Nurses of the 32nd Station Hospital: Part III (Last Names N–S)

This article is the tenth in a series of biographies about members of the 32nd Station Hospital (and the third of four about the unit’s nurses).

This list of nurses does not include anyone who was assigned just on temporary duty.  Nurses who transferred into the unit at the very end of the war (from March 1945 onward, when many longstanding members of the unit were rotated home and replaced with new personnel in anticipation of a transfer to the Pacific Theatre) are also omitted.

 

Jane Galt Neely (Jane Neely Bryan, Jane Neely Nelson, Jane Neely Freeman), N-762222 (July 13, 1921 – October 29, 2001)

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Jane G. Neely in a detail from a group photograph at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy. Identification provided by Willard Havemeier. (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Jane Neely was born in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Donald and Anna Neely.  According to her Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for World War II Compensation, she entered the U.S. Army on April 15, 1944 and went overseas on October 13, 1944.  2nd Lieutenant Neely joined the 32nd Station Hospital via the 7th Replacement Depot in November 1944.  She was listed as a general duty nurse on the December 31, 1944 roster.

Neely-Letter-Crop
Jane Neely writing a letter in a detail from a photo from the collection of Annie P. Barone (Courtesy of the Hagerty Family)

A December 28, 1945 article (“County Girl Weds in Italy”) in The Gettysburg Times reported after leaving the 32nd Station Hospital, she transferred to the 61st Station Hospital in Livorno, Italy as a general duty nurse.  At some point prior to the publication of the article, she married 1st Lieutenant F. Lee Bryan, Jr. in the 61st’s chapel.  The Bryans honeymooned in Switzerland.  Her foreign service ended on December 25, 1945 and she left the army on February 12, 1946.

By 1950 she was living in Washington D.C.  She had at least two sons.  Her Social Security Administration record indicates several name changes; an Ancestry.com family tree provides the name of her last husband as Jiles Edward Freeman, Jr. (1924–2002).  She is buried in the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

 

Eleanor Madeline O’Leary (Eleanor Madeline Klimbal), N-721762 (November 9, 1917 – July 12, 2011)

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Eleanor O’Leary at the 32nd Station Hospital Compound in Caserta in 1944 or 1945 (Courtesy of the Klimbal Family)

Eleanor O’Leary was born in Manchester, New Hampshire to Edward (a shoe store owner) and Marybelle (a school teacher) O’Leary.  On December 28, 1938, she received a letter at Hillsboro County Hospital informing her that she had passed her nursing exam.  As of January 1946, she was listed as being five feet (152 cm) tall and weighing 103 lbs. (46.7 kg) with brown hair and eyes.

According to her service record, 2nd Lieutenant O’Leary went on active duty on October 1, 1942.  2nd Lieutenant O’Leary was one of 25 nurses working at Lovell General Hospital at Fort Devens, Massachusetts who was reassigned to the 32nd Station Hospital in November 1942.  She was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster as Ward Nurse, Orthopedic Ward and as a general duty nurse on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.

2nd Lieutenant O’Leary attended the 32nd Station Hospital’s two years overseas party on January 13, 1945 at the officers club in Caserta.  She was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of February 27, 1945.  According to the 32nd Station Hospital’s April 1945 report, she left the unit for rotation back to the United States; her military records state she left Europe on May 11, 1945, arriving in the United States on the 20th.  She left active duty on January 16, 1946 at Camp Blanding, Florida.

Jan-13-1945-Party-Large
Group photo from a party on January 13, 1945 at the 32nd Station Hospital officers’ club. Seated, going clockwise from the left: Unknown, probably Joan Taaffe, Morris Weiss, Eleanor O’Leary, unknown, Dr. Robert Silverman, unknown, Dr. George Lee (partially blocked), unknown, unknown dietitian (possibly 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)

She married another officer, Raymond Martin Klimbal, on June 2, 1945 in Manchester, New Hampshire.  (According to their daughter, they’d met during the war and married immediately after returning to the United States.  She also reported that Eleanor initially planned to stay in the army, but left to avoid being stationed separately from her husband.)  The couple raised two sons and two daughters.  In their later years, the Klimbals lived in Melbourne, Florida in the same development as Virginia Donehue (Kranyak).  The Klimbals are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

Rose Elizabeth Orban (Rose Elizabeth Firtos, Rose Orban Schneck), N-723371 (possibly March 10, 1917 – ?)

2nd Lieutenant Orban was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster as Head Nurse, Surgical Ward.  She was listed as general duty nurse on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.  She was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of August 7, 1944.  In April 1945 she was transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 300th General Hospital.

