Service Reflections: Air Force nurse honored to receive POWs in 1973

Service Reflections: Air Force nurse honored to receive POWs in 1973

Air Force Together We Served

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Editor’s note: The following Service Reflections is one of many recorded on TogetherWeServed.com, a secure online community with a membership of over 2 million active-duty and veteran members. This story may contain language which may not be suitable for young children.

SSGT Ellen Georgieff
Status: USAF Veteran
Service Years: 1966-1974

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Air Force?

I was a student nurse, and I got this patient who shot his foot to avoid the draft. I was angry but polite. He said YOU couldn't understand because YOU wouldn't be drafted. So I joined.

It was a lot more complicated than that, I had graduated from HS at 16, and went directly to a nursing school. In part, I was admitted to the hospital with broken ribs, from my mother and "child abuse." From my admission notes, they realized I was only 17 at the time I met this draft dodger, I was disqualified because I was a minor and would have to wait until the next year to return to school. I couldn't return home and I couldn't face returning to school, and in a few months, I was 18. My mother signed my release to join the AF.

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

My intention was to stay in for a career. I had almost finished Nursing School before joining the service. What happens is I was 17 in Nursing School. When the school realized this they asked me to resign. I can't say I was expelled from Nursing School academically - but that I was asked to leave because I was a minor.

A few months later, I was in the Air Force, and I had access to colleges, I attended and finished Nursing School. I was being considered for a commission when I was having continuous medical problems with my kidney. I was very sick, and then pregnant. This was the time when it was being considered that a woman could stay on active duty, but I was too sick to think.

I have a wonderful son, whom I am very proud. So there are no regrets.

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which were the most significant to you and, if life-changing, in what way.

At Clark AFB, we had the honor of receiving the POWs in February 1973. It was a humbling experience. At the hospital, we had the most contact with these men. They were humble, kind, and so thankful for everything. I remember this always and carry the attitude as much as I can wherever I go. These men went through hell, and some of us cry about a paper cut. I try to keep this in mind when I am going through tough times, and I realize that the greatest suffering comes from thoughts of hopelessness.

Was there a particular incident during your service when you believed you were in a situation you might not survive? Please describe what happened and what was the outcome.

The news item attached to this story describes a sad but common chain of events. Also see my notes in another section "From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most." We were told always to travel with a buddy. Maybe about 100 GIs were killed in this way. It was getting late and my husband and I flagged down a Jeepney (like a taxi or small bus), to go home. We sat at the outside edge, so no one would block our exiting the jeepney at the end of our trip. Unfortunately, my husband was not as knowledgeable about this problem as I was.

A local national push in, and Greg push me in further, I refused to budge, and Greg didn't understand and pushed again. I noticed the three men as we travelled down MacArthur Highway.

As we started to get out, two of the men forceful prevented our leaving. That was the final signal, and I know that we were being taken to our execution. They were terrorists bent on overthrowing the Philippine government. American paid a lot of money to keep 5 bases in the PI, and the idea was to kill and terrorize American GIs to make the US pull out of the PI. They were part of the NPA (New People's Army), and CCP (Communist Party of the Philippines). The one terrorist (Commander Dante) in the front seat with a gun to the driver ordered him to drive to a deserted construction site. The other two terrorists robbed us and broke my finger when he grabbed the ring from my hand. Quitely, I said a prayer, and it was answered immediately. Time - stood - still.

I was moving so fast, the man could not comprehend what was happening. I beat him to a pulp. I was expecting my husband (the football player, wrestler) to do something - anything. But instead, he said, "Don't kill him, that memory will be with you the rest of your life." I couldn't believe my ears. But Commander Dante heard this and was stunned that a little 5'2"125-pound woman could beat a trained armed terrorist into unconsciousness.

We were minutes from death! He had a gun! Their intent was to kill us! They were about to execute us before I interrupted them! But he and the 3rd man picked up their wounded comrade and ran. By this time, I was full of adrenalin and stupidity and ran after them. I chased them across the deserted construction area, across the highway, and into some back alley, where they escaped by squeezing between two buildings that were too close together for me.

