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March 19, 2008

Army Nurse Ernestine Koranda

Filed under: Our Favorite Things — Christopher Welter @ 12:33 pm

Army nurse Lieutenant Ernestine Koranda administers an injection.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.Lieutenant Esther Berg escorts Lieutenant Ernestine Koranda's body to St. Paul, Minnesota.

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

Autographed corner of Koranda's student nurse bib.

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5 Responses to “Army Nurse Ernestine Koranda”

  1. Keith Rockwood Says:

    Ernestine Koranda was my cousin. I was able to provide a picture of the ship named for her to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington. (see http://www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum/collections/archives/aproducts/ahospital/ahospital.html

    I appreciate this memorial to her.

  2. Steve Koranda Says:

    Ernestine Koranda was my father’s sister-my aunt, although I was born after her death. Since I know her only historically, information such as this are a real treasure. Thank you!

  3. Joe Koranda Says:

    Ernistine Koranda was my aunt, I remember her name being Sis from my father. I was too young to even remember her but from her time ‘down under’ I received a koala bear/teddy bear and a Slazenger’s tennis racket. Unfortunately the only real information I have on her comes from various historical accounts, or second hand from stories told by family members.

  4. Melanie Vargas-King Says:

    Ernistine Koranda was my great aunt. Her brother Clarence was my mother Cheryl’s father. I have learned a lot about my moms aunt Sis. My daughter is in the 7th grade this year and was very proud to share with her class the information she had learned about her great great aunt Sis. A special thanks to all of you that made this possible.

  5. Alison Mitchell Says:

    Ernestine Koranda was my Grandmother’s Sister Lucy. I remember Uncle Clarence. I met Uncle Don one time when we took my Grandma to the top of Pikes Peak. I am finding all of this so very interesting. Grandma used to talk about her sister Ernestine (sis). Would love to talk to all of you about what you remember about the family.

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