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Joy Lillie: Nurse Goes to War

GVSU Veterans History Project; Dan Weikel, interviewer. - September 20th, 2011

Joy Lillie, Born in Coopersville, Michigan, served in the 51st Field Hospital in the Army Nurse Corps from 1942 to 1945 during the Second World War. During her service she spent 9 months in Orran, Algeria, and went to Normandy shortly after D-Day. She worked in France, Blegium and Germany.



Grand Valley State University

Veterans History Project

Joy Lillie


Enlistment in the Nurse Corps. (00:10)

  • Born in Coopersville, Michigan (00:12)
  • Served in the 51st field hospital in the Nurse Corps. (00:25)
  • She graduated from St. Mary’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan and had practiced nursing before entering the service. (00:45)
  • She volunteered in Detroit, Michigan. She did not consult any of her family before volunteering. (1:00

Service in North Africa (1:40)

  • She was then sent to North Africa near Oran. (1:45)
  • She was assigned to a hospital there for 9 months. There was little for the nurses to do there. (1:54)
  • After having served 9 months in Africa she returned to the U. S. (2:52)

Service in Central Europe (2:55)

  • She was reassigned to the 51st field hospital in South Carolina. (3:00)
  • She and her new unit were shipped overseas. First to in England and then she was sent to Normandy in France. (3:47)
  • The hospital arrived in D+2 and the nurses arrived in D+6. (Approx. June 12th 1943). (4:40)
  • When the nurses arrived they had patients immediately. Soldiers, wounded before the arrival of the nurses and hospital, had been cared for by officers or field medics. (4:56)
  • She got on shore via landing craft. (5:26)
  • She recalls hearing machine gun fire and explosions in the distance. While traveling to the hospital she was forced to take cover with the rest of her platoon in a German pillbox that had been cleared. (5:50)
  • When it came time for the hospital in Normandy to be moved it was divided into 3 platoons. Each platoon “leapfrogged” the others to advance with the front line. (6:49)
  • Through her service she traveled through France following the advancing front line. (8:00)
  • One time while stationed in Germany she recalls a lot of soldiers were lost due to pneumonia. (8:24)
  • When the battle of the Bulge occurred (December 1944) the hospital was pushed back to Belgium. She recalled having patients from many different nationalities during the battle. (9:20)
  • She recalls that she would have patients whose injuries were often accidentally inflicted. (10:11)
  • While attempting to see Russ, her husband, she had the chance to ride in a P48. (11:27)
  • She had to treat German prisoners when they were wounded. (12:00)
  • She recalled having to do amputations while serving in the field hospitals. (13:30)
  • Surgeons were stationed at the hospital who specialized in particular parts of the body. (13:55)
  • The nurses stayed in tents. It was often very cold. (14:00)
  • They commonly tried to put the hospital in schools in towns if they could. (15:00)
  • She got home before her husband, Russ, because she had spent more time overseas. (15:20)
  • She had to take 4 soldiers back to the U.S. on a hospital ship on one occasion. (16:20)
  • She was once give liberty and went into Paris. They saw a German tank while traveling to the city and decided to investigate. She and her fellow nurses found it full of dead Germans. (17:29)
  • She thought it was a good experience and said she would do it again if she were young and needed. (19:00)
  • Hers was the first medical crew to visit a concentration camp. She recalls having to feed the men, and that they all had horrible dysentery. (19:20)

Full Details

TitleJoy Lillie: Nurse Goes to War
CreatorGVSU Veterans History Project; Dan Weikel, interviewer.
KeywordsWorld War II, Veterans, Oral History, Military History, Nurses
Pubdate StringSeptember 20th, 2011

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