Lt. Luella Lorenz Cochran

US Army Nurse Corps

WWII

Luella shared her story with her great niece,

Katherine Bertsch Compagno, who wrote "Aunt Lou's" story .

We are pleased to publish her story, for the first time,

publicly with no editing of the original story by her great niece.

NURSE LUELLA LORENZ COCHRAN, US ARMY, WW2

Written by her great niece,
Katherine Bertsch Compagno

Introduction

Peaceful daily routines were shattered on 7 December 1941;

 

Luella’s memoirs tell the story of America’s entry into World War II, “Yes, we had read the papers re: ‘trouble abroad’ and of U.S. ships being at our base at Manilla, but we had not actually realized the acuteness of the situation and sensitivity of our location. All the stories were of remote places, we were secure, nil could happen! But it did. The voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt came over the radio, loud, clear and angry, “This day of December 7, 1941, will live in Infamy!” The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam and Midway Island. The American people had suddenly been shaken from their lethargy and aura of security.

“Selling Bonds was our first initial thought. By 14 December, the employees of Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn Hospital and peoples of the neighborhood had secured a local hall, set up booths, and sold bonds. The Blood Bank setup was sponsored by Brooklyn Cancer Institute; they tested blood types. The Flower Booth gave a pot of flowers to encourage everyone to have their blood typed. Everyone was active and busy. Forty years later Bob Hope was heard to say on TV, ‘Selling bonds was hard work in 1941.’”

The United States had finally joined the global effort against the three Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan); the war would be fought not only in the Pacific Ocean against Japan, but in Europe and North Africa against Nazi Germany. The conflict had begun in 1939; previous diplomacy had surrendered the Sudetenland and Austria to German control. Nazi troops occupied the Rhineland. In March 1939, Hitler’s troops completed the occupation of all of Czechoslovakia; at last Great Britain and France moved to react with military force. But America perceived it as a European problem; they chose to help with supplies in the Lend-Lease program beginning in March 1941 (described by Winston Churchill as “the most unselfish and unsordid financial act of any country in all history”), but did not declare war nor commit their troops to action.

Hitler and Germany were well prepared; while the Allies armed and prepared for action, Germany swallowed Poland and the Danzig corridor, then Finland and Norway. The German army massed on their western border at the “West Wall”, called the Siegfried Line; it reached from the Swiss border near Basle through Aachen and north to the Netherlands. On 10 May 1940 the Battle of the Low Countries began; Germany eventually marched through Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium to invade France. The Allied troops withdrew to Dunkirk; after Boulogne fell on 25 May and Calais on 27 May, they were evacuated to Britain, and France was left in the hands of Germany. The Battle of Britain began, an aerial assault meant to weaken Britain for German invasion. By October 1940, the threat of invasion had passed for Britain; Germany turned eastward and attacked Greece, Yugosloavia and the Soviet Union in 1941.

Luella and her husband Frank continued their civilian efforts in 1942, the year that saw German domination in Europe with major fighting in North Africa and Russia. Luella became a “Member of United States Citizens Defense Corps, of the Office of Civilian Defense and entitled to wear and use the insignia of the Emergency Medical, Kings County. Unit Enrollment No. SS-75.” She also worked for “Selective Service, New York City Headquarters; This identifies Luella Cochran as a Volunteer Social Medical Worker, engaged in a voluntary Rehabilitation Program in association with the Selective Service System of NYC. Medical Division.”

In July 1943, the month that saw the invasion of Sicily by Allied forces, “Frank and I sat down and decided to join up. He went into Merchant Marines, at Banana River [Naval Air Station in Florida; after the war it became the Air Force Missile Test Center and then Eastern Space and Missile Center, part of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station] and Norfolk, Virginia, and I went to #1 Whitehall Street, NYC. One would be prone to exclaim or question why I had waited for two years! However, only the younger nurses were asked for by the government [at first]. We older nurses kept busy at our daily work schedules from 9 to 5 and gave the evenings to preparation.”

 

And so begins Luella’s memoirs of her military service, dedicated:

“To my parents Frank and Rosa Lorenz, to my husband Frank Cochran,
who was the inspiration in our combined civilian and war efforts,
to all the men and women who served our country in past wars,
and to my brother Joseph Lorenz, who was killed in France in World War I.”

SO YOU WANT TO JOIN THE ARMY NURSE CORPS!!

“Activity was everywhere; we had always had the National Guards, the Navy peacetime fleets, and trainees in the Marines, etc. Draft boards were put at strategic points. I served on a Selective Service Board in Brooklyn, and gave First Aid Courses after brief training by the Red Cross; also learned the Morse Code, and studied to learn the names and silhouettes of different planes. Many nights I ‘plane spotted’. Frank and I served as Block Captains ascertaining the population make-up of our neighborhood; we served at bond rallies and made booths for the sale of flowers; we made a ‘Blood Pressure Etc.’ booth and sold bonds at a building granted to Kings County Hospital for this.

“Later I volunteered at the 14th Tactical Regiment, Brooklyn, to serve as an usher, etc., as that armory put on maneuvers, preparatory to their going to camp for training brush-up before entering some active male unit. I served in N.A.S.W. [National Association of Social Workers] as a civilian. We were given Army ranks; I finally made Major. Then, too, we ourselves set up a female unit similar to the civilian unit of WAAC [Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps; this soon became the Women’s Army Corps, WAC], learning military conduct and maneuvers (in drill classes), which encouraged many girls to sign up with the male units such as Marines, Coast Guard, etc.”

On 3 December 1943 (two days after Teheran Conference at Teheran, Iran, where Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to make the liberation of France their top priority), Luella applied for enlistment in the Army Nurse Corps. “Then filled out consents for physical (medical and surgical) from Bellevue. All we 7 nurses did was to jump and then they tested our heart; also step in water re: pes planes [flat feet]. Heart, lungs, chest and feet approved.” On 13 December she was accepted and sworn in to service at Whitehall Street.

“Then my order came to report to Atlantic City for Nurse Basic Training on 1 May 1944. This covered orientation, military courtesy, physical defense, gasses, individual defense against chemical warfare, first aid and oxygen therapy. It was only after we had passed all these and many more that we were graduated and considered as fully inducted into the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. I feel that our induction was on 13 December 1943 when we received our first physical exam at Whitehall Street, NYC, and pledged our allegiance with raised hands. However, I realize that only the fittest were accepted; the training was a ‘weeding-out’ process for our protection and that of our country and men who would eventually come under our care. Thus whether we would have the stamina and health for the hardships ahead.”

In January 1944, Allied forces began landing at Anzio, Italy, while Russia announced the end of the German siege of Leningrad. British and U.S. Air Force bombers attacked Berlin. On 25 March 1944, “Mrs. Luella B. L. Cochran” was appointed Reserve Nurse in the Army Nurse Corps and pronounced “Physically Qualified by The Surgeon.” On 8 April, as Allied troops continued their advance through Italy, Luella was ordered to report on 31 May 1944 to England General Hospital, Atlantic City, New Jersey, for Basic Training, with Assigned Duty to the General Nursing Service. Her memoirs continue the story,

“So Frank helped me put furniture in storage . . Frank then left for the Merchant Marines at Banana River [in east central Florida near Cape Canaveral]. I gave Mom’s and Jo’s address in Dayton as my permanent one. Secured attorney to handle affairs while away; this he did FREE as service to war effort. On 31 May 1944, I departed for Active Duty and training in the Army Nurse Corps.”

“What to Take With You: Go prepared as you would for general duty in a civilian hospital. Take your white hospital uniforms and civilian clothes. Take a complete uniform in your traveling bag, so you may go on duty if baggage is delayed. After you are on duty, you will receive the regulation uniform equipment. Insignia can be purchased at the station.”

May 31 was the date of the Allied breakthrough in Italy; plans were well underway for the Allied invasion and landing at Normandy in June. Luella took the Oath of Office and gave the pledge of the Army Nurse:

“I accept the responsibilities of an officer in the Army Nurse Corps. I shall give faithful care to the men who fight for the freedom of this Country and to the women who stand behind them. I shall bring to the American soldier the best of my knowledge and professional skill. I shall approach him cheerfully at all times under any conditions I may find. I shall endeavor to maintain the highest nursing standards possible in the performance of my duties. I shall appear fearless in the presence of danger and quiet the fears of others to the best of my ability. My only criticism shall be constructive. The reputation and good name of the Army Nurse Corps and of the nursing profession shall be uppermost in my thoughts, second only to the care of my patients. I shall endeavor to be a credit to my Country and to the uniform I wear.”

Atlantic City in the 1940’s was a small seaside town, without the casinos which dominate today. Atlantic City Memory Lane web site describes “the Boardwalk, Steel Pier and Steeplechase Pier; Mr. Peanut walking around, the Sodamat and Salt Water Taffy; Ice Capades, Miss America Pageant, open air fish and fruit markets. The only forms of gambling in those days was pitching pennies or baseball cards; games were pinball and Pokerino. The traffic lights were mounted sideways and there was no yellow. Walking along the beach during WW II, they found an occasional life raft, various fuel containers, and other debris which mostly had German writing on them. A big hurricane in 1944 tore up the boardwalk and both piers.”

During the war, American soldiers ‘took over the town’; they billeted at resorts and drilled in town. The Haddon Hall, Chalfonte and Traymore Hotels were converted to the Thomas England General Hospital. Nurses from England General Hospital marched in Atlantic City Boardwalk parades with Army bands; they even made their own float. After the war, England General Hospital continued caring for injured American soldiers, especially amputees, before it finally closed. The building is now the Resorts Hotel and Casino.

The Army Nurse Corps in World War II web site explains the training,

“The Army Nurse Corps had fewer than 1,000 nurses on its rolls on 7 December 1941. . . Six months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, there were 12,000 Army nurses on duty. Few of them had previous military experience, and the majority reported for duty ignorant of Army methods and protocol. In July 1943, Lt. General Somervell, Commanding General, Army Service Forces, authorized a formal four-week training course for all newly commissioned Army nurses. This program stressed Army organization; military customs and courtesies; field sanitation; defense against air, chemical and mechanized attack; personnel administration; military requisitions and correspondence, and property responsibility. From July 1943 through Sept. 1945 approximately 27,330 newly inducted nurses graduated from fifteen Army training centers.”

On June 1, Luella sent a postcard home picturing Haddon Hall, Atlantic City,

“This is where part of the Hospital is & where we eat. 2nd day here -- getting oriented. Will write all about it in my letter in the next few days. Love to all, Lou; 2nd Lt Luella L Cochran, A.N.C.; #n758226; Class No 7; England Gen Hospital, Atlantic City NJ”

Lt. Luella Cochran's first assignment

A Masters’ Degree thesis by Marston Mischlich describes Lt. Cochran's first hospital assignment.

“Atlantic City was virtually transformed into a basic training and medical care center in 1943. Headquartered at Convention Hall, the largest building in the city, the Army referred to the take over of more than forty resort hotels simply as Army Air Forces Basic Training Center No. 7. Haddon Hall Hotel, a seventeen-story beachfront hotel, was turned into a station hospital servicing tens of thousands of Army Air Forces recruits. It had approximately a two thousand-patient capacity. With the number of casualties from all fronts mounting at a steady rate, the need for additional hospital space became increasingly evident. As a result of this need, the Army Air Forces set aside several of the largest hotels in Atlantic City for the creation of a general hospital.


“Each hotel had its own particular purpose. For example, Colton Manor was occupied by the nurses of the new hospital; the Traymore was converted to a convalescent facility by December. All convalescent patients were moved to the Traymore, and all psychiatric patients were placed in the Chalfonte Hotel, an eight-story hotel adjoining Haddon-Hall, which consisted of eight hundred beds. The new General Hospital took on the gigantic task of handling severely wounded patients from overseas battlefields including: North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Falaise, Gab, Mons, and Aachen. In March 1944, 254 casualties were the first to come directly from the battlefield in Italy to Thomas England General Hospital, followed in July by casualties from the Normandy invasion.

