eyes at the same time someone was debleeding a leg. So it was a very, very hectic time. I mean, but the patients were well cared for and the surgical teams did very, very well.

Louise Jacobs:

Did most of the staff take this pretty well?

Frances Buckley:

Yes. They had no other choice. There was no choice. You had to take it well. I worried about my corpsman. The average age was 19. I wouldn't have been able to get through what these young men were expected to do. But they did it. One of our nurses who was over there--brother--we did not know it until some time later, she was--also worked in the operating room--but she worked in the recovery room and her husband--her husband--her brother was then killed in Vietnam. He was a 24-year-old sergeant who won the Congressional Medal of Honor. And I think it was very difficult for her, but she felt that's where she belonged. She never told us until after our tour was up about her brother.

Louise Jacobs:

What about you, were you awarded medals or citations?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah. We all got medals. You want me to tell you what they were?

Louise Jacobs:

Yes. Please.

Frances Buckley:

Well, there was the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Unit Commendation Medal that--the ship got that medal; National Defense was one star because that was--that was in Korea in Vietnam; Vietnam Campaign Medal was four stars; the Armed Forces Reserve Medal; the Humanitarian Service Medal; the Vietnam Campaign Medal with a device; and the Vietnam Service Medal; The Vietnam Cross of Gallon--Gallantry Unit Citation--that meant the whole ship got it; and the Vietnam Civil Action Unit Citation. And then later on in my career I did get Humanitarian Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. Amazing. What do you do with them now?

Frances Buckley:

They're--they're in the closet, and I think that when I die, they'll be buried with me.

Louise Jacobs:

Do you ever put on a uniform again and wear them?

Frances Buckley:

I have not. I have, actually, but not in the past couple years. If there's something special that requires it then I will do it. I still have some of my uniforms.

Louise Jacobs:

I'm not going to ask you how you got all those medal and citations. But was there something special that led to one that you're particularly proud of, or two?

Frances Buckley:

I think that--well, the higher medals are the Legion Merit, of course, is one of the highest ones, and Humanitary Service Medal. Those are really for stateside, whatever. They were awarded because of my stateside assignments. I think that the Vietnam medals probably meant the most to me because it meant the same--it was the same for me as it was for the men that you were doing the very best you could at the time. And there were five big campaigns that we were over there for in Vietnam.

Louise Jacobs:

And what were they?

Frances Buckley:

Well, there was the post-Tet Offensive. It's hard to remember all of them, and then the battles up on northern station. When they--I can't even think of the valley they were in--the Asha Valley where we got so many casualties, and mostly it was because of the numbers of casualties that we got.

Louise Jacobs:

So you were there for 13 month?

Frances Buckley:

Yes, I was.

Louise Jacobs:

They must have seemed like a very long 13 months?

Frances Buckley:

It really didn't because I--I had been overseas before. I had two years in Spain, and while you can't compare the two, the idea of not getting home was not such a bad, you know, I understood that I wasn't going to be able to get home. But the thing I think that--the time--I didn't have a short-timers calendar. People had a short-timers calender which they marked off everyday, but I didn't do that because I figured it would make it all that much longer. And I should have been replaced in--at the end of 12 months but because of some glitch it wasn't until--for 13 months, and that didn't bother me. And I loved the people on the ship. They were wonderful. The work was very hard, but everybody was very together.

Louise Jacobs:

What I was thinking of more, and perhaps you were more accustomed to it, was the constant injury and thousands of casualties, but did your work in general involve that much--

Frances Buckley:

Everyday.

Louise Jacobs:

I mean, before Vietnam?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, before Vietnam I had a good background in OR, believe me, but nothing like this. It was an entirely different situation. It was a case where you were organized. Everybody did their job. Everybody was organized. Everybody just did their job, and that was it.

Louise Jacobs:

Amazing.

Frances Buckley:

My nineteen-year-old kids did it, never opened their mouth. Lots of times it was they were too tired to say anything. And the doctors were exhausted, you know what I mean.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum. Umhum.

Frances Buckley:

And for example, neurosurgeons. Neurosurgeons are notoriously difficult to work with. Now, not all of them are, but they want certain things. They want it done this way. They want it done that way. They want to supervise every action. My--our neurosurgeon would just come, and he would maybe be so tired because it would--might have been his third or fourth craniotomy that day--he would just go like this to me which'd mean get the patient set up.

Louise Jacobs:

You were raising your hand, the palm of your hand.

Frances Buckley:

That's right. Get the patient--he didn't even speak--get the patient set up, and we would do that without any ifs, ands, or buts, you know.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum.

Frances Buckley:

He might only have a corpsman to assist him. We had some--we had some--it's corpsman remember all of the cases. We had some--couple I do remember, if you want me to tell you about them?

Louise Jacobs:

Well, I do. Sure.

Frances Buckley:

Well, it's funny. It's strange. We had a reunion not so long ago, on the ship. And I never realized how many people were affected by this one person's life. He was a gunny sergeant. His name was Charles Perkins. And I hadn't been aboard to long, and I can't remember where it was that he was injured, whether it was Quang Tri or whether it was Phu Bai. It was one of those. And he came in, and I remember it was like a Saturday, and he had a through-and-through of the chest and he didn't look too bad. His color was great. After awhile you got so you could assess the casualties by looking at them. You knew.

Louise Jacobs:

A "through-and-through of the chest" meaning?

Frances Buckley:

A gunshot wound--

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

--to the chest.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

He was shot by the Viet Cong.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

Or the North Vietnamese. You never knew whether it was the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese 'cause the North Vietnamese had regulars down there into Vietnam. So it--his color wasn't too bad, and he was alert and talking and he asked me, he said, "Nurse, am I going to make it?" And I said, "Piece of cake, Honey." He was a gunny sergeant. "No problem." Seventeen surgical procedures later, he died. And I never, ever, ever told another patient they'd make it. I'd tell them they were in a safe place and we were going to take care of them.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

And he--but it's amazing. The nurses on the ward remembered him, the corpsman. Everybody remembered him--he was somebody very special. And I'm not sure the numbers, but the Marines sent out 40, 30 or 40, other Marines to donate blood to him. He had just so many units of blood. But, the gunshot wound, instead of just going through and exiting, went through the pancreas, the liver, the bowel, and he just bled out over a period of time.

Louise Jacobs:

The words you said to him, I imagine, gave him hope as he went through all this.

Frances Buckley:

You know, I was superstitious. I never said it again.

Louise Jacobs:

No. Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

I'd say, "You're in a safe place."

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

The other patient that I had--well, there's others, but this one that I remember particularly was a 20-year-old who stepped on a Bomb From Betsy which is a landmine, and he was blown off at the hips.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, gee.

