Today we are spotlighting Central Coast Veteran, Lt. JG Aileen Crews, who served as a U.S. Navy Nurse during WWII.
In 1941, Aileen Crews graduated from high school in San Pedro, California. At the time, the day-to-day in her home life was a struggle and financial opportunities were limited, so she applied and was accepted into the French Hospital Nursing School in San Francisco. Aileen was always an excellent student. According to her younger brother, Jean, “She was the smart one in the family who won all the academic awards. To be a nurse was always her dream and the war intensified her ambition.” Upon graduation from nursing school, Aileen became Lt. JG Crews. She was stationed at Balboa Naval Hospital in California, where she treated wounded sailors. Throughout World War II, the hospital treated approximately 172,000 patients.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Boatswain Mate Russell Merriman was one of Aileen’s patients. As she nursed him back to health, they fell in love. After VJ Day (August 14, 1945), Lt. JG Crews remained in the Navy for two additional months. Following her honorable discharge, she was awarded the WWII Medal and a Medal of Good Conduct.
By September of 1945, she had married Russell Merriman and they moved to Russell’s hometown of Florence, SC, where they started their family. Sadly in 1947, Russell was involved in a fatal airplane accident, which led to Aileen’s return to San Pedro, CA with son Steve in hand and her son Russell about to be born. Aileen had new challenges to face. In time, Aileen remarried and had 3 more children. Having 5 children put her Navy Nurse skills to good use, and eventually she re-entered the workforce with nursing becoming a lifelong career. Even in retirement, she volunteered to draw blood for the Red Cross.
Aileen will be celebrating her 100th birthday next month, July 2023, in San Luis Obispo where she now resides. When reflecting on her upcoming 100th birthday, Aileen shares immense pride for her family’s 4 generations of service and patriotism. Her father Willman Crews served in the Navy during WWI, an older brother, Randolph, served in the Army during WWII, and younger brother Jean joined the Merchant Marines during WWII and was drafted by the Army serving in combat during the Korean War. Aileen’s two sons, Russ and Steve, both served in combat during the Vietnam War, and her grandson is currently in service, soon to be deployed overseas.
Thank you for your service, Aileen, and Happy 100th Birthday in July 2023.