“On October 7, 1943, the hospital received word that it had a name, "Thomas M. England General Hospital, in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Marcus England, Medical Administrative Corps, United States Army." Lieutenant Colonel England was a hero of the yellow fever experiments in Cuba, in 1900. He volunteered under Major Walter Reed to stay in a bed previously used by a yellow fever victim, for twenty days, in order to prove that mosquitoes, and not contact with an infected person or object, was the fever’s method of transmission.”

June 6 was ‘D-Day’; 150,000 Allied troops stormed ashore on the beaches of Normandy as part of the largest invasion in history. This began a long struggle for the liberation of France and opened a second major European front. On 27 June 1944, as American forces were fighting for control of the French port of Cherbourg, Luella was transferred to Rhoads General Hospital in Utica, New York, east of Syracuse. She received her Officer’s ID card:

WAR DEPARTMENT ID; Luella B.L. Cochran; 2nd Lt., ANC; Blue eyes, blond hair; “The bearer of this card is engaged exclusively in the removal, transportation and treatment of the wounded and sick. . . & is entitled to respect and protection from the enemies of the United States, as required by Article 9 of the Geneva Convention of July 27, 1929, for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick of armies in the field, and by other agreements and the established practice of nations. [Red Cross symbol printed on back in color]”

She was issued uniforms; woolen skirts and trousers in olive drab, and dresses made of cotton seersucker; each came with a nurse’s cape.

By July, Frank had entered active service with the Merchant Marines. Fighting continued in France with an assault at Caen and slow progress through Normandy. Paris was liberated after four long years of Nazi occupation on 25 August. On 29 August, 15,000 American troops marched down the Champs Elysees. . . Liberty ships were the EC-2 type designed for ‘Emergency’ construction by the United States Maritime Commission during World War II; President Roosevelt nicknamed them ‘ugly ducklings’. The Liberty Ship web site, which contains a master list of names, describes these vessels,

“The Liberty ship was 441 feet long and 56 feet wide, built to a standardized mass-produced design; it cost less than $2,000,000. The 250,000 parts were prefabricated throughout the country in 250-ton sections and welded together in about 70 days [this was the job of ‘Rosie the Riveter’]. The three-cylinder reciprocating steam engine was fed by two oil-burning boilers, producing a speed of 11 knots. The five holds could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo, plus airplanes, locomotives and tanks lashed to its deck. A Liberty ship could carry 2,840 jeeps, 230 million rounds of ammunition, or 440 tanks. They carried a crew of about 44, with 12 to 25 Naval Armed Guard.”

September 1944 saw the Allies liberate Luxembourg and Antwerp, Belgium; the U.S. First Army pushed five miles into west central Germany near Trier, which was the first American engagement of the war on German soil. In October 1944, U.S. troops cracked the Siegfried Line north of Aachen, Germany, Athens was liberated in Greece, and General MacArthur stepped ashore at Leyte in the Philippine Islands. Luella was transferred to Camp Maxey or Maxie, an infantry training camp ten miles north of Paris, Texas (northeast of Dallas near the Oklahoma border). Luella traveled by train from New York to Texas. . .

Active from July 1942 to October 1945 with a troop capacity of 44,931, Camp Maxie had varied terrain with an artillery range, obstacle course, infiltration course and a ‘German Village’ for training maneuvers. Army service forces were also there; Luella joined personnel from various states who were assembled to form the 125th Evacuation Hospital with Colonel R. Ball as Commanding Officer.

The hierarchy of medical service provided to troops in the European Theatre was detailed in a booklet found amongst Luella’s memoirs, That Men Might Live, The Story of the Medical Service, ETO,“Medical Service’s basic 10-link chain of evacuation [is as follows]: 1/ company aid men (more than 2,000 combat Medics died from D-Day, the landing at Normandy, to V-E Day, when Victory in Europe was achieved); 2/ litter bearers; 3/ battalion aid stations; 4/ division collecting and clearing stations; 5/ field hospitals; 6/ evacuation hospitals; 7/ hospital trains, planes and ships; 8/ general hospitals; 9/ convalescent hospitals; 10/ general hospitals in the U.S. . .

“Forward ambulance drivers transported patients either to field or evacuation hospitals. Field hospitals, compact mobile units working under tents, primarily were concerned with severely wounded, non-transportable cases. These units worked as far forward as a division clearing company to bring surgery closer to the battlefield. . .“Evacuation hospitals were located a few miles back of the division clearing stations. These hospitals had 400 to 750-bed capacities and retained patients longer than did field hospitals. Semi-mobile, they kept up with the advance, moving into an area, erecting tents, and receiving first casualties, all within a few hours. During big drives when casualties were high, 10 to 12 operating tables were in use 24 hours a day. More than 10,000 operations were performed by the 2nd Evac’n Hospital alone during 8 months on the Continent. Men with minor wounds often returned to duty from the Evacuation Hospitals, but others requiring additional treatment and long convalescence were sent to Com Z General Hospitals by train and plane.”

The different categories will help us to understand Luella’s nursing duties overseas. Notice the mobility of the various hospitals, as they followed the changing lines of battle. The hospital designation did not apply to one geographical location, but to a unit which moved from place to place as needed. Such mobility required tents, and constant packing and unpacking.

The Army Nurse Corps in World War II web site further explains, “More than 59,000 American nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. Nurses worked closer to the front lines than they ever had before. Within the ‘chain of evacuation’ established by the Army Medical Department during the war, nurses served under fire in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport planes. The skill and dedication of these nurses contributed to the extremely low post-injury mortality rate among American military forces in every theater of the war. Overall, fewer than four percent of the American soldiers who received medical care in the field or underwent evacuation died from wounds or disease.

“The need for nurses clarified the status of the nursing profession. In June 1944 [the Army] granted its nurses officers’ commissions and full retirement privileges, dependents’ allowances, and equal pay. . . Nurses specializing in the care of psychiatric patients were in great demand. One out of every twelve patients in Army hospitals was admitted for psychiatric care, and the Army discharged approximately 400,000 soldiers for psychiatric reasons.” Despite Luella’s psychiatric experience, her memoirs recall, “I was told in Texas in [October] 1944 to buy a book to study anesthesia, which I did.”

“Nurse anesthetists were in short supply in every theater of operations, so the Army developed a special training program for nurses in that specialty. More than 2,000 nurses trained in a six-month course designed to teach them how to administer inhalation anesthesia, blood and blood derivatives, and oxygen therapy as well as how to recognize, prevent and treat shock.”

However, Luella did not have six months at Camp Maxey to complete such a training program; this might explain why she never received the official rating of Anesthesia Specialist, although those were the duties she performed during much of her service overseas. She served with the 125th Evacuation Hospital as Nurse, General Duty (3449). Luella’s letter dated 23 October 1945 explains further, “By spec number I mean that according to what you do, you have a number. For instance, mine might be 3449, which means I am a general duty nurse; the anesthetist’s number may be 5436. Anyone looking at them would know immediately what our abilities are. I preferred to keep my old spec number instead of taking that of an anesthetist.”

ON THE MOVE, WITH ORDERS

Luella’s Military Service Records Book shows that on 17 November 1944, as the U.S. Ninth Division and First Army attacked at Geilenkirchen (located between Aachen and Mönchen Gladbach about twenty miles from the Rhine River), she was “Issued: 2 blankets, wool OD; 1 helmet, steel complete; 1 roll, bedding complete; 1 bag, duffel; 1 can, meat; 1 knife; 1 fork; 1 spoon; 1 canteen; 1 cup & 1 cover, canteen; 1 pr. anklets, wool; 1 bag, canvas, field; 1 belt, pistol; 1 pouch, first aid, packet; 1 pr trousers HBT; 1 suspenders, belt; 1 strap, carrying; 2 shirts, HBT; 2 pr. panties, women’s wool; 2 pr. trousers, outer cover; 1 pr. trousers, wool liner; 2 pr. leggings, canvas; 2 shirts, wool OD; 4 pr. stockings wool, knee length; 1 pr. overshoes, arctic; 1 pr. mittens and shell, trigger finger wool; 2 pr. anklets, wool.”

From 28 to 30 November, Luella and the 125th traveled from Camp Maxey, Texas to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. “En route north our train stopped at noon at St. Louis, Missouri, for a five-hour layover. Ruth and I dined with Mom Lorenz and sister Jo at home of nephew Hugh Bertsch and family. We returned to train by 5 pm.” Camp Kilmer was activated in June 1942 as the first and largest staging area to be built solely for that purpose in the United States. By the end of the war, it had processed more than two and a half million troops. The camp was named for Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, the poet soldier who was a member of the 42nd Rainbow Division during World War II; he was killed by a sniper during the Ourcq River campaign in 1918 (his story is told more fully with that of our Joseph Lorenz, a member of the Rainbows who was also wounded at the Ourcq River). Camp Kilmer was an installation of the New York Port of Embarkation, Army Service Forces’ Transportation Corps, located at Stelton, New Jersey, two miles east of New Brunswick and 32 miles from New York City.

On 30 November, Luella was issued a lightweight service gas mask; in early December the U.S. 95th Infantry Division occupied the Bridge at Saar, Allied troops took Ravenna in Italy, and German troops seized all the silver coin in Utrecht. Luella received booster immunization shots and more clothing on 4 December, including “1 cap, wool knit; 1 jacket, field women’s; 1 pr. shoes, field, women’s”. Her memoirs include a clipping from Stars and Stripes, Daily Newspaper in the European Theater of Operations; the photo shows a very large ship with a net draped down its very tall bow section, captioned, “Nurses scheduled for overseas duty learn how to scramble down landing nets into a lifeboat as part of processing at Camp Kilmer”. Several nurses are seen hanging from the nets.

By midnight of 8 December, Luella and other members of the 125th Evacuation Hospital were aboard the British ship Monarch in New York Harbor. The ship was built in 1931 by Vickers-Armstrong Shipbuilders at Walker on Tyne, England. The Monarch had three funnels, two masts, a cruiser stern, steam turboelectric engines, quadruple screw, speed of 19 knots, and accommodation for 799 passengers in 1st class, 31 in 2nd class, and a crew of 456. Until 1939, she was on the New York-Bermuda run; from November 1939 to 1946, Monarch served as a British troopship (she also carried American troops after 1942). Luella was lucky in her cabin assignment, “for our home from 9 to 22 December, sixteen of us drew the Royal [Dominion] Suite; others enjoyed two to a cabin.”

Monarch slipped out of New York Harbor by 2 am on 9 December 1944; the United States had been at war around the world for three long years. Luella was headed overseas for what would eventually be sixteen months of service. And now the letters begin; Luella wrote home often, and asked the family to save her letters; she planned even then to make a scrapbook and write her memoirs. Unfortunately, military censorship regulations severely limited topics and places that she could discuss, as detailed in War Department Pamphlet No. 21-1, 29 July 1943; WHEN YOU ARE OVERSEAS;

“THINK ! Where does the enemy get his information? Information that can put you, and has put your comrades, adrift on an open sea; information that has lost battles and can lose more, unless you personally, vigilantly, perform your duty in SAFEGUARDING MILITARY INFORMATION. Censorship Rules are Simple and Sensible. . . concise statements drawn from actual experience outlining types of material which have proved to be disastrous when available to the enemy.

“TEN PROHIBITED SUBJECTS; Don’t write about 1/military information of Army units; 2/military installations; 3/transportation facilities; 4/routes, convoys, ports, incidents; 5/movements of ships, troops or aircraft; 6/plans, forecasts or orders; 7/effects of enemy operations; 8/any casualty; 9/Don’t formulate or use a code system, cipher or shorthand to conceal the true meaning; violations will result in severe punishment; 10/your location. . .


