This article is the eleventh in a series of biographies about members of the 32nd Station Hospital (and the last 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.
Joan Taaffe, N-N723330 (1906 – October 7, 1999)
Joan Taaffe was born in County Cork, Ireland and emigrated to the United States in 1925. She lived in New York City and worked as a nurse at Bellevue Hospital. She had brown hair and gray eyes.
According to her Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. Death File, her U.S. Army service lasted from August 1, 1942 through February 14, 1946. 2nd Lieutenant Taaffe appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster as Head 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 as of August 7, 1944. She left the 32nd Station Hospital in July 1945 along with many other longstanding members of the unit.
After the war, she lived in New York City, where she died in 1999. Her obituary was published in the Daily News on October 8, 1999. (As a sidebar, the paper’s lead story that day was “The Donald Tells the World: I Want to be the Prez” with Oprah as his running mate.) Her obituary states:
Born in Kanturk County Cork, Ireland. Retired supervisor nurse at Bellevue Hospital with 40 years of service. Former Captain, Army Nurse Corp. 32nd Battalion. [sic] Veteran of service in North Africa and Italy WW II.
Various documents I found on Ancestry.com provide additional information…and contradictions. Taaffe’s Social Security records give her date of birth as July 12, 1906; her Veterans Affairs records give her birthdate as July 13, 1906. Curiously, there are two copies of a Petition for Citizenship on file for the Southern District of New York in which a Joan Taaffe applied for citizenship on October 17, 1932.
One document states that she was born Hanna Ellen Taaffe in Banteer (also in County Cork, Ireland and just about three miles (5 km) down the road from Kanturk), arrived on the R.M.S. Baltic in New York on June 2, 1925, and apparently changed her first name to Joan after arriving in the United States. Her occupation is listed as nurse, but oddly enough, her date of birth is listed as September 13, 1906. The other copy gives a birth name as Hannah and birthplace as just County Cork, with a birthdate of September 12, 1906. Discrepancies notwithstanding, it seems likely that this is the same individual. For that reason, I have given only her birth year above.
Marie Ann Thielemann (Marie Ann Phelan), N-723683 (October 4, 1919 – September 25, 1991)
Marie A. Thielemann was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of William (who worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad) and Anna Thielemann. Her grandparents had immigrated from Germany. Thielemann graduated from nursing school at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington and joined the U.S. Army on August 18, 1942. She was initially stationed at Fort DuPont (along with her friend Dorothy E. Mowray and very likely Mary M. Wood) prior to joining the 32nd Station Hospital.
2nd Lieutenant Thielemann appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster was the assignment of Head Nurse, Surgical Ward. She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1, 1944 roster. 2nd Lieutenant Thielemann was transferred to the 64th General Hospital in Livorno in June 1944. Dorothy E. Mowbray referred to her as Tilly in an article published in the Wilmington Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware) on November 23, 1944. Mowbray reminisced: “I often want to be with them, still living in cold stone buildings or in tents, and hearing Tilly wise-crack about the healthfulness of fresh air, even when half the tent blew down.” (Thielemann’s daughter confirmed that her father called her mother Tilly.) She returned home on terminal leave in November 1945 and technically left the U.S. Army effective February 17, 1946.
Marie told her children that she met her future husband, Captain Harold T. Phelan (a supply officer), when both were sheltering under a table during an air raid on Livorno. The couple married in Wilmington on January 5, 1946 and lived in Trenton, New Jersey. The Phelans had four sons and five daughters, but three of their children died very young. Two of Marie’s daughters also became nurses. She died in Brown Mills, New Jersey, aged 71.
Madeline E. Travis, N-723621 (probably September 22, 1908 – August 23 or 24, 1990)
2nd Lieutenant Travis appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster was the title of Ward Nurse, Medical Section. She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1, 1944 roster.
A Madeline Travis appears in the Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. Death File with dates of active service in the U.S. Army of September 1, 1942 through January 4, 1946. A 32nd Station Hospital report from July 1944 indicated that 2nd Lieutenant Travis was rotated home to the United States via the 7th Replacement Depot. Her name (along with a service number matching the 32nd Station Hospital’s rosters) appeared on an American Export Arlines, Inc. Naval Air Transport Service passenger manifest for Flight N-456-A, which departed Port Lyautey, French Morocco on August 7, 1944 and arrived at New York two days later. The manifest listed her as being from Schenevus, New York, age 35, weighing 115 lbs. (and traveling with 46 lbs. of luggage).