We went to the Town Patrol office and reported the event. The driver came with us and helped with the report, as he had just escaped death himself, but refused to file a criminal report for fear of retaliation.

A few weeks later two men from Washington DC came to my workplace, and they took me to several prisons trying to see if I could identify Commander Dante, but he was not there. He fled the Islands and went to China, where he had business friends, who sold him rifles and ammo, and he hid for a while.

The outcome - Well, that's the very sad part of the story. My husband never recovered. He believed his manhood was shattered, he reverted to a little boy. He got a haircut and t-shirt that made him look about 6 years old and remained there. His military career was over. He broke down at work. His CO called me and asked me to take him home. Then he started blaming me. He went TDY to Udon for 89 days, and while he was gone, I was raped by my co-worker. I couldn't tell him because it would only make it worse. Someone said something to him, and he thought it was one of his co-worker, Cliff, who was a friend of mine, he thought this man raped me. The ECM shop beat this man seriously. He berated what happened that night. He said I did nothing important, or notable that night, and argued with the men from Washington.

Things never got better. PTSD was undiagnosed at that time, but this was it. I became damaged from this event, not because of what I did, not from being rapped, but from losing the respect I thought I had from my husband. Everybody who knows this story, knows actually what I did that night. Everybody who was in the Philippines between 1969 and 1973 knew exactly what I was up against, and how much I needed his help both during the attack and afterward. If I had his support, I would not have been raped (rape is a crime of power, some men must show they have more power than a woman), and I would have been respected for that night. Technically, the driver and I were are the only survivors of these attacks.

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which one was your least favorite?

CLARK AFB will always have my heart. I learned my trade there, and remember some of the darnedest things we did. We believed that "I have done so much, for so long, with so little. I can now do anything with nothing." - and we did. This idea, at its core, has brought me through some really bad times. Of course, now I add a pray and thank God for hope, and all that I have.

From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?

One afternoon, my husband insisted on taking a jeepney. I don't know what his problem was, but he was insistent saying he was tired of the "watch your car, mister." Commonly, kids would greet an American with this to get a few pennies for candy. It was only a few pennies. We only needed to travel a short distance, and we should have had enough time. I guess we got sidetracked. We got on a jeepney and were travelling down MacArthur, and two young girls got into the jeepney. A few minutes later three men got on the jeepney, they were acting like they were not together, but I saw something between them, a movement or a gesture. I wouldn't move over when these guys tried to exert themselves into the back of the jeepney, indicating they should move in front of me. We had been told by the base to position our self at the rear of the jeepney, and not let someone push us in, the locals all knew this and were very cooperative. My husband had no idea what was going on and pushed me in, which gave them the opening they needed, and this is the reason why.

When we tried to get out at our apartment complex, they made their move and stuck a knife into (not piecing) my husband's side. I couldn't see this and tried again to get out. That was when I saw the knife. The two girls were truly frightened, their eyes were like saucers, and their behavior was really frantic. I added that with the impression I had, and concluded what was actually happening. The guy in the front seat had a gun, I didn't see it, but I knew it was there. In the jeepney, the robbery was taken place. They stole the driver's money, the girls' money, and our money, then he noticed my ring. He broke my finger.