Luella often wrote about her living conditions, but seldom mentioned her actual work as a nurse. A major concern during her early letters was whether her mom Rosa was receiving the monthly allotment checks which Luella had authorized. The first letter we have is a V-mail dated 9 December, on board ship,

“V-mail; This is an expeditious mail program which provides quick mail service to and from soldiers overseas. A special form is used which permits the letter to be photographed on microfilm, the small film transported, and then reproduced and delivered. Use of V-mail is urged because it greatly furthers the war effort by saving shipping and airplane space.”

“Dearest Mom and All; Thoughtt I would drop you a few lines to let you know I am feeling swell, as yet, and not a bit sea sick. We have been told that we might tell you that we are aboard ship. We are having quite a time eating English meals but guess it is only the beginning of many types of meals we will all be eating. This morning we had kidney on toast for breakfast. Tonight we had roast beef, macaroni, potato and broccoli and lemon meringue pie and coffee. The coffee was English style with milk in it. Before I forget it, I sent you $20 Mom by registered mail on Pearl Harbor Day. . . let me know if you also received a check. . . I have a lower berth but luckily no one is over me; in case they get sea sick, I won’t get ‘the works’. Just wrote Frank. Do keep well. Went to Communion last Sunday, yesterday and will go tomorrow. So don’t worry. All is well. Have a very merry Xmas and Happy New Year. Much love to all of you. One of the girls just brought me your letter, will write again tomorrow. This letter is for all the family.”

She wrote on 14 December to her friends, “On way to England;
“Dear Girls; Have a few minutes before mess (dinner at 6:30 to you). . . We have a rowly-powly English Steward and he rolls his eyes very gleefully and I do believe he’s enjoying waiting on us girls. We find plenty of things to amuse us. Lt. Ruth Fehrmann and I, being card sharks at pinochle, take the boys over. Today we had a good fight on our hands as they were determined to win it back, only $1.50. They won back 50¢ but had a hard time doing it. There is very little I can tell you. Each day is like the other. Am getting a great thrill out of my first sea voyage and spend as much time outside on deck as possible. Au Revoir, Lou”

Another V-mail dated 16 December said, “Dear Mom and All;. . . We are having a very uneventful trip which news should make you very happy. I exchanged some American money for English money last night but it all looks like a bunch of stuff I would ordinarily gather up for souvenirs. . . Ruth and I now have confined our card playing to the officer’s lounge. Last nite eight of us girls gave a song fest over the ship’s P.A. system. . . Tell everyone I said hello. . . Do write Frank and tell him all about things. . . Write often; much love to all; Please consider this letter for all; Lou”

[Note added in memoirs: “In the night when near England our ship was veered sharply to the starboard side and we were all dumped onto the deck. This sudden action of our ship’s commander saved us from the bottom of the deep blue sea. This I have related verbally many times but never, to my knowledge, wrote re: it to the family. Told them when I got back to the states in April ’46.”]

Arrival in England 

(including the only letter found from Luella's husband Frank, serving in the Merchant Marines)

On 16 December 1944, German forces launched a surprise counterattack against the Allied Forces in Belgium who were headed to cross the Rhine River after all their advances since the D-Day landings at Normandy. Cassell Atlas of the Second World War explains the tactics of the Battle of the Bulge,

“Hitler had determined to attack the Allies before they reached Germany. His plan was to break through the Allied front in the Ardennes Forest, split the Americans from the British, and capture Antwerp, disrupting Allied supplies and destroying their armies. . . The offensive was imaginative and daring and came very close to success. [They lacked] air cover, but low clouds and a heavy snowfall [covered the advance] of eight Panzer divisions on 16 December. German success. . . Eisenhower was compelled to commit reserves. . . By 20 December Bastogne [Belgium] was encircled. . . German forces headed for the Meuse River. . . Allies had recovered from their surprise; St. Vith fell [to the Germans] on 22 December, but the delay [had stalled the Germans]. The 24th saw the high-water mark of the German offensive. With empty fuel tanks and stiffening opposition, the Ardennes offensive ground to a halt and the Allies proceeded to [slowly] squeeze out the bulge [which had reached almost as far as Dinant, Belgium, on the Meuse River].”

On 22 December 1944, the Monarch docked at Southampton, on the southern coast of England. It remains England’s principal port for transatlantic passenger service with extensive dock facilities. At last, Luella had arrived in the European Theater of Operations. She then went by train to her station at Camp Penally at Tenby, South Wales (a fishing center east of Pembroke and west of Swansea on Carmarthen Bay). Tenby’s web site boasts,

“Tenby (Dinbych-y-Pysgod, the ‘Little Town of the Fishes’) is a medieval walled town and one of Wales favorite resorts. Four sheltered beaches and safe bathing waters attract families; its ancient harbor, surrounded by Regency houses in pastel colors, is a focus for artists. In the Middle Ages, Tenby had a prosperous sea trade with France, Spain, Ireland and England. The high point of the town is dominated by the ancient parish church.”

Luella’s memoirs were brutally honest,

“Horrible!! We were housed in broken down, deplorable Nissen Huts [designed by Lt.-Col. Peter Nissen, usually tunnel-shaped huts of corrugated iron with a cement floor]. Dirt floor, broken windows and showers, a wood-fed 18-inch-diameter 3-foot-high stove, no running water and 7 nurses to a hut. They had previously been condemned as unfit to house British troops! O yes! Preserve England! but the dilapidated Nissen Huts condemned for England’s men and U.S. Colored Troops were OK for American nurses !!”

but her first letter home on 23 December 1943 showed a sense of humor,

“Somewhere in England; Dear Mom and All; Just a few lines to let you know that I arrived in Great Britain and am well and happy. Had a very pleasant and uneventful voyage. The ride through the country following was very beautiful. It was interesting to note how beautifully green the grass is still and the many gardens with vegetables still intact in the ground. The villages are quaint and picturesque; [few] have houses over 2 stories high and all are made of brick. Visited Southampton. This will probably reach you sometime after Xmas but I do hope you had a lovely one and have a grand time New Years. We are living in Nissen huts [drawing of half a cylinder turned horizontal with round roof and walls] and keep warm with a small stove which we stoke continually. We have the ‘softest’ beds, a plain wooden litter with a straw ticking on top. No sheets. We have had many laughs at having to make concessions in doing many things in the primitive manner. This morning I borrowed a hatchet and cut up a large limb for firewood; cut my thumb and wore the skin off the other [smiley face]) We are now going out to find us some greens for Xmas decoration. Do write often and soon. Much love to all; pass this letter on to the family. Hope you are feeling okay . . .

Photos in her albums show uniformed nurses wearing heavy coats and helmets; the buildings are quonset huts with one straight wooden side for the door and windows. An aerial photo shows several large buildings surrounded by farm fields, with a village in the distance. Other views are in town and at the shore. Subsequent letters (most sent by V-Mail) continue to tell the story,

“Dearest Mom and All; Well, here it is Xmas Day. We’ve had a very nice one considering. Last night we met in the enlisted men’s recreation hall with another unit and sang Xmas carols after which some of the male officers of our gang and some nurses went around to all the huts and serenaded them with carols. This morning we walked 3 miles to church. The ravages of war can be plainly seen in the neighborhood, also the scarcity of anything Christmasy did not allow them to be able to do any trimming and the church itself held only the crib and a few flowers were on the altar. The priest had such a thick Welsh accent that unless we listened very attentively we could not understand him. We have great sport firing our little stove. It is only about 18” in diameter and 2 feet high so that on top we have our flat iron. We also feed the coal at the top; the only thing is that we have no stove lid so we have a piece of tin covering it made from a tin can. Our Xmas tree has been made by gathering limbs of holly and tucking them in a musette bag hung on the wall. We are giving the enlisted men a party tonight so we spent yesterday going through our foot lockers gathering sufficient gifts, even if it’s ever so small, for each boy. Yesterday we nurses braved brambles, swamps and ditches to gather holly and mistletoe with which to trim their hall. . . I realize this is small writing and hope you can read it. We are all keeping snug and warm in our sleeping bags. There are several gadgets and grand things to have on camping trips. Haven’t used the fishing pole yet. The flat iron is a godsend. Am well and so far don’t even have a cold. Love to all, Lou”

“1944 Dec 29, [Tenby]; Dearest Frank, Mom and all; I wrote on Xmas Day and altho there really hasn’t been much happening, there really has been in the way of our living over here. Each day provides a new adventure in trying to get along. The first day we did have some hot water and were able to take a trickle shower bath but now we just fill our helmets with water and do our ablutions around our little tubular stove. Imagine seven girls all taking baths at one time and the comments and remarks that are made. We laugh until the sides of the hut seem to actually bulge. We are rationed and get but 5 pkgs of cigarettes a week and 2 bars of candy, 1 bottle of lighter fluid to last 4 weeks. We are also rationed in soaps, powder, cologne, etc. Today we went on an 8 mile hike in all to see a castle built in 1100. You should see us dressed. I have on my pink woolie shirt, a long sleeved undershirt (khaki), a brown pullover sweater and a herring-bone twill waist, a pair of brief pants, long drawers to match a long undershirt, a pair of woolen ski pants and over this a pair of herringbone twill pants; 2 pairs of stockings, 1 long cotton and one short cotton, my field shoes, a wool cap and helmet, then a web belt around my waist, after first putting on a field jacket from which hangs my canteen and first aid kit. Our meals are G.I. [government issue?] and are very good, which means chiefly that they are cooked food and plenty of it. [They] leave out all the tasty flavoring.

“Haven’t received any mail from home for nearly a month but it should be coming along any day now. Altho you do not hear from me, please keep your letters coming. At present I don’t need a thing. . . Did you get my check? If you are wondering what to do with it, it may help with the coming baby or pay for some lessons in private tutoring for Judy in a language; right now I wish I had taken more French. My knowledge of German comes in good stead. Keep your eyes on Eisenhower. He is chief of European Theater of Operation. If possible will you please send coffee? Part of our evenings are taken up making a cup of something hot to drink in our canteen cups. I was foolish not to bring along one of those whistling teapots or a 2 cup coffee pot. O well; We do hope to get into the nearest town on some weekday but this damned Army thinks that Sunday is the day of rest and no day is needed to get necessities for existence. We are only here waiting for the next move. . . I take my shoes to bed with me so they’ll be warmer to put on when I get up. These Nissen huts sure are airy!! Please send this letter on to Frank; My news were in the 2 previous letters; Much love and write; Lou”

At this time, Frank was serving as a purser on the USS Pio Pico, a Liberty Ship launched by California Shipbuilding Corporation in Los Angeles in January 1943. USS Pio Pico was operated by Marine Transport Lines. Liberty Ships were cargo ships manned by the U.S. Merchant Marine; their mission was to carry supplies overseas to Allies and to American troops. They carried a small Naval Armed Guard and traveled in convoys protected by destroyers or other Naval ships; many were lost to the German submarines, but USS Pio Pico survived the war only to be scrapped in 1960. 2,751 Liberty Ships were launched during World War II; only two remain today as museums (SS John W. Brown, moored at Pier One in Baltimore, and SS Jeremiah O’Brien, docked at Pier 45 at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf). A Liberty Ship website explains,

“Liberty and Victory ships and tankers were crucial to America’s war efforts on both fronts during World War II and contributed to the ultimate Allied victory. The U.S. merchant fleet transported an estimated 85% of the troops, ammunition and supplies used to support the Allied war effort in both the European and Pacific theaters. . . Victory and Liberty ships were crewed by members of the U.S. Merchant Marine and defended by an all-volunteer group of U.S. Navy sailors called the Navy Armed Guard. The operation of these ships during World War II came at great human cost: The Merchant Marine suffered more loss of life, by percentage of their ranks, than any other branch of service. U.S. Merchant Mariners and the Navy Armed Guard are the forgotten heroes of World War II.”

