Barbara Nichols

When you’re doing your job as a nurse or doctor you have to stay calm. When it bothers you is later. It’s the memories that won’t go away. It catches up with you.


Captain Nichols in Korea. Nichols collection

Top left: Captain Nichols in the operating room in Korea. Nichols collection

Top right: Nichols, barely five feet tall, with other Nurse Corps “probies” in 1947 at Everett General Hospital. Nichols collection

Bottom left: A M*A*S*H unit in Korea. Helicopters were used for the first time to evacuate the wounded. Dr. Robert L. Emanuele photo

Bottom middle: A recruiting poster for the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. National Archives photo

Bottom right: Nichols worked at Boeing on the B-17 assembly line during World War II. Boeing company photo

The M*A*S*H medical unit was the last to evacuate the North Korean port of Hungnam just before Christmas 1950. Bloodied American troops were heading south to regroup after their epic first encounter with the Chinese Army. The casualties were as staggering as the bone-numbing cold. Still, “everything seemed all right,” a young soldier said, “as long as the nurses were here.”

One of them was Captain Barbara Jean Nichols of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Born just two years after American women won the right to vote, she helped build Boeing bombers as a teenager during World War II. In Korea and Vietnam she devoted her spare time to helping orphaned children. Her ancestors have fought for the U.S. in every war since 1775.