Orban married Lieutenant Michael Firtos from Madison, Illinois on August 30, 1944 at the 32nd Station Hospital’s chapel.  Colonel Goss gave away the bride and Chaplain William V. O’Connor officiated.  A July 12, 1944 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch listed a 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Firtos, Jr. from Madison (described as a “member of a tank destroyer battalion”) being wounded in Italy (in June 1944, according to another article the same day printed in the St. Louis Star-Times).  Based on that, presumably the couple met while Firtos was a patient at the 32nd Station Hospital.  This likely matches a record of a Mike J. Firtos (1918–1998) from Madison, Illinois.  An article in the Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) printed on October 27, 1945 indicates that the couple subsequently divorced.

A possible match for Rose Orban was the daughter of immigrants from Hungry, John and Elizabeth Orban, born March 10, 1917 and christened in Jersey City, New Jersey.  The 1940 census recorded a Rose E. Orban living in New York City, who was a 23-year old student nurse (at Lenox Hill Hospital & Training School) originally from New Jersey.  Ancestry.com also includes a record of a Rose E. Orban marrying Martin Schneck (1915–1971) in New York City on January 8, 1949; that last name matches two postwar 32nd Station Hospital survivor lists.  The couple raised one son.

She was listed as living in Paramus on 32nd Station Hospital survivors’ lists from 1981 and 1994.  She was apparently still alive as of 2012 when she was listed as a survivor in an obituary.  I was unable to find a record of death for her, though she would be 102 (at the time of this writing).  A letter mailed to her last known address received no response.

 

Edith S. Osburn, N-731813 (probably August 19, 1898 – March 11, 1981)

2nd Lieutenant Osburn appeared on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters as a general duty nurse.  Although I wasn’t able to find a record of her promotion in the 32nd Station Hospital’s 1945 monthly reports, she was listed as 1st Lieutenant Osburn when she left the unit in July 1945.  Text on the back of a Dwight McNelly photograph at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library (which I have not been able to examine yet) mentioned that she joined the 32nd Station Hospital from the 16th Evacuation Hospital.

A September 14, 1943 article in the Chicago Daily Tribune, “Chicago Nurses and Physicians Land in Italy” lists an Edith S. Osburn of Wilmington City, Illinois as being one of 18 nurses from the Chicago area that were members of an unidentified evacuation hospital.  Working backward from this article, I found a record of an Edith Osburn living in Wilmington, Illinois who was 22 years old at the time of the 1920 census.  This is a match with the Edith Osburn (1898–1981) in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records who was listed as serving from November 18, 1942 through March 2, 1946.  An Edith S. Osburn was listed as a nurse on various city directories in the Ventura, California area from 1949–1963.  This is consistent with her Social Security Number, which was issued in California.

The Florida Death Index has a record of an Edith Steadman Osburn dying in Hillsborough, Florida, though the date of birth is August 19, 1897 (off one year from the V.A. and S.S.A. records).  The March 12, 1981 issue of The Tampa Tribune has only a brief obituary, stating:

    EDITH STEADMAN OSBURN, 84, of Tampa died Wednesday.  She had lived in Tampa for 14 years and was a registered nurse.  She was a veteran of World War II.  She is survived by one sister, Hazel O. Banta of Tampa.  Snipes-Hamilton Funeral Home.

 

Dorothy E. Racicot (Dorothy DesOrmiers), N-721660 (September 16, 1918 – November 21, 1987)

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Dorothy E. Racicot in a detail from a group photo at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta, Italy. Identification provided by Willard Havemeier. (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Dorothy E. Racicot who was born in Webster, Massachusetts.  A Dorothy Edith Racicot who very much resembles the woman in the photo above appears in a 1936 yearbook from Bartlett High School posted to an Ancestry.com family tree.  The yearbook states: “Dorothy loves to keep pictures of places far away and hopes to travel some day.”  (The look on her face in the photo above suggests that becoming a nurse in a warzone wasn’t exactly what she had in mind when she planned to travel.)

In 1939, she graduated from Worcester City Hospital School of Nursing.  Her Department of Veterans Affairs file (under her married name) listed her as going on active duty on September 1, 1942 and being released on August 1, 1946.

2nd Lieutenant Racicot was one of 25 nurses working at Lovell General Hospital at Fort Devens, Massachusetts who was transferred to the 32nd Station Hospital in November 1942.  As of December 31, 1943 her duty was listed as Ward Nurse, Officers’ Ward.  She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.  In April 1945, 2nd Lieutenant Racicot was transferred to Detachment of Patients, 300th General Hospital.

