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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Losing the Boys


With sadness, Joy told about the many ‘boys’ they lost in Roetgen, Germany. “The fighting continued so long that cold day, but we couldn’t get to them in time as they lay out in the field. We lost them to pneumonia or shock. We were trained to save lives; we couldn’t save many that day. We shed a lot of tears.”

Joy described the only platoon member killed during the war. “He was a young, rosy cheeked boy who carried the wounded on the stretcher. Pvt. Trester was a litter-bearer and when he heard a fellow soldier call for help, he took off toward the voice. Without regard for his own safety, he ran through an open field, stepping on a mine, which exploded before he could get to the wounded. We were supposed to stay within the protected area that had already been scanned for mines.”

The platoon was not used to losing one of their own. These nurses, associated with the Red Cross, were not allowed to carry weapons. They were to wear their Red Cross badge on their sleeve. They felt the ‘rules of war’ enacted by treaties such as the Geneva Convention, would protect them. In this case it did not.

Source: The Nurse Who Went to War by Susan Harrison Wolffis, Muskegon Chronicle, March 31, 2002

Did you know?

  • 60,000 women served in the Army Nurse Corps during WWII. It is estimated that one half served overseas.
  • 12,000 women service in the Navy Nurse Corps during WWII, About 3,000 served in hospital ships overseas.
  • 14 Army nurses were killed by enemy fire during WWII, although 460 servicewomen – Army nurses, Navy nurses, WACS, and WAVES  - died during wartime from various causes, including air crashes, motor vehicle accidents, and illness.
  • Because of the medical care U.S. soldiers received from the doctors, nurses and medics on the front line, there was nearly a 90 percent survival rate among the wounded.

Source: Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation Inc.

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