Laboratory, Chaplain, Dietetic, and Physical Therapy Officers of the 32nd Station Hospital

This article covers 32nd Station Hospital officers from a variety of sections not otherwise covered in the articles about administrative personnel, doctors, dentists, or nurses.  Names are listed alphabetically within each section.


Laboratory Service

Adam Ruiz Resendez, O-490904 (April 9, 1910 – March 4, 1969)

Resendez
Captain Lowell E. Vinsant (left), 1st Lieutenant Adam R. Resendez (center), and Lieutenant Colonel George F. Evans (right) in a detail from a photo taken at a 1945 party in the 32nd Station Hospital officers’ club in Caserta, Italy (Robert Silverman Collection)

Resendez was born in Texas, the son of Cleto and Mary Resendez.  He was living in San Antonio as of the 1910 and 1920 censuses.  Resendez was already in the military by 1940 when the census lists him as living in San Antonio, Texas with an occupation of “Laboratory Tech” for the U.S. Army.  Resendez married Lillian Cotter (1913–1975) on August 30, 1938.  They had two sons.

1st Lieutenant Resendez joined the 32nd Station Hospital on November 28, 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He appeared on all three rosters (December 31, 1943, May 1, 1944, and December 31, 1944) as the sole officer in the Laboratory Service with the position of Laboratory Officer.  He transferred to the 64th General Hospital in April 1945.

After the war, Resendez served in the U.S. Air Force, leaving the military with a rank of captain.  As of 1960 he was working at Lackland Air Force Base.  He died in Texas, aged 58.  Captain Resendez is buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.


Chaplains

Darius O. Blaisdell, O-471111 (almost certainly June 6, 1902 – July 21, 1985)

Chaplain Blaisdell
Chaplain Blaisdell (Courtesy of the Yonker Family)

Chaplain Blaisdell joined the 32nd Station Hospital on April 4, 1944, replacing Chaplain John B. Shearer.  Chaplain Blaisdell appears on the May 1, 1944 and December 31, 1944 rosters with a rank of captain and the title of Protestant Chaplain.  He was transferred to the 300th General Hospital on March 12, 1945.  Chaplain Blaisdell’s name was on a manifest for a ship arriving in New York from Naples on May 20, 1945.  The manifest listed him with an address in Corpus Christi, Texas.  An article in the November 11, 1947 issue of The Corpus Christi Times (Corpus Christi, Texas), “Assignment Of Officers Announced,” mentions Captain Blaisdell as being  assigned to the 476th Composite Group, Organized Reserve Corps.

It’s almost certain that the Chaplain Darius O. Blaisdell who was a member of the 32nd Station Hospital was a Baptist minister.  On the 1930 census, a Darius O. Blaisdell from Texas was listed as working as a janitor in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (presumably during his schooling).  On the 1940 census, he is listed as a Baptist minister back in Texas.  Other documents give his middle name as Othniel.  According to his Department of Veterans Affairs file, he joined the U.S. Army on May 27, 1942 and left active duty on February 25, 1946.  He was married to Lillie Mae Blaisdell (1901–1986), with whom he had three sons.  Later, he was married to Violet Katherine Frazier (1911–1977) and after her death, Freda Kaler Flood (1908–1979).  He died in Texas, aged 83.


Fabian P. Flynn (Philip Flynn), O-501418 (June 21, 1905 – January 28, 1973)

Flynn
Chaplain Flynn near Aachen, Germany, over a year after leaving the 32nd Station Hospital (Courtesy of Dr. Sean Brennan)

Chaplain Flynn was born Philip Flynn in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.  He later changed his name to Fabian upon entering the Passionist order and he was ordained as a priest in 1931.  Flynn’s service with the 32nd Station Hospital, though brief, is well documented due to research by his biographer, Dr. Sean Brennan, author of The Priest Who Put Europe Back Together: The Life of Father Fabian Flynn, CP.

Chaplain Flynn was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a 1st lieutenant on October 21, 1942.  After the completion of his training on November 28, Chaplain Flynn served in the 120th Station Hospital at Camp Barkeley, Texas, but in March 1943 he volunteered for service overseas.

Remarkably, Chaplain Flynn’s Monthly Report of Chaplains for April and May 1943 survived the 1973 fire which destroyed most of the U.S. Army’s World War II personnel records.  Dr. Brennan recently shared these documents with me.  Chaplain Flynn apparently joined the 32nd Station Hospital in April.