Based on that information, the most likely match was the Madeline E. Travis born in Worcester, New York, the daughter of George and Mary Travis. A November 9, 1950 article (“Schenevus Notes”) in The Oneonta Star (Oneonta, New York) stated “Miss Madeline Travis, New York, is visiting her mother, Mrs. George Travis.” A February 22, 1957 newspaper article in The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) mentioned a Madeline E. Travis from Oneonta, New York. Schenevus, Worcester, and Oneonta are all in Otsego County, New York, making it likely but not confirmed that all three are the same individual.
Beyond that, I have found very limited information about her. A Madeline E. Travis appears in the Florida Death Index with a date of birth matching the B.I.R.L.S. file and a date of death of August 23, 1990; she was listed as dying in Putnam, Florida, aged 81. The corresponding S.S.A. record gives her date of death one day later, with a last known residence of Gainesville, Florida.
Helen Trotsky (Helen T. Lucas), N-723108 (July 21, 1917 – September 24, 2012)
2nd Lieutenant Trotsky was already a member of the 32nd Station Hospital by May 15, 1943, when she was listed as a godparent for the baptism of William Oscar Larson in a report written by Chaplain Fabian Flynn. She was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster with the duty of Ward Nurse, Surgical Section. She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1, 1944 roster. 2nd Lieutenant Trotsky was transferred to the 64th General Hospital in June 1944.
The most likely match I found was a Helen Trotsky who graduated from St. Luke’s Hospital (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) in 1939, according to a February 2, 1942 article (“St. Luke’s Hospital Class of 1939 Holds First Reunion Dinner”) printed in The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania). By 1940, she was a nurse working at Carlisle Hospital, according to a Carlisle, Pennsylvania directory. She was working at Bayonne Hospital and Dispensary in New Jersey when she joined the U.S. Army on April 15, 1942, according to an article in the Mount Carmel Item on May 22, 1945 (“Lt. Helen Trosky, Of Kulpmont, Is At Miami, Florida”). The article reported her arrival at an Army Ground and Service Redistribution Center back in the United States and stated she spent two years in the European Theatre (though newspapers didn’t always distinguish between the European and Mediterranean Theatres). The article stated she was awaiting “her next assignment”, implying that she planned to remain in the U.S. Army.
Although I am unable to confirm the Helen Trotsky from Pennsylvania was the correct nurse, I was able to learn a little after I received a May 9, 1981 document from the collection of Dr. William A. Carey, Jr. and Ina Carey. This document listed her married name as Lucas and her address as being in Sun City, Arizona. She married Dr. Alphonse F. Lucas in New Jersey in 1945; according to her obituary, they met during the war. The couple raised a son and three daughters. She died in 2012, aged 95.
Mamie Emily Uprichard (Mamie E. O’Connell), N-723504 (December 5, 1918 – March 19, 2000)
Mamie Uprichard was born in Passaic, New Jersey and grew up in Clifton. Her father Fred had immigrated from Northern Ireland and her mother, also named Mamie, was born in New Jersey to Scottish parents.
According to a July 1, 1944 article (“Mamie Uprichard Serving in Italy”) in The Herald-News (Passaic, New Jersey):
Lieutenant Uprichard is a graduate of Clifton High School and Passaic General Hospital School of Nursing. She did private duty nursing for a while and was on the staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Paterson.
The article also stated:
She reported for duty July 1, 1942, at the Army Hospital, Raritan Arsenal, Metuchen. She served in Africa and is now in Italy.
A December 6, 1943 article in The Herald-News stated that she “has been overseas since last January.” Since the 32nd Station Hospital departed the United States on January 14, 1943, it’s likely that she was one of the 32nd Station Hospital’s original nurses.
2nd Lieutenant Uprichard appeared on the 32nd Station Hospital’s December 31, 1943 roster listed as Ward Nurse, Medical Section. She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1, 1944 roster. 2nd Lieutenant Uprichard was transferred to the 64th General Hospital in June 1944. By May 8, 1945, when she appeared in a photograph in The Herald-News, she was apparently a member of the 118th Station Hospital.
