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littlelotte
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Front Line Nurses

Tue Aug 19, 2008 13:15

Hi Guys,
I just wanted to share some stuff, and hopefully get input and thoughts from others on the board. I am in the process of reading "And If I Perish". It is an extremely riveting book about Army Nurses in WWII. At first I skipped around a little and only read the sections which pertained to my impression periods, but I have learned alot. I have heard stories from many women re-enacters where they stated that women were not on the front lines, (and these are people who supposedly really know their stuff). I have since learned otherwise, for example on 8 November 1942 the nurses of the 48th surgical hospital and the 77th Evac hospital landed on the beaches with the soldiers during Operation Torch at Arzew and near Oran North Africa. They landed under fire with the regular GI's.

I was also told that the first Army Nurses did not land in Normandy until 17 June, this is also untrue. The 128th Evac landed on Utah beach on 9 June 44, and this unit contained elements of the 48th which landed in 1942 in North Africa. Now the 67th Evac did not land until 16 June on Omaha beach, there were also other hospitals which landed prior to June 16. The only reason I post here is that I find it interesting that many historians and re-enactors still maintain that women were not near the fighting, but they were. There were nurses under fire and died at Anzio. I am just curious as to everyone's take on this. I was reading on another message board, how people just thought that women sat around as camp decorations at re-enactments and wondered how this could be changed, or how you go about educating "old habits" to the reality of women nurses. I'd really love to hear other's thoughts on this.
Thanks,
-Lisa

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Alain
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Fri Aug 22, 2008 07:55

Hi Lisa,
This is an interesting statement ! Let me first make it clear that I do not want to denigrate the role played by women in WW2 - there are numerous reports and examples of female soldiers to underline and support their outstanding achievements under fire and in battle !
It is however not as simple as that; the general policy of the War Department was to integrate women into the war effort, but they were denied 'fighting' roles, and the overall idea was to avoid direct confrontation with the enemy in order to guarantee women a minimum degree of protection . So allow me to say that except for extraordinary circumstances and combat situations (as pointed out by yourself), it was not a general rule to confront female personnel with the hazards and dangers of a battlefield .
What is IMPORTANT when re-enacting, is to portray WAC or ANC personnel in their correct roles, and WW2 impressions should render just that ! Of course one can desire to represent one of the more 'exceptional' cases, but that situation should then be thoroughly studied, the environment correctly recreated, to achieve a faithful (if feasable) historical WW2 impression . Having interviewed female and male medical personnel, I am aware of some of the exceptional situations, but as Tim (your husband) once clearly stated, never try to imitate the exception - but rather the norm ! This applies to clothing and equipment as well .
Unfortunately, a lot of re-enactors (both men and women) ignore WW2 history, have never spoken with a true Veteran, lack period documentation, and just abide by Hollywood standards ... too bad !
Conclusion : Girls, you are most welcome !
Alain S. BATENS :P
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Sat Aug 23, 2008 05:31

Well put Alain, and just to clairify a bit. I have read "And if I perish" from cover to cover and then re-read some chapters to research additional info. Some nurses did land under fire in "Torch", however those "not so good" early experiences with that operation and with Nurses captured and enprisioned in the PTO were really things the War Department did not want to deal with. It was not popular and bad for the war effort back home, not to mention moral of male troops in theatre. The nurses who landed at Normandy at D+2 were not really making a assault landing. Most of the action was quite distant from their AO, by the time they landed. This is not to take away or impune the seriousness of their situation, but rather clairify they were not landing under direct small arms assault. Anzio, was a stalemated beachhead where nurses were subjected to enemy artillery fire and KIA'ed, but again not really a "front line" action like the term implies. When most say "front line" they are talking about first waves of assaults, direct action with small arms and hand to hand combat. The "front line nurses" aside from "Torch" were really pretty far that sort of action, but argueably close enough to be killed by artillery fire or possibly an occasional sniper. I don't recall any KIA of nurses at Normandy, but recall there were at Torch and Anzio. I guess to sum it all up, I hate when I see a"nurse" reenactor wearing basically male medic equipment attending to "wounded" on the "front lines" of a living history reenactment or tactical battle. That just really didn't happen and I have had several real WW2 nurses who served on the "front lines" (Field and Evac Hospital Units) state this as well. There are several excellent units who portray the service of these nurses in an authentic way in a field hospital setting and not as "camp decor". To portray them running about the battlefield attending the wounded just isn't correct and just wasn't done.
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Frontline Nurses

Sun Aug 24, 2008 04:34

Maybe you need to go back to Clara Barton days to find nurses like her roaming the battlefields, tending the wounded!