The-Weekly-Diagnosis-1-May-1943-Pg1Small
May 1, 1943 issue of The Weekly Diagnosis announced the arrival of Chaplain Flynn.  It also had an excerpt of a letter from Chaplain William V. O’Connor, who had recently left the unit (temporarily, as it turned out).  Click here for larger view.  (Courtesy of the Feeney Family)

Chaplain Flynn’s April 1943 report mentions he “Conducted Good Friday services at 1st [Replacement Depot]” and “Said Mass for various Units in MBS while awaiting permanent station.”  (Good Friday would have been April 23 that year, and M.B.S. stands for Mediterranean Base Section.)  1st Lieutenant Flynn joined the 32nd Station Hospital on April 26, 1943.  A V-mail by Alice Griffin to her family dated April 27, 1943 mentioned him in detail:

We got a new chaplain last night- – a Father Flynn from Dorchester, although he has been out of the state for years.  Last six months before army he was at the senacle [sic] in Brighton.  Originally from St. Peters– his mother died two months ago there and now he just has an aunt in Cambridge.  I’ll let you know what her name is in my next letter.  He seems very nice and I hope we keep him.

The May 1, 1943 issue of the 32nd Station Hospital newspaper, known at the time as The Weekly Diagnosis, welcomed Chaplain Flynn to the unit and included some of his remarks.

On May 15, 1943, Chaplain Flynn baptized William Oscar Larson (1921–2001, who was an enlisted man in the 32nd Station Hospital).  During May, Chaplain Flynn recorded that he conducted 29 masses, 77 hospital visits, and participated in Memorial Day and Joan of Arc Day celebrations.  Regarding Memorial Day activities on May 30, Flynn wrote in his monthly report that it:

Consisted of Parade of detachment, local MP’s, men from hospital who are ambulant and others in motor vehicles together with nurses and officers.  This was followed by Military Mass in local Church.  Much enthusiasm evinced by participants and had deep effect on native population.  Had band play Marsailles [sic] before Star Spangled Banner at conclusion.

Chaplain Flynn’s career after leaving the 32nd Station Hospital was remarkable (perhaps too much so to adequately summarize here).  In June 1943 he joined the 26th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division (apparently exchanging places with Chaplain O’Connor, who previously served with the 32nd and who returned for most of the remainder of the war).  Chaplain Flynn participated in the invasion of Sicily.  He was wounded by a grenade on Sicily in July 1943.  Chaplain Flynn recovered from his wounds to storm Omaha Beach with his unit on June 6, 1944, where he administered last rites to fallen soldiers while under fire.  After the war ended, he served at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.  His decorations included the Silver Star, Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, and the Purple Heart.

After leaving the military in 1946, Father Flynn directed relief efforts in Germany, Hungary, and Austria as a member of the War Relief Services (later known as Catholic Relief Services from 1955 onward).  He retired in 1972 and died the following year in Hoboken, New Jersey, aged 67.


William V. O’Connor (almost certainly William Vincent O’Connor), O-470963 (almost certainly June 21, 1900 – January 22, 1981)

Father-OConnor-Jan-13-1945
Chaplain O’Connor in a detail from a group photo at the 32nd Station Hospital’s party celebrating two years overseas, January 13, 1945 (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

1st Lieutenant O’Connor joined the 32nd Station Hospital at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on January 12, 1943.  On January 13, 1943, in preparation for the unit’s departure from the New York Port of Embarkation, he was assigned to Detachment No. 609 (accompanying 1st Lieutenant Weiner and 2nd Lieutenants Barone, Bean, Bosworth, and Brady on an unknown ship in convoy U.G.F.-4 other than U.S.S. Ancon, which carried the main body).  He arrived at Mers-el-Kébir, Algeria on January 26, 1943.  The following day, he disembarked and entered staging with the rest of the unit at Bouisseville, Algeria.  He traveled with the rest of the unit to Tlemcen, Algeria on February 18, 1943 to begin operations.  He was transferred to the II Corps on March 15, 1943 per a letter, Headquarters Mediterranean Base Section (dated March 12 or 13, 1943).   Chaplain O’Connor was assigned to the 26th Infantry Regiment.  He was succeeded by Chaplain Fabian Flynn.  However, a letter dated June 11, 1943 from Lieutenant Colonel Gayland L. Hagelshaw to his wife indicated that Chaplain Flynn had transferred out and Chaplain O’Connor had returned:

Have a new catholic chaplain, the other one joined a field organization.  The new one was here once before, and left for field duty, but was to[o] old to stand the rigors of that [life.]”

Indeed, McNelly wrote in his manuscript that the Catholic chaplain had departed sometime in the spring for the front, but later:

We were happy with the news that our Chaplain was returning.  We certainly had not expected to ever see him again.  He said like the gang of new patients, that things were not going too well in the present campaign.  In most places, he said the fellows were told it would be the last hill and then always another.

