They were all volunteers and did a tremendous job saving lives.

The admirable and little-known story of the American nurses in Normandy in 1944

This year is the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, a good occasion to remember and pay tribute to its protagonists.

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A little-known story of the Battle of Normandy is that of the women who participated in it. In World War II, military service was only mandatory for men, but many women enlisted as volunteers to provide auxiliary services, which freed up many men to fight on the front. An especially important job was carried out by nurses. In the case of the United States, they were framed in two large bodies: the Women's Army Corps (ANC) and the Women's Navy Corps ( NNC).

Army Women's Corps (ANC) enlistment poster released in July 1943 (Source: State Archives of Florida).

When the US entered World War II, the ANC had about 1,000 nurses and the NNC had 700. During the war, enlistment campaigns were held to encourage women to join these forces. At the end of the war, the ANC already had almost 57,000 nurses and the NNC 11,000. The work done by these women, all of them volunteers, was especially meritorious: thanks to their dedication, 96 % of the 670,000 wounded they treated managed to survive, a very remarkable survival rate if we take into account the terrible combat wounds that many of them suffered.

Students from the Bowman Field Air Evacuation School next to a mockup of the fuselage of a Douglas C-47, in evacuation training (Photo: National Museum of the United States Air Force).

American military nurses served in both the European and Pacific theaters. According to the US Army, the The first nurse to arrive in Normandy, specifically on Omaha Beach, did so by plane: she was Second Lieutenant Geraldine Dishroomand she landed on June 6, 1944, on D-Day, on a mission to evacuate the wounded. Dishroom was the first graduate of the Air Evacuation School at Bowman Field, Kentucky. When she graduated there were no official badges for air nurses, so General David Grant, an air surgeon, removed his and pinned them to Dishroom's uniform. A real recognition for her.

The first nurses of the US Army landed in Normandy on June 10, 1944 (Photo:

The first American nurses to disembark by sea in Normandy arrived on June 10, 1944. They belonged to field hospitals 42 and 45 and evacuation hospitals 91 and 128. The US Congress granted military nurses the rank of officers for a period of six months, with salary and benefits. privileges corresponding to the ranks from second lieutenant to colonel. This contributed, to a large extent, to giving them due respect in the area of operations, where the proportion of military women was very low.

A group of nurses disembarking from a ship on the beaches of Normandy on June 12, 1944 (Photo:

The work of these volunteer women was admirable, caring for the wounded and sick, experiencing - like the rest of the soldiers - the daily hardships of the front and, in some cases, losing their lives. In the Second World War, 201 ANC nurses died in the line of duty, 16 of them due to enemy attacks. They had left the comfort of their homes without being forced to do so and never returned.

American military nurses after their arrival in Normandy on July 4, 1944. The Army nurses who arrived in Normandy wore combat uniforms because much of their activity took place near the front line (Photo: Normandy Victory Museum).

The ANC had 56,793 active nurses, of which 32,500 served outside the United States. During World War II, these nurses served in 605 hospitals overseas and 454 hospitals in the United States. These women made a difference with their work. Army flight nurses broke the surprising record of only 5 in-flight deaths per 100,000 patients transported.

US Army nurses parade in Chester, England, before D-Day (Photo: Women Heroes of WWII).

More than 1,600 nurses were decorated for their merits and courage. Decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Legion of Merit, Army Commendation Medal, and the Purple Heart, for injuries in action.

Ellan Levitsky-Orkin (left) and her sister Dorothy, two nurse veterans of the Battle of Normandy, at a memorial in Bolleville, Normandy, on June 4, 2014 (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sara Keller).

Yesterday, the YouTube channel Tropa Guripa published an interesting video about the American nurses in Normandy, with the collaboration of a group of women who made a historical reenactment to remember what the daily work of those angels in uniform who helped save many lives and who, For this reason, they deserve a great tribute (the video is in Spanish but has English subtitles, you can activate them in the bottom bar of the player):


Main photo: U.S. Army Women's Museum. US Army nurses newly arrived in Normandy in 1944.

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