We have one letter from Frank that Luella saved; written from Charleston, South Carolina, on New Year’s Eve 1944.


1944 Dec 31; “My own Darling, Sweetheart, Loved One, Lieut. Luella; Gee, it seems ages since I’ve written but we’ve been at sea, and while we’ve been in port here in Charleston for three days I’ve been so terribly busy making out papers, paying off and taking the crew to the customs office to sign on foreign Articles and to the health dept. for physicals and the Coast Guard and Intelligence for one thing and another, that to sit down and write an interesting letter would be a task. I’ve worked till midnight nearly every night since I came aboard on the 23rd. . . finishing up all the captain’s letters and reports and making a final 1944 payroll because a new income tax starts tomorrow. . . There are 40 men in the crew so you know I have a lot to do.

“When we go to sea after we are loaded here, I will be busy for a few days getting the commissary set up so I can sell to the crew, but after that there is very little aboard for the purser until we arrive at our next Port. We are loading day and night now. . . constant noise of the stevedores shouting and the hoists throwing the cargo into the holds. We had a terribly foggy and rather rough trip coming down from NY but I was very busy and hardly had time to go on deck and see the ocean at all. A new chief radio operator just came aboard. . . all of the officers are real swell guys and we have lots of fun in the Officers mess at meal times and at night when we hit the ice box. . . there is always coffee ready.


“It seems rather funny to be an officer and be “sir’d” by the crew, and it is funny how no one calls the other by name. Every one is called by his title. The captain and everyone calls me “Purser”. I’ve only been to Charlestown (one hours ride away) once. . . Nearly everyone went in tonight for New Years Eve, but I am just as happy aboard ship, thinking of you dear and the time on New Years when I met the sweetest girl in the world. How I love you now and think of all the good years we have had together and the better ones we are going to have when this war is all over and we are together again. I get $150 per month on this job, plus 66 2/3 percent bonus every day we’re at sea . . . $50 a month I have ordered sent home to you in care of Kahn. . . $5,000 insurance policy. . . also $10,000 and the original $25,000. Not worried a bit about the future. We’re going where it is pretty safe and will see some great parts of the world.

Goodnight my sweetheart,


“YOUR DEVOTED AND LOVING, Frank; With Kisses.”

Letters Home from England, 121st Stations Hospital

On 8 January 1945, Luella and her friend Lt. Ruth Fehrmann were assigned to temporary duty with the 121st Station Hospital at Braintree, England (located north of Chelmsford in Essex, about 40 miles northeast of London). “A station hospital is where the boys from the continent are first sent to here in England for care and disposition, which means either back to duty or to the States or limited service.” An aerial photo in her memoirs shows a large complex surrounded by a windbreak of trees and patchwork farm fields. There are four areas of building clusters (one labeled medical wards, another surgical wards); most of the buildings are long rectangles, except for the smaller ones labeled nurses’ headquarters. Smaller village houses line the access road. Luella attended classes; she studied and gave anesthesia. Luella’s first case was a leg amputation. In later years, she described her service “in England, France, Germany and Europe”:

“Primary duties were anesthesia and surgical nursing. Was in charge of a surgical ward and contagion. Administered anesthetics to patients under the direction of a surgeon and advised the patients’ condition and reaction to the anesthesia during operations. Immediately following anesthesia, maintained the equipment for anesthetic administration in serviceable condition.” But her letters seldom describe her daily duties, due to censorship...

“1945 Jan 11; Dearest Mom and all; Have just come on duty and have a few minutes before taking temps. Am on temporary duty at a station hospital in another part of England. My pals, Burns and Fehrmann and myself plan to see Kappie [at London] soon as the run is short. She is Frank’s niece, remember? We are having nice winter weather here with a light snowfall; quite different from the penn area when any ally was a ten to one shot by any man’s code [italics added for emphasis; recall her posting at Camp Penally in South Wales]. We are in Nissen huts, American make [drawing of perpendicular walls and gable roof] which are wooden and insulated, and thus much warmer and more comfortable, even tho only heated by a small stove, than the British made streamlined air conditioned one [drawing of horizontal half cylinder with curved walls and roof at Tenby]. . . As yet, I don’t need anything; the least I have to carry around the better. We may have to leave our foot lockers behind. This is only rumor, of course, and rumors here are more plentiful than a bulging boarding home. Everything is fine here, except I can’t get used to this darn damp weather. Am keeping well; have no colds; have not lost weight and at present am nursing in my tan and white pin striped dresses. So I’m doing all right. An occasional buzz bomb drops at random but miles and miles away, so far away that their noise here sounds like a giant firecracker only. I still like the Army a lot and feel that what I’m able to do here is worth my comfortable bed and steam heated home and the presence of other comforts. I like my work. I do miss all of you and hope you are all keeping well. I received letters from Frank. Lou”

On 12 January 1945, German troops in Belgium started their retreat before the Allied advance in the Battle of the Bulge. Luella’s letters now respond to the news coming from home; she is worried about the progress of her sister’s pregnancy, but makes no mention of her own bout with mononucleosis and ten days of hospitalization (which was documented in her service records),

“1945 Jan 22, V-mail; Dearest Mom, Jo, Walt and Judy; and Whiskers of course; I reread your letter of Dec 6; . . . The new 3¢ stamp is very pretty. Glad you had such a lovely Xmas day and liked your gift. Hope you were able to get the kiddies a few gifts for Frank and I. Judy must have looked very sweet in her yellow dress. Wish I could have been there. . . Glad Mom is keeping well and that she finds such enjoyment in Judy. Do hope all of you are keeping well. And then don’t worry. As I sit here, the walls are the same, the boys speak my language, the sky is the same blue, the rain is just as wet and the snow just as white. It is almost as tho I might dash to the station and get a ticket home. Only then one realizes that one is some distance removed and that the trip home would really involve time. All my love, Lou.”

“1945 Jan 27 &29, V-mail; Dearest Mom, Jo, Walt and Judy; The weather at Penally and here are practically identical only it is a little drier cold here and right now we had a light sprinkle of snow, the grass can still be seen, and the heavy dew has formed a line of ice on the lorries. The other place is more damp always over and underfoot; a penetrating dampness that gets right down to the marrow of your bones. We had the first snow here in about fifty years which helps this climate by making it feel drier. It is usually a moist damp atmosphere. We liked Tenby though. It is a quaint picturesque town and the surrounding country is something one reads about. They do say tho that all of So. Wales is beautiful. I don’t know whether I told you, but while still there Burns and I went into a tea shop for tea and crumpets, and a Lt. nurse from another unit asked me my name and I told her, also my maiden name; she informed me that she was Carol Wollenhaupt, one of the girls who lived in our house on Chapel Road, Dayton. Had this pm and tomorrow off so am going into the nearby town to a movie and tomorrow may go with one of the Captains of our outfit (who was also sent here with us nurses) to Cambridge. It isn’t too far away but the mode of travel is hellish here, or rather bus and train connections are very poor. They blame it on the war but I’m sure it is only being used as an excuse. It has been lovely here, the girls have just been grand to us, we could not have asked for better company. My next letter may be from my old hut at our unit Hdqrtrs. All my love to all of you; Keep well Jo, and you too Mom. Be good Walt, and be a good girl Judy. Goodbye for now. All my love, Lou.”

“1945 Jan 30, [121st Station Hospital]; Dear Walt; To wish you a Happy Birthday from England on a typical English card. Am on my day off but decided to stay home rather than go to London. We’ve just had a beautiful snow which has taken some of the dampness out of the air. It is a dampness that grips the vocal chords and goes down deep into the larynx. If what I have to say, you get, you may ask me in your letters and I can answer a yes or no. Right now we may be preparing to join our own unit again. It has been nice here but am ready to go back to washing in my helmet and freezing in our air-conditioned Nissen huts at our units camp. This will mean that we will be busy again which pleases us all very well. This is just a note and a hello; Tell Mom or Jo to let Rose and Tony read my letters home as I cannot get letters off to all; Much love bro; Lou”

“1945 Feb 1, 5 pm, [121st Station Hospital]; Dearest Mom and All; Am relieving on another ward just now and suppers have been given out; and I must wait to 5:30 before eating. We are joining our unit again so we’ll be quite busy, so I’m enclosing a money order for $40 which you can put away for our (yours, mine and whomever else may need it at 121) use. I’ll be sending that much each month if I can get to a Post Office. Keep well all of you, lots of love; Lou”

“1945 Feb 5, [121st Station Hospital, Braintree]; Dearest Mom and All; Today is Rose’s birthday, but guess she hasn’t gotten her birthday letter as yet. I don’t need any soap as I have enuf to last about two more months unless we go to France and I trade it in for something they have and I want. Soap is so scarce over there that the civilian gets for his week’s ration, a bar about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide and half inch thick; so I’m told by the GI Joe’s. I will make a list of some things I want at the end of the letter but will not mention scotch or rye or rum, but if you can send some it will be more than welcome. Soak off the label and mark it Shampoo with an S or Rm or Ri in the corner. We pay £3 15d for 15 Scotch’s and 10 Gins or about a total of $14 or about 60¢ a drink and that is too much for little me.

“Haven’t had any letters from Frank since the last one postmarked Dec 31 so he must be on the high seas. I keep a list of the date I send letters home so give me the date of those received. . . Am in the operating room now giving anaesthesia. Like it a lot. I’m hoping that there will be a lot of mail waiting for me [at Tenby]. Am well and have a nice warm hut, sleeping between sheets, and get to occasional shows at the town on the tree. Went to a Red Cross sponsored dance last week and had only a fair time for American officers are not all that the Act of Congress made them. As social beings they are of the high school caliber and very few h.s. boys can be called gentlemen in terms of sociability and the amenities of social behavior.

“Am going to take a bath now, then go to the Officers Club. We undress in our huts, put on our robes, then take our torches (flashlights to you) and guide our way to the john and bath which roughly speaking is about a short block from home. Damp from a fresh bath we again find our way to our huts. I do believe that when I get home I’ll be so used to inconveniences that I’ll only be content with a pot-bellied stove and a fireplace and I’ll have the bathroom at the other end of the lot in order to retain my memories. Ha. I would appreciate it if you would send me: 3 pr. tan hose size #10; 1 box rochelle powder [an effervescing salt containing sodium bicarbonate and rochelle salt and tartaric acid, used as a cathartic or purgative]; 1 tube ‘Joint Ease Mentholatum’; 1 Chen Yu (fairly dark) lip stick; sardines (small cans); box starch; cork screw; Creme shampoo; 2 pr rubber heels, brown; [this page is postmarked Dayton Ohio Parcel Post 16 April 1945; they had to show Lou’s request in order to send a parcel overseas!]. Do keep well and thanks a lot for keeping the letters coming, All my love, Lou”

[Attached to the letter are the lyrics to a song] “We all sing it over here”:


“I took a trip to London (do fa mi fa mi fa sol), To look around the town (fa mi sol mi re do), When I got to Piccadilly (sol la ti la ti la ti do), The sun was going down (Ti la do la sol fa); I’ve never seen such darkness (do fa mi fa mi fa sol), The night was black as pitch (fa mi sol mi re do), When suddenly in front of me (do do do do sol do do do), I thot I saw a witch (sol do ti la sol fa);


CHORUS: Oh it was Lilly from Piccadilly (do re mi fa la sol# la #sol sol do), You know the one I mean (do do re la #sol la); I’ll spend each pay day (do re mi fa la), that’s my hey hey day (#sol la #sol #sol do/hi do), With Lilly, my black-out Queen (do/hi do do do ti la sol re). [seven more verses follow]

US Troops enter Germany...Letters from France ...