Needles-OConnor
Chaplain O’Connor in Algeria (Courtesy of the Needles Family)

Chaplain O’Connor was promoted to captain as of January 17, 1944.  Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript may well describe Chaplain O’Connor, who was the unit’s longest serving Catholic chaplain:

One of the better chaplains, a Jesuit, was writing letters home to tell the folks of their soldier’s brave and last moments.  Many times he had to sort out the things that were embarrassing and he felt should not go with his possessions.

If this passage did indeed refer to O’Connor, McNelly describing him as a Jesuit is most likely inaccurate.  In June 2019, an inquiry to the Jesuit Archives & Research Center in Saint Louis, Missouri revealed that they had no record of any William V. O’Connor from the World War II era being affiliated with the order.

carey wedding
The Carey wedding party at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy on March 29, 1944.  From left to right: Thomas J. Hagerty, Ruby E. Milligan, Ina L. Bean(e) Carey, William A. Carey, Jr., Annie P. Barone, and William V. O’Connor. (Courtesy of the Carey Family)

Chaplain O’Connor presided over numerous weddings during his time in the 32nd Station Hospital, putting his Protestant counterparts to shame.  He also stepped in to manage the 32nd Station Hospital baseball team, the Red Sox, after Captain Irving Weiner was transferred to another unit in August 1944.  A team roster describes him as follows:

He took over when Capt Weiner’s option was recalled by an Ack Ack outfit.  His fine coaching at third base brings plenty of Sox home.  And, he’s right in the middle of every argument…to settle it…you see he’s the Chaplain.

Meet-the-Soxers-Chaplain-Zimet
A drawing by Don Sudlow, featuring Colonel Harold L. Goss (presumed), Chaplain William O’Connor, and Major Ralph Zimet (Courtesy of the Knitter Family)

Chaplain O’Connor was transferred to Headquarters of the Adriatic Base Command in April 1945, but came back to the 32nd Station Hospital to perform at least two weddings and likely at least a third.  A man present in a group photo at the 32nd Station Hospital’s 1962 reunion (seated at back center table) resembles Chaplain O’Connor and is wearing a clerical collar, but the identification is not confirmed.

McNellyWedding
Wedding of T/Sgt. Raymond Plzak and Harriette Ryan, June 1945. The other men listed on the back are “O.R. Sgt. Williamson” and “Catholic Chaplain”.  It appears to be Chaplain O’Connor, but he would have had to have returned temporarily from Adriatic Base Command to officiate; he did so in at least two other cases. (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

Outside the information in 32nd Station Hospital documents, it has been difficult to find any definite information about Chaplain O’Connor. A July 1, 1942 article in the Elmira Star-Gazette (Elmira, New York) stated that “Chaplain William V. O’Connor officiated” a wedding at “St. Mary’s Church, Fort Riley, Kan.”  A September 10, 1942 article in The Morning Chronicle (Manhattan, Kansas) reported that Camp Riley’s “Chaplain William V. O’Connor has gone to Cambridge, Mass., for a month to attend the Chaplains School held at Harvard University.”  An October 5, 1944 article (“Rexburg Officer Marries Nurse in Chapel in Italy”) in The Post-Register (Idaho Falls, Idaho) about the wedding of 32nd Station Hospital nurse Velma A. Drolet to Clarence W. Byrne stated “The Rev. William O’Connor, hospital chaplain, of New York City, officiated.”

Based on that, a likely match appeared on the 1930 census, a William V. O’Connor listed as a 29-year old Catholic priest living in Tottenville, New York.  He was also born in New York state.

Complicating my research efforts was the fact that there was another Chaplain William Vincent O’Connor (originally from Connecticut) who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II; it appears this William Connor stayed in the military and was a colonel by 1972.  A U.S. Army Register states the Connecticut Chaplain O’Connor went on active duty effective August 18, 1943, after the 32nd’s Chaplain O’Connor was already overseas.

An archivist from the Jesuit Archives & Research Center indicated that according to the 1946 Catholic Directory, both men ended up in the Archdiocese of New York after the war!  She also stated that the 1950 Catholic Directory listed one as still being a U.S. Army chaplain and assigned to the Hartford Diocese (presumably the O’Connor from Connecticut), while the other (presumably the 32nd Station Hospital’s) was still at the Archdiocese of New York (Yonkers, specifically).

The 32nd Station Hospital’s Chaplain O’Connor died prior to May 9, 1981, when his name was on a list of 32nd Station Hospital members who had died since the last reunion.

In September 2020, I sought assistance on the search on History Hub, a forum run by the National Archives.  Another researcher, Susannah Brooks, found an obituary and a census record that may finally have brought this mystery to a conclusion.