Her obituary in the Hartford Courant on November 22, 1987 states she:

served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in Algeria and Italy.  She was also a private duty nurse for many years as well as an industrial nurse for the Royal Typewriter Corp., Cushman Chuck Corp., the KAMAN Aircraft Corp. and the State of Connecticut Skill Center.  Mrs. DesOrmiers had also been a school nurse at Platt Technical School, Milford, before her retirement in 1976.

According to a family tree on Ancestry.com, she married her husband, Lawrence DesOrmiers (1904–1976) on July 25, 1949; she moved to East Hartford, Connecticut that same year.  The couple raised two sons.  She died in Branford, Connecticut, aged 69.

 

Stella Agnes Rhodes, N-723475 (August 10, 1907 – June 29, 2002)

Stella Rhodes was born in Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania to Peter and Cecilia Rhodes.  By the 1920 census, her family was living in Sandy Township, Pennsylvania.  She is likely the Stella A. Rhodes from Pennsylvania listed as a student nurse at the Buffalo City Hospital in New York as of the 1930 census.

Her Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs Record of Burial Place of Veteran states she entered the U.S. Army on July 1, 1942.  Although the service number in the burial record matches the 32nd Station Hospital’s records, the document gives her unit as the 300th General Hospital, which was also deployed to North Africa and Italy.  That suggests that she served with that unit either before or after coming to the 32nd Station Hospital.

2nd Lieutenant Rhodes was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster was a duty of Ward Nurse, N.P. Section.  She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.  She was promoted to 1st lieutenant on August 7, 1944.  She left the unit in July 1945, and the U.S. Army on February 16, 1946.

During a nurses’ reunion (probably in 1948) she listed her address as DuBois, Pennsylvania.  Rhodes was also on lists of 32nd Station Hospital survivors dated 1981 and 1994 with an address in Everett, Washington.  Based on this she may be the Stella A. Rhodes who appears on Seattle city directories as a nurse at the Marine Hospital in 1953 and the U.S.P.H.S. Hospital in at least 1954–1958.  She apparently returned to Pennsylvania sometime after 1994, where she died, aged 94.  She is buried in Morningside Cemetery in DuBois, Pennsylvania.

 

Frances Rubin (Frances Mann), N-723539 (October 11, 1917 – February 27, 2001)

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Frances Rubin in a detail from a photograph at the 32nd Station Hospital’s party celebrating two years overseas in Caserta, Italy on January 13, 1945. Identification provided by Ruby Milligan Hills. (Robert Silverman Collection)

Frances Rubin was born in New York City.  According to an entry a relative made about her on Ancestry.com, she graduated from nursing school in 1941 at the Jewish Hospital of Philadelphia.  Her Department of Veterans Affairs record indicates she joined the U.S. Army on July 15, 1942 and left the service on February 21, 1946.  It’s not clear if she was a member of the unit from the very beginning or not, but photographs demonstrate she was a member of the unit no later than September 1943.

Al-Jolson-with-Weiner-Silverman-Rubin-1
Al Jolson (center, wearing tie) at the 32nd Station Hospital in Tlemcen, Algeria in 1943.  At far left is Dr. Irving Weiner, with Dr. Robert Silverman to the left of Jolson.  Rubin is the woman in the dark uniform second from the right.  The other women in the photograph are unidentified at this time.  (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

2nd Lieutenant Rubin appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster with the assignment of Ward Nurse, E.N.T. Section.  Writing decades later, Willard Havemeier recalled that she “was a joy to be around”.  She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.  She was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of April 17, 1945 and left the unit in July 1945.

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Rubin (left) with another nurse (almost certainly Joan Taaffe) after a snowstorm hit Tlemcen, Algeria around Thanksgiving 1943 (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

Rubin married a cantor, David Judah Mann in December 1946.  The couple raised two sons and a daughter.  She lived in Valley Stream, New York prior to her death, aged 83.

 

Ruth F. Russell (Ruth F. Russel, Ruth R. Duffin), N-723107 (Dec 6, 1913 – July 21, 1961)

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Ruth F. Russell at the 32nd Station Hospital officer’s club in a detail from a photo taken in November or December 1944 (Robert Silverman Collection)

Depending on the roster, her name is spelled Russell or Russel.  She was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital on December 31, 1943 when her name appeared on a roster as Ward Nurse, Medical Section with a rank of 2nd lieutenant.  On the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters, she was listed as a general duty nurse.