Frances Buckley:

And--but he was alert and awake, but he didn't know what really happened to him. And he was a handsome kid. And we got him on the table. And the case was so bad that the commanding officer of the hospital who was an orthopedic surgeon, by the name of Captain Markowits, and Captain Markowitz had been a prison of war of the Japanese and been on the Malayan peninsula. And Doctor Garret, the XO, decided they would do the case. And I have this young corpsman who was brand new in the OR, his name was Hasagoua, and I said to Hasagoua, "You don't have to scrub on that case. You're never going to see anything worse. And you don't have to do it. You're brand new here." And he said to me, "Ma'am, I'll never have any honor." And he went and scrubbed on that case, and they got him off the table, and 20 minutes later, he died. So you don't forget those. There's others. You don't forget. It's very painful.

Louise Jacobs:

It must be. It certainly must be. Did it leave you with any particular feelings about war in general?

Frances Buckley:

Well, no. I mean, you can't expect anyone whose been through anything like that. You can't ever think positively about war. I mean, that's what war is. I mean, war to somebody like me is the slaughter of people. But I have to tell you too, we also took care of the Vietnamese. We took care of the North Vietnamese if they were casualties, and we took care of Viet Cong. And they may have been subsequently been sent to a prisoner of war camp, but they were treated on our hospital ship.

Louise Jacobs:

In other words, they were--you took care of them when they--after they became prisoners--

Frances Buckley:

Yes.

Louise Jacobs:

--of war.

Frances Buckley:

No. We took care of them as they were--as the troops found them and brought them to us.

Louise Jacobs:

And they actually would--would find them and bring them aboard the ship.

Frances Buckley:

Absolutely. Absolutely. By helicopter. We also had a people--now, if there were times when there were lulls in the fighting which did not happen very often, we did a people-to-people program. We took care of the Vietnamese children who maybe had cleft pallets, and harelips and would be forever discriminated against in Vietnam and various other childhood anomalies. So we always had a ward full of children.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, that was--that was a--a good feeling, I'm sure, from that sort of thing.

Frances Buckley:

My roommate worked on that ward, and I never knew when she was going to drag the children into our--we had a very small stateroom. If I was sleeping because I had been up all night, she'd drag these little kids in there. But they were really sweet, and she was very good with them.

Louise Jacobs:

And the Vietnam War specifically, you obviously didn't have any time to be paying attention to the politics of it, but how did you come out feeling about that?

Frances Buckley:

I felt, to be honest with you, and still feel, very bitter that the people did not support the troops over there. Very bitter. They had no idea, whether it was right or whether it was wrong. The troops were over there. And the treatment they got when they came back was unconscionable. And do I mind, yes. It was different for me. I was older. And believe me, I could handle myself. But when you were told not to wear your uniform to a nurses' convention, like the American Nurses Association or The National League for Nursing. I mean, what does that say?

Louise Jacobs:

I know.

Frances Buckley:

And, yes, I--I--I admit to being very bitter about the way they treated the troops. They did not deserve that.

Louise Jacobs:

No.

Frances Buckley:

And they still, you know--even now, during this war, and they talk about, they've had four casualties or five casualties, that's nothing.

Louise Jacobs:

No. Obviously, not in comparison with what you're talking about.

Frances Buckley:

Nothing. Remember we were just one ship. There was another ship out there and there was--Da Nang, where Helen was a chief nurse, where they got many, many casualties. So--

Louise Jacobs:

Of course, and the war now you're speaking about the conflict in Iraq. We are all paying attention to that, it's true, right at this moment. Well, let's get on to something maybe a little bit easier. How did you stay in touch with your family?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, we had tape recorders. And every once in a while we could call home. And that's--my parents were very good about sending letters and things of that sort. But that's how I kept--but I never told them anything. Never.

Louise Jacobs:

No, not ever, not even later?

Frances Buckley:

I mean, I'd find--no. There isn't--it's a very difficult thing to talk about, and I wasn't sure they'd understand, really.

Louise Jacobs:

Understand what?

Frances Buckley:

Understand what it was like to be in a slaughter house.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah. Probably nobody could quite fully understand.

Frances Buckley:

No. And besides that, people didn't want to listen either, you know.

Louise Jacobs:

At that point--

Frances Buckley:

They were against the war, and they didn't want to know.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, that is awful. I have to--I have to agree with you. The headlines we saw, of course, were damage being done to individuals on the other side, by individuals supposedly on our side. But what you're talking about is just totally different.

Frances Buckley:

They didn't see what the Viet Cong did to our troops.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. No.

Frances Buckley:

And they didn't care. These kids were 19.

Louise Jacobs:

They were just--yes.

Frances Buckley:

They were babies.

Louise Jacobs:

Awful. Well, how about the food, Frances, let's talk about--

Frances Buckley:

On the ship?

Louise Jacobs:

Yes. You were on the ship--

Frances Buckley:

It was excellent.

Louise Jacobs:

--for 13 months, it was okay? That's good.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah. We had no problems.

Louise Jacobs:

And you had enough supplies?

Frances Buckley:

Most of the time. We also had--you have to do some (coinshine). You would send--if you didn't--if you ran low on supplies there was somebody on shore who knew where there were supplies. And it was creative--what do I want to say? I don't want to say it was stealing, but it was creative exchange. You were able to send these kids ashore and say, "Okay. This is my shopping list." I remember one young man said to me, "Well, ma'am, what will I do if I can't get them?" I said, "Don't come back." Of course--

Louise Jacobs:

I trust--

Frances Buckley:

Of course, but we were talking about supplies that we needed that hadn't gotten there yet. But mostly, we were okay.

Louise Jacobs:

In all this did you feel pressure or stress?

Frances Buckley:

I don't think I did at the time. I felt that I was older and had a lot of experience. And--I don't think I did. It was just--it was almost by rote. You got up. You did your job you. You did everything, and that was it. I had to be sure--I had to be sure of a couple things: that my corpsman and my nurses got a chance to eat, got food; even if we had to bring it down to them; that they got a chance to sleep. Sleeping was a big thing, a big problem.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

And the corpsman were in rooms where the bunks were five high. And during the daytime, if they had to sleep during the daytime, the lights were on. So, you know, you worried about things like that.

Louise Jacobs:

And when you say you were commander; that means you were in charge of the hospital ship?

Frances Buckley:

No, I was in charge of the--that was my rank. I was in charge of the operating room. The hospital ship had two commands. One was the line. The line captain who was responsible for how the ship sailed by keeping it underway and all. And the hospital commander or commanding officer was a physician. So there were two commands aboard that ship. And actually, I could--I had some authority that most nurses never had. For example, if we were in rocky seas and it was effecting the way we were able to operate and all, because of the motion of the ship, I could call the bridge and say, "Listen, you need to straighten this ship out," and they would take it out to calmer water. They were very good about that.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. What an experience. Again, I keep getting back to these questions that seem trivial in comparison.

Frances Buckley:

No, that's all right.