The guy in the front seat told the driver to go to an isolated area and signaled with wrist movement of the gun. We crossed the bridge. They let the girls out on the other side of the bridge. The two girls ran - that "girl run" looking back in disbelief, but still trying to get away fast. The gunman told the driver to continue past the businesses, and he drove some distance beyond the local bars. He turned into a clearing and moved to the center of nowhere. I said a prayer, and it was answered in pure strength, and time stood still. Time was in slow motion, and I was just moving regularly. We were being forced out of the jeepney. I unhesitatingly took this time of momentary confusion to beat the stuffing out of one of the Huks. I attacked the guy who broke my finger. I came down on his instep, punched him in the gut, and used both hands clasped together and caught him under the chin. He overreacted and his head slammed into the bar on the jeepney near the back end. He was seriously injured. I draw back my fist and readied to crush his exposed trachea. Again let me remind you. My husband still had no idea what was going on. He said, "Don't kill him. You will have to live with that memory." I got maybe two minutes to live. I can handle the memory. But the two men heard this, looked at their friend, then me. They picked him up and ran like hell. I have no idea how I survived. For me, time was in an altered state. I could see things move at a different rate than I was moving, and I was able to do things I wouldn't normally be able to do. I just did what was supposed to be done. I wonder what it looks like when someone else is in that altered state of time.

At first, I didn't know if the driver was part of the act. He wasn't, and he realized I had just saved his life. They cut across the area, but the driver had to drive around because of the road conditions. We gave chase until they squeezed between two buildings, and I couldn't follow (I was well built). The driver explained what he knew, and drove us to Town Patrol near the main gate on MacArthur. He was afraid to sign a complaint because of retaliation that helped me file the report. Things became clear when the APs explained that we were the only known survivors of these attacks, and that made me the only eyewitness.

The report was filed, and I guess someone up the chain decided it was to be investigated by Washington. Shortly afterward, two guys from Washington, complete with black suits and sunglasses, showed up in the Operating Room, where I worked. They waited in the coffee area while I changed clothes, and took me on a tour of the Island to find these men. I know that caused a lot of talk in the OR because I caught a lot of flack. I guess the description I gave of two of the three men (I was not able to see the man who sat on the other side of my husband - the one who had the knife), was right on target. Washington doesn't send two agents halfway around the world to investigate a robbery gone wrong.

My husband changed immediately after the robbery. He was silent at the Town Patrol office. I was full of adrenaline, and probably stupidity. He withdrew into himself. He never forgave me or himself for what happened that night.

Because this event occurred off-duty, and beyond my scope of duty assignment, it was never recorded in my military records. My evaluations only reflect that I was of the highest caliber NCO, mostly 9s on those evaluations over a period of several years. That year there was a mention of my exception behavior both on and off-duty. Evaluations don't mention anything not related to your career, except receiving citations or medals.

I was aware of the situation, and in spite of the mortal danger, I fought three armed men and won. I saved the lives of four other people at the risk of my own life. I could have run away, and left the others to died. The same opportunity that I used to fight, I could have used to run, and they would have been too busy with the others to catch me. At the speed I was moving, they might not have seen me. I did exactly what needed to be done. "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty." My actions save the lives of four people (the two girls were just let go. The look on their faces told their story), stopped the attacks on other Americans, and caused a depletion of the CPPs funds, and I was not a trained soldier, but a medic. There is only one reason to keep us in the jeepney after the robbery, only one reason to take us to the empty field, and that was to kill us. That shows these were not robbers, but soldiers. That covers the points in the description above, and qualifies with the description: "While serving with friendly foreign forces (stationed at Clark AFB) engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force (Communist Party of the Philippines) in which the United States is not a belligerent party." The attacks stopped for some time after that night. They did not take up again, until well after the bombing in Manila that resulted in Martial Law in September 1972. Some say Dante left the Philippines and went to China where he was getting the guns to support his revolution. He returned later, and more attacks on American GIs started up again.

A few weeks after this, a jeepney armed with a military-grade machine gun entered the compound where we lived. Remember, they know where we lived because that was where we tried to get out of the jeepney. They didn't know which apartment we lived in so they shot the whole place up. There was one dead. I was crouch under the sofa until the sound stopped.

The routine was an American would get on a jeepney with a buddy. Shortly two or three men would get in and position themselves near the exit. The knowledge was not widely known. Most people only knew not to travel alone after dark. These men would then detain the GIs, rob them, beat them, kill them, and finally put them in a shallow grave somewhere near Clark AFB. I attached a news article from the Stars and Strips, 19 April 1971.