She was identified on the back of one of my grandfather’s photos, most likely taken in November or December 1944.  A note to my grandmother stated: “Lt. Ruth Russel (who is going home on rotation and will drop in and say hello)”.  A February 1945 report stated that she was rotated back to the United States via the 7th Replacement Depot.  Her name also appeared on a list of unit members compiled in 1982 who had lost contact with the rest of the unit (years, even decades before).  The document listed her last known address as 157 East 72nd Street in New York City.

Given how common her name is, I considered any search for her to be a long shot, but did find one likely match.  A search on Newspapers.com led me to a February 7, 1943 article in The Sunday Times (New Brunswick, New Jersey), “V.N.A. Displays Service Flag For Nurses Enlisted in Army.”  The article states that the Visiting Nurses’ Association was honoring two of its members who were in the armed forces, Doris Havens (the future Doris H. Williams, 1915–1990) and Ruth Russell:

    Miss Russell, a graduate of St. Barnabas Hospital, Newark, enlisted on May 1 [1942].  She had also had previous training in public health nursing, and came originally from Middletown, Conn.  She was married after enlisting to Lieut. Edson Carling Duffin of the U. S. Army.

The same page has a photograph of the couple, but the quality (at least of the reproduction) is not enough to confirm her identity.  A Ruth F. Russell (same middle initial as the 32nd’s) was listed on a 1940 New Brunswick, New Jersey directory as a nurse for the Visiting Nurses’ Association.

Larry-Ruby-Ruth-Russell-Jesse-EM-Engineers-Feb-1945
The caption in Ruby Milligan’s photo album states this picture was taken at “the EM Engineers” in February 1945 after climbing Mt. Vesuvius. From left to right: Larry (probably Erwin Laurance), Ruby Milligan, Ruth R., Jesse ______.  Russell’s four Overseas Service Bars indicate she had spent at least two years serving outside the United States; she must have left the unit soon afterward. (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

The Daily Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey) featured another article on August 3, 1943 mentioning Havens and Russell as both being “at a certain Nurses’ Rest Camp in North Africa” on July 5, 1943.  The unnamed camp is described as featuring “swimming and movies for recreation, all placed in a beautiful setting.”  Vague as the description is, the camp may very well be the nurses’ rest camp at Ain el-Turck, Algeria mentioned in Chief Nurse Brammer’s 1943 nursing report.

A detailed letter from Doris Havens dated September 17, 1944 was printed in the October 5, 1944 issue of the Allentown Messenger (Allentown, New Jersey) under the title “A Letter from Corsica.”  It describes Havens as going sightseeing in Naples on September 10, 1944.  She mentioned, “I had called Ruth Russell  (a former New Brunswick co-worker) and she had planned to meet us.”  Havens continued:

Ruth met us at 5:30 and we had supper at the hotel.  She stayed until 9 p. m.  It was nice to see her again, as I hadn’t seen her since Christmas Eve in Oran.  Of course we talked a mile a minute the whole time.  She expects to go home soon on rotation.  She is getting it early because she’s married and her husband can also get home from the Aleutians.  It will be grand for her and I hope she makes it.

Again, the details in the letter are consistent with this being the same Ruth Russell who was a member of the 32nd Station Hospital.  The 32nd Station Hospital’s nurses were at a villa outside Oran on December 24, 1943.  Also, members of the unit regularly had R&R opportunities in Naples while stationed in Caserta in 1944 and 1945.  There’s also the mention of her being up for rotation soon, just as the text on the back of my grandfather’s photograph does.

Ruth Russell (Duffin) was born in Middletown, Connecticut on December 6, 1913 (as indicated by an immigration document when the Duffins arrived in New York from Germany on May 11, 1948).  According to her obituary in The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), she was the daughter of Earle and May Russell.  On the 1920 census, her middle initial was listed as F., the same as the 32nd’s Ruth Russell.  As of the 1930 census she was living in Middletown with her mother and older brother, John L.

In an earlier version of this article, I wrote that, despite the consistency between the known details of the 32nd Station Hospital’s Ruth F. Russell and the Ruth Russell described in the various newspaper articles, I was only able to describe the match as likely, not confirmed.  That’s because I could initially find no link between the match’s connections (Middletown, Connecticut and New Brunswick, New Jersey) and 32nd’s Russell’s known address of 157 East 72nd Street in New York City.  When I tried one more time in September 2019, I discovered that Russell’s brother was the key to tying everything together.  In a document viewable on Fold3 (albeit behind a paywall), I discovered that when John Lincoln Russell registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he listed as someone who would always know his address a Mrs. Zinn Gould, his aunt.    Gould’s address? “157 E. 72 St. New York”.  (Based on other documents, I believe Gould’s first name was actually Elizabeth, but Zinn was her late husband.  Elizabeth’s maiden name, Sprague, was the same as Ruth’s mother.)

