Maria Garcia Roach was a nurse anesthetist instructing at Charity Hospital in New Orleans when the United States entered World War II. Maria had initially volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) as a field nurse, however when it was discovered that she also had her pilots license, she was selected to be a medical/air evacuation pilot.
After training and earning her Army pilot wings at Bowman Field, Kentucky, Lieutenant Garcia quickly found herself retrieving wounded soldiers from battlefields, providing emergency combat medicine and transporting the soldiers to medical facilities by piloting the aircraft. She conducted these operations from October 1943 to March 1945.
An article in the May 1945 edition of the Austin American-Statesman covered Maria’s story, stating that, “An army nurse, she has been overseas for 19 months and has served in China, Burma, India, Africa, Italy, France, Germany and England and on numerous islands in the north and south Atlantic assisting in the air evacuation of sick and wounded soldiers.”
It was also reported that Maria served more than 1,500 wounded service members while logging a total of 1,000 flight hours on a four-engine aircraft during such air evacuations. She earned an Air Medal and two Bronze Stars for her compilation of heroic actions.