Uprichard left the army with a rank of 1st lieutenant. She married Stephen E. O’Connell on September 27, 1945 according to a September 29, 1956 article in The Herald-News. By that point Mamie was a nurse working at Passaic General Hospital. The couple raised a son and a daughter. She died in Morristown, New Jersey, aged 81.
Cecelia Washburn (Cecelia W. Lincoln), N-721704 (March 7, 1914 – January 12, 2006)
Washburn was born in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and apparently orphaned at an early age. She attended Orange High School, probably graduating in 1932. She was recorded on the 1940 census as a 26 year-old registered nurse working at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
2nd Lieutenant Washburn was one of 25 nurses serving at Lovell General Hospital at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in November 1942 who was assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital and jointed the unit the following month. She was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster as Ward Nurse, Medical Section. She was listed as a general duty nurse on the May 1, 1944 roster.
A photograph in Ruby Milligan‘s album indicated that Washburn married in April 1944 at the 32nd Station Hospital compound in Caserta. The name of the groom was not listed, but Lexie Miller was listed as a bridesmaid. A 32nd Station Hospital report states that 2nd Lieutenant Washburn “was transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 300th General Hospital 6 July 1944.”
She appeared on a 1994 list of 32nd Station Hospital survivors (oddly enough, under her maiden name) with an address in Farmington, New Mexico.
When this article was first published, I wrote that I was unable to find further information about Washburn. A new search on Ancestry.com in August 2019 revealed a family tree entry for a Cecelia Washburn (1914–2006) born in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Washburn married Leverne Holt Lincoln (1911–2000) of the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Caserta on May 10, 1944. (Actually, one of their sons reported that they needed three wedding ceremonies so the military, civil, and religious authorities would recognize the marriage.) Washburn’s son told me that his parents met in Algeria in one of two ways: “The prevailing story is that they met on a blind date on Dad’s birthday.” Another story holds “that they met when Dad was in the hospital with a small injury and Mom was his nurse.”
According to their son, the couple honeymooned on Capri; her departure from the unit was because she was pregnant with her first child. The couple raised six children and eventually settled in Farmington, New Mexico. She died in Albuquerque, New Mexico, aged 91.
Charlotte Olga Weber (Charlotte Olga Krueger), N-723784 (July 14, 1919 – March 25, 1985)
Charlotte Weber was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1925, subsequently becoming a U.S. citizen. By 1938 she was working a nurse in Paterson, New Jersey. 2nd Lieutenant Weber joined the 32nd Station Hospital in Caserta after January 1, 1944 but before May 1, 1944, when she appeared on a roster as a general duty nurse.
A 32nd Station Hospital report states that she was married to Captain Russell C. Krueger (Signal Corps, service number O-378180) at the hospital chapel on November 18, 1944. The officiant was Lt. Colonel Frank M. Brown, Peninsular Base Section Protestant chaplain. According to their daughter, the couple met when Russell visited a wounded buddy at the hospital. She also advised that the ceremony at the 32nd Station Hospital chapel was actually their third wedding of the day, following a civil ceremony and an Italian military ceremony in Naples.
Charlotte was transferred to 74th Station Hospital in March 1945. She reached the rank of 1st lieutenant before leaving the army. The Kruegers raised two daughters and a son and lived in Temple, Texas. She died in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, aged 65. The Kruegers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Cora I. Williams, N-722774 (almost certainly August 25, 1915 – June 28, 1971)
2nd Lieutenant Williams was listed on the December 31, 1943 roster with an assignment of Ward Nurse, Medical Section. 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 February 7, 1945. She left the unit in July 1945 along with many other longstanding members.
I found a record for a 1st Lieutenant Cora I. Williams (with dates of birth and death above) whose headstone at Bacon Hill Cemetery in Saratoga County, New York indicates she was in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. However, her obituary in The Post-Star and Times (Glen Falls, New York) on June 29, 1971 named her as a member of the 300th General Hospital during World War II. The 300th was in the same theatre as the 32nd Station Hospital so a transfer wasn’t out of the question. The obituary stated that Williams “received her training at Samaritan Hospital, Troy, and the B.S. degree from the University of Rochester.” It also stated “She was a supervisor at Elmhurst General Hospital, Jackson Heights, for ten years, and at the time of her death was employed at Saratoga Hospital.”
