Saturday, June 8, 2019

Guest post by Gail Kittleson

            World War II deployment with an evacuation hospital meant constant upheaval for nurses. After zigzagging across the Atlantic to avoid German torpedo boats, their landing in Casablanca was anything but red-carpeted.

   Dorothy Woebbeking, an Iowa native, had ridden transatlantic ships three times with her family, but never under enemy threat. Growing up down the street from the five Sullivan brothers killed when the Germans torpedoed their ship, she was no stranger to war’s cruelty.
But she’d never experienced North Africa. Unfortunately, the commander of the Eleventh Evacuation hospital saw no use for women.A testy Great War veteran, this Colonel viewed these forty-four nurses as one big U.S. Army mistake, and determined to send them home ASAP.
But Dorothy’s superior officer advised,“Wait and watch. Do what you’re asked to do and the doctors will see your expertise. It won’t be long until they realize how much they need us.”
            She was right. The Colonel sent only four nurses home. The other forty set out across North Africa in the backs of Army trucks, camping out in so many places, they lost track.
At the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, General Rommel soundly thrashed the green American GI’s. But they learned their lesson and eventually devastated the enemy. Along the way, Dorothy was promoted solely to the surgery—a gifted nurse, she took her Florence Nightingale pledge as a lifetime vow.
Then on to Sicily, where the Colonel made his last error concerning these nurses—sending them in with the first invasion wave. He nearly got them killed. Relieved of his command, he soon was ordered stateside, to everyone’s relief.
           After arduous service in Sicily, the Evac followed the troops to Italy, where they witnessed terrible casualties. At Anzio, members of other evacuation hospitals suffered mortal wounds and had to be replaced. When the Eleventh took over for them, who knew what might happen?
            Fortunately, the Germans were being beaten back, so the Eleventh lost no one before moving on to France where more vicious battles added patients from many nationalities. Then came D-Day—this year we celebrate its seventy-fifth anniversary—and Dorothy was there.
The Battle of the Bulge—she was there. The crossing into Germany—Dorothy was there. Casualty after casualty, she and her comrades After nearly five years of service, she received six theater ribbons. And through it all, she prayed for her three brothers who also served, one in Europe and two in the Pacific.
            Winston Churchill said about the pilots in the Battle of Britain, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” His statement also applies to the nurses and doctors who aided wounded and dying soldiers.
How can we ever honor them enough?
            Because of them, many soldiers healed and came home. Though nurses could not change the course of mortal wounds, thousands of men did not die alone, and this brought bereaved families a bit of comfort.
            Maybe it sounds as if Dorothy and nurses like her had no time for fun, but they pulled some shenanigans in their spare time. They never forgot duty, honor, country, but discovered new loves, found ways to laugh and also to express their faith. How else could they have endured?


Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband of forty-one years enjoy grandchildren, gardening, traveling and historical research. 

After instructing college writing and English as a Second Language, Gail wrote a memoir. Then the World War II bug big her . . . hard! Seven novels
later, she’s still hopelessly addicted to this riveting era. Her women’s fiction honors Greatest Generation characters who made a difference despite
great odds. 

Gail’s second love, teaching, has her facilitating workshops and retreats, where she cheers others’ creativity. 

My Links:


Pat Jeanne Davis said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I learned about Dorothy and other nurses who showed great courage and who gave so much of themselves during those dark days of WWII. Thank you Gail.

Marilyn R. said...

Interesting and informative post about Dorothy and other who served as nurses during WWII. With the recent D-Day 75th anniversary I've enjoyed blog posts and local newspaper article about this sad and tragedy time in American history.

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