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Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part V): DeKalb County Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Corps

DeKalb County Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Corps

Red Cross volunteer nurses aide poster
Recruiting poster for Volunteer Nurse’s Aides. (Image source: University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries)

Shortly after the start of the war, hospitals nationwide were facing a severe shortage of nurses and nurse’s aides. Many of the highly skilled young nurses were recruited into the military nurses corps, leaving a dire shortage of staff at civilian hospitals. To help fill this need, the American Red Cross worked with the Office of Civilian Defense to train 100,000 volunteers to be nurse’s aides. In DeKalb County, Mrs. Ulla May Schreck and a committee began training Volunteer Nurse’s Aides in June 1942 under the instruction of Elaine Fisher, R.N. Other instructors and coordinators included Nancy L. Hennis, Katherine Kane, Ruth E. Lankton and Bernice E. Schwirtz.  Continue reading “Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part V): DeKalb County Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Corps”

Papa’s Centennial Birthday

Emma Medine holding Ed Drake
Emma Medine holding her son, Edwin Drake, in 1920.

This week my Papa would have turned 100 years old. My grandfather, Edwin William Drake, was born on May 2, 100 years ago in Genoa, Illinois. He was welcomed by his parents, Charles and Emma (Medine) Drake, and an older brother, Charles. He grew up on a farm near Genoa, and graduated high school during the Great Depression. He met and fell in love with my grandma, Millie Kaiser, just before she joined the WAVES during WWII. After she left the service, they were married in June 1946. They had two daughters and four grandchildren. He lived in the Genoa area for his whole life. He was a farmer, business owner, public servant, and foreman. He accomplished many things during his life, but his family was everything to him. Papa loved his family dearly, and loved to spend time with them whenever he could. Continue reading “Papa’s Centennial Birthday”

Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part IV): DeKalb County WASP

DeKalb County WASP unit
Clipping from Daily Chronicle, DeKalb, 12 Sep 1940, p. 2.

The Women’s Ambulance Safety Patrol, or W.A.S.P., should not be confused with the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII. These home front WASPs were prepared to serve their community and country if an emergency ever arose. They were prepared to drive and service ambulances, provide first aid and canteen units, and more. The Women’s Ambulance Safety Patrol was first established by a group of Rockford women in the spring of 1940. This was the first women’s ambulance program in the country. In a letter to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in February 1941, Rockford Lt. Mary E. Trosper wrote, “We are preparing fervently for the time when we shall be called upon to defend America. […] These women are put through rigid courses of training in first-aid, military drilling, auto mechanics, convoy transportation and in some units, the use of firearms. Our ultimate aim is to interest every able-bodied woman to prepare systematically for the defense of America in the homes, in the schools and in industries. Who can foresee what tasks will fall the lot of American women in the coming year? Whatever they be, the Women’s Ambulance Safety Patrol will be adequately prepared to fit snugly in the great wheel of National Defense and will cooperate to the utmost in the organization and training of American women for American defense.”  Continue reading “Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part IV): DeKalb County WASP”

Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part III): DeKalb County Cadet Nurses

The United States and the world is currently facing a pandemic like we’ve never seen before. Some have said that society has not been unified under a single cause like this since WWII. So today, thank and support healthcare workers who are on the front lines of this epidemic. Then, remember the nurses, doctors, and nurses’ aides who also served in crucial roles during WWII.

To read the previous post about DeKalb County women during WWII, please click here.

Continue reading “Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part III): DeKalb County Cadet Nurses”

Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part II): DeKalb County women on the home front

This is part II of an ongoing series to honor women from DeKalb County, Illinois who served during WWII. This part of the series will focus on the efforts of women on the home front. In the next few posts, I will highlight several local women-led organizations that supported the war effort and the community during WWII, including the American Red Cross, the Women’s Ambulance Safety Patrol, the Cadet Nursing Corps, and the Volunteer Nurses’ Aide Corps. 


During WWII, huge efforts and sacrifices on the home front contributed to American victory. Women in particular contributed to the war effort in unprecedented ways. For the first time, women became enlisted members of the U.S. military, and the almost 150 DeKalb County women veterans were honored in part one of this honor roll. On the home front, there were scores more who filled war jobs in local factories, joined local organizations, donated blood, organized fundraisers and scrap drives, knitted clothing and wrapped surgical dressings, planted victory gardens, worked on local farms, and more. Women adapted to rationing by carpooling, walking, canning homegrown produce, and going without new stockings, shoes, and kitchen wares. Continue reading “Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part II): DeKalb County women on the home front”