Initially I thought it was more likely that there was simply more than one nurse named Cora I. Williams, since she would have spent far more time with the 32nd Station Hospital than the 300th General Hospital. However, Stella Rhodes’s record in Pennsylvania also only listed the 300th General Hospital, even though she too must have spent more time with the 32nd. A final and probably conclusive piece of evidence is that Cora Williams attended a nurses’ reunion at the Dogwood Room (probably in 1948) which listed her residence as being in Schuylerville, New York, just three miles from Bacon Hill Cemetery. Her parents were Harry and Bertha Williams.
Evelyn H. Wilson (Evelyn Youse), N-723338 (March 25, 1911 – December 20, 1977)
I’m working on the assumption that Evelyn Wilson is the nurse typically labeled as “Red” Wilson on the back of photos. Dwight McNelly described “Miss Wilson” as “Ideal nurse and [grand?] person” on the back of phone of his photos.
Wilson appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster with the title of Head Nurse, Orthopedic Section and a rank of 2nd lieutenant. She was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of August 7, 1944. Wilson was in the wedding party for the marriage of Annie P. Barone to Thomas J. Hagerty on June 14, 1945. She left the 32nd Station Hospital in July 1945 along with many other longstanding members of the unit.
An December 19, 1945 article in The Berkshire County Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) mentions Evelyn Wilson arrived in the United States on November 1, 1945 and was on terminal leave from the U.S. Army, visiting her sister Anne Wilson in Canaan, New York. Her service in the 32nd Station Hospital is specifically mentioned. The October 22, 1947 issue of the same paper states she married Robert D. Youse (a military police lieutenant in the 45th Infantry Division and later a radio announcer) in New Jersey on October 18, 1947.
With this information, I found a record for Evelyn H. Wilson, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Wilson (who had immigrated from Northern Ireland and Scotland, respectively). Based on census data, she grew up in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. According to her obituary in The Berkshire Eagle, she was a graduate of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing (Brooklyn, New York) and “was an industrial nurse with Consolidated Edison in New York City until she joined the Army Nurse Corps during World War II.” Her Department of Veteran’s Affairs B.I.R.L.S. record erroneously lists her date of birth as March 11, 1925 (instead of March 25, 1911) but gives dates of service as June 8, 1942 through February 19, 1946. She died in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, aged 66. There is no mention in Evelyn’s obituary of the Youses having children.
Dorothy Eleanor Whitsell (Dorothy Bevitt), service number unknown (July 22, 1914 – ?)
Whitsell’s name does not appear on any extant roster; her name appears only on a diagram of the nurses’ living quarters drawn by Alice Griffin in a letter written on or around August 8, 1943. Although the diagram indicated Dot Whitsell was roommates with Kathleen Donahue and Wanda Dabrowski, she is not mentioned in any other extant letter in the Griffin collection. The 32nd Station Hospital’s records from 1943 are extremely limited; she could have been a member of the unit for months and then transferred prior to the first extant roster. Theoretically, she could have been assigned from another unit on temporary duty.
There was indeed a nurse by that name in the Army Nurse Corps who served in the Mediterranean Theatre during World War II. According to the 1948 Official Army and Air Force Register, Dorothy E. Whitsell was born in Illinois in 1914. She grew up in Mount Vernon, Illinois, the daughter of Charles T. and Ida Whitsell. Whitsell graduated from St. Luke’s Training School for Nurses in St. Louis, Missouri. She was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the A.N.C. on March 1, 1941.
Newspaper clippings in her family’s collection indicate she was indeed assigned to the Mediterranean Theatre; an August 21, 1945 article stated she was “a member of the 34th Station Hospital, an installation of the Rome Area Allied Command” and had “been overseas 28 months.” That would suggest that she couldn’t have joined the 32nd Station Hospital any sooner than April 1943; she must have left the unit before the earliest extant roster on December 31, 1943. According to a listing of hospitals in the Mediterranean Theatre at WW2 US Medical Research Centre, the 34th Station Hospital was in operation in Algeria beginning May 11, 1943. That same year saw moves to the islands of Pantelleria and Sicily, followed by mainland Italy in 1944.
