And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II
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In World War II, 59,000 women voluntarily risked their lives for their country as U.S. Army nurses. When the war began, some of them had so little idea of what to expect that they packed party dresses; but the reality of service quickly caught up with them, whether they waded through the water in the historic landings on North African and Normandy beaches, or worked around the clock in hospital tents on the Italian front as bombs fell all around them.
For more than half a century these women’s experiences remained untold, almost without reference in books, historical societies, or military archives. After years of reasearch and hundreds of hours of interviews, Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee have created a dramatic narrative that at last brings to light the critical role that women played throughout the war. From the North African and Italian Campaigns to the Liberation of France and the Conquest of Germany, U.S. Army nurses rose to the demands of war on the frontlines with grit, humor, and great heroism. A long overdue work of history, And If I Perish is also a powerful tribute to these women and their inspiring legacy.
into the bank of the Mussolini Canal for the night, with orders to engage the enemy at first light. Private Berchard Lamar Glant, a native of Hammond, Indiana, who had celebrated his twenty-second birthday twelve days earlier, settled into his foxhole for the night. “Junior,” as Berchard was known to his friends in the company, stood five feet four inches tall, weighed 122 pounds, and had an easygoing and cheery disposition. Pvt. Berchard L. Glant (Courtesy of Berchard L. Glant) Junior was
by patients and hospital personnel alike. All throughout February and on through March and April, the hospital area would be continuously shelled and bombed; the wounded would be rewounded, and many doctors, nurses, corpsmen, technicians, and other hospital personnel would be wounded or lose their lives. No other hospitals in World War II took more bombings and shellings, or suffered as many injuries and deaths within their staffs of doctors, nurses, and enlisted men, as well as re-injuries of
stopped, the rocket fell to the ground and exploded. The V-2 rockets, on the other hand, made no sound at all, but they were more frightening to onlookers because they appeared suddenly without a sound in the sky, stopped their forward motion, then fell steeply to the earth and exploded. Hitler had ordered that V-1 and V-2 rockets be targeted at civilian areas—large cities, towns, and villages—in order to strike fear into people’s hearts and break their morale. Naturally, if military personnel
Miernicke asked the concierge for the name of a good French restaurant patronized mainly by French people who lived in the area. She was delighted with the food and a chanteuse who played the piano and sang. “I met a wonderful French couple who had the table next to mine,” Miernicke said. “The man was a champagne dealer and spoke perfect English. It was a very enjoyable evening.” 50 On their last day, the four nurses and their dates went on a sight-seeing tour around the city. “We visited the
the officers would customarily gather outside the hotel dining-room doors fifteen minutes before they opened. Each time, Ruth was the only female in a crowd of male officers. One evening, she was waiting outside the dining room as usual when General Mark Clark walked up, introduced himself to her, and asked why there were no other nurses at the hotel. “That’s what I’d like to know,” Ruthie answered. General Clark turned to his aide, a full colonel, and told him to make sure that from then on,