Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Capt. Lillian Kinkela Keil: Pioneering Flight Nurse

Capt. Lillian Kinkela Keil was one of the most accomplished women in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, and one of the most decorated women in American military history. Her work in aviation began in 1938 when Kinkela (later Keil), a registered nurse, was hired as one of United Airlines' first flight attendants. During World War II, she became a flight nurse and made 250 evacuation flights in England and France, plus several transatlantic flights, caring for wounded patients.

Returning to active duty when the Korean War broke out, Kinkela flew another 175 evacuation missions in Korea, and was one of only 30 Air Force flight nurses in the Far East. Her extraordinary experiences inspired the 1953 Hollywood movie Flight Nurse, and she remained active in veterans' affairs until her death in 2005. Keil's service dress uniform is displayed here.

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