Whitsell married William Dealtry Bevitt in Washington, D.C. on December 19, 1948. It appears she later lived in Beverly, Massachusetts and Cape Coral, Florida, but I was unable to learn any more information about her.
Dorothy M. Wittman, N-729593 (January 24, 1917 – March 6, 2010)
Dorothy Wittman was born in Ohio to John and Mary Wittman. A March 11, 1939 article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported: “More than 160 nurses at Cleveland hospital have been certified by the Ohio State Medical Board’s department of nurses’ registration” including Dorothy M. Wittman of Lutheran Hospital. The 1940 census listed her as living in the Lutheran Hospital Nurses House in Cleveland, Ohio. She had blonde hair and blue eyes.
Wittman went on active duty with the U.S. Army on December 15, 1942 (or the following day according to a letter she sent). She served at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky before going overseas. A June 17, 1943 letter to her sister, Hazel, stated: “I have been assigned to the 182 nd. Station Hospital but will still be with this hospital until moved out.” According to her Military Record and Report of Separation Certificate of Service, 2nd Lieutenant Wittman went overseas on August 21, 1943, arriving on September 2, 1943. A May 3, 1944 letter she sent to her family indicated she joined the 32nd Station Hospital the previous day after being very unhappy in her previous unit:
Things have really been happening as you might tell by the address. I have been transferred into a different outfit by mutual consent. I only got here yesterday afternoon so I don’t know much about it as yet. So far it looks pretty good. I don’t think that it could be any worse than the one I got out of. We just never did get along.
2nd Lieutenant Wittman was listed on the December 31, 1944 roster as a general duty nurse. She was promoted to 1st lieutenant on April 17, 1945. It appears that she remained with the 32nd Station Hospital at least until it ceased operations in Caserta, but eventually transferred to the 300th General Hospital and remained in Italy for a few months longer. 1st Lieutenant Wittman left Europe on December 15, 1945 and arrived back in the United States on Christmas Day. She left active duty in the U.S Army effective March 28, 1946.
A trunk of Wittman’s belongings from World War II, including her trunk and a full set of uniforms, sold at auction for $1,000 in January 2018. The collection appeared to have included at least one mimeographed Donald Sudlow drawing.
Mary Margaret Wood (Mary M. Traub), N-723463 (September 5, 1917 – September 5, 2009)
Mary Wood was born and raised in Alexandria Bay, New York. She attended nursing school at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, New York. She joined the U.S. Army on July 8, 1942. Her first assignment was Fort DuPont in Delaware, until November 1942; she likely served there with Dorothy Mowbray and Marie Thielemann.
According to a summary of her papers provided by Wood’s son, she joined the 32nd Station Hospital at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey (presumably in December 1942, but she was definitely a member of the unit when it shipped out in January 1943). She transferred to the 21st General Hospital in Sidi Bou Hanifia (near Oran, Algeria) during the summer of 1943.
Wood returned to the continental United States in November 1943. She served at Fort Dix, New Jersey before being assigned to the 131st Evacuation Hospital in the fall of 1944. That unit arrived in France on March 20, 1945. She served with the 131st Evacuation Hospital during its operations in Germany and Austria. At the end of the war, she treated victims of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Based on what his mother wrote about her experiences, Wood’s son told to me:
The nurses & doctors of the 131’st EVAC hospital unit closely followed the troops into the concentration camp during the liberation of the camp and witnessed the naked prisoners still standing in line for the gas chambers, showers, and doing their forced duty of carting dead prisoners to the mass graves. One of the first hardest tasks was to keep the prisoners from digging up potatoes outside the walls/gates and eating too many potatoes at once. A few died from this act of desperation. Taking care of the prisoners for the next several months was the main task of the 131st EVAC hospital unit so the prisoners gained the strength to go home.