If her first destination back in the United States was indeed New York City, it certainly explained my grandfather’s note that Russell would stop by to visit my grandmother when she rotated home.

As mentioned in The Sunday Times article, she married Edson Carling Duffin (1913–1973) in New Jersey in 1942.  The couple had one son, Edson C. Duffin, Jr., who was born January 28, 1946.  Tragically, he died on October 17, 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland, aged 3.

Beyond this, I’ve found only limited information about Ruth Russell Duffin.  The Duffins lived in California for a period of time, and by 1961, Edson C. Duffin, now a major in the U.S. Army, was stationed in Aberdeen, Maryland.  Ruth died in Union Hospital in Baltimore on July 21, 1961, aged 47.

 

Elizabeth H. Samoska (Elizabeth Helen Eichenbaum), N-721763 (probably February 12, 1914 – February 5, 1999)

2nd Lieutenant Samoska was one of 25 nurses at Fort Devens, Massachussetts assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital in November 1942.  Presumably, she joined the unit the following month, but transferred out of the unit prior to the December 31, 1943 roster.

The most likely match was born in Manchester, New Hampshire.  She was listed on the 1940 census as living in Manchester, New Hampshire and working as a nurse at Exeter Hospital.  A July 29, 1943 article (“Twin Sons Born To Soldier, Wife”) in The Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), states:

Twin boys were born at the Portsmouth hospital last night to Sgt. and Mrs. Irving Eichenbaum of 43 Circuit road, Wentworth Acres.  Mrs. Eichenbaum, the former Lt. Elizabeth H. Samoska, ANC, of Manchester, returned from duty in North Africa in April.

The Eichenbaums married on Long Island in April 1943 according to their divorce record (or December 1942 according to the letter below).  After the initial publication of this article, I received a letter from the collection of Alice Griffin which provided further details.  The letter, from Griffin to her mother, stated:

We heard from Samoska (qts6 [Apparently a reference to Quarters 6, which appears in other letters…I believe this is where Griffin and some other nurses bunked at Fort Devens, Massachusetts before assignment to the 32nd Station Hospital]) you know she was married on her leave in Dec when we all had them & before we left Kil. [Camp Kilmer, New Jersey] she told them she was pregnant, but they told her she was just trying to duck for ser[vice] – so she came along.  She froze – hopped – climbed in & out of trucks – roughed it with all of us – talk about spunk.  So at 5 months they finally made preparations to send her home.  Now she writes that she is going to have twins – they certainly traveled.  She tickled & so is her husband – who is lucky enough to still be in the states.

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Excerpt from a letter dated July 25, 1943 from Alice Griffin to her mother mentioning Samoska’s story (Courtesy of the Feeney Family)

When the couple divorced in 1977, Elizabeth was listed as living in Island Park on Long Island, New York.  She apparently was still living on Long Island at the time of her death, aged 84.

 

Catherine Ellen Sanford (Kathryn Ellen Sanford, Catherine Ellen Shackelford), N-723466 (August 6, 1919 – February 2, 1978)

Sanford
Sanford is on the left in this photo; the other two women are unidentified (Courtesy of the Shackelford Family)

2nd Lieutenant Sanford appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster with an assignment as Night Nurse, Medical Section.  She was listed as Nurse, general duty nurse on the May 1, 1944 roster.  She evidentially transferred out of the unit prior to December 31, 1944.

Researching this nurse on Ancestry.com, I found a record of a Catherine E. Sanford who appeared at least 1938–1941 in Paterson, New Jersey directories as a nurse at Paterson General Hospital.  As of the 1940 census, a 20-year old woman named Catherine Sanford (born in Connecticut and living in Paterson) was listed as an “Affiliating Student Nurse” at the Essex County Hospital (Mental).  Working its special magic, Ancestry.com suggested the woman in this census record was later known as Catherine Ellen Shackelford based on her Social Security Applications and Claims Index record listing her father as Michael F. Sanford and her place of birth as Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Her Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. Death File record gave her dates of active service as April 8, 1942 until April 10, 1949.

