Honoring Servicewomen on Memorial Day

American women became a permanent part of the U.S. military in 1948 when President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. Prior to that, when the country was not at war, women could only serve in the Army or Navy nurse corps. During both world wars, however, the various branches of the military recruited women for non-combat service.

This didn’t keep servicewomen safe during wartime. In World War II, over 540 women died while on duty. Though most of those deaths were from accidents and illness, at least 16 of them were the result of enemy actions.

Twenty-four-year old 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth was one of six nurses killed during the battle of Anzio.

(Ainsworth, on duty in Italy, is second from right.)

A member of the Army Nurse Corps working with the 56th Evacuation Hospital, Ainsworth was in Anzio, on the west coast of Italy, in early 1944. The Allies were still trying to wrest the country from the Germans, who put up bitter resistance.

On February 10, 1944, Ainsworth was working in a tent hospital on one of the beachheads the Allies had established. German plans bombed and strafed the area. Disregarding her own safety, Ainsworth stayed with her patients. A piece of shrapnel hit her in the chest, and she died six days later. For her bravery, Ainsworth posthumously received the Silver Star. She is buried in Italy.

2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth is one of many servicewomen who deserve to be remembered and honored on Memorial Day.

[This post originally went up for Memorial Day 2016.]

 

Advertisements

Getting Ready for Memorial Day

From the blog’s archives from last year:

We’re on the downside of May. This is always my favorite, favorite time of year. It marks my wedding anniversary. It means the end of another academic year. It means warm weather and the promise of even warmer, sunnier days–so welcome after the long Wisconsin winter.

Memorial Day kicks off summer. It’s an odd marker. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day to honor those who died during the Civil War, is about remembering members of the military who died in service to their country. It became a federal holiday in 1971, and its observance was moved to the last Monday of May.

The women I wrote about in Angels of the Underground were not in the military. They didn’t die during World War II; they didn’t make the ultimate sacrifice. Horrified by the number of Americans and Filipinos who died during the battles of Bataan and Corregidor, who perished along the Death March, and succumbed to diseases in POW camps, they did whatever they could to minimize additional loss of life.

On this Memorial Day, remember those men.

Honoring Servicewomen on Memorial Day, Part II

Nursing was a dangerous occupation for female service members during World War II. Six army nurses, including 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth, died in February 1944 when the Germans attacked an Allied beachhead at Anzio, in Italy.

Lt. Aleda Lutz, originally from Freeland, Michigan, was also involved with the battle of Anzio. An ANC general duty nurse assigned to the 802nd Medical Air Evacuation Transportation Squadron, she took care of the wounded soldiers as they were airlifted away from the war zone. The Germans shot at her, too, but she survived.

Lutz had evacuated the wounded from various areas of the European theater, as well as Africa, ultimately logging 814 hours in the air, perhaps more than any other member of the Army Nurse Corps during World War II.

On November 1, 1944, Lutz embarked on her 196th mission. She accompanied 15 wounded soldiers (some American, some German POWs) from Lyon, France to a hospital in Italy. During a storm, the plane crashed into a mountainside. There were no survivors.

Aleda Lutz was 28 when she died.She had been an army nurse for 3 years. Lutz was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1950, the Aleda E. Lutz Veterans Affairs Medical Center was dedicated in Saginaw, Michigan. Lutz is one of the servicewomen who deserves to be remembered on Memorial Day.

 

Honoring Servicewomen on Memorial Day

American women became a permanent part of the U.S. military in 1948 when President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. Prior to that, when the country was not at war, women could only serve in the Army or Navy nurse corps. During both world wars, however, the various branches of the military recruited women for non-combat service.

This didn’t keep servicewomen safe during wartime. In World War II, over 540 women died while on duty. Though most of those deaths were from accidents and illness, at least 16 of them were the result of enemy actions.

Twenty-four-year old 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth was one of six nurses killed during the battle of Anzio.

(Ainsworth, on duty in Italy, is second from right.)

A member of the Army Nurse Corps working with the 56th Evacuation Hospital, Ainsworth was in Anzio, on the west coast of Italy, in early 1944. The Allies were still trying to wrest the country from the Germans, who put up bitter resistance.

On February 10, 1944, Ainsworth was working in a tent hospital on one of the beachheads the Allies had established. German plans bombed and strafed the area. Disregarding her own safety, Ainsworth stayed with her patients. A piece of shrapnel hit her in the chest, and she died six days later. For her bravery, Ainsworth posthumously received the Silver Star. She is buried in Italy.

2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth is one of many servicewomen who deserve to be remembered and honored on Memorial Day.

 

Getting Ready for Memorial Day

We’re on the downside of May. This is always my favorite, favorite time of year. It marks my wedding anniversary. It means the end of another academic year. It means warm weather and the promise of even warmer, sunnier days–so welcome after the long Wisconsin winter.

Memorial Day kicks off summer. It’s an odd marker. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day to honor those who died during the Civil War, is about remembering members of the military who died in service to their country. It became a federal holiday in 1971, and its observance was moved to the last Monday of May.

The women I wrote about in Angels of the Underground were not in the military. They didn’t die during World War II; they didn’t make the ultimate sacrifice. Horrified by the number of Americans and Filipinos who died during the battles of Bataan and Corregidor, who perished along the Death March, and succumbed to diseases in POW camps, they did whatever they could to minimize additional loss of life.

On this Memorial Day, remember those men.