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”→
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”→
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.
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.
“Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women… This was a people’s war and everyone was in it.” – Oveta Culp Hobby (as quoted on the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.)
World War II was the first time in American history that women were allowed to enlist in the military. Even today, these groundbreaking women remain on the sidelines of WWII history and many of their stories have been forgotten. Few of these women faced enemy fire or had the opportunity to serve overseas, but they were heroic nevertheless. When it was not expected of them, they left their homes and their families to serve their country. They served as essential behind-the-scenes members of the military, serving as officers, recruiters, clerks, storekeepers, control tower operators, nurses, pharmacists, and more. Women could enlist in special reserve units of the military starting in 1942, including the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC, dropping the “Auxiliary” in 1943 to become WAC), United States Naval Reserve WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, Coast Guard SPARS, and Air Force WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots). The Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was established in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908, but these women were not considered part of the Army or Navy until later, when they were given retroactive veteran status. The approximately 350,000 women nationwide who enlisted in these reserves “released a man to fight” overseas. Whether they enlisted out of patriotic duty, sense of adventure, or another reason, they became an essential part of the military. Continue reading “Hidden Heroes of WWII: an honor roll for DeKalb County women (Part I)”→