Oddly, her burial record is listed as Kathryn Ellen Shackelford, listing her as a captain in the U.S. Army.  Following that, I found a family tree on Ancestry.com that included detailed information about her military career, specifically mentioning that she served with the 32nd Station Hospital from December 1942 until June 1944 before being reassigned to Fort Volk, Louisiana.  She attended training to become a nurse anesthetist at William Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso from January through June 1945, followed by assignments at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Fort Jay, New York, the Philippines, and Korea.  Shortly after her promotion to captain on March 1, 1949, she married William A. Shackelford (1915–1967) and left the U.S. Army the following month.  The couple raised three sons.  She died in Redwood City, California, aged 58.

 

Rachel Hannah Sheridan, N-722877 (September 30, 1918 – November 24, 1943)

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Photo of 2nd Lieutenant Rachel Hannah Sheridan printed in The Plain Speaker (Hazelton, Pennsylvania) on December 16, 1943 (Courtesy of The Hazleton Standard-Speaker)

Rachel Sheridan was born in 1918 in Audenried, Pennsylvania, one of six children raised by Thomas and Hannah Sheridan.  After graduating from McAdoo High School in 1936, she eventually made her way to Wilmington, Delaware.  In 1941 she graduated from nursing school at the Delaware State Hospital.  After joining the U.S. Army on February 5, 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Sheridan served at Camp Upton, New York before she joined the 32nd Station Hospital (almost certainly at Camp Kilmer in December 1942).

Writing over five decades later, Willard Havemeier recalled:

I became friendly with one of the nurses, Rachel Sheridan, a real Irish beauty with a great smile.  We were seeing each other regularly at the dances.  I really liked her a lot.

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Sheridan’s name in a detail from a photo of an American Red Cross nurses’ memorial dedicated in Wilmington, Delaware in 1945 (Courtesy of the Mowbray Family)

Main article: The Mystery of Rachel H. Sheridan, the 3nd Station Hospital’s Lost Nurse

Havemeier and the rest of the 32nd Station Hospital’s personnel were stunned when, the day before Thanksgiving, 2nd Lieutenant Sheridan was killed after the C-47 transport plane she was riding in ditched in the Mediterranean Sea.  Although Sheridan and two other passengers were rescued, she died while being transported to the 29th Station Hospital in Algiers for treatment.  Based on the contradictory accounts which have survived, rumors ran rampant through the hospital in the aftermath of Sheridan’s death, making it unclear exactly how she ended up aboard the ill-fated aircraft.

Sheridan-Record
2nd Lieutenant Sheridan’s personnel fire was destroyed in the infamous 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire in St. Louis; when queried, the N.P.R.C. was only able to provide this “reconstructed” file with limited information. (National Personnel Records Center)

2nd Lieutenant Sheridan is buried in the North African American Cemetery in Tunis, Tunisia.  Sheridan’s mother also placed a memorial at Sky-View Memorial Park in Hometown, Pennsylvania.

 

Anne M. Smith (possibly the same individual as Peggy Anne Smith below), N-755062 (dates of birth and death unknown)

2nd Lieutenant Smith appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster listed with the position of Head Nurse, E.N.T. Ward.  She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.

Although I considered searching for her to be an exercise in absolute futility, I did make a cursory search for her on Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com.  As expected, I found nothing.  For a while, though, I believed it likely that this nurse was the same individual as Peggy Anne Smith.  Though this would have been the research equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack in a field full of haystacks, my bubble was burst when I received a May 9, 1981 document from the collection of Dr. William A. Carey, Jr. and Ina Carey.  The document listed Margaret (Smith) McNally of Auburn, New York as indicating she would attend, while Ann M. Smith [sic] is listed as having died (presumably since the last reunion).

 

Peggy Anne Smith (Anne Margaret Smith, Anne Margaret McNally) service number unknown (possibly January 26, 1921 – February 7, 2004)

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Peggy Anne Smith attended this 32nd Station Hospital nurses’ reunion (which almost certainly took place in 1948); her son identified her as being in the back row, third from the right. (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

Peggy Anne Smith does not appear on any extant 32nd Station Hospital roster.  While researching another 32nd Station Hospital nurse (Rose V. Straley) however, I came across a pair of articles in The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, New York).  A paragraph in an article entitled “Personal Notes” on November 2, 1946 stated:

Miss Rose V. Straley, R.N., is spending a week with a former overseas tentmate in the Army Nurse Corps, Miss Peggy Anne Smith in Auburn.  They will got to Portland, Me., to spend some time as the guest of another tentmate, Mrs. Goldie Abramson.