Louise Jacobs:

Was there anything special you did for good luck? Did you wear anything or were you just a religious person?

Frances Buckley:

I prayed.

Louise Jacobs:

You prayed?

Frances Buckley:

I--we had a daily mass.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

We had a preacher who was very naive, as far as any of this is concerned, and he used to come down and he's say, "This is terrible, " and I'd say, "It get's worse." And after awhile, I saw him change. He would say, he would not pray that somebody would get better, but he would say, "Let's pray for so-and-so." Some of them that just came in that day. But he didn't--he stopped saying that things were going to be rosy. It was sad to see that happen.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. To distract themselves from things like this, was there any way that people entertained themselves?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah. We had things that--some people played cards and things like that, if they had time. But we also had cookouts on the top deck, you know, an all-hands cookout. We even had a show called Fan Tail Follies, and anybody that had any talent sang or did things like that, and that was fun.

Louise Jacobs:

That's nice.

Frances Buckley:

And the captain of the ships, a lot of times--we were out--out in the streams in Da Nang, so it took about 40 minutes to get in by boat. But they would have maybe a beach party, and it was maybe only two or three hours long, but it was something. And it was a chance to--and you'd go swimming. The water was loaded with oil from the ships but you'd go anyway. And that was very good for morale.

Louise Jacobs:

Were there any pranks that anybody--that stick in your mind?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, they did things all the time. This nurse that I told you about whose brother had been killed. I don't know how she got in there. She got into the captain's cabin, the captain of the ship that is, and short-sheeted his bed. Well--

Louise Jacobs:

The captain of the ship?

Frances Buckley:

Yes. He blamed everybody under the--well, he blamed one particular man who did not do it, of course, 'cause Shirley did it. But there were little pranks like that, you know, but nothing that was meant to be unkind or anything.

Louise Jacobs:

No. Nothing that would make anything any harder for anybody at such a point.

Frances Buckley:

Like this one nurse wanted to do Semaphore, you know, the flags to--to signal other ships, and we had underwater replenishment. The skipper used to love to have her come up because it was such a different thing as to have this woman in a nurses' uniform telling them to come closer, go back, you know, and it was just so funny. But we did have a lot of fun doing things like that.

Louise Jacobs:

You have pictures or a diary?

Frances Buckley:

Yes, I have pictures. Yes, I have a diary, but it really doesn't say very much personally. I mean, it just talks about the kinds of casualties we had, and things of that sort. But there's nothing personal, which surprised me when I went back to read it.

Louise Jacobs:

When we get done, maybe you could show me the photographs, if you want to.

Frances Buckley:

Sure.

Louise Jacobs:

And identify some of the people in them. But let's just finish the story before we do that.

Frances Buckley:

Okay.

Louise Jacobs:

So 13 months later you went back to where, Portsmith?

Frances Buckley:

I went back to Boston.

Louise Jacobs:

Boston.

Frances Buckley:

And I was stationed in Chelsea for two years. I taught nurses there. And then from there I went to the Bethesda in Maryland. In fact, I was at the Bethesda for a long time. I was Assistant Chief of Nursing Service for a long time, and then I became Chief of Nursing Service. And that was a very interesting place to work because you also--besides the regular patients that you got--during that time that I was there, President Nixon was a patient, and--

Louise Jacobs:

That's the VA Hospital, isn't it?

Frances Buckley:

No.

Louise Jacobs:

No.

Frances Buckley:

No. The Bethesda Naval Hospital is out on Wisconsin Avenue. The VA Hospital was--I forget, I think it's near the Catholic University, if I'm not mistaken.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

But the VA Hospital--the National Naval Medical Center, which is the Bethesda. And that's where most of the presidents go. And also foreign dignitaries. We had the Mayor of Kuwait there as a patient. And during the time I was there, the POW's came back, and we had them for, I don't know, quite awhile because they needed a lot of surgery and things of that sort. In fact, I just got--I hadn't heard from them in 30 years and I just got a card from them. A three of them found out I had surgery. I don't know who told them, and they sent a card. I was really touched. But we had a lot of dignitaries plus the regular, ordinary--you know, regular people. But we always had senators, or congressmen, or foreign dignitaries; the editor of the Kiroms paper. It's surprising, you know, the wife of the President of Columbia, things of that sort.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum.

Frances Buckley:

A lot of people come to the Bethesda. That never gets in the paper.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah. I imagine, and judging from what you say, that you made quite a few close friendships in the course of all this.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, sure.

Louise Jacobs:

And do you keep in touch with most of these people?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yes. We're very close. I mean, the whole nurse corps is very close. If something happens to one of us, there's a line up to help you. And I mean that, sincerely.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum. Umhum.

Frances Buckley:

It really is.

Louise Jacobs:

I'm very happy to hear that. And did you finish your career there at the Bethesda?

Frances Buckley:

No. I came back to--after I was at the Bethesda, I got transferred out to San Diego to be Director of Nursing Service out here. And I was here for two years when I was picked up as Flag Officer to go back to Washington to be the Director of the Nurse Corps. About that time, there was a secretary in the Navy--gosh, what's his name? I should remember, not Lanning, but it'll come to me. But anyhow, he decided that he wanted to have a 600-ship navy. And he wanted to increase the medical department by 200 thousand (villas). Well, the only ones that can do that is the Congress, as you know.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

And Congress were not really going to do this 'cause of money. But anyhow he--he decided that, well, I should have another job besides being Director of the Nurse Corps, so they made me Commanding Officer. This is the fist time this has ever happened, a woman flag officer. With my regular job, I also had the command at the Navy Health Science and Education Training Command, which was in the Bethesda, and that had to do with all of the training programs in Navy medicine. And it created kind of a stir because there were men who thought, well, I would fire all the men and just hire women, and that I would--

Louise Jacobs:

Why did they think that?

Frances Buckley:

Because they were men.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, no.

Frances Buckley:

When I heard that I said, "I'm a women, but I'm not stupid."

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah, right.

Frances Buckley:

Why would I do something like that. What would be the benefit of just having, you know, I'm here to promote your cause. Not here to--admittedly, I did put women in that--in the--in various jobs there.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

Because they were competent.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes. Yes.

Frances Buckley:

And they knew how to do it.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

But I certainly didn't--it didn't effect the males that were there, you know. If I had--I picked the best--best person for the job. And yes, there were women in there, but they thought I was going to can change their training programs. They thought all these stupid things. And one of the things that we were charged with is developing programs for combat medicine--desert warfare or jungle warfare--and how you--these things you'd have to handle differently. And to teach--for example, with the Marines, they--you have to teach the gunny sergeants what you want the men to do because the gunny sergeants would tell them what to do. For example, if you're in cold-weather medicine, how do you determine whether somebody's dehydrated or not? You have them urinate in the snow. Well, you have to get somebody who will do that. And I had nurses that went out and taught the gunny sergeants that sort of thing. And they did very well. And now, no one thinks anything of it. They just don't even think that the person is not a physician.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. The interest in increasing the size of the Navy at that time was not because of any ongoing conflict, was it?