During the remainder of her life, Wood did much to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. On July 14, 1995, she sat for an interview with Neenah Ellis about what she witnessed. (A digitized copy of the cassette from the interview is online as part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.) She recalled that after the war, she had to be restrained from punching a man at the movies who dismissed a newsreel showing the concentration camps as mere propaganda. (The incident is a reminder that Holocaust deniers have existed since the very beginning.) Wood’s son recalled: “In the last 15 years of her life, she traveled back to Mauthausen for a memorial service, attend & spoke at several Holocaust survivor events, showing the pictures to who ever wanted to see them.”
Wood married Kenneth T. Traub in New York City in August 1948. The couple raised four sons. According to her obituary, she died in Webster, New York, aged 92. The obituary states that she left the military with the rank of 1st lieutenant.
Esther Emilie Work, N-723170 (September 27, 1907 – September 6, 1998)
Esther Work was born in Clinton, Iowa, the daughter of two immigrants from Germany, Juergen and Emilie Work. She was already working as a nurse in her hometown by the time of the 1930 census and was still serving as a nurse there ten years later.
Together with the extant 32nd Station Hospital reports, Work’s Iowa World War II Bonus Case File provides useful information about her military career. She entered active duty on April 30, 1942 at Pine Camp, New York. Her date of departure for foreign service was listed as January 13, 1943 (the day the 32nd Station Hospital personnel boarded their ships), suggesting that she was a member of the unit throughout almost its entire period in operation. 2nd Lieutenant Work appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster as Head Nurse, Medical Section. She was listed as Nurse, general duty on the May 1, 1944 roster. She was promoted to 1st lieutenant in June 1944. Her duty was listed as Nurse, Administrative on the December 31, 1944 roster. She departed the 32nd Station Hospital in July 1945 along with many other longstanding members of the unit. Her overseas service ended on November 2, 1945.
Myra Harriett Zink (Myra Reed), N-721940 (August 8, 1920 – January 13, 1964)
Myra Zink was born in New Britain, Connecticut. Based on Zink’s obituary, this article originally listed her as being one of four children of Paul (a contractor) and Irene Zink. However, I subsequently contacted Zink’s niece, who told me that Zink’s father was actually George J. Reed. She explained: “George Reed died in 1925 and Irene married Paul P. Zink who adopted Myra and her brother George.” Zink graduated from Hartford Hospital School of Nursing in June 1941 and at some point also attended Western Reserve University, College of Anesthesiology.
2nd Lieutenant Zink appeared on the December 31, 1943 roster with a title of Ward Nurse, Surgical Section. 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 March 17, 1945. She was on a list of returning nurses from the 7th Replacement Depot (apparently departing Italy September 24, 1945 with an eventual destination of Fort Dix, New Jersey) giving an address in Plainville, Connecticut.
Zink also served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, leaving the military in 1956 as a captain. After working at hospitals in Meriden and Bristol, she accepted an overseas assignment in Saudi Arabia. Zink’s niece wrote to me that:
Myra was a talented artist and loved playing the piano and music. She used her yearly furloughs to travel the world, often in the company of her mother, Irene.
Zink’s niece fondly recalled when her aunt returned from overseas on vacation:
She would visit for 4-6 weeks every year or so and would lavish me with attention, trying to teach me piano, telling me stories about her life in Arabia (like how the hospital would bandage up the stumps of the thieves who had had their hands chopped off, and how they fed undernourished Bedouin children, training them to grab food from the central dinner plate faster, before it was gone). The fact that she had an advanced degree and traveled the world made her seem very exotic to me.
Zink died in Saudi Arabia of a sudden illness, aged 43.
Zink’s obituary in The Hartford Courant on January 16, 1964 states that she “was supervisor of the anesthesiology department at the base hospital operated by the Arabian-American Oil Co. in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia for the past seven years.” An article in the same paper on May 31, 1964 states notes that her mother established a scholarship in Myra’s memory for a student in need of financial assistance who had been accepted to nursing school. The Myra H. Zink Memorial Scholarship continued through at least 1968.
Neta Amelia Zinn (Neta A. Purks), N-771096 (June 19, 1908 – December 18, 1983)
Neta Zinn was born in Illinois, the daughter of Frederick (a farmer) and Sophia Zinn. 2nd Lieutenant Zinn fist appeared on the May 1, 1944 roster as a general duty nurse, but she is listed as Nurse, Anesthetist on the December 31, 1944 roster. She was promoted to 1st lieutenant as of March 27, 1945.