What achievement(s) are you most proud of from your military career? If you received any medals, awards, formal presentations or qualification badges for significant achievement or valor, please describe how these were earned.

I was just proud to be where I was, doing what I could. I know that I impacted on other people's lives, and they are totally unaware of that fact. I was in two good units and we received unit citations, I was a part of these units and I did my job to be eligible for those awards bestowed on us.

Clark AFB, Philippines - Philippines Presidential Unit Citation, Presidential Unit Citation, and USAF Unit award. Special Order GB-241

In 1972 the Philippines needed our help and that was outside our mission. We responded to the need of the Philippine people and rendered service. It actually rained for 40 days and 40 nights, for a total of 111 inches of rain. 30 Units were issued the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation. This award had not been issued since the end of World War II to the Allied troops.

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or any other memorabilia, please describe those which are the most meaningful to you and why?

This doesn't qualify as an award of any military kind. The most sensational thing that happened was the way I was accepted by some of the staff at Clark AFB. I tried to be as best as I could, and I was very enthusiastic about this work. It came to the attention of some of the doctors. Dr. Bitseff was a plastic surgeon assigned to Clark AFB, at the same time I was there. We would go out into the countryside and practice plastic surgery on the locals who badly needed our services. I was deeply honored that he asked me to go on these trips and looked forward to them. Some of these trips required hours of travel, some by boat, some by truck. I loved every minute of it.

I also took blood to Japan, almost every month. That experience was mind-boggling. This is where I learned the fine art of trade. I was becoming the OR's, Jon Voight's 1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder, from Catch-22. The Airmen at the customs check at Tachy would look forward to seeing what was next. I got friendly with them, and a fair trade was set up. I met the PACAF Bowling team - they were a riot. I couldn't join them, between my job and my off-duty jobs and school, I didn't have time. But that is my one regret.

One time on my way back to Clark, after a Blood trip, I was waiting for stand-by, and sleeping on a plastic chair, a colonel came up to me, and ask if I would like to take his place on standby because he was traveling with his family and didn't want to be separated from them. As I was passing through the door I saw his reflection talking with the guys at the "ticket station." The next month, they told me the whole story about the colonel. He had to chuckle as I walked to the plane, no baggage but carrying a futon, a fishing pole and 25# of Mozzarella cheese.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

Dr. Bitseff, hands down. I needed the positive feedback, and he gave it to me. He encouraged me to reach as far as I could - I did.

Please recount the names of friends you served with, at which location, and what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.

Barbara Hook was my room-mate at Keesler AFB. She was a good friend.

Friends at Clark AFB:

Jackie Johnston
Joe Wade
Greg Shaw
Billy Clark
Andy Anderson and so many other, some are in my photos section.

Some of the Nurses and Doctors:

Dr. Haff - General Surgery
Jerry Dorman - General Surgery
Jerry Rogers - General Surgery
Edward Bitseff - Plastic Surgery
Dr. Peachy - OB/GYN Surgery
Dr. Campbell - Orthopedic Surgery
Dr. Penfield - Anesthesia
Erlinda - RN
Pat Markley RN
Sheila Goodman RN
Carol Ganser RN
Chris Ratajcak RN

I don't remember too many others, I am sure there are much more than I would remember fondly. I have many photos that don't fit in the space and I would like to post them in another section of photos.

Can you recount a particular incident from your service which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?

There was little TV at Clark, but we watched whatever was on. We would go to work the next day and talk about Sesame Street, or this local TV station we loved. This guy was a retired military man married to a local Filipina national, and he said some of the things you never would expect to hear on TV. He would talk about the drive to work or apologize for being late (to start the show - he wasn't even in the studio) because his wife was frisky. It was so funny. But it is one of those things you have to experience first hand to appreciate.

Whenever I see that kind of format TV, (host and a movie), I think of him and his wife, and LMAO.