William Vincent O’Connor was born in New York City, the son of Hugh and Jessica O’Connor.  When he registered for the draft on September 12, 1918, he was a divinity student at St. Joseph’s Seminary & College in New York City.  O’Connor registered for the draft a second time on February 16, 1942.  By then, he was a priest at the Church of St. Michael at 424 West 34th Street in New York City.  He was described as standing 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 155 lbs., with brown hair and eyes.  Perhaps the most vital clue was scrawled in the margin of the 1942 draft card: “5/25/42 Ft. Riley, Kansas.”  That proved he was the Chaplain William V. O’Connor who served at Fort Riley in the summer of 1942, as mentioned in articles in the Elmira Star-Gazette and The Morning Chronicle.  His entry in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. Death File gave his dates of service as May 11, 1942 through July 9, 1946.

After the war, Father O’Connor returned to New York.  A March 22, 1962 article in The Journal News (White Plains, New York) stated that “In July of 1953, Msgr. O’Connor was named administrator of the Church of St. John, Piermont, and served for five months.”  The article stated that subsequently served at the Church of St. Emeric in Manhattan before being transferred to St. Matthew Church in Hastings on Hudson, New York in 1962.

Msgr. O’Connor died on January 22, 1981, aged 80.  His obituary, printed in the Daily News (New York City) on January 24, 1981, stated that he was “Pastor Emeritus St. Matthew’s Church, Hastings on Hudson.”  He was buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.


John Byars Shearer, O-276988 (August 14, 1899 – February 21, 1984)

Rubin-11-probably-Shearer
Chaplain Shearer in a detail from a 1943 photograph presumably taken in Tlemcen, Algeria (Courtesy of the Mann Family)

Chaplain Shearer was born in Mississippi, the son of Edward and Henrietta Shearer.  He served in World War I; his Department of Veterans Affairs file lists his dates of service as June 30, 1917 through September 27, 1919.  On a list of passengers who arrived from Brest, France aboard the U.S.S. Leviathan at Hoboken, New Jersey on September 8, 1919, Private Shearer (service number 1591695) was listed as a member of Company G of the 11th Infantry Regiment (though the top of the page lists the organization as Company H of the Third Army Composite Regiment).  He graduated from Millsaps College (Jackson, Mississippi).  By 1930 he was a minister in New Orleans.

It is unknown when he rejoined the U.S. Army as a chaplain, but 1st Lieutenant John B. Shearer joined the 32nd Station Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia on December 4, 1942.  He accompanied the unit overseas to Tlemcen, Algeria. Chaplain Shearer was promoted to captain sometime during 1943 and was listed as the unit’s Protestant chaplain as of December 31, 1943.  Shearer transferred to Personnel Center No. 6 on March 8, 1944.  He was replaced by Chaplain Darius O. Blaisdell prior to May 1, 1944.

Shearer was mentioned in a May 19, 1943 article in The Shreveport Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), “Chaplain Overseas”:

   CHAPLAIN JOHN B. SHEARER, former member of the Louisiana Methodist conference, is serving with a hospital unit in North Africa.  A veteran of World War I he participated in three major campaigns as an enlisted man is wearer of the Purple Heart and Fourragers [sic].

Shearer married Helen Louise Kearney (1900–1937) on August 14, 1924.  The couple had had two daughters and two sons.  After Helen’s death, he married Glennie Burkhalter (1915–2006) with whom he had another son.  Reverend Shearer died in Ruston, Louisiana, aged 84.


Dietetic Section

Julia Lembkey Brosius (Julia Lembkey Brosius Dobell), R-000602 or R-000802 (July 16, 1920 – December 13, 2012)

2nd Lieutenant Brosius joined the unit in Tlemcen, Algeria on September 21, 1943.  She was listed as the unit dietician (although with her middle initial erroneously listed as “R.”) on a December 31, 1943 roster.  An October 28, 1943 letter from Alice Griffin home mentioned “a new Dietician who came about a month ago” while her November 26 letter stated: “We also have a new dietician and she’s right on the ball” suggesting she arrived that fall.  Was Griffin talking about the same person in both letters?  If both McNelly and Griffin were correct, the unit may have had two (or even three!) dieticians prior to Brosius, their identities unknown thanks to fragmentary records.  Most likely, both letters refer to Brosius as the new dietician.  Based on a newspaper article that came to light in October 2019, Brosius likely replaced Mary Lilla Madden as the unit’s dietician.