Although Straley left the 32nd Station Hospital in early 1944 (making it possible she knew Smith from another unit), Goldie Kauffman (Abramson) was also a member of the 32nd Station Hospital, suggesting that the three served together.  Peggy Anne Smith presumably left the unit prior to December 31, 1943.  Another installment of “Personal Notes” in the same paper on November 1, 1948 stated:

Miss Peggy Ann [sic] Smith, R.N., of Auburn has been the house guest the past several days of Miss Rose V. Straley, R.N., of 70 Stephan street.  Miss Smith retuned with Miss Straley last week-end from the reunion of army nurses of the 32nd Station Hospital, which was held in the Dogwood Room of the Blackstone Hotel in New York city.

The son of Ruby Milligan (Hills) sent me the above photo from a nurses’ reunion at the Dogwood Room (which I believe is probably the 1948 reunion), accompanied by a list of signatures from the nurses present; the list included a P.A. Smith of 6 Dexter Ave, Auburn, New York.

At this point, I wasn’t sure whether Anne M. Smith and Peggy Anne Smith were the same individual or not.  I considered the possibility that Peggy’s name was Anne Margaret Smith and inverted her first and middle names by preference (something I’d come across before researching members of the unit.)  Although I did not find any records for a Peggy or Margaret Anne Smith in Auburn, New York, I did find an Anne Smith who was listed on the 1940 census as a 19-year old student nurse at Auburn City Hospital.  With that, Ancestry.com worked its magic, suggesting she was Anne Margaret McNally based on a Social Security Application and Claims Index record that listed her father as Greyson W. Smith and her birthplace as Auburn, New York.

Subsequently, I received a document dated May 9, 1981 with a list of names and addresses about an upcoming reunion.  The document confirmed Margaret Smith’s married name as McNally, as well as (apparently) establishing that she was a different individual than Anne M. Smith.  Could the unit have really had two Anne M. Smiths at the same time?  Her son mentioned that his mother served in both North Africa and Italy, so he thought it likely that the Anne M. Smith (N-755062) was in fact his mother rather than a second individual.  She married Thomas Desmond McNally (1918–1974), probably on September 25, 1949.  They raised at least one daughter and one son.

 

Lena Sottolano, N-723798 (November 10, 1913 – December 12, 1994)

Donkey-riding-enhanced
This photo from the collection of Annie Barone Hagerty was taken on Capri in June 1944. Another similar print from Ruby Milligan Hills’s album is captioned “”Ridin’ the donkies to the base of Monte tiberio”. From left to right: Ruby Milligan, Annie Barone, and Lena Sottolano (Courtesy of the Hagerty Family)

Lena Sottolano was born in Bushkill Township, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Samuel and Palma Sottolano who had immigrated from Italy.  Her birth name might have been Pasqualina, based on the 1920 census.  She graduated from Allentown Hospital Nursing School in 1937.  At the time of the 1940 census, she was working at Bellevue Hospital in New York as a general duty nurse.  Her nickname (at least during the war) was Scotty.

Scotty
Ruby Milligan wrote in her album of this photo taken on Capri in June 1944: “Scotty- And she didn’t get a sunburn!” (Courtesy of the Hills Family

Sottolano’s Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs burial record states she entered the U.S. Army at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on September 15, 1942.  It is unclear when she joined the 32nd Station Hospital.   Her Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for World War II Compensation states that she went overseas on August 21, 1943; the hospital had been operating in Algeria for about six months at that point.  2nd Lieutenant Sottolano was listed as a Ward Nurse, Medical Section as of December 31, 1943.  She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1 and December 31, 1944 rosters.  She was promoted sometime in 1945.  1st Lieutenant Sottolano left the unit in July 1945 and was discharged at Camp Kilmer on April 13, 1946.

Her obituary in The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) states that:

she was a registered nurse at the Lafayette College Health Center before retiring.  Before that, she worked at Allentown State Hospital; Lehigh Valley Hospital, Allentown, and Bellevue Hospital Center, New York City.

She died in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, aged 81.

 

Rose Victoria Straley, N-723106 (October 23, 1920 – August 29, 2012)

32nd-NursesReunion-Detail-Right
Detail from a photo of a nurses reunion at the Dogwood Room in New York City, almost certainly taken in 1948.  Straley’s nephew identified her as standing second from the left.  Standing row from left to right: unknown, Rose V. Straley, unknown, Peggy Anne Smith, likely Lena Sottolano but not confirmed, Alice Griffin (Feeney).  Seated row from left to right: Frances Rubin (Mann), unknown, unknown, Catherine Houlihan, Jane Neely (Bryan), Myra Zink. (Courtesy of the Hills Family)

Rose Straley was born in Weehawken, New Jersey, the daughter of Louis M. Straley, Sr. and Rose Klim Straley.  Her obituary provides an outstanding summary of her career as a nurse and educator, as do numerous articles from The Kingston Daily Freeman (the local paper in Kingston, New York, where she grew up).  Straley graduated from nursing school at Kingston Hospital School of Nursing in 1941.