Due to censorship restrictions, Luella’s letters continued to make no mention of the war’s progress nor her long hours on nursing duty.

On 28 February, U.S. tanks broke through Germany’s natural defense line west of the Rhine by crossing the Erft River; on 1 March a US infantry regiment captured Mönchen Gladbach; on 2 March, units of the U.S. 9th Army reached the Rhine River opposite Düsseldorf; on 5 March, the U.S. 7th Army Corps captured Cologne; on 7 March U.S. troops crossed the Bridge at Remagen over the Rhine River. On 7 March, “clothing was issued prior to the Channel crossing”, and on 12 March, the 125th Evacuation Hospital departed Tenby by train and embarked from Southampton, England, for Le Havre, France, via the English Channel. Luella’s memoirs include brief details,

“We arrived Le Havre, France on 14 March at midnight. Ate in canteen mess hall provided by U.S. government and served by G.I.’s. We were then taken by bus (two hour drive) to Nurses Staging Area N.B.S. at 2:30 am, where 160 nurses bedded down on their opened bedrolls in one room. On 15 March, we departed Nurses Staging Area NBS for Chateau St. Regnault (Mesineres), Mourmelon, France (southeast of Reims). Departed at dawn for Neufchatel and St Regnault to the north via ambulances. Stopped only for latrine duty and to cook beans over our homemade sternos. Traveled all day; ate meals from tin cans along the roadside. Arrived late pm.”

“Sterno” is a can of flammable hydrocarbon jelly used as a fuel for cooking stoves; it was made by the Sternau Company of New York. Luella and the 125th Evacuation Hospital quickly unpacked and went to work at Chateau Regnault. The town is located on the Meuse River less than ten miles from Luxembourg, near Bogny-sur-Meuse just north of Charleville-Mézières in the Ardennes Forest region (which saw bitter fighting during World War I and during the recent Battle of the Bulge). Chateau Regnault was about twenty miles south of Dinant, Belgium, the furthest edge of the Bulge. It was once the main center of a principality and lies at the base of a hill; four sharp rocky points are supposedly the legendary Aymon brothers escaping from Charlemagne’s men on their horse Bayard.

Luella’s albums contain carte postale (postcards) from 1945; they show a steel arch bridge with stone piers leading to a town with large stone buildings nestled along a river bank with hills rising behind. A power plant on the edge of town shows farm fields and the Aymon peaks in the background. The smaller Bogny-sur-Meuse is on the other side of the bridge, and there is a Monument aux Morts, dedicated to the dead of World War I. One view shows long rows of barracks style buildings. Her photos show similar views of stone buildings, and a park by the river.

That Men Might Live explains the duties of the military nursing service,

“Nurses were injured and killed as they attended fighting men. One morning, Lt. Frances Slanger of Boston wrote her impressions of the American soldier. “The wounded do not cry. Their buddies come first. The patience and courage they have is something always to behold.” A German shell burst in her area and fragments struck Lt. Slanger. . . She died half an hour later as calmly and as bravely as the men she had nursed and written about. Lt. Slanger was the first American nurse to die from enemy action in the E.T.O. [European Theater of Operation] She and her companions had waded ashore in Normandy on D plus 4. Without stopping to change their wet clothes, the nurses went on duty in a field hospital. Of 17,838 nurses in the E.T.O., four were killed in action, one taken prisoner, 17 received the Purple Heart, 194 were awarded the Bronze Star and 211 given the Air Medal. . . It was women like [those] to whom Gen. Hawley referred as, “That good soldier, the Army Nurse.”

“Army nurses worked tirelessly, 12 to 16 hours a day, as they followed advancing armies. Their work increased as a nurse shortage reached acute proportions. In 1940 a 1,000 bed general hospital had 120 nurses. The number was cut to 105 in 1943, to 83 in 1944, to 74 in 1945, when five hospitals arrived on the Continent without any nurses to staff them. Despite the urgent need for trained nurses, standards did not drop. They handled more patients and put in longer hours to insure the results of good surgery.”

The Army Nurse Corps in World War II web site describes the “mobile field and evacuation hospitals, which closely followed the combat troops. These hospitals were usually set up in tents and were subject to move at short notice. Nurses packed and unpacked these hospitals each time they moved. Litter bearers and ambulances brought wounded to field hospitals, which usually had 18 nurses to handle 75 to 150 patients. Doctors and nurses performed triage on patients at the field hospital receiving tent. . . critically important. . . Severity of a patient’s condition and need for special treatment determined when, how and where the patient was to be sent. Improper evacuation might result in the death of a patient. . . Patients judged strong enough to travel went by ambulance to evacuation hospitals located farther away from the front lines and near transportation. Nurses stabilized others with blood, plasma, medication and dressings before sending them on. Patients who needed immediate care went directly into surgery. Those too weak for needed surgery went to the shock ward.

“A field hospital could perform approximately 80 operations a day; over 85% of those soldiers operated on in field hospitals survived. When strong enough, post-operative patients were taken to evacuation hospitals. Evacuation hospitals [such as Luella’s 125th] had 53 nurses each and could accommodate up to 750 patients. Doctors operated [as needed]. Those with postoperative stomach wounds were routinely kept in an evacuation hospital for ten days before they were sent on. Those with chest wounds were usually kept at least five days. Critically wounded patients needing specialized treatment were air evacuated to station and general hospitals. Stable patients requiring long recuperation went on via hospital ship.”

Due to censorship restrictions, Luella’s letters continued to make no mention of the war’s progress nor her long hours on nursing duty,

“1945 Mar 15, Somewhere in France [Chateau Regnault, 1st camp in France]; Dearest Folks; I received your package just before leaving England. We’ve already had coffee twice and the candy went like hot cakes. Mrs. Miller can make more any time she wants. Every time any of us in our hut (7 of us) got a package we naturally shared with each other. The coffee pot was viewed with envy. Soap is at a premium here. But please don’t deprive yourself about cigarettes as we get five packages a week and sometimes seven. Cigs are a premium to the French people as they cost 100 fr or $2 a package. They will do your washing for a package. Also got a pkg. from Mary and woe to me; all I could think of was having to carry the extra luggage. She sent a jar of peanut butter (we get oodles of it but of course she didn’t know this), a small dainty jar of orange marmalade, a glass of sandwich spread, and some good old U.S. soda crackers and a jar of olives, but one, four, one! the whole jar was empty. [Presumably, this is a coded message]. After all, seven people eating about fifty olives they don’t go far. They surely tasted good though. We have gum now too to last a while and it came in handy while traveling over these dusty roads, six hours thru the night, so that we were all choked up with it.

“Marie and I just tried to get a bath but baths and showers are taken on schedule and we were five minutes [late] so have to wait until 8 pm. There is a movie on tonight but we’ll miss that in order to have the bath. Living conditions are different here; now we are all in one room, like a regular bowery flop house with rows and rows of cots. We hang our clothes on nails on the walls. Thru the center of this barracks are nine stoves and above these is a double wash line. Our bedding rolls, envelope contraption affairs in which are practically all our G.I. issue, we lay on our camp cots. Bulky things like shoes etc. we place along the sides and on top of this we place our sleeping bag and blanket. Thus we sleep on top of all our clothes having left out only those things which we actually need and use daily. I think the olive incident is worth mentioning to Frank, don’t you? Even tho he was here in France and may be here now, he is too far away to contact and traveling is difficult. We passed thru great areas of desolation, especially the towns along the Seine.

“It is quite nice here this time of the year, tell Lee. They have an early spring but bombs and shellings were unable to down the spirit of these little blossoms that have sprung up here and there and seem to smile up to the passersby and say ‘be of good cheer’. Others are flowers which must once have been reverently tended but although untended now they make a fierce effort to survive and thus bring some beauty to this otherwise devastated countryside. The buildings which we use here are constructed around an old Chateau or Monastery... In this we eat after forming in long lines with our mess kits just as you’ve seen the boys do many times in the movies. For eighty girls there are only three faucets and one sink. The other 2 faucets are located at the end of a trough like a hog trough and here we fill our helmets, line them up in the trough and wash. Only cold water is available and that is icy. We do have hot showers and that is a blessing. Our meals are good and better cooked than while at Tenby. Our Unit does not have the best cooks in the world, sorry to say.

“Right now our male officers and enlisted men are at another camp. We must wait until our supplies etc catch up with us at which time we will again join our unit for actual work. In the meantime we nurses have to go through a regular basic training program again; calisthenics, drill and lectures. This is chiefly to keep us occupied and out of mischief. It also acts as an elimination process for those who can’t take it, but yours truly is as fit as a fiddle and altho I’m a little older than most of the nurses our C. Officer has no intentions of letting me (and others in the same boat) go. All my love, Lou; PS Pitched a 7 inning softball game against the 130th Evac. Hosp. nurses last Thursday; we won 9-4.”

“1945 Mar 15, V-mail; Dearest Folks; Just had a tub bath and it’s almost worth your life to get one. Imagine trying to get a proper wash while knowing there are ten nurses waiting in line. Hope you received the pkg I sent home. Don’t bother about stockings. I only wear silk hose when I go to church on Sunday or to some festivity; altho there are quite a few of these at times I do not go. I leave them for the younger set and stay here and play bridge. . . Keep well. Love, Lou.”

“1945 Mar 18, Sunday, [Chateau Regnault]; Dear Mom and Family; Just got back from Mass in the church of the monastery which is part of our installation. It was started in 1400 and finished in 1521, around the time of Louis XVI. The carved woodwork is beautiful and the color of the stained glass windows are unexcelled, the colors cannot be duplicated today. It is a beautiful day here today and the sun is shining beautifully. We all got terrible colds while in England’s dampness, but are gradually getting rid of them in this lovely weather of northern France. Yesterday being Paddy’s Day we were invited to a dance last night given by the 16th Armored Infantry since they got their liquor ration. . . There wasn’t much liquor since we just don’t get it, so we all had a couple of drinks. I did have 2 drinks of champagne. This is just a note my dears to let you know I am well. Do hope all of you can say the same. The countryside is beautiful and we take walks but do not get off the roads for fear of springing hidden mines or booby traps. Some of the fields here are full of them. Will write Frank now and don’t worry about me. All my love to all of you, Love, Lou ‘Corkie’ [Army nickname]”

“1945 Mar 24, No. France [Chateau Regnault]; Dearest Mom and All; The scene has changed but am still loafing. I’m sitting on a grassy hillside overlooking the chateau in which we live. It must have been beautiful in its day for the skeleton of well tended pruned trees still remain, such as a broken-down pagoda-like affair which overlooks a trickle of a stream which fed a fountain in front of this chateau. The Germans were here before us and practically ruined the insides and the plumbing etc. before they left. One must remember that they were over-running France for about 4-5 years and have in some instances married the gals here and had babies; also these years were spent in propagandizing their cause so that one has to be careful of what they speak to the locals, for it is supposed that there may be many among them who may be acting as spies. The enlisted men in particular visit the local pubs but we nurses (and also the male officers) get a certain supply of liquor a month and therefore have little get-togethers of our own. There are some colored troops scattered about. There is no color boundary here and in this village four colored G.I.’s (they say they are the American Indian) have four of the prettiest French girls in town.

“The bells from the Catholic Church ring out every quarter hour and right now it’s 3:15 pm. We have good food and our cooks have certainly shown that they can cook. Alice [Bittenbender] and I picked bouquets of spring flowers for the tables this morning (am enclosing one). . . Haven’t had any mail for some time now. There is a lovely quite large river flowing thru the town and I hope to get in some fishing. The Colonel and his helper plan on borrowing my tackle. They are however using tree limbs for poles, rather than take mine out of its casing. . .”

