Family recounts tales of Troxell’s service

Enjoying her 77th birthday, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 1990

“She was such a hoot,” Mindy Winder, of Mifflin, said with a smile several times while describing her aunt, Miriam Troxell, whose career as a flight nurse in the U.S. Army took her around the world.

“She led a very interesting life. She lived on almost every continent — except South America and Antarctica,” Winder said. “She lived all over the world and bought cool stuff from all over the world, so we thought of her as our rich aunt.”

Shopping for cool stuff may have been a pleasant diversion for Troxell, of Lewistown, who served during World War II and the Korean Conflict, playing a vital role in evacuating the wounded, before retiring in 1968.

Troxell’s parents were Banks and Verna Troxell, who moved from Tyrone to Lewistown, first living on Shaw Avenue, then on Highland Avenue. Miriam was the second of five children. Florence, the oldest, was born in 1911, followed by Miriam in 1914, then Doris in 1917, Ronald in 1921, and Janet in 1925. Janet was Winder’s mother. Three of the four Troxell women — Florence, Miriam and Janet — became nurses.

While Winder acknowledged that service people of that era didn’t speak much about their experiences, she was able to recount a few moments from her aunt’s career, with some assistance from a cousin’s memory.

For instance, in the spring of 1944, when Troxell was stationed in England, she and another nurse lived off base. One day, when they were leaving to go to their home, the guard in the shed at the gate told them not to leave because there was something that was going to happen that they might want to see. Not long after that, the nurses witnessed English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Gen. George Patton and U.S. President Dwight S. Eisenhower emerging from an airplane. “They were getting together to plan D-Day,” Winder said.

Other memories described Troxell’s job. When flying missions in Normandy, there were usually three airplanes flying in close formation, but only the first plane was outfitted with navigational equipment. “They were to swoop in, grab as many people as they could, and get out. It was the same in Korea,” Winder said.

Near the end of World War II, Winder said, Troxell was on a junket, and, as she always did, the nurse carried cheese and crackers because they didn’t always know when their next meal would come. Troxell was flying in a cargo plane, and she offered some cheese and crackers to the man sitting next to her. Later, he invited her to dinner at this private dining room, and she accepted the invitation. The man turned out to be Lowell Thomas, a famous American broadcast journalist.

Another anecdote reveals a bit of a discrepancy, either in the stories that Troxell told, or in the memories of those to whom she told the stories.

Troxell “always told me that she had bursitis in her shoulder from sleeping on the cold ground in Korea,” Winder said. “But my cousin said it was from diving under the table in the operating room when they heard the sirens for the incoming.”

And speaking of Korea, Winder was quick to add, “She really hated M*A*S*H,” the wildly popular television show in the 1970s and early ’80s that depicted life in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean Conflict. The show depicted the characters using humor to escape from the horror of the war. But Troxell didn’t see it that way.

“She thought it was disrespectful because, she said, there really wasn’t anything funny about being in Korea.”