Nurses wore the same uniforms in combat in Normandy as the men did, but they didn't wear "medic" gear, or act in a medic role. Is that what you meant?

Lois

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Ben
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Sun Aug 24, 2008 10:43

Hi all,
Many thanks for your contributions to this thread. I have been reading through it for a while with great interest. What we're beginning to see an increasing amount of here in the UK, is exactly what Roger has described; female personnel representing front line medics! They wear medical suspenders and pouches, along with two water bottles etc., and some even have Geneva Convention markings painted on their helmets. This is something that I hate to see, and is completely inaccurate. Most of these "re-enactors" claim to portray a Battalion, or at most, Regimental Aid Station!
As you have already indicated Lisa, there is plenty of evidence to show that members of the ANC arrived in the ETO well before the date claimed by your fellow re-enactors. However, I think that the main problem here arises by the somewhat liberal use of the term 'front line' with some re-enactors and historians today.
I can only really echo Roger's closing statement on the matter, since this something this is something that I have often commented about this with fellow re-enactors!
A very interesting topic and discussion indeed. In conclusion, I would say that of course there is plenty of scope for females in this hobby, but as with the males, they should try and correctly research and document their impression, and avoid the cliché of females fulfilling the role of front line medics.
Just my two cents,
Ben ;)
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littlelotte
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Sun Aug 24, 2008 23:12

For years (no offense please) this hobby has been male dominated and think that longtime re-enactors want to deny any thought of women anywhere near frontlines...even 10-12 miles back with an EVAC. I am learning a great deal about this. I have for over 10 years been the pencil pusher for the our organization. I have several women (spouses, etc.) who want to get involved and I figured the way to do it, since I have been researching the ANC for about two years was to learn and educate about a group which would fit into the time period as the guys, so we can sorta do it together. With much discussion we have chosen the 128th EVAC. I was at an event this weekend and was surprised to find the amount of public spectators interested in my impression. When I say frontline, I do not necessarily mean frontline (of course I know what I mean, but the average Joe might not), so I found myself explaining the difference between aid stations, EVAC, and Station hospitals, etc...of course I learned alot too. Overall I think it was a win/win situation. I guess I should have clarified my post a little. This weekend was pretty good, and I feel that the hobby is beginning to be a little more accepting of authentic womens impressions. I had a great time, and hopefully did some educating while I was there. I appreciate everyone's thoughts and I think this is a great discussion....and you know that Tim would not let me do anything less than a well researched, authentic impression...LOL. On a side note, personally I do not agree with the female's portraying male soldiers in the public eye, but I think as society continues to change this is going to become an unfortunate norm. I think it is okay if it is not in the public eye, like unit training or tactical, but not in view of the general public.
Thanks,
Lisa

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littlelotte
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Mon Aug 25, 2008 15:46

Wow, first let me apologize to the list, after re-reading my post it sounds very scolding which was not my intention. I posted after a 9 hour drive and hardly any sleep the night before, I am very sorry for the way that it sounded.

