Miriam Baxter grew up in the small town of Madison, Georgia. She served her country as a Red Cross nurse in the South Pacific Theater from 1943 to 1946. Now 97, she lives alone—outside of a home health aide and her family—and absorbs herself in her favorite pastime of baking.
“I’m doin’ okay, except for a little arthritis in my right hand…other than that, I feel fine,” she said in a Southern drawl.
Mrs. Baxter was stationed at the 47th General Hospital in Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea. “We did everything from soup to nuts…unloaded, loaded supplies from Navy ships…drove trucks and had to even help build our own hospital facility…we even had to come up with creative ways to entertain and keep the soldiers' morale up…did what we had to do,” she said.
She continued, “We received a lot of casualties from the 6th Infantry Division…lots of young boys…operating rooms, blood on the floors…was really tough at first, especially when I had to assist with my first amputation…remember it like it was yesterday…18-year-old boy…right leg torn apart by a grenade…had to amputate it right there…never will I ever forget the look in that boy's eyes right before we put him under…lots of boys came through."
What were the holidays like for her? “You were working a great deal, so you didn’t have time to think. It’s when you got off and had a little spare time, that’s when it hit you…hit you like a ton of bricks…I was the oldest of eight and I missed my younger siblings terribly…my Ma made sure that they all wrote letters to me, which was good…but not the same…I was having morning coffee in the mess tent, getting ready to go on my shift and I heard ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ and it just tore my heart out…had to leave the tent and go outside where nobody could see me…just cried and cried and got it all out…you could never let the soldiers see you get emotional…never."
Asked about mentors, she didn’t hesitate: “Lieutenant Flynn…marvelous woman…put her arm around you when things were tough…knew people really well…hard as nails…we had this wise guy in the hospital…shoulder wound…always trying to get away with something…pinched one of our nurses in the rear end…my goodness, did she let that soldier have it both barrels! We would work our behinds off for her because we knew she always had our backs."
Do any particular memories stand out? “I’m proud of all the young men that we treated and saved…we lost a great many, too…so young…the eyes is what I remember most…the look they gave you…stays with you forever,” she said.
Mrs. Miriam Baxter, thank you for your service to our great country.