Brosius transferred out of the unit sometime after December 31, 1943 but prior to May 1, 1944, when 1st Lieutenant Mary L. Gill was listed as the unit’s dietician.  Puzzlingly, there 32nd Station Hospital’s 1944 monthly reports record 2nd Lieutenant Julia L. Brosius (R-802) as a dietitian assigned on temporary duty from the 36th General Hospital from July through August 1944.  It seems extremely unlikely that there would be two dieticians named Julia Brosius with similar serial numbers both serving in Italy at the same time.  More likely, there was a typo in one of the serial numbers and some sort of liquid consonant confusion (for lack of a better term) with her middle initial on the first roster.

I found records of several women named Julia Brosius.  The most promising match was the Julia L. Brosius born in Michigan circa 1919 to William (a physician) and Julia Brosius.  She grew up in Detroit, Michigan and attended Michigan State University.   I also found a November 15, 1947 article in The Corvallis Gazette-Times (Corvallis, Oregon) about a marriage license being issued “to Joseph Porter Dobell, geologist, of this city, and Julia L. Brosius, student at Oregon State college.”  With that, I was able to find her obituary in The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon).  The obituary confirmed that she was a “military dietitian during WWII”.  The Dobells raised three sons and a daughter in Washington, Michigan, Wyoming, and Oregon.  She died in Bend, Oregon, aged 92.


Mary Lois Gill (Mary L. Wood), R-000005 (June 27, 1907 – August 14, 1985)

Hospital-Dietitian
1st Lieutenant Mary L. Gill in a detail from a group photo from a party commemorating two years overseas held in the 32nd Station Hospital officers’ club in Caserta on January 13, 1945 (Robert Silverman Collection)

When originally published, this article had little information beyond 32nd Station Hospital records, circumstantial evidence of her education in Florida, and her time in Mississippi.  With new information obtained in September 2020, I’ve completely overhauled this article.  Special thanks to Chris Davis, Grace Yuhasz, and Nancy Wood Reeder for their assistance in telling this story at long last.

Mary Lois Gill was born in Fountain Green, Illinois, the daughter of John (a farmer) and Ellen Lois Stacy Gill.  She began college at Knox College, Illinois but transferred to Florida State College, where she graduated in 1931.  Her family had moved to DeLand, Florida by April 1930, when they were recorded on the census.

Gill appeared frequently in newspaper articles while living in Florida.  A March 6, 1934 article in the Tallahassee Daily Democrat reported:

A free nursery school, financed by funds provided by the Federal Education Relief association and the Civil Works administration will soon be established at Florida State College for Women here. […]  Miss Mary Lois Gill of DeLand, who received a B. S. degree in Home Economics in 1931, will be nutritionist.

Mary Lois Gill was recorded on the 1935 Florida census as a 27-year-old dietician living in Duval County, Florida.   A July 21, 1936 article in The Miami Herald reported that “Miss Mary Lois Gill, DeLand, now a dietician at the Duval county hospital, Jacksonville” had been appointed “assistant dietician at the [Florida State College for Women] dining hall”.

A January 15, 1941 article in The Daily Democrat (Tallahassee, Florida) stated that Gill “has accepted the position of chief dietitian at the Touro infirmary of New Orleans” and summarized her career:

Miss Gill is a graduate of Florida state college, having received her bachelor of science degree in home economics in 1931.  She served on the staff here the summer following her graduation and was a student dietitian at the university hospital at Ann Arbor, Mich.  Miss Gill was nutritionist at the nursery school in Tallahassee for eight months in 1934; therapeutic dietitian at Duval county hospital for two years, and had been on the college dietitian staff for the past four and one-half years.  She is a member of the American Dietetic association; Florida Dietetic association, a life member of the state college Alumnae association, and a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority.

According to her entry in the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs B.I.R.L.S. Death File, she went on active duty in the U.S. Army on February 27, 1943.  (Until the spring of 1943, the 32nd Station Hospital’s dietitian was considered a civilian and commissioned retroactively, so it’s unclear if Gill could have also had civilian service affiliated with the U.S. Army.  Although her very low service number would seem to suggest she was in the first group of dietitians to be commissioned, it is unclear whether such service numbers were assigned in any specific order.)

1st Lieutenant Gill transferred to the 32nd Station Hospital from the 78th Station Hospital, arriving on January 15, 1944 (the very same day the 32nd accepted its first patients in Caserta, Italy).  She replaced 2nd Lieutenant Julia Brosius as the unit’s sole dietician.  According to a 1945 32nd Station Hospital report, she earned the Bronze Star sometime that year.  1st Lieutenant Gill left the unit in July 1945.  She left active duty on November 1, 1945.

According to a May 14, 1946 article (“Camp Shelby News Notes”) in the Hattiesburg American (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), she didn’t receive the medal until after she was back stateside:

Col. David Barnett, executive officer at Camp Shelby, and Major James Keither went to Vicksburg recently to award the bronze star to Miss Mary Gill, dietitian at Vicksburg hospital.  Miss Gill served as a first lieutenant in the Army’s medical department and was head dietitian for the 78th Station hospital and later for the 32nd Station hospital.  She won the bronze star for meritorious achievement, based on “initiative and resourcefulness.[”]  Miss Gill entered the service from La Harpe, Illinois.