Frances Buckley:

No.

Louise Jacobs:

Was there something expected, or was it the Cold War that was behind that or any other thought.

Frances Buckley:

I don't know why he--I wish I could think of his name now. Isn't that awful. But I don't know why he wanted to do this. And it may have been politics. But it wasn't going to happen because Congress--you can say you want to do something all you want to--

Louise Jacobs:

Well, sure.

Frances Buckley:

But it if Congress doesn't come up with the money, you can't do it.

Louise Jacobs:

Right. It has to be sold to Congress. Well, that's for sure. So here you are in San Diego.

Frances Buckley:

Right.

Louise Jacobs:

Having two jobs, not one.

Frances Buckley:

No. I was back in Washington when I had the two jobs.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh. Oh, I see.

Frances Buckley:

I left San Diego and went back to Washington. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and then was there, not terribly long, about six or seven months when I got this other job.

Louise Jacobs:

And is that at the point when you became a Rear Admiral or had you already been one?

Frances Buckley:

Well, I--I had--when I left San Diego, I was promoted to Rear Admiral.

Louise Jacobs:

Amazing.

Frances Buckley:

It was an interesting experience.

Louise Jacobs:

Had there ever been another woman in such a job?

Frances Buckley:

No. Yes, all the time. It's a given. You have to take another command. And now nurses you find them in command of hospitals. You find them in just about every--the current Deputy Surgeon General is a woman, a nurse. The law indicated that someone other than a doctor can be a Surgeon General, but I don't think that's a good idea.

Louise Jacobs:

Really. Really.

Frances Buckley:

No, I think it's--for a lot of reasons, a lot political, but I think that when you are dealing--let me put it this way, civilian medicine, civilian training programs, civilian expectations, have not advanced with military. You will not find a doctor who's going to put a nurse in charge of a hospital. Not in the civilian life.

Louise Jacobs:

Amazing.

Frances Buckley:

They're far beyond--they're far lower than the expectations.

Louise Jacobs:

Wow. Okay. You were brought back to Washington as a Rear Admiral, and where did you go from there?

Frances Buckley:

Well, as I said, I was stationed at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes, right.

Frances Buckley:

Well, I retired.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, you did retire in Washington?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah, I retired. Well, there's a--a--in order for other people to be promoted--well, first of all, the nurse corps at that time, our time in office was four years, and then you had to leave. And one of the things that happened was up until that time, there were--had only been a couple of women admirals anyway, and then was one Line Admiral, Fran McKee--things have improved tremendously since then.

Louise Jacobs:

Good.

Frances Buckley:

And Fran McKee--and but the women could not go up for second star. It was--they just could not get it. But Fran McKee was from Alabama--and I'm trying to think of the senator from Alabama, but the one from Texas was Powers. And the two of them got together and determined, and got a law passed, that the two of us would be promoted to get our second star. It's funny because the one from Texas, eventually was--Heflin was the one from Alabama.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

But the one from Texas at one time was charged with sexual harassment. And I thought, how ironic, here's the man that went out and got us--

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

--second star.

Louise Jacobs:

Right. Did he know you personally?

Frances Buckley:

No. Not at all. But Heflin, I think, knew Fran from Alabama. But they didn't have to one--they did it for both. I had no idea, no idea at all until it came out in the Congressional Journal.

Louise Jacobs:

That it was going to happen?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah.

Louise Jacobs:

So it took a federal law to require--or to permit two women to get second stars?

Frances Buckley:

That's right.

Louise Jacobs:

And did the law say the women in general may now do this or did it specify?

Frances Buckley:

Well, then the law changed.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh.

Frances Buckley:

And it was called (outlaw). And then it reverted back to the old way. But in time, they--they are competitive now with the men. They may or may not get selected. You don't know.

Louise Jacobs:

Right. Right.

Frances Buckley:

And that's fair.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I don't think anyone would question that. Did you join a veteran's organization after you retired?

Frances Buckley:

I joined several veteran's organizations. I joined almost all of them. The DAV. The DFW. The American Legion. The Vietnam Veterans of America. And we have an organization called the Navy Nurse Corps Association and I belong to that.

Louise Jacobs:

Did you pick up on any other career? By that time you were certainly ready to retire completely, but--

Frances Buckley:

Yes.

Louise Jacobs:

--what did you do?

Frances Buckley:

I did--well, when I first retired from the Navy I was a--I was called and asked if I would be a consultant to FEMA.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh.

Frances Buckley:

And so I said, "Sure," and actually, what I was asked to do, and if it had--if it had not--if Newt Gingrich hadn't--what he--blown it out of proportion, I would not be able to tell you what I did. But there was a facility in Greenbriar. You may have read about it.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

That had been built by Eisenhower. And it was in the bottom part of the hotel, the big hotel.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

And of course, Newt Gingrich came out and said this was a terrible thing. It shouldn't have happened. But in the event that there was a war, they had to have a place that they could evacuate the Congress to.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

Because you have to have a place where the Chief Justices' go.

Louise Jacobs:

Right.

Frances Buckley:

And you have to have a place where the Congress can go. And this was the place that they had chosen. Believe me it was not luxurious. It had not been upgraded since the 1950's. And what my job was to do was to go down and make recommendations to--the Architect of the Capital, actually, was the one who was in charge of it, to go to him and to make recommendations as to what could be done. This was like a six-month job. And then they would decide--and what--what the recommendations were and what the cost would be. And of course, you wanted to limit it to that, as far as the cost was concerned. And actually, when I started, I wanted to find out what were the primary problems of the senators and the congressmen. Because if you were going to estab--you know, get medications ___+ of diabetes, do you know that there's no place that that's listed?

Louise Jacobs:

Amazing.

Frances Buckley:

You no idea what any one of the congressmen or senators have. It's just not listed any place.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, that's a political problem perhaps.

Frances Buckley:

Yes, it is.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

So what we had to do was go and take the general population and such, and figure out so many have heart disease, and so many have this so we could see.

Louise Jacobs:

Is that the way you did it? You couldn't even ask them one by one?

Frances Buckley:

Their records, nobody had their records.

Louise Jacobs:

They wouldn't do it.

Frances Buckley:

So believe me, it was not what Newt Gingrich proposed. And this business, "We won't leave our families. We won't do this," Okay. 9-1-1 came. Where did the Congress go? Nobody knows.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum.

Frances Buckley:

But they weren't available, were they?

Louise Jacobs:

Uh, no.

Frances Buckley:

And they came up from some hole some place. So they had all they--what they had to do was then transfer it from the Greenbriar to someplace else. I have no idea where. But where the Chief Justices' would go was an entirely different place. And the plan was that the President of the United States would be airborne constantly. Now he was criticized for that.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh.