“Clothes are scarce here too and there are no diapers for babies. Soap is scarce and many of the children have scabies or impetigo. Of bread they have plenty and now while coming thru the country we saw hundreds of acres of ground being prepared (by U.S. tractors) for food. Winter wheat is already up and so is the oats. It really is lovely weather here now. I read in the paper about the 15th Army and all I can say is to read all you can about it. Am getting awfully hungry. The air is so grand one wants to eat all the time. Thanks for your lovely Easter cards and I do know that you meant it. Hope you had a lovely Easter and sorry I can’t send any cards in time. Hope I get some mail soon. Lots of love and Jo and Mom take care of yourselves. . . Lots of Love to all of you; Lou.”

Notice Luella hinted to the family that movements of the 15th Army would give them information about her 125th Evacuation Hospital. Despite the surrounding war, she had a peaceful Palm Sunday,

“1945 Mar 25, No. France [Chateau Regnault]; Dearest Family of Mine; I hope you caught that thing of Thompsons and do let me know how you made out [see Muse in letter of 24 March]. How are you doing with the crossword puzzles?

“It is lovely here and yesterday I went to a little French church but no palms were given out as they had none. So the padre gave out some evergreen that he had blessed, also Easter holy cards. One odd thing during Mass was that at the offering, the padre stands at the gates of the communion rail with the altar boy. The padre holds an oval gold plaque with a picture of Christ on it, encased in the plaque is a relic, and the boy holds the collection plate. Everyone forms in line, marches up past the priest (kissing the relic and dropping their offering in the plate), and returns to their seat. The rest of the Mass is the same. The pm being free Lt. Elaine Bruce and I went fishing with limbs for poles as my rod was not unpacked. Several Frenchmen were fishing and one, about 60 years old, had me teach him to cast. He disappeared and turned up with a bamboo casting rod; got a big kick out of rigging it up and the first thing I knew he was up and down the river casting and I was sitting on the bank watching. We had a very pleasant afternoon. . Do keep writing. We were talking this morning . . . that it would be about three to five years before we would get home. I may be allowed to go home as soon as the war is over because of being married and my age. The more years I spend in the Army the less I’ll have to spend at Kings County Hospital before retiring. Do keep well, Mom; Jo, by the time you get this that baby of yours should be sliding down the gang plank. Hope you have an easy time. All my love, Lou.”
But there were constant reminders of the German presence; Luella began to wonder about the location of her brother Joe’s cemetery,

1945 Mar 28, No. France;

 

Dear Mom and All; Today we marched to the little Catholic Church across the bridge which it is said we one time bombed, where memorial services were held for French and American soldiers. The padre then, still in his vestments, led the procession, the parishioners and us coming in the rear, up and up a mountainside until we were just about winded. He stopped at a little knoll that had been cleared and we all gathered in a semicircle around fifteen graves, all soldiers, thirteen French, one RAF and one Unknown. Requiem was sung, then a wreath laid, then the different people of the town laid bunches of spring blossoms on the graves. It was all very simple but impressive. There were tears in the eyes of many of the French women who were also dressed in black. We were told today that we Americans had come in and rescued the town just in time to save a goodly number of Frenchmen whom the Germans were going to behead in front of the church. For this reason they hold no grudge against us for the damage we did here. Saw Laon [northeast of Soissons] and it is a shambles. Everything is peaceful here and I am in no danger so don’t worry. I meant to ask you; where was Joe injured and where was he buried? I thot I might get a chance to visit it, if it was far enuf north; there may be some way to get to it. I seem so close and yet because I can’t get to the cemetery; I feel so far away. Do keep well. All my love, Lou.”

Her Easter Sunday letter is an odd mix of church and holiday with a trip to Belgium, enclosing a map of Europe and news about the war,
“1945 Apr 1, Sunday, No. France; Hello my Sweets! Easter Sunday and no new Easter bonnet! No Fifth Avenue, just plain Sunday. It was interesting, tho. I went to confession before Mass. The priest cannot understand English but he has a book with the sins in it in both languages. You pick out your sin, point to it, then show the number of times on your fingers. Communion is given before Mass and during Mass. I was invited to a French home for dinner, also the Chaplain and Lt. Moomjy (male). We had potato salad, chicken, roast beef, peas, cake with vanilla cream. Demi-tasse. With the meal we had wine (guinea red) and after the meal we topped it off with Cognac wine. I have some pictures which will look nice in my album.

“I cabled $40 to you today from Belgium and sent it to Mom. . . Am enclosing a map of Europe and an article from Stars and Stripes. I bought the map here in France to follow the progress of the war. Stars and Stripes is our daily paper and the only American paper we can get. I have all your pictures before me and wish I were there with you. There is so much to tell you. Have several letters from Frank. . . he was at sea, hence he did not write until he got back in the States when he sent me a cable from New Orleans, La. The ship put in at Savannah, Ga and from there he went to New Orleans. He is not shipping out again on the Pio Pico and may have to return to NYC for reassignment.

“If you can, enclose TP anytime for we have to use it for our noses as well as our hind ends. I will enclose the address of those French people in case. Should you at some time decide to discard some old clothing, it must be worn clothing to go thru the mails without tariff, you can send it with a little French note. It is Mme. Bernard Della Rocco, 49 Rue de la Gare, Chateau Regnault, Ardennes, France. Am hoping this isn’t cut off now that it is written [fear of censorship for the location]. Am enclosing a picture of Mme. Della Rocco. Her husband has been a prisoner in a German prison camp at Stuttgart for the past six years and she has had no word from him since last July. Her boy Guy is now 8 years old. [Luella’s albums have several photos of this family, with the grandparents and the children.]

“Guess I’ll fill my helmet now, take a bath and get ready for bed, for tomorrow is another busy day. Keep well all of you. Happy Mother’s Day Mom, and tho I cannot be with you in body, my thots will be with you as they are each and every day. I offered up my Communion today for all of you back home. Wish I could tell you where I am but of course it’s against all rules and regulations or have you guessed? Thanx for the lovely Easter cards. You’re some writer Judy. Love to all, Lou. PS I bought this lace for you in Belgium for the babies’ clothes. Now Mom, don’t get jealous, you can use it too, for there is plenty, ha!”

The Western Front is Broken

On 27 March, General Dwight Eisenhower told reporters in Paris that German defenses on the Western Front had been broken; Wiesbaden was captured by the Allies; on 30 March Russian troops invaded Austria. Luella sent a clipping home with her letter dated April 1 that detailed the Allied successes,

Stars and Stripes, Liege Edition; SEVENTH ARMY IN BAVARIA;


“15th Army in Line; Ruhr Net Tightens; French Over Rhine; The Seventh U.S. Army broke through the Odenwald hills east of Mannheim yesterday and drove into Bavaria. . . only 15 miles from Wurzburg, 80 miles east of the Rhine, and midway between Frankfurt and Nurnberg. Meanwhile, it was disclosed that Lt. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow’s 15th U.S. Army had gone into action and was holding a front line position on the Western Front. French troops of Gen. Jean de Laitre Tassigny’s First Army crossed the Rhine for the first time since the Napoleonic Wars. . . Tanks of the Ninth U.S. Army, spearheaded by the veteran 2nd Armored Division, continued to drive east from its lower Rhine bridgehead and were at least 60 miles beyond the river. . . As Easter Sunday dawned on the West Front, Gen. Eisenhower had elements of eight Armies across the classic water barrier [Rhine River] to the heart of the Reich. At least 12 armored divisions were spearheading drives ranging almost from the North Sea to Switzerland. . . throwing battered remnants of the Wehrmacht [German war machine] into chaos. MAP: Slicing Wehrmacht. . . Yanks fighting at Paderborn were only 38 miles from linkup with Allies north of the Ruhr. The Third Army tip was ten miles from Kassel, while Seventh Army was 15 miles from Wurzburg.”

Luella’s handwriting marked “Mönchen-Gladbach, river is the Rhine and across it is Düsseldorf.” Her memoirs added, “Map shows route from Cherbourg, France, south; the Pincer Movement had involved General Eisenhower, General Patton, General Bradley, etc.”

But there was still much fighting to be done; the troops were moving quickly, and the hospitals had to pack and move with them just as quickly to care for the casualties. On 3 April 1945, the 125th Evacuation Hospital left Chateau Regnault and moved onto German soil; Luella’s memoirs tell the story of their midnight arrival at Rheydt, Germany, two miles southeast of Mönchen Gladbach (which had been liberated on 1 March, barely one month before); Rheydt was due west of Düsseldorf across the Rhine River. Luella’s VOCG convoy,

“Arrived on outskirts of Mönchen-Gladbach near midnight in an open field at a steeplechase racetrack area. Near the Rhine River. Very dark; raining hard. Pitched tent in pitch darkness, raining furiously, and found we were ahead of our own artillery unit. We had set down, unknowingly, between the enemy on eastern shore of Rhine River at Düsseldorf and in the middle of our own boys firing their Howitzers back, and a gas supply station for U.S. planes. Bob LaForte, Mess Officer, put on a large tank of coffee over an open fire. The M.P.’s appeared from nowhere, “Put this g.d. fire out!; You’ve sat yourselves down right in the middle of an arsenal! We’re being fired on by the German Howitzers across the Rhine, only a mile away at Dusseldorf.” We stayed there a couple of days to throw the Germans off the scent. Here we set up a hospital ahead of Allied lines. Unknowingly this had acted as a good strategy, for seeing our tent with its Red Cross emblem, except for one shot, none others were sent over us. Here Corky climbed to top of tent to repair a stove pipe [and they took her photo!]. The 125th Evac’n Hospital was still in tents. Stayed at Rheydt until after 5 May. Next posting at Altsdorf nearby.”

Her albums contain photos of the tent hospital complex, with nurses posing or hanging up their laundry. The Nurses’ latrine was an oblong tent, while other tents were large and tall; one shows “Corky” sitting on top, where she had climbed in order to fix a stove pipe. Luella stands in her “operating room outfit in front of operating tent”, wearing a white surgical mask, a white cap, and khaki uniform with pants and leather shoes. An aerial view shows over a dozen tents (“about 1/4 of the area”), each with a red cross and white square on their sloping roof; the town of Mönchen-Gladbach is nearby with a large church spire that looks as if it had lost its windows. One photo shows Luella sitting on a box outside a tent, wearing a sweater and a shirt under her jacket, with leather boots into which her pants are tucked. She is writing a letter balanced on her knees, and the caption is “Leisure Time.” Once again, Luella’s cheerful letters only discussed safe topics,

“1945 Apr 5, Germany [outside of Gladbach]; Dearest Mom and All; Yes, I’m here at last. I wrote that we were living in a chateau in France. Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it, but it wasn’t all it was cooked up to be. Eight of us lived in one large room and had a fireplace, over which was a large mirror. We also had a bath, but the Germans who were there ahead of us tore out the plumbing so that we couldn’t use the bath room anyway. Well, now we are living in tents, and for a john use a four-holer about fifty feet from our tent. We have appropriated a racetrack with a lovely lawn. We live in squad tents and have a lovely green rug on the floor. All we need now is a lawn mower. Ruth and I got some boards and laid them between our cots. We found some old matting and laid it over these so at least we have a dry spot to get out of bed on. There are 6 of us in our tent and all propped up in bed, after having had our helmet baths, writing by candle light. We have a small stove which gives fairly good heat. It has rained for two days now and we’ve had several kinds of thunder; the kind that comes from the heavens and the other. We understand that the Germans are trying to get the Burgermeister in the next town; he is the leader of the people and cooperating with the Allies. They hope that in getting him, it will leave the town without a leader and civilian insurrections will arise.