I also found additional newspaper articles which mention her after the war.  An April 16, 1947 article in the Greenwood Commonwealth (Greenwood, Mississippi) states: “New President of the Mississippi Dietetic Association today is Mary L. Gill, Vicksburg Hospital Dietician, elected to the post at the Organization’s Annual Meeting in Jackson yesterday.”

It’s possible that she remained in the reserves for a period of time.  Her B.I.R.L.S. Death File entry gives another stint of active duty from June 16 1948 through December 20, 1948.  She reached the rank of captain.

Jan-13-1945-Party-Large
The full picture from the January 13, 1945 party. Seated from left to right: Unknown, Joan Taaffe, Morris Weiss, Eleanor O’Leary, Dr. Marlin Carlson, Dr. Robert Silverman, likely Dorothy Racicot, Dr. George Lee, unknown, Mary Gill. The identities of the men standing in the background are unclear but the one on the left is likely Colonel Harold Goss (Robert Silverman Collection)

According to a family tree, she married John N. Wood (1921–1983) on September 17, 1948.  Initially, I was unable to find any record of her after 1948.  In September 2020, I was able to contact her daughter, Nancy Wood Reeder.  She was able to confirm that the tentative identification in the above photo was correct.  Ms. Reeder was able to fill in some of the missing details in the decades that followed:

My mom married my dad, John Noah Wood, in the late 40’s or early 50’s, I believe. He was also military, US Army. At some point they were stationed in Okinawa. My dad served during the Korean War, so perhaps that’s why they were there. In 1960 they were stationed in Verdun, France, which is where I come into the picture. By then my mom was older, unable to have biological children, and ultimately they decided to adopt. They adopted my sister first – a French baby – and four months later (June 1961) they adopted me, a German baby. In 1962/63 they left France for the US. My dad remained in the Army and my mom by then was a civilian, continuing her dietician career. We lived in Denver for a few years, then due to health problems my mom had, we moved to Vicksburg, MS. Several years later we ended up in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

My mother was a Captain when she separated from the Army. She told me she had received the Bronze Star, but there’s no record that I could ever find. I’m so proud of her, who she was and how she raised me to be independent and to stand on my own two feet. I always felt that she was a trailblazer and ahead of her time.

My mom, who was 14 years older than my dad (go Mom) died two years later, in August 1985, while she was visiting me in Anchorage, Alaska. She was 78 years old at the time of her death (heart disease). She is buried at the National Cemetery at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (formerly Fort Richardson). She chose to be buried here rather than in Fort Smith, because I live here and she wanted me to have one of my parents close. Ever the practical, loving parent.  


Mary Lilla Madden (Mary Barkley, Mary Hodgin), R-670 (February 3, 1914 – December 8, 1993)

Madden was born in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the daughter of Walter and Ramona Madden.  She was living in Cincinnati, Ohio as of July 1940 when she returned to Oklahoma for her sister Alice’s wedding.  There is a minor discrepancy regarding when she joined the unit.  Although Principal Chief Nurse Helen W. Brammer’s “Report of Nursing Activities – 1943” stated that the unit’s two physical therapists and its a dietician joined the unit at the same day as the nurses (December 29, 1942), the unit’s morning reports state that they were assigned on January 13, 1943 (the day before the unit went overseas) per Headquarters New York Port of Embarkation.  She was considered to be a civilian when she joined the unit.  However, an April 7, 1943 morning report entry stated that was appointed a 2nd lieutenant in the Army of the United States per Headquarters Mediterranean Base Section, with her effective date of rank backdated to January 1, 1943.

Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript stated:

Almost at first we heard that the dietician was pregnant.  She had been flown over and joined us soon after we came to Tlemcen.  It seems she had told them she was pregnant but they had their orders to send her anyway.  I don’t think she was with us more than three months total.

That passage may refer to Lieutenant Madden.  However, I also believe it possible that, writing decades later, McNelly may have confused the unnamed dietician in his manuscript with nurse Elizabeth Samoska, whose pregnancy was initially disbelieved by the authorities.

An August 19, 1943 article in The Daily Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) stated in part the “Lieut. Mary Madden, Ardmore, is dietitian with a large hospital unit in the Firth army area, north Africa.”  An April 7, 1943 entry in the 32nd Station Hospital’s morning reports stated that she was appointed a 2nd lieutenant in the Army of the United States effective January 1, 1943.  (I believe this is an administrative detail and does not necessary indicate that was the date she joined the U.S. Army.)  An August 4, 1943 entry stated that she was transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 12th General Hospital, effective July 24, 1943.