Frances Buckley:

But that's what his job--that--that was what his plan was.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, that's exactly what he did, wasn't it?

Frances Buckley:

Exactly what he did.

Louise Jacobs:

Very interesting. So for 6 months you did that?

Frances Buckley:

Yes. Then I got married, and came out here.

Louise Jacobs:

Did you marry a fellow member of the service?

Frances Buckley:

Yes, I did. I married somebody I met on the hospital ship.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

But we didn't get together for many years.

Louise Jacobs:

And what had his job been?

Frances Buckley:

He had been the Administrations Officer.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

So--but we got together many years later. And then I was on various committees like, the Women's Veterans Committee, and I chaired that for a couple years. And I was with, what used to be TROA, on the Air Board of Directors for six years so there's been a number of those kinds of things since I retired.

Louise Jacobs:

And this is almost a useless question, but how did your service and experience effect your life? I really was, pretty much, your whole life?

Frances Buckley:

Well, it was my whole life.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

I loved it. I never had any regrets. And I think it's a great way for people to go, if they're so inclined. It gives you opportunities that you might not be able to get somewhere else. And actually, it's less discriminatory.

Louise Jacobs:

I'm glad to here that.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, it's very--it's much less discriminatory.

Louise Jacobs:

What are you comparing it with?

Frances Buckley:

Well, when I hear--well, when I hear people talk about--for example, my niece, going to work for a law firm. Well, the men got so much more than she did, as far as either assignments or whatever. And I think that that happens to women. But that doesn't happen in the military.

Louise Jacobs:

That doesn't happen in the service?

Frances Buckley:

No, because--no, because they can't afford to because discrimination charges would be taken very seriously. I mean, you see women who are skippers of ships. Commanding officers of ships. You see them doing all kinds of things, and I think that's--that's the way it should be.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, yes. I think so too. And the person that's able to do it should be doing it.

Frances Buckley:

Should be doing it.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, before we look at the pictures, is there anything else that you would like to add that hasn't been asked about?

Frances Buckley:

I can't think--I can't think of anything. I--like I say, obviously, I enjoyed my military service. I'd certainly recommend it. And it's afforded me a comfortable retirement. [Recording stopped without an explanation.]

Frances Buckley:

And I'm a nurse overseas, and my older brother who was 19, as well as a cousin were both in the Army General ward too and my older brother spent considerable time in a hospital. In fact, his nurses wrote to me because they knew I wanted to be a nurse. ___+ in my 20's. And I had heard from one of them until she died, not so long ago, and I--my family had no objection to my going into the military because when I called home and told my father, he said, "Well, this family has an obligation, and you're the only one who can fulfill that obligation, and you should go."

Louise Jacobs:

Very nice of him.

Frances Buckley:

So I--I had no, "we don't want you to do it," or anything like that, and I--I think that--and at that time, by the way, the nurse corps was something like 70--or 80% Catholic because the schools of nursing--the nuns understood this kind of thing going into the military.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes. But why?

Frances Buckley:

Because it was structured, and they had no objection to that, and they didn't discourage young women from going in. And I think that that was--I had no--yes, I went down there, but obviously, I had no negative feelings about going. And my family truly believed it was an obligation and felt I should attend.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, it sounds like the most useful of lives, Fran, and it's continuing to be that way, I'm sure.

Frances Buckley:

It is. You know, Helen has a very interesting story, if you can get her to talk.

Louise Jacobs:

Does she? What was her--just basically?

Frances Buckley:

Well, Helen was also on a hospital ship but not--I think it was during Korea. And then she was a Chief Nurse in Da Nang, and that's one of the places that I met her, and--because when I did go into Da Nang, she was always wonderful to us. Wonderful in this way: if we had to stay around because we had R and R or something, she'd say, "Now, this is where you can do your washing. This is where you can get a cup of coffee. This is--I'll see that somebody takes you to dinner--to chow." Just really--better to us than our own chief nurse.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes. Now, of course, Helen is another neighbor of ours. I think she's older than you are.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yes. She's in her 80s.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

And she's deaf. But if you can get her to talk--Dottie and Casey, I don't know whether they will or not, but Dottie got the Bronze Star.

Louise Jacobs:

My heavens.

Frances Buckley:

At least from Vietnam. Now, I know that Irene, the one with the one arm.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

She was on the hospital ship during Korea, and Pete was in Japan. Sometimes it's hard to get them to talk.

Louise Jacobs:

And these are all members of the Nurses Veteran's Corps?

Frances Buckley:

The Navy Nurse Corps.

Louise Jacobs:

Navy Nurse Corps.

Frances Buckley:

There's plenty here that a--

Louise Jacobs:

Well, we'll have to see who else we can talk to before we're finished here. Anything else that we forgot to ask about?

Frances Buckley:

I don't think so. You covered it really.

Louise Jacobs:

That's great. That's great. Or you did, one or the other. But let's see what the pictures are.

Frances Buckley:

Yes.

Louise Jacobs:

And maybe we can get some of that on tape too.

Frances Buckley:

Okay.

Louise Jacobs:

We'll stop this for a minute. [Recording stopped to get pictures].

Frances Buckley:

Took some of the slides from--

Louise Jacobs:

Okay. And now we have the pictures in front of us. The ones we can find anyway. And here they are.

Frances Buckley:

This is the ship.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay. That's which ship? The one that you had outside of--outside of Vietnam coastline.

Frances Buckley:

Right. The US History Post. Well, that's the US History Post.

Louise Jacobs:

Right.

Frances Buckley:

And then these are just here it's under way, and this is going into Da Nang. These ships were all tied up alongside there. And then this is--we were having some replenishment done there, not replenishment, so much as, work done on the ship.

Louise Jacobs:

Are you comfortable doing this standing up?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

This is a--this was my husband.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, what a nice looking man.

Frances Buckley:

Yeah, he was. And was the chief nurse at the time __+. And that's me. Doesn't look like it.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, Fran, Fran. How the years do pass, don't they?

Frances Buckley:

Yes, they do. Again, this is me, and this is an orthopedic surgeon; one of the nurse anesthetists; and one of the anesthesiologists. And these were people--at Christmas time we had trees in all our--you know, Christmas trees, and I'd have 22 surgery trees, you know. This was the Don Gheler(ph), and he was the Chief of Surgery at that time. And these are some of the nurses. This is Leo Aletigan(ph). He was the orthopedic surgeon, and we were having a little Christmas party there. As you can see, and that's me.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum.

Frances Buckley:

This was one of our casualties.

Louise Jacobs:

That's the young black man on the stretcher?

Frances Buckley:

Yes. Now what that's all about is every thousandth casualty--this sounds sick--but every thousandth casualty, we had a big cake for the person who was the casualty. Isn't that just sick?