Dwight McNelly’s unpublished manuscript mentioned Zinn, who he stated was the aunt of a friend of his from Illinois. He described her as “rather plump and kinda pretty, I thought.” McNelly mentioned that she was transferred to the 32nd Station Hospital from a unit that had been stationed up near Cassino. Decades later, he wrote:
She would see me occasionally, and talk. It was either the 11th or 16th Evac. hospital that was on Sicily, where Patton had slapped the soldier and had gotten all the notoriety. Miss Zinn said that she didn’t witness the act, but that it had been blown out of proportion.
Although the August 1943 slapping incidents occurred at the 15th and 95th Evacuation Hospitals, I was later able to confirm from the Diary of 16th Evacuation Hospital (housed at the National Archives) that 2nd Lieutenant Zinn was indeed a member of the 16th Evac. The March 2, 1944 entry stated that Zinn and 2nd Lieutenant Edith Osburn were “reld fr asgmt and asgd to 32d Sta Hosp”. 2nd Lieutenants Phyllis Hansen and Rose Straley joined the 16th Evacuation Hospital in exchange.
Based on her connection to Illinois mentioned in McNelly’s manuscript, it is virtually certain that she is the person mentioned in a June 13, 1939 article in the Carbondale Free Press (Carbondale, Illinois) which states: “Neta Amelia Zinn was hired by the board at last night’s meeting to fill the school nurse vacancy for the coming year.” She worked there for four years. A March 4, 1946 article in the same paper, “Lt. Neta Zinn, ANC On Terminal Leave From Army Duty” mentions that she had been overseas for 32 months, during which her mother had died. The article states she
went overseas with an evacuation hospital, her unit landing in North Africa just behind the invasion troops. The hospital unit worked with the combat forces throughout the North African campaign then were transferred to Italy with the invasion forces. The British Hospital ship on which her unit was being transported to Italy was bombed and sunk by Axis planes just off the coast of Italy. Several British nurses lost their lives in the attack and sinking of the ship but all American nurses, including Lt. Zinn, were rescued by other ships in the area.
Several British hospital ships were sunk by aircraft off the Italian coast, though the details match the sinking of the H.M.H.S. Newfoundland, which was transporting 103 American nurses to Italy (including those from the 16th Evacuation) when it was bombed on September 13, 1943. Six of the 14 British nurses aboard were killed in the attack but all of the American nurses survived, which fits with the details in the newspaper article.
Details about her military service are a little frustrating due to discrepancies in her records. The January 1, 1956 Official Army Register, has some information about her, though with a postwar service number (N2356). Major Neta Amelia Zinn was listed as a 2nd lieutenant as of January 8, 1943. She was promoted to captain on November 2, 1950 and major on December 24, 1952. On another page in the register, Major Zinn is listed as 83rd on Army Nurse Corps promotion list, with a start of service listed as June 19, 1933. Apparently, she was in the reserves for ten years but not placed on active duty until a year into the war.
Her Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. record gives her dates of active service as January 10, 1943 to April 6, 1946 and October 15, 1946 to August 31, 1948. The gap in service would explain why she was apparently reissued a postwar service number. The B.I.R.L.S. file apparently has a typo throwing it off by a decade, since her Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs Record of Burial Place of Veteran card listed her as serving at Valley Forge Army Hospital and stated that she left the U.S. Army on August 31, 1958.
I also learned from another user on Ancestry.com that during the Korean War, Zinn served in the 8055th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, the unit that was the basis for the book, film, and television series M*A*S*H. Indeed, A Defense Weapon Known to be of Value: Servicewomen of the Korean War Era a book by Linda Witt, Judith Bellafaire, Britta Granrud, and Mary Jo Binker, mentioned Zinn was one of the unit’s original “twelve nurses who had been working at Tokyo General Hospital” when hostilities broke out. The book states that she served as an anesthetist.
Neta’s obituary in the Herald & Review (Decatur, Illinois) stated that she served 25 years in the U.S. Army (which is consistent with the 1933 entry date) and that she married her husband, Montella Purks, in 1955. No children were mentioned. She died in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, aged 75. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Last updated January 14, 2020