By many measures, the MHS Collections are vast. You can lose yourself in them, figuratively, or—if you have call to enter collections storage areas—you may indeed become lost. (Yes, some storage spaces are that big.) I prefer another measure: the poignancy of one person’s life. In the case of Ernestine Koranda, one learns of the art and profession of nursing, the excitement and toils of wartime duty, and the grief occasioned by a premature death.
Shortly after graduating from Wadena High in 1930, Koranda enrolled at St. Paul’s Ancker Hospital School of Nursing. It’s unlikely she anticipated World War II, her Army nurse duties, or her eventual deployment to Papua New Guinea. She certainly could not have guessed that, as a result, her life would be documented in the MHS Collections.
If nicknames are endearments, then “Ernie” (to her Ancker classmates) and “Carmen” (to some of her fellow Army nurses) was well thought of. A child during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, nurse Koranda specialized in contagious and children’s diseases. While serving in the Army, Lieutenant Koranda fell in love. She and fiancé Bob Middleton were to be married over Christmas 1943. Tragically, Koranda’s plane crashed en route to Sydney, Australia, leaving no survivors. The Army named a hospital ship in her honor—one of a select few so recognized before war’s end.
Ms. Koranda’s life is documented variously in the MHS Collections. Her student-nursing yearbook is in the book collection. Her own image and words, as well as condolence letters, are in a manuscript collection. In an oral history interview, fellow Ancker student Minna (Moehring) Freiberg remembers Ernestine as “a nice girl” and “a good nurse.” The ship USAHS Ernestine Koranda can be seen in the photograph collection. Her autographed student-nurse bib (pictured below) and funerary flag are in the three-dimensional collection. And the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press’s coverage of her returned remains is in the newspaper negative collection and newspaper microfilm collection (photo at right of friend with Koranda’s coffin).
The MHS Collections document historical epochs. They can also illuminate personal experience. Ideally, they serve both ends, as they do for Ernestine Koranda’s nursing career.
Christopher Welter, Government Records Assistant
- Ernestine M. Koranda memorial collection
- Photographs of Ernestine Koranda and USAHS Ernestine Koranda in the Visual Resources Database
- Ancker Hospital School of Nursing yearbook collection
- Ancker Memories, 1891-1976, by the Arthur B. Ancker Memorial School of Nursing
- Oral history interviews of the Ancker Nurses Alumni Association
- Ancker Nurses Alumni Association, records
- History Topic: Women in the Military During World War II