Louise Jacobs:

No, it's not. It's really--every thing like that is just nice in a situation. Anything.

Frances Buckley:

And he was again, he--he came in--he was 19 years old. And he had a bandolier around his chest. He took a through-and-through--

Louise Jacobs:

God bless him.

Frances Buckley:

--in a helicopter. His name was Jim Green, I think. And so when we wheeled that in, he was so stunned. This is the recovery room when he was doing well.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, how did you know, though, that he was going to be the casualty, was it perfectly clear?

Frances Buckley:

Well, we had--we knew. When we knew that we had--we were down to--we had 995 people--

Louise Jacobs:

Right.

Frances Buckley:

--we knew that someone in the next five was going to be the--

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, I see. So, in other words, you hadn't told him that he was going to be chosen for this honor?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, no. After he came out of the operating room, he was alert and everything. We brought that cake into him, and told him he was the 6,000th casualty?

Louise Jacobs:

"Casualty," you said?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah. 6,000th casualty.

Louise Jacobs:

But he wasn't dead at that point.

Frances Buckley:

He didn't die. Casualties are ones who've been wounded.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, I'm glad that I asked that question. I thought a casualty was someone who actually died.

Frances Buckley:

Well, there are people who do use--what do they call those? __+ But this was the--this kid was--

Louise Jacobs:

I see. Well, that makes sense.

Frances Buckley:

Anybody that was wounded was a casualty.

Louise Jacobs:

That makes it much better, much better, yeah.

Frances Buckley:

So, anyhow, he looked up and he said--he was really--as you can see, he's really happy.

Louise Jacobs:

Uh-huh, yes, he is happy. He was glad to have that cake, glad to be the 6,000th whatever.

Frances Buckley:

He said, nobody ever had a cake for him before in his life.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, no. Oh, no.

Frances Buckley:

And so he to get wounded to get a cake.

Louise Jacobs:

And he's such a handsome young man, and such a happy face. Well, I think that's wonderful that you did that for him. And he did live then, right?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

He was--he was a clean, through-and-through.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, that's great. Now you have a big red cross on the side of this ship. That--is that the standard for a hospital ship?

Frances Buckley:

Yes, it is. And they're not supposed to fire on us, and we are lit up like a Christmas tree all the time.

Louise Jacobs:

Right. Right. Yeah. And that didn't--

Frances Buckley:

It--that didn't stop them.

Louise Jacobs:

I was just going to ask that question.

Frances Buckley:

Well, the Viet Cong used to try to put a charge on our anchor, you know, to blow up the ship.

Louise Jacobs:

Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Frances Buckley:

And there was a woman called Hanoi Hanna.

Louise Jacobs:

I think I remember that.

Frances Buckley:

Hanoi Hanna used to get on the radio and say, "Okay. Re-pos, on September 19th you're going to be blown out of the water."

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, swell.

Frances Buckley:

And everybody would say, "Oh, we're going to be blown out of the water on the 19th. Oh, okay," you know, and we'd go on our way. This is again down in the--

Louise Jacobs:

I'll tell you the courage of the situation is just __ to most of us.

Frances Buckley:

The sense of humor.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, yeah. Okay. Should we go under a--

Frances Buckley:

And this was one of the other nurses.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, this is one of the little boys with a cleft palate.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah. He had a trach, actually, that kid, tracheotomy.

Louise Jacobs:

Isn't he darling?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah. And they found some old slides of me. You should see the time changes. This is a friend of mine--

Louise Jacobs:

Just a lovely young women. Really, really.

Frances Buckley:

Well--

Louise Jacobs:

And was this wasn't--was this in Vietnam?

Frances Buckley:

Yes.

Louise Jacobs:

This was your uniform?

Frances Buckley:

Umhum.

Louise Jacobs:

And were you able to put these pretty clothes on back then?

Frances Buckley:

Well, I had--we went into the Philippines every 90 days for overhaul.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

And so we could get dressed up in civilian clothes and do our thing.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

And get our hair cut, get our nails done 'cause, you know, for 90 days there wasn't anything like that.

Louise Jacobs:

Right. You do, actually, look a lot like yourself. That expression is Frances today. This dress looks as if it came from Asia somewhere.

Frances Buckley:

Hong Kong.

Louise Jacobs:

Hong Kong. Okay. Isn't that lovely. You still have any of your clothes?

Frances Buckley:

No. I gave them all away.

Louise Jacobs:

No. No.

Frances Buckley:

And this was Christmas Eve.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh.

Frances Buckley:

And this was my roommate, and this was a friend from a long time ago.

Louise Jacobs:

Umhum.

Frances Buckley:

And both of them are dead. And she died of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, dear.

Frances Buckley:

As a result of the--being in Vietnam.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

And she died of ovarian cancer.

Louise Jacobs:

This was Agent Orange?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah. Yeah. She was wonderful. She was much younger than I was, but she was great.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

And we were--Christmas Eve, you know. This has nothing to do with them. They sent me a picture of their grand kids. But these pictures here, you know, oh, those are just--

Louise Jacobs:

I guess I should ask. Have you had any repercussions, yourself, from Agent Orange that you're aware of?

Frances Buckley:

We don't know.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

And that's one thing--maybe not Agent Orange, but the chemicals I worked with. And that's one thing I'm going to work on when I have enough energy.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

Because I have two kinds of cancer.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

One has been there for a long time, but the (?w-factor?)the growingness it hasn't--it took a long time to grow.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

It was missed on mammograms. They saw shadows there, but they never did biopsy. But that's not anybodies fault.

Louise Jacobs:

No.

Frances Buckley:

This one is an entirely different, much more benign cancer. But it's this one that requires the chemotherapy.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

I think, yes. Definitely, not Agent--my husband died of Agent Orange.

Louise Jacobs:

He did?

Frances Buckley:

Yes, he did. Pancreatic cancer, he did. But those are just my--

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, my. Well, anyway. So here are your many, many, many certificates, at least some of them.

Frances Buckley:

Yeah. That's just--and orders.

Louise Jacobs:

Credentials, your degrees, your--something from the President of the United States here.

Frances Buckley:

They don't ever __+.

Louise Jacobs:

Confidence in the Patriots of the Valor--

Frances Buckley:

That's when I become an Ensign.

Louise Jacobs:

--Fidelities and Accountabilities. Oh, okay.

Frances Buckley:

June '51.

Louise Jacobs:

All right. '51.

Frances Buckley:

All these things are just that stuff. These are pictures of the ship, and that was a helicopter pad.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

And they would land here, and they would go--right through here, which was five floors, and you'd go down in an elevator to x-ray and to have their blood drawn.

Louise Jacobs:

"They" being the people that were injured in the field, both ours and the others?

Frances Buckley:

That's right.

Louise Jacobs:

All right.

Frances Buckley:

And this is--

Louise Jacobs:

So did most of the people get well? I guess, I've been wavering under misapprehensions about this casualties.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah. Most of them.