An October 10, 1943 article (“Mrs. Barkley Guest of Mother, Sister”) published in The Daily Oklahoman stated that “MRS. R. H. BARKLEY, THE FORMER Lieut. Mary Lilla Madden, U. S. A., arrived in Ardmore early this week for a short visit with her mother, Mrs. Ramona B. Madden, and sister, Mrs. Charles A. Hinman.”  The article continued:

   Mrs. Barkley returned to the state early in September after overseas duty with the 32nd station hospital in the Tunisian and Sicilian campaigns.  She will leave Sunday to return to New York City, where she will be connected with Roosevelt hospital as an instructor and special dietitian.

The date given in the article for her departure from the unit is consistent with an October 28, 1943 letter by Alice Griffin which stated that a new dietician had transferred into the unit about one month before.

The article provided this summary of her career: “Mrs. Barkley was graduated from Oklahoma A. and M. college, Stillwater, and was head dietitian in the Baptist hospital, Louisville, Ky., before she entered army duty.”

She apparently married a second time to Jean C. Hodgin (1915–2001) on March 15, 1954 in Cook County, Chicago.  According to a family tree posted on Ancestry.com, she had daughters with both of her husbands.  I have been unable to learn anything more about her.


Physical Therapy Section

Lila Scott Fruechtel (Lila Scott), M-000658 (February 2, 1907 – October 22, 1981)

McNellyFruechtel
1st Lieutenant Fruechtel is at right.  The other woman is unidentified. (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

There is a minor discrepancy about when Lila Scott Fruechtel joined the unit.  Although Principal Chief Nurse Helen W. Brammer’s “Report of Nursing Activities – 1943” stated that the unit’s two physical therapists and its a dietician joined the unit at the same day as the nurses (December 29, 1942), the unit’s morning reports state that they were assigned on January 13, 1943 (the day before the unit went overseas) per Headquarters New York Port of Embarkation.  She was considered to be a civilian when she was initially assigned.  An April 7, 1943 morning report entry stated that was appointed a 2nd lieutenant in the Army of the United States per Headquarters Mediterranean Base Section, with an effective date of rank of April 1, 1943.

She had been promoted to 1st lieutenant by December 31, 1943, when she appeared on a roster as one of two physical therapists assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital.  Dwight McNelly described her as “My first P.T. Boss” on the back of one of his photos.  She transferred to the 225th Station Hospital on March 14, 1944, exchanging places with 2nd Lt. Mildred E. Truitt, who joined the unit the following day.

Dwight McNelly spent most of his time in the 32nd Station Hospital as a P.T. technician.  His unpublished manuscript mentioned:

Within a few weeks of our opening, I was assigned to work in the Physio-Therapy clinic.  I had an officer, a woman therapist that came from Maine.  She was a tall lady and very nice to work with.  Together we held down the clinic.  She instructed me in massage and exercise, technique, plus general treatment of mending broken bones.  Besides exercise wheels and pulleys, we had Sitz bath and whirlpool equipment.  We soon had five tables and infra-red lamps, plus one standing ultra-violet ray lamp.  Bakers: which held 60 watt light bulbs finished out our available equipment.

(Three minor typos corrected for clarity.)  Although the manuscript didn’t name her, given the caption on his photo and the fact that 1st Lieutenant Fruechtel does seem taller than anyone else in McNelly’s photographs, it seems likely that the passage refers to her rather than 2nd Lieutenant Wenhart, who was also in the unit.

McNelly-Unk-Nurse-and-Fruechtel
Dated March 1944 and taken at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy, 1st Lieutenant Fruechtel is at right. McNelly only identified the woman on the left as “First nurse I worked for in N.A.” (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

Initially, all I found at all for Fruechtel was a directory that listed her as working as a physiotherapist at Wyandotte General Hospital in Michigan in 1941.  Looking at the back of one of McNelly’s photographs, it looked like he had written “Mrs. Fruechtel”.  This was unusual, since most women in the unit were unmarried.  Returning to Ancestry.com with that in mind, I found a family tree for a Lila Scott who was born to John (who had immigrated from Canada) and Jessie Scott in Paris, Maine.  As of 1920 she was living with her family in Hartford, Connecticut.  By 1930 she was working in the physical therapy at a U.S. Army hospital in Sable, Colorado, presumably Fitzsimons Army Hospital.