Straley joined the U.S. Army on April 15, 1942 and served at Pine Camp, New York prior to joining the 32nd Station Hospital, presumably in December 1942.  2nd Lieutenant Straley was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster as Ward Nurse, Surgical Section.

Weiner-Album-Snow-Tlemcen-prob-with-Phyllis-Hansen-at-right-retouched-cropped
Straley’s nephew identified her as the woman on the left, posing with Dr. Irving Weiner (center) and another woman (likely but not definitely Phyllis Hansen, right) in Tlemcen after a snowstorm hit around Thanksgiving 1943. (Courtesy of the Weiner Family)

2nd Lieutenant Straley transferred out of the unit prior to May 1, 1944.  Her obituary states that she served at Anzio.  Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript mentioned that about a week into the Anzio invasion, two nurses were transferred from the 32nd Station Hospital to serve at the beachhead.   (Lieutenant Colonel Harold L. Goss’s January 1, 1944 to May 1, 1944 report also stated: “Three nurses were transferred to field hospitals at their own request.”)  If true, the most likely candidates are Straley, 2nd Lieutenant Mary L. Brady, 2nd Lieutenant Phyllis A. Hansen, and 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth McGaulley.

rose-straley
A photo of Captain Rose V. Straley printed in a newspaper on February 8, 1952 (Courtesy of the The Kingston Daily Freeman)

A March 2, 1961 article (“Army Nurse Subject of Article; Wins Praise for Work) in The Kingston Daily Freeman quotes at length from an article entitled “Education Runs High” printed in an unspecified army newspaper in Munich, Germany (presumably Stars and Stripes), which provided a good summary of her career.  Interestingly, the article didn’t mention the 32nd Station Hospital at all, stating:

Her first assignment overseas was in the Med (Mediterranean) Theatre with the 16th Evac (Evacuation) Hospital.  She left the army after the war in 1946, and returned to school going to NYU for her BS Degree.  After completing school, she returned to the service voluntarily after the outbreak of the Korean War, and later went to the Far East.

The same U.S. Army newspaper article stated that she served in Kyoto, Japan and then

was assigned to 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul, Korea as nursing consultant to the ROK Army.  There she helped set up a training program in their hospitals, teaching them to use our equipment, etc.

The article mentioned that she left active duty in 1955 and “returned to NYU and worked out her Masters Degree.  Later she taught at Brooklyn College in the Nursing Science Department.”  Indeed, Straley’s obituary also stated that: “She also served on the faculty of Brooklyn College, and New York City University.”  A November 20, 1957 article in The Kingston Daily Freeman mentioned that she “has been promoted from captain to major in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps Active Reserve.”

Straley later went back on active duty for a third time; she appeared in the January 1, 1966 U.S. Army Register’s active list under her postwar service number, N2955.  The register indicates she was promoted to lieutenant colonel on October 7, 1965.  An article in The Kingston Daily Freeman on May 13, 1966 (“First Woman Finishes Rugged Special Forces Training Course”) stated that Lieutenant Colonel Straley had finished “training with the Special Service Forces at Camp Ruckner, [sic] Ala.”  The article continued: “Lt. Col. Straley, a member of the Army Nurse Corps, was reportedly the first woman ever assigned to undergo this rugged training with the men who wear the Green Berets.”  It appears that this course was training with the Green Berets rather than a class that would have qualified her to be a member of U.S. Army Special Forces, something that has only recently become possible for women.

According to her obituary, she served in the Vietnam War (including service as “the first Chief Nurse of the 44th Medical Brigade”).  She was promoted to colonel on July 10, 1970.  Her obituary states:

Prior to her retirement in 1974, she served as assistant chief, Army Nurse Corps, Washington D.C. Awards and decoration include legion of Merit with Oak leaf Cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and several campaign ribbons with bronze battle stars.

Colonel Straley’s nephew told me that, although his aunt was extremely career-driven, she passed up an opportunity for promotion to brigadier general and retired in order to take care of her elderly parents.  Colonel Straley was president of the Army Nurse Corps Association from 1980–1982 and eventually settled in Tucson, Arizona prior to her death, aged 91.

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Last updated September 5, 2019

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