Louise Jacobs:

Most of them did get well.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah.

Louise Jacobs:

Certainly.

Frances Buckley:

They got--they got well. That doesn't mean that they weren't ever teased, or blind, or--do you know Judge Szumowski?

Louise Jacobs:

No.

Frances Buckley:

Well, he's one of the judges here in town. He was in the Army, and not in Vietnam terribly long, and he lost both of his eyes. After he got out of the Army he went to law school. And subsequently, over the years, he has become a judge in San Diego, so--he's blind. And that was one of my corpsman. That's taking patients off of the helicopter. Now, these were drawings from Stars and Stripes that--and what--what they pictured was--this was Da Nang. And what they pictured, and why I took them, the patients were put on horses, you know, wooden horses.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

And that was the best way they could take care of them, of course, they brought them into the recovery room.

Louise Jacobs:

You just didn't have operating tables or this was a better substitute?

Frances Buckley:

This was before we brought them to the operating room.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, I see.

Frances Buckley:

You see, they had to be stabilized before they went to the operating room.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

And they had to get blood drawn and get all that kind of stuff. And this is when I left for Vietnam.

Louise Jacobs:

Left for Vietnam?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay. And these are?

Frances Buckley:

This pictures--that was--that was my brother, my father, and my aunt, and my two--two of my nieces.

Louise Jacobs:

And they came to see you off from--where did you leave from?

Frances Buckley:

I left from Fairfield in Connecticut. I lived in Massachusetts.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes. Okay.

Frances Buckley:

And then this, also, were drawings of the--of the casualties and having to--taking them to--to those wooden saws that you saw.

Louise Jacobs:

Here's a picture or a sketch of your 19-year-old medic that you were so fond of, and the statement here is, "The young medics are highly praised by doctors, as well."

Frances Buckley:

They really did a great job.

Louise Jacobs:

How did they become medics?

Frances Buckley:

Well, they go through--they went through a course. For example, they went through a hospital course, school course, which was only 16 weeks at that time, and then they had maybe a year's assignment in a hospital so they would learn. If they went to--if they were OR techs, they usually worked for 6 months as OR techs. This was a little girl.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes, and this was--

Frances Buckley:

On the ship. Her name was Ahn(ph).

Louise Jacobs:

Do you know if she was South or North Vietnamese?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, she was South Vietnamese.

Louise Jacobs:

She was south. Okay. Awfully cute. Her parents were there, or they're gone, or we don't know?

Frances Buckley:

I don't remember. I remember I really liked her an awfully lot. But--I would have taken her home if they'd have let me but, you know, in those days, you couldn't do that.

Louise Jacobs:

Now, here's an invitation from the commanding officer for Commander Shea.

Frances Buckley:

Right. That was my maiden name.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, okay. Thank you. Thank you.

Frances Buckley:

{Coughs}.

Louise Jacobs:

Fran, have you had enough for the moment?

Frances Buckley:

No, I can--it's fine.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

And those are just other--it's some of the things from the local--from the newspaper. Would you like a cough drop? I need a cough drop.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. I'd like a cough drop. That sounds like a good idea.

Frances Buckley:

Here you go.

Louise Jacobs:

And here's one of your nurse friends sitting on the lap of a--the patient?

Frances Buckley:

No. No. He's an orthopedic surgeon, he looks very dark there, but he's not. That's the one that died of ovarian cancer. And that was one of my OR techs. And that was a patient that, I was only aboard ship a couple of days, and I was up on the top deck and started talking to this young man and he said, "Would you take a picture of me so my mom knows I'm alright?"

Louise Jacobs:

Isn't that nice. And he does look alright, doesn't he?

Frances Buckley:

And that's another one of my corpsman. He was full of the devil. He was always--and this was after Captain Marcowitz(ph) left. Captain Holloway took over. Captain Marcowitz had been a--on the Bataan Death March. He was truly driven. He never turned away a casualty. And Captain Holloway had been part of the "frozen chosen"--"chosen frozen," in Korea.

Louise Jacobs:

Chosen frozen. Oh, yes. They were in the cold climate. Right.

Frances Buckley:

They were condemned. He was a doctor. He was also--they were all so very, very--and this is another one of my corpsman. And this was the lounge that they had. Whenever they left me all a cake for them.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Well, let me ask you before we run out of tape here, are there any of these pictures that you--and you can think about this later if you'd like, but any that you'd like to share and send along with this tape to the Library of Congress, and if so, let's select one of them, now or later, and I'll fill out a little form.

Frances Buckley:

Well, I could get them printed out, you know.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Good.

Frances Buckley:

Well, this probably. That would explain what we were doing.

Louise Jacobs:

Right. Right. Right.

Frances Buckley:

I can get a friend to print that out.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

This--this youngster here, this gal here, that's Tarzan, you know, Ron Eely, whatever his name was.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh.

Frances Buckley:

She was the shortest one on the ship, her name was Bugsy Hughes. I should really send her that picture.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah, that's nice. So, you're still in touch with most of the people who are still alive from this experience?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, absolutely. In fact, as I said, we had a reunion in Las Vegas right after I had my first chemo. It was wonderful. The surgeons were there, you see they also have--

Louise Jacobs:

The children were so beautiful.

Frances Buckley:

This was my roommate, Kathy __.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

And this is--we wore baseball caps on deck because, of course, the--any breeze would blow our caps off. That was the CO, and they had a cookout, which was nice. This is--now, see, this was a 5,000th casualty. He had a head injury. He was conked out. He didn't know what was going on.

Louise Jacobs:

He didn't get to see his cake. Well, at least--

Frances Buckley:

And then this one women had--she was shot. She was Vietnamese, shot by the Viet Cong, and she was pregnant. So she had a baby.

Louise Jacobs:

Is this the baby?

Frances Buckley:

Umhum. Everybody was so excited.

Louise Jacobs:

Sweet. But the poor little thing is very thin.

Frances Buckley:

Yep.

Louise Jacobs:

I guess, sometimes they get born that way there.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, yeah. He was a little premature. And you see, this cake is for this--and this is the neurosurgeon, because you can see this guy got a head injury, and this was the surgical team that worked on him. Captain Furrero. And again, my roommate worked on the Vietnamese ward, so that's where this is from.

Louise Jacobs:

She's a beautiful girl.

Frances Buckley:

Again, that's pictures of them.

Louise Jacobs:

He's the, 6,000th man, again. I like his looks.

Frances Buckley:

Umhum. Now, this is Shirley Peters the one whose brother got the Medal of Honor.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

And they taught her how to do Semaphore. And there she is out there bringing in a helicopter.

Louise Jacobs:

There she is.

Frances Buckley:

The pilot nearly had a fit. There's this nurse out there and, of course--

Louise Jacobs:

What's happened to everybody else?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah. And then every--thousandth helicopter landing, we had a cake for them.