“We have our Red Cross signs all over our buildings so feel real safe. As in France, we do not stray far and do not travel in unknown fields for booby traps are still around. We haven’t any patients yet as we are just setting up but we are all on call at different times. I’m on call from midnight to noon and the other anesthetist vice versa. Had to clean the machine today and know now what makes my machine tick. Saw Liege [Belgium] and other towns and when they say our Air Corp laid a town flat, they weren’t kidding. We saw nuns and priests riding bicycles. Men living near the border of Holland wear regular full pantaloons and overcoats down to their ankles. Others wear long black capes and straight brimmed black merry widow hats, so that they look like regular Dracula’s. Your pkg sent Feb 14 hasn’t arrived. Did you get mine? Hope the baby has arrived. Keep well all of you, keep writing. Jo, please get Mom something for Mother’s Day for me. All my love, Lou”

“1945 Apr 8, Sunday, 5 pm, Germany; Dearest Mom, Jo, Walt and Judy; By the time this letter reaches you the baby should be here. It seems that all my mail is getting thru okay. Guess the censor found nil to cut. This is my fourth night in a tent and I don’t mind it a bit. The first night we, like all crazy medics, had our lights on full tilt while unpacking, which gave some of the guards of nearby artillery the heebie-geebies so badly they slept in their fox holes, for they fully expected something to come over and hit us. Since then we have preserved strict black-out rules and guide ourselves in the dark by means of white tape. Darkness, stygian darkness, has a very dizzying effect. . . Taps comes all too soon in the am; and the tent is cold and damp. Upon going to bed we put our shoes in bed with us and having left our stockings on and underwear we just sit up in bed and proceed to finish our toilette. With it all, we manage to keep clean. . . dressing under great handicaps.


“I have my Kodak, A116, and have sufficient film, 2 dozen about, so am better off than you. We were able to get priority on ordering film for all our Kodaks before leaving the States. Returning to that pkg which came today, everything was perfectly grand. We are all eating the candy at present. . . Those dandelions sounded good. Wouldn’t mind having a mess. Somehow or other I’ve been pining for some nice fresh rosy apples. They are not obtainable here but may be in some other part of Germany. It’s always pack and unpack so that one gets just a little tired and I was busy tonight. We get all the sugar we want. In fact, Mom, I believe that sometimes we eat better than any of you at home. I don’t know where in hell those steaks are but we certainly don’t see much of it. We get mostly ham or chicken, but neither of those can make me sore for I like them. I even eat spinach and have learned to like it. I’ve had so much cabbage and brussel’s sprouts in England, I hope I don’t see any for a long time to come. All my love to all, Lou”

On 11 April, Allied troops reached the Elbe River; U.S. troops entered the Buchenwald concentration camp north of Weimar Germany, while British and Canadian troops liberated the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen a few days later. On 13 April, “Today’s Army-Navy Casualty List” in the New York Times was headed by, “ARMY-NAVY DEAD: ROOSEVELT, Franklin D., Commander-in-Chief, wife, Mrs. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the White House.” Roosevelt’s Vice President Harry S. Truman became the new President and Commander in Chief.

Atlas of the Second World War describes “the drive into Germany. . . For the most part fighting was sporadic and isolated. . . German units, leaderless, lacking air cover, often short of rations and ammunition, were only too thankful that they were facing the Americans and British and not the Russians, and they surrendered in increasing numbers. . . white flags. . . communication and command in the German armies had broken down. . . Small German pockets were left in the Ruhr itself [Luella’s 125th Evacuation Hospital was in the Ruhr area, which extended fifty miles along the Rhine from Bonn north to Duisburg].”

Luella’s hospital was moved behind the lines once again. . .

“1945 Apr 12, Germany [left race track]; Dearest Mom and All; Wrote you about two days ago and Frank last night. It is so difficult to write by candle light that I just about manage one letter a nite and try to alternate with Frank. Since here, we have made another move, more to the rear. Before we were just at the hinge of the pincer movement, which put us even ahead of the clearing station and between two barrages of fire. The danged things kept whizzing over our heads; first one side practiced firing the shells, then the other side played back. We got the hell out of that fire trap, as the saying in the Army goes.

“Had a most wonderful time this morning. For the first time since I left civilian life I was able to actually buy something instead of having it issued. For the first time it fits. We all bought a 3 piece dress which we call a battle dress. It is a blouse or jacket coat to you, a pair of slacks and a skin. We all felt like a million dollars. We cannot buy at any German shops, so we cannot spend our money. Since we are in a combat area, all our rations of gum, cigarettes, candy, and soap or tooth paste (we have a choice of these latter two items) are issued to us. We get one bar of soap in 3 weeks, the size of half a bar of face soap so you can understand why we all ask the folks at home to send us soap. We are living in tents which at nite are like going into our cellar without turning on the lights. To date we were given a candle a day, but since yesterday we are being given none, have been ordered to use our torches or flashlights, and electric light is refused us. . . Candy issued is of the poorest quality. It compares with the hardtack that was issued to the boys in 1914. We are taking in patients steadily and are kept busy. Just how long we stay here will depend upon how soon that circled area (see newspaper) is fully taken. . .

“Right now it is somewhat chilly, night has fallen. Darkness is everywhere. How to find my way to my tent will be the next problem. Especially without light. Ruth is writing also. Eh what, says she, you forgot to tell them we are now in the mess tent hence writing on a table. And with electric light. And a mug of German beer. You wouldn’t like it tho. It has no kick; it is flat. Does this sound appetizing to you? We drink it because we can’t get anything else. We oft long for some good ole American beer. . . Must close now. All my love dears. Lou.”

“1945 Apr 17, Tuesday, Germany [Rheydt], V-mail; Dearest Mom and All; Guess you are busy these days. I will write a longer letter [later]. Frank is in New Orleans and [complains that he has no mail], but his letter was dated Apr 6 and he had just received my Feb 14 mail. O yes, we sleep on cots and have a grass floor in our tents, but we do have a dance floor and a piano. Such is the irony. Went to a house party last night and a nightclub the night before and came away with a couple of souvenirs. Some day when I get them all together I’ll send them. We’re so busy trying to find ourselves in the tall grass, much less can we find anything else. We hang our tooth brush on the tent wall to keep insects and bugs from using it. Am on my hours off and time is almost up. Parties are given by different units (officers of) who revel in being in the company of and dancing and talking with American girls. Ha! Ha! expecting a cable re: the baby. Love to all. Lou.”

President Franklin Roosevelt Dead!

German defenses collapse, the hospital moves behind the lines

On 11 April, Allied troops reached the Elbe River; U.S. troops entered the Buchenwald concentration camp north of Weimar Germany, while British and Canadian troops liberated the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen a few days later. On 13 April, “Today’s Army-Navy Casualty List” in the New York Times was headed by, “ARMY-NAVY DEAD: ROOSEVELT, Franklin D., Commander-in-Chief, wife, Mrs. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the White House.” Roosevelt’s Vice President Harry S. Truman became the new President and Commander in Chief.

Atlas of the Second World War describes “the drive into Germany. . . For the most part fighting was sporadic and isolated. . . German units, leaderless, lacking air cover, often short of rations and ammunition, were only too thankful that they were facing the Americans and British and not the Russians, and they surrendered in increasing numbers. . . white flags. . . communication and command in the German armies had broken down. . . Small German pockets were left in the Ruhr itself [Luella’s 125th Evacuation Hospital was in the Ruhr area, which extended fifty miles along the Rhine from Bonn north to Duisburg].”

Luella’s hospital was moved behind the lines once again. . .

“1945 Apr 12, Germany [left race track]; Dearest Mom and All; Wrote you about two days ago and Frank last night. It is so difficult to write by candle light that I just about manage one letter a nite and try to alternate with Frank. Since here, we have made another move, more to the rear. Before we were just at the hinge of the pincer movement, which put us even ahead of the clearing station and between two barrages of fire. The danged things kept whizzing over our heads; first one side practiced firing the shells, then the other side played back. We got the hell out of that fire trap, as the saying in the Army goes.

“Had a most wonderful time this morning. For the first time since I left civilian life I was able to actually buy something instead of having it issued. For the first time it fits. We all bought a 3 piece dress which we call a battle dress. It is a blouse or jacket coat to you, a pair of slacks and a skin. We all felt like a million dollars. We cannot buy at any German shops, so we cannot spend our money. Since we are in a combat area, all our rations of gum, cigarettes, candy, and soap or tooth paste (we have a choice of these latter two items) are issued to us. We get one bar of soap in 3 weeks, the size of half a bar of face soap so you can understand why we all ask the folks at home to send us soap. We are living in tents which at nite are like going into our cellar without turning on the lights. To date we were given a candle a day, but since yesterday we are being given none, have been ordered to use our torches or flashlights, and electric light is refused us. . . Candy issued is of the poorest quality. It compares with the hardtack that was issued to the boys in 1914. We are taking in patients steadily and are kept busy. Just how long we stay here will depend upon how soon that circled area (see newspaper) is fully taken. . .

“Right now it is somewhat chilly, night has fallen. Darkness is everywhere. How to find my way to my tent will be the next problem. Especially without light. Ruth is writing also. Eh what, says she, you forgot to tell them we are now in the mess tent hence writing on a table. And with electric light. And a mug of German beer. You wouldn’t like it tho. It has no kick; it is flat. Does this sound appetizing to you? We drink it because we can’t get anything else. We oft long for some good ole American beer. . . Must close now. All my love dears. Lou.”

“1945 Apr 17, Tuesday, Germany [Rheydt], V-mail; Dearest Mom and All; Guess you are busy these days. I will write a longer letter [later]. Frank is in New Orleans and [complains that he has no mail], but his letter was dated Apr 6 and he had just received my Feb 14 mail. O yes, we sleep on cots and have a grass floor in our tents, but we do have a dance floor and a piano. Such is the irony. Went to a house party last night and a nightclub the night before and came away with a couple of souvenirs. Some day when I get them all together I’ll send them. We’re so busy trying to find ourselves in the tall grass, much less can we find anything else. We hang our tooth brush on the tent wall to keep insects and bugs from using it. Am on my hours off and time is almost up. Parties are given by different units (officers of) who revel in being in the company of and dancing and talking with American girls. Ha! Ha! expecting a cable re: the baby. Love to all. Lou.”

On 20 April, Allied forces captured Nuremberg and Stuttgart; on 21 April, Russian troops reached the suburbs of Berlin, which they completely surrounded by 25 April (which is also when British and American troops linked with the Soviet armies on the Elbe River, symbolizing the collapse of Nazi Germany’s defenses); U.S. troops in Italy crossed the River Po.

“1945 Apr 22, Sunday, Germany [Rheydt], V-mail; Dr. Duchak’s idea; Dearest Mom and all; We’re still here for a change. April is almost gone and soon it will be a year since I’ve come into the Army and six months overseas which will entitle me to a stripe on my sleeve. I have not told you of our Sunday services. Here we have them whenever and wherever we can. One Sunday in the Protestant chaplains and again for the last two Sundays, in the Officer’s Mess tent. We have it any time of the day. You can consider yourself fortunate in this. One Sunday we had general absolution. Since then I’ve received Communion every Sunday. Does this make you feel good Mom? At least you know that I’m going to church regularly; I feel better about it too. Tho I’ll probably run into complications again after this is all over. . .

“Start now, one two three go! It is near, we’re off! 1 We had a lovely trip and that hospital certainly has a beautiful layout! I was shown over it all. Grand is what I’d call it. Ruth slept all pm. She’s now powdering her nose for supper. Lea is too. And so we make ourselves beautiful. We like to let our officers see that we don’t look dirty and faded all the time. You did not [mention] I’m here in Germany or did Rose forget to tell you? Doubtless, I can’t remember, I may have sent her letter [from] France. Every day is the same now. We are still busy entertaining outside officers and ours just ogle from jealousy. But we’ve stopped trying to please them. They had their chance to escort us but muffed it. Now we are ignoring them. And let me tell you they don’t like it. The shoe is on the other foot. The wind was so strong last night it blew down our latrine. Can’t you just picture that? It’s turned chilly today and rainy. Regular monsoon weather. Hope it clears up by tomorrow. . . We have our first USO show here tonight so must go now to get there in time. Au revoir and goodbye for now. Much love to all of you. Lou.”