She applied for a marriage license with Albert G. Fruechtel (1889– 1961) in Ohio on June 17, 1939.  The couple lived in Michigan, at least until the war.  Her Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs records are under her maiden name, so it’s unclear if the marriage lasted.  Her dates of active service were listed as April 1, 1943 through February 9, 1945.  She died in Everett, Washington, aged 74.


Mildred Esther Truitt, M-000777 (October 6, 1916 – March 16, 1999)

NIH-National-Library-of-Medicine-Truitt
Mildred Truitt at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy, probably in November or December 1944. Identification provided by Willard Havemeier. (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Truitt was born in Iowa to Lloyd D. (an oil field superintendent) and Ethel Truitt.  The family moved to Oklahoma by 1920.  She was living in Helena, Oklahoma when she joined the U.S. Army.  An April 20, 1943 article in The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), “Miss Truitt Is Hospital Aid” states that:

After completing her training at Walter Reed hospital early this year, Miss Truitt was assigned to the station hospital at Camp Harahan, New Orleans.

Upon completion of her probationary service of six months, in July, Miss Truitt will be commissioned a second lieutenant in the army and probably will be sent abroad to assist in rehabilitation of wounded service men.

Miss Truitt is a graduate of Northwestern State college, Alva, and has done graduate work at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.  She was for four years physical education instructor at Lorsdburg, N. M. high-school.

McNellyandTruitt
Dwight McNelly and 2nd Lieutenant Mildred Truitt outside the Physio-Therapy building in Caserta. Dated June 1944, text on the back reads “Miss Truitt and staff Ha – Really good – Crew -” (Dwight McNelly and Dorothy Eggers Collection. Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library)

2nd Lieutenant Truitt joined the 32nd Station Hospital from the 225th Station Hospital on March 15, 1944, exchanging places with Lila S. Fruechtel.  Truitt was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of February 7, 1945.  She left the U.S. Army with a rank of captain.  A September 29, 1946 photo in The Daily Oklahoman refers to Chief Physical Therapist Mildred Truitt operating a machine at a “temporary veterans hospital at Will Rogers field”.  An August 30, 1947 article in the same paper states Truitt had departed to earn her master’s degree in physical therapy at New York University.  After her return, she continued working as a physical therapist in Oklahoma City.

Truitt-Dancing
2nd Lieutenant Truitt (left) dancing with an unidentified captain from another unit at the 32nd Station Hospital’s Christmas dance in 1944 (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

A November 27, 1975 article in The Daily Oklahoman stated that Truitt was teaching Encore exercise classes to breast cancer survivors at the Y.W.C.A. in Ione.  Even after retiring as a physical therapist, she continued teaching Encore classes.  It’s unclear just how long she taught the classes in total, but it was at least ten years (based on another article in The Daily Oklahoman on October 20, 1985).  For her work at the Y.W.C.A., she was named the 1989 Volunteer of the Year “by the volunteer action committee of the Community Council of Central Oklahoma” according to a May 18, 1990 article in The Daily Oklahoman.

Captain Truitt died in Oklahoma, aged 82.  She is buried at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Enid, Oklahoma.


Elizabeth S. Wenhart, M-000659 (dates of birth and death unknown)

There is a minor discprency about when Wenhart joined the unit.  Although Principal Chief Nurse Helen W. Brammer’s “Report of Nursing Activities – 1943” stated that the unit’s two physical therapists and its a dietician joined the unit at the same day as the nurses (December 29, 1942), the unit’s morning reports state that they were assigned on January 13, 1943 (the day before the unit went overseas), per Headquarters New York Port of Embarkation.  She was considered to be a civilian at the time she joined the unit.  2nd Lieutenant Wenhart appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster as one of two physical therapists assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital.  An April 7, 1943 morning report entry stated that was appointed a 2nd lieutenant in the Army of the United States per Headquarters Mediterranean Base Section, with an effective date of rank of April 1, 1943.  She evidentially transferred out of the unit prior to May 1, 1944, when 2nd Lieutenant Mildred E. Truitt was listed as the sole officer in the section.

The only potential match I came across during my research was an Elizabeth Wenhart born in Ohio.  She apparently grew up in Akron.  A June 7, 1935 article in The Canton Repository stated that the night before she “graduated from Massillon City hospital school of nursing”.  By the 1940 census she was a nurse living in New York City.  The census indicated she was living in Massillon, Ohio as of 1935.  A September 11, 1942 story in The Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) states that five nurses who had graduated from nursing school at Massillon City Hospital including Elizabeth Wenhart were already serving on active duty in the military.

However, nothing in these limited sources of information identifies this woman as a physical therapist rather than a nurse, though conceivably she could be both; for instance, the 32nd Station Hospital’s Catherine H. Houlihan was listed as both nurse and x-ray technician during her civilian career.

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Last updated October 1, 2020

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