Louise Jacobs:

And there's the 10,000th helicopter landing being celebrated in January '69.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, boy. 10,000th helicopter landing.

Louise Jacobs:

That means at least that many patients, right?

Frances Buckley:

Right.

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

Oh, more than that. They would stack them like cords of wood.

Louise Jacobs:

Jesus. On a helicopter, you mean?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah. They would just, like, stack them up. You didn't usually get one.

Louise Jacobs:

No. Oh, my. Oh, my.

Frances Buckley:

This is an OR surgery schedule. And this is the gunny sergeant, the one I told you about. And you'll see in here, there's a chest wound. This guy was another casualty. And this one may have been. This was the Vietnamese civilian. Another Vietnamese civilian. This was a civilian humanitarian. I don't know what he was doing over there, but he was wounded. And then Gunny Sergeant Perkins. Right.

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

Back, exploratory laparoscopy, incidental appendectomy. So--and you can see on this case, they had four physicians so there was four teams. This one we had two teams. It was--it was--which one was that? Oh, I have this one. Anyhow, it just gives you an example of--

Louise Jacobs:

Amputation of right fifth toe. So you were totally satisfied with the quality of care? You felt that whatever it was, it was--despite the fatigue and the exhaustion and all that?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, they got the best of care. These are just some of the surgical teams. That was my corpsman Gurrero. Captain Holloway. Captain Dale.

Louise Jacobs:

Really nice looking people. So young.

Frances Buckley:

They were. Then again, horsing around, these are the corpsman. But you have to understand, they were 19 years old, really stressed out, and you had to let them act out once in a while.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, I should think. I should think. Why not, I mean this is just horseplay, the kind of thing that young boys do.

Frances Buckley:

Peggy Burrel, she was in the recovery room. And then I got an R and R to Bangkok, five days. So they sent me out a medevac flight.

Louise Jacobs:

Treatment recommended: One fifth of good Irish whiskey.

Frances Buckley:

Irish whiskey. I'd never get over that. The guy that did that, he was really something else.

Louise Jacobs:

Bangkok was a peaceful situation at that time? Thailand wasn't involved? Okay.

Frances Buckley:

You could either go to Hong Kong or to Bangkok and, actually, because I'd been over there more than--I had been to Hong Kong once, but they let me go to Bangkok for five days. I met two priests on the plane, and they just took over. Told me where to go, what do to, everything.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, good.

Frances Buckley:

They had all kinds of money. And the money that they had all--they were with the troops in the field--all belonged to the men. The men wanted to buy their wives rings, bracelets, do all this stuff. They knew exactly where to go, and who to get the best deal from. We just followed them.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Great. Great. You brought some of it--do you still have some of it?

Frances Buckley:

I give it all--gave it most of it, all away. And this was an article by Bernard Cowell.

Louise Jacobs:

I remember Da Nang.

Frances Buckley:

This is where--this is a map of--telling you where the various camps were and what they could get help--this is an army map, but we would go from Quang Tri, which is right up next to the demilitarized zone. That's right next to North Pheona(ph).

Louise Jacobs:

Okay.

Frances Buckley:

Phu Bai, Da Nang, Chu Lai, and come back up. We never went down further than that.

Louise Jacobs:

Why was that, because there wasn't any fighting down there?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, there was fighting, but the Army had Army hospitals down there.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, I see. Good. So you were back and forth on the northeast part of the ?

Frances Buckley:

Yeah. Right up here. This is what they called Tiger Island. I was there. Way--Way City was where the pontoons of Catholics were. A lot of Catholics in Vietnam.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, no. Well, I didn't realize that.

Frances Buckley:

There were a lot of Catholics.

Louise Jacobs:

"Pontoons of Catholics," what does that mean?

Frances Buckley:

What?

Louise Jacobs:

You said "pontoons of Catholics."

Frances Buckley:

No. Many Catholics.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, I see. Many, many.

Frances Buckley:

And the Viet Cong came down--or the North Vietnamese, and killed 5,000 of them.

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, my. For any particular reason?

Frances Buckley:

They were Catholic. We had a Vietnamese priest that came on the ship. Anyhow, I always thought his article was pretty good.

Louise Jacobs:

He was, at the time, Southeast Asia Bureau Chief for CBS News. Well, that's good. So he gave a fair shake to the situation.

Frances Buckley:

You bet he did.

Louise Jacobs:

And this was in '68, so that wasn't something that always happened then?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, that was fine.

Louise Jacobs:

And I see we have Peanuts showing through here.

Frances Buckley:

Well, you couldn't get cards or anything like that, so they sent me a card. They made a card it says, "You're dreaming days are over."

Louise Jacobs:

Oh, that's so sweet. Lucy looking at Beethoven as he--with a mask over his head. All right.

Frances Buckley:

"You get to go home and do you thing."

Louise Jacobs:

"I can't stand it." And the little dog jumping up and down and dancing.

Frances Buckley:

"Play the old game" you can see the whole gang getting back to reality--

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Frances Buckley:

--to the world. What's this? "Enjoy the fine art--"

Louise Jacobs:

Yes.

Frances Buckley:

"--and when things don't go your way, you get to pass the buck."

Louise Jacobs:

Pass the buck. I know that you are a debutau of fine music. Was there any opportunity for that in those 13 months?

Frances Buckley:

Oh, no. No.

Louise Jacobs:

That was not quite--

Frances Buckley:

And then, no more fights with the laundry, It's been a long time, but I can't remember fighting with the laundry, but obviously I did. I didn't have enough sheets for my--and then, "when you get to Chelsea, we know you will tell it like it is," How bad it was, you know.

Louise Jacobs:

Yeah. Well, that's lovely.

Frances Buckley:

You'd never get a chance to--

Louise Jacobs:

That's just lovely.

Frances Buckley:

--because nobody wanted to hear it.

Louise Jacobs:

Right. Right. Nobody wanted to hear it. There just was nobody who was willing to listen at that time when you got back?

Frances Buckley:

That's right. And then when we did go back the American Military Cemetery and Memorial, it's for World War II. It is absolutely magnificent. And that's what it looks like.

Louise Jacobs:

I see.

Frances Buckley:

Those are all cross--all headstones of the people, and there were a couple of people on the ship who had relatives buried there. But they had these poinsettia trees, and when the breeze goes through those poinsettia trees, it's just this __+. So that's--I don't know whether there's anything else I--well, there are some other pictures in there. I'll show them to you, but they're not from Vietnam.

Louise Jacobs:

Well, then I'll just turn this off, I think, and say thank you very much for showing me this part, and we'll get the finished picture and put it in with the tape shortly, and send it off to the Library of Congress where it very richly needs to be.

Frances Buckley:

I just want to show you this. This was my room.

Louise Jacobs:

Thanks, Fran. [End of audio recording].

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us