Thanksgiving dinner and half the OR was at my place. The cooking of the bird was interrupted, and the end result was an undercooked bird at the table. Nobody was concerned (except me), so we put the bird back in the oven, and went outside to dance with the sticks that you clank on the ground and then clap and repeat. We had too much fun. This guy came by with ice cream in a barrel, and we all have corn flavored ice cream for dessert. That was Marty and me in the background, Marty is in the strip blouse.

One day was very slow, and the Supervisor suggest most people go to lunch. So one team stayed in the OR, in case. About 5 minutes after everyone left, Dr. Peachy called in an said he had an emergency C-section. I said OK. Then he said I need an assistant. oh OK. Now one of our members was straight out of tech school and never seen a C-section, and she is about to 1st scrub. All the time she kept saying, "but I never." I said no worry, it's OK. So we scrub in and set up the table. I told Dr. Peachy, he was cool. I set up the Mayo tray with the instruments in order of use, rather than the way we usually set the tray, and explained to her, every time one of us holds out a hand just slap the next instrument in line in that hand. The only thing we will ask for is the knife and suture. Again the sutures are in order of use. Well, this worked out fine, as the others came back from lunch, I said just smile and pretend you know what you are doing. The supervisor came in the room, and couldn't figure out what was up. She knew the kid to new, but there she was handling the instruments and sutures like an old pro. It was a real head-scratcher. She left. We laughed. She returned and looked at the tray, but nobody in the room gave it away. But the supervisor was an old pro too and saw the tray was very unusual and started laughing. She left the room, and we could hear her exploding with laughter, as she told the story. Now I know this might not seem funny on paper, but it sure was good at the time. And that young lady would have a story to tell the grandchildren, my 1st week in the Operating Room.

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? If you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?

Before entering the service, I had 1 year of Nursing. While in the service I finished several years of college. Mr. James Alexander at the base education office helped me submit applications to colleges, and bootstrap to finish my education. I was excepted to both. As I stated in an earlier Q&A, I was very sick (and pregnant) and was discharged from the Air Force. I finish Nursing School shortly after my son was born.

From that point, I completed certification for CNOR - Certified Nurse, Operating Room. Later, I completed my requirements for FA - First Assistant. I became the Head Nurse of ENT at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

I was in a horrific auto accident and was not expected to live, but what I had learned in the service sustained me, and I survived. I was in rehab about 6 years, to learn to walk and talk, my brain injury is severe, and I have not returned to work except for a brief few years. During the time I worked, I was faced with overwhelming conditions. I didn't "look" like a nurse, because my walk was funny, and my speech stuttered. If something was not right, I was blamed, I was the units scapegoat. After I left, someone told me the section fell apart, and "suddenly" they realized I wasn't at fault for their shortcomings. But I was hurt too much to return. It was truly the worse time of my life, and I don't want to repeat that again.

I am retired.

What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?

I am not a member of any association. I have worked closely with the DAV for my VA benefits.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?

I couldn't be more proud than I am about my military experience. It taught me the discipline to achieve my goals. It gave me the experience to master my work. It gave me the excitement to stretch.

I did this in the service, I did this after the service to accomplish my nursing career. I raised a son with these same principles. He has shown that he learned from what I learned. Now that's what I call handing down a legacy. He wanted to be an Eagle Scout - he became an Eagle Scout. He now lives happily with his wife Deanna, and I couldn't be more proud of him than I am.

I have the service to thank for this because I didn't know any better before. I learned it with the help of many wonderful people I met in the service.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Air Force?

Love everything you do. Love every place you go. Take a lot of photos. It's a chance of a lifetime.

In what ways has TogetherWeServed.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.


TWS and the US Air Force

I have only been on this site a few weeks, but this Q&A has really jogged some memories. One person from Clark contacted me. Not bad for less than 3 weeks work. I'm looking forward to new adventures, and hearing from more old friends, and who knows maybe some new ones. Thank you.

Togetherweserved.com

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