I want to go back though to what docdean said, (no I do not want to do a medic impression, male combatant...)here in the states there is an increasing number of female's wanting to portray male combatant's, medic's, etc...I think that this a very serious lack of consideration for the feelings of the greatest generation and what they did. They really want people to do it right. I had one woman tell me at veteran reunion that my impression (then homefront) was beautiful, except for my shoes....black oxford, she said "honey only my grandmother would have worn those back then, and you are far to young to be wearing them." What I ultimately want to do is portray these women as accurate and authentic as possible, but how do you get by the men who say "that never happened?" (re-enactors) who have made women feel so not wanted in this "field" so to speak...How does one or two female's overcome this so that these women who want to do. Even on the US proboards many women have quit asking questions as they are shot down by these "hardcore" this is how it was, and you are wrong? Any advice? Again my apologies for the former post, if it was taken out of context.
Thanks,
Lisa

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Ben
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Tue Aug 26, 2008 20:58

Hi Lisa,
I have been asked by Lois to share the following post with you. She was unable to post the photographs, so asked me to do so on her behalf...

<BEGIN>

Liselotte, when searching for uniforms, keep in mind that in Normandy
and elsewhere, nurses in combat zones wore exactly what the men wore.
Here are some pictures of personnel, male and female, from the 203rd
General Hospital unit, taken in late August, 1944. They landed in
Normandy on July 22, 1944, and were stationed near or on the
Cherbourg/Cotentin peninsula area during the Battles of Normandy and
Northern France. After the liberation of Paris in late August, they
got on a train and were transported to Paris, which they reached around
September first, and where they remained for the rest of the war.

These pictures were taken on the train journey from Normandy to Paris,
at a stop at the station at Chartres. You'll see that men and women
were dressed in identical combat uniforms, as they had been since
leaving England and crossing the Channel. Once they got to Paris and
set up their General Hospital, of course, they all reverted to
traditional medical uniforms.

<END>
Attachments
CH TR chartres platform crowd.jpg
CH TR 5 buds.jpg
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littlelotte
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Wed Aug 27, 2008 01:55

Thanks Ben,
She also emailed them to me.
-Lisa

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Wed Aug 27, 2008 16:57

Those nurses on the Chartres pictures are dressed exactly like my ANC mannequin...

http://www.med-dept.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1585#1585
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Wed Aug 27, 2008 17:39

And there were TAC stripes on the backs of their helmets. Will send Ben a picture to post.

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Ben
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Wed Aug 27, 2008 23:23

Hi Lisa,
Lois is still experiencing some difficulties in posting attachments on the Forum, so I promised that I would post the following attachment for her on this thread.
Thanks,
Ben
Attachments
CH%20TR%205%20buddies%20sta%20chtre.jpg
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jumpwings
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Mon Feb 16, 2009 00:06

Thi is somethign we've been looking at (the FSSF-UK) to include our ladies and my daughter, the thing that interests me, having seen only a few females as Army nurses, they seem to like wearing HBTs but I note little wearing of the wools, but as I say, only seen two groups, one a recent addition to the scene here in the UK...

Anzio:
Image
Jumpboots?
Image

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Ben
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Sun Feb 22, 2009 13:45

Lisa seems to be having some problems accessing the Forum, and so asked me to post this on her behalf:

littlelotte wrote:You can visit my website at http://www.5thrib.com/128th.html for more pictures. The unit that I portray only wore the OD Wool dress uniform with a skirt, "pinks and greens" and the beige summer uniform. In fact when they landed on November 8, 1942 during Operation Torch, they were wearing the 1st pattern Blue nurse dress uniform with a pants modification they made in England prior to the landing, black oxfords, and steel helmet and a musset bag. While in Tunisia they acquired HBT coveralls and that was their uniform, with the GI roughouts and cap toes. Once they went back to England in 1943 they were given the new pattern OD Dress uniform, and a field uniform "like the armor corps" as Lt. Hornback discribed them to her mother in a letter. That being said, this would be the HBT shirt and pants, and HBT Coveralls. Mostly mens, but some had womens shirt and pants. According to my research on the 48th Surgical/128th EVAC they prefered the coveralls, as it gave them "ease of movement".

Hope that helps.

-Lisa

Thanks,
Ben
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littlelotte
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Sun Feb 22, 2009 15:25

Thanks Ben,
I think it is working now!!!
Lisa
"Do you mean to say American nurses are here so soon?"
"Little did they know that we had come off with them, waded ashore, and dodged bullets just as they had." -LT Theresa Archard, Chief Nurse, 2nd Unit, 48th Surgical Hospital

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