“1945 Apr 24, Germany [Rheydt]; Dear Mom and All; Am sitting on a box in the operating room and writing on my knee on a piece of scrap paper I found here. . . No letters yesterday. . . Am getting a little tired of this tent life although I must say I sleep like a log. It is like sleeping direct under the skies. How do you like the news? about Berlin? They (the boys) moved so fast they left us way behind the lines, several hundred miles. Quite a difference to the three miles upon our arrival here. It has finally turned a little warmer this pm. Yesterday it actually hailed. Only had two cases myself today so you can see we’ve been rather slow to date. We may be getting busy again but just how soon I don’t know. It is beautiful here now. I just went to the latrine and gazed toward the nearby orchard where it looked just like a picture pastoral scene, with the cows grazing among the trees. This is a lovely country and the nearest to the middle west I’ve seen. It reminds me of home constantly. Except for the civilians and shells of homes one could really believe they were in the States. Their customs and architecture are familiar but then we must remember that the US is the melting pot and the Germans very inventive, and we have used their inventions in America, the same as they have here. Only England continues to remain the backward country; not because they are stupid but because they prefer to live in the past; eulogize their dead, heap upon themselves self praise and glory. They like to keep the world impressed of their martyrdom suffered etc. One can well understand why India is so slow in being modernized.

“Just thot I’d say hello today. Started to fix that package for home last night. Hope you got my message in my last letter (Apr 22). Must close now and get a shower. All my love dears and love to all of you. Am homesick right now and wish I could go on that fishing trip with Walt. Much love, Lou.”


On 25 April, delegates from over 50 countries met in San Francisco to discuss the organization of the United Nations. The war continued.

“1945 Apr 26, Germany [Gladbach]; Dearest Mom and All; Have just finished wrapping a package. Took a ride across the Rhine today and crossed on a pontoon bridge in the chaplain’s jeep. It is about 1/4 or 1/2 mile wide and very swift. If the car had ever gotten out of hand, well, it would have been a good cold swim. I doubt if swimming would be possible since the current is so strong. We visited the nearest town to us on the other side [Düsseldorf] and from all appearances, it must have been a beautiful city. Now, only the shells of houses and stores are standing; great piles of bricks and rubble fill the streets, so that passage is impossible. The buildings look like great tall grotesque giants with many eyes thru which one can gaze into space infinitesimal. This is two, the above, and since two plus two equals four, the other two will follow after a bit of current news. [Code?]

“Was on night call last night and worked from 8 pm to 3 am; so slept this am and went out this pm. Ruth and I having the afternoon off, just wanted to go somewhere. Mail is scarce. We are getting quite busy. They tell us that our next move will be into houses. Our C.O. [Commanding Officer] makes it sound as uncomfortable as possible; he’s tent crazy and does not like the idea of going into buildings. We’ve met quite a few officers from different companies and they’ve been very nice to all of us. We tried to see a few whom we met from Dusseldorf but had no luck. The engineers who came over to England with us on the same boat, were the ones who built the pontoon bridge, but we didn’t get to see them either. At present we have one 25 watt bulb lighting the tent which is a help. On our travels we passed fields of pansies and mountain daisies, etc (cultivated) so we stopped the jeep. I got out and walked up to the German girl and said that I wanted some flowers. She replied yes, yes, and eagerly began digging up plants. They take every request as an order. They know that what they have is ours if we want it, so they don’t put up any defense! Lou.”

“1945 Apr 28, Germany; Dearest Mom and All; Have a few minutes so thot I would dash off a few lines to you. Packed my package to you. . . Glad you liked the lace; it is Belgium lace, altho I got it while still at Chas.ville [Charleville Mézières]. There is no opportunity to get anything here as we cannot buy from the people. As we go thru the town we wonder where they do trade, for there seems to be no stores left, just the walls of the buildings stretch stark and naked to the skies. The windows look like large gaping eyes. The insides have all fallen thru to the basement. Nil can be seen but piles of rubble and stone. [In 2001, by contrast, Charleville had become known as the festive capital of puppetry and the site of an International Puppet Fair and Ecole des Arts de la Marionnette.] It is lovely out today. Last night Ein[gruber] and I were on call. We had gone on duty yesterday morning at 7 am. We went to bed at 5:15 am this morning and I can assure you we fell in. So I slept to noon, had lunch and after writing this will nap to four when I’ll take a shower. The flowers Ruth and I planted in front of the tent look lovely. We had rain yesterday. The Meuse River is so far behind now. We caught pickerel and perch. It’s surprising how few people fished there, considering the scarcity of food. The different cards I enclose are views of the past. They are pre-war, however the enclosed looks much the same except that the buildings are now vacant and in decay and ruin from lack of upkeep. Much love to all of you. Lou”

“1945 Apr 28, V-mail [Rheydt]; Dear Jo and All; I’d just written a letter and took a shower, and on my return found 3 V-mails from you. One of Apr 15 and two of the 18th, so it takes about 11 days. Ordinary mail takes 5-7 days longer. However, the speed with which our letters get here depends upon the boat. If it gets on the [Queen] Mary or Elizabeth it comes fast; on a merchant boat it takes longer. Just after I [wrote] that it was beautiful out, the wind came up and blew the tent down, and now it is rainy and chilly. You guess the Chateau. . . We’ve traveled so fast that by the time you’ve guessed one thing we’ve moved on. Much love, Lou.”.

Victory in Europe

Assignment...Germany

 

Allied success continued in Europe; troops reached the Swiss border on 28 April; 32,000 prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich were liberated on 29 April by American troops; German armies in Italy surrendered on the same day; Mussolini was executed on 28 April; Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker on 30 April; Joseph Goebbels died on 1 May; the Soviet Union announced the fall of Berlin on 2 May.  Luella finally left her tents and found a typewriter.

 

“1945 May 8, Germany [St Francis Hospital, Mönchen Gladbach];  Dearest Mom and All; Received your letter today Walt, with the good news of the baby’s birth.  Thank goodness it is here at last. . .   This has been some winter for us.  First those terrible English well-ventilated Nissen Huts, then tents.  Yesterday we moved to this hospital.  It is a German hospital and very modern.  It must have been beautiful before the war.  It is beautiful yet.  We could hardly believe our eyes.  Am living three in a room.  Thick mattresses and a small feather bed cover thrown on top of the one blanket makes it very warm.  The rooms are high ceilinged, windows are draped and have lovely curtains on them.  My view is the front.  Tall graceful elm trees stand amid evergreen trees of all descriptions.  Norwegian spruce, weeping spruce, cedars and blue spruce.  Intermingled with these are magnolia and catalpa trees in bloom, and white and lavender lilac trees.  The roadway is well laid out.  We expect any morning to wake up and find it has all been a dream.  Right now I am sitting in the Registrar’s office which is like any office.  There is nothing to show that it is of any foreign language and except that I KNOW I’m here, I might just as well be in the States and be ready any minute to close the typewriter and go home.  We have about 60 nuns that our C.O. [Commanding Officer] has told could stay, and Polish and German girls to help.  They serve the meals (tables with cloths and glassware, etc); do the cleaning about the place; make our beds and even shine our shoes when we leave them in the hallway.  We don’t know how long this will last for just as we get oriented and know where everything is, there will come the order to move on.  We are hoping we will get to stay here for a while anyway. We are hoping it will last for the summer.  There is nothing in Dayton with which to compare the beauty and grandeur of this place.  This certainly is a break.

 

            . . .  Guess I’ll go upstairs and go to bed.  Somehow the thoughts of that soft bed rather draws me to it these fine evenings.  Before one dreaded to go to the dark and damp and muddy tents and crawl in between the must and damp blankets; here we have lovely, white, clean and sweet smelling sheets.  

 

“We wear our seersucker dresses now.  My other pretty colored [slips] I will wear this summer or when we go to the C.B.I. [China Burma India Theater of Operations], as some think we may do rather than become a hospital of occupation here.  Just what the future holds for us, no one knows.  It isn’t bad in the Army, and I rather like it as far as work is concerned.  The people are the same everywhere, small, mean, narrow, selfish and brown nosers; the only thing is that what they do is within limits as there ARE rules and regulations in this man’s army that do not allow them to bleed a person entirely.  Love to all of you.  Mimi, I hope your new grandchild isn’t keeping you awake nights.  What do you think of your new sister, Judy?  Love, Lou.”

 

Notice Luella had already started to look past the war in Europe.  On 7 May, Germany signed an unconditional surrender at General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Rheims, France; on 8 May, President Truman announced the end of World War II in Europe (V-E Day, Victory in Europe); Czechoslovakia was liberated on 9 May (which became their National Day of celebration); Russian troops occupied Prague on 10 May.  Luella’s memoirs say “from 7 pm on May 7 to 7 am on May 8, Ruth and I had been in tent operating room.  After the V-E announcement we folded up our tents and moved to St. Francis Hospital, run by nuns.  All units got orders to put away tents, so we could be ready to move only troops; there was still Japan to deal with.”  War continued in the Pacific, with fighting at Corregidor and Okinawa, while Allied troops became an Army of Occupation in Europe.

Luella proudly saved the order of the day dated 10 May 1945,

 

“SUPREME COMMANDER’S VICTORY ORDER OF THE DAY;

“Men and Women of the Allied Expeditionary Force:  The crusade on which we embarked in the early summer of 1944 has reached its glorious conclusion.  It is my especial privilege, in the name of all nations represented in this theater of war, to commend each of you for valiant performance of duty.  Though these words are feeble, they come from the bottom of a heart overflowing with pride in your loyal service and admiration for you as warriors.

“Your accomplishments at sea, in the air, on the ground and in the field of supply, have astonished the world.  Even before the final week of the conflict, you had put five million of the enemy permanently out of the war.  You have taken in stride military tasks so difficult as to be classed by many doubters as impossible.  You have confused, defeated and destroyed your savagely fighting foe.  On the road to victory you have endured every discomfort and privation and have surmounted every obstacle ingenuity and desperation could throw in your path.  You did not pause until our front was firmly joined up with the great Red Army coming from the East, and other allied forces, coming from the South.

 

“Full victory in Europe has been attained.

“Working and fighting together in a single and indestructible partnership you have achieved a perfection in unification of air, ground and naval power that will stand as a model in our time.

“The route you have traveled through hundreds of miles is marked by the graves of former comrades.  From them has been exacted the ultimate sacrifice; blood of many nations (American, British, Canadian, French, Polish and others) has helped to gain the victory.  Each of the fallen died as a member of the team to which you belong, bound together by a common love of liberty and a refusal to submit to enslavement.  No monument of stone, no memorial of whatever magnitude could so well express our respect and veneration for their sacrifice as would perpetuation of the spirit of comradeship in which they died.  As we celebrate victory in Europe let us remind ourselves that our common problems of the immediate and distant future can be best solved in the same conceptions of cooperation and devotion to the cause of human freedom as have made this expeditionary force such a mighty engine of righteous destruction.

“Let us not have part in the profitless quarrels in which other men will inevitably engage as to what country, what service, won the European War.  Every man, every woman, of every nation here represented, has served according to his or her ability, and the efforts of each have contributed to the outcome.  This we shall remember; and in doing so we shall be revering each honored grave, and be sending comfort to the loved ones of comrades who could not live to see this day.

Signed/  DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Reproduced HQ 15th US ARMY; 10 May 1945”

Indiana Spirit of '45 wishes to Thank Katherine Bertsch Compagno and Emily Compagno for giving us the opportunity to publish this story for the first time publicly, so that the Life and Service of

Lt. Luella Lorenz Cochran shall remain...

Always Loved ~ Forever Honored ~ Never Forgotten  

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