by Kathy Warnes
Army Nurse Florence Maliszewski - Florence Maliszewski
The nurses of the Army Nursing Corps are highly deserving of thanks and recognition during the celebration of Armed Forces Day on Saturday May 16, 2015. Armed Forces Day which is being observed on Saturday, May 16, 2015, is a day to honor and appreciate the men and women who served in the United States military.
Army Nurses Earn an Impressive Record of Service
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, fewer than 1,000 nurses served in the United States Army. By the end World War II, over 59,000 Army nurses had served in the Army Nursing Corps.
Over 100 military nurses were captured on Bataan and Corregidor in 1942, and 66 Army nurses and 11 Navy Nurses were imprisoned in Japanese concentration camps for 37 months. Six Army nurses were killed by German bombing and strafing during the battle on Anzio. Altogether over 200 Army nurses died in World War II and many of them are buried in American cemeteries overseas.
Sixteen hundred Army Nurses earned combat decorations including Distinguished Service Medals, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, Air Medals, Legions of Merit , Commendation Medals and Purple Hearts.
Army Nurses Nursed in Tents, Trains, Ships, and Airplanes
During World War II, Army Nurses worked in field and evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospital ships, and as flight nurses on medical transport trains. They worked under fire and under the same risk as combat soldiers and several were killed in action.
These skilled and dedicated nurses helped create a high survival rate for wounded soldiers in every theater of the war. Less than four percent of American soldiers receiving medical care or being evacuated from the battle field died from wounds or disease.
World War II Ignites a Demand for Nurses
World War II ignited a social and economic revolution for American women as war and economic conditions created a voracious demand for their services. Serving in the Army Nurse Corps broadened the horizons and expectations of American women. They were transported from small towns and large cities in America to the world stage and they returned home with a different perspective of the world and their place in it.
By 1944, the increasing demand for nurses motivated the Army to grant its nurses officer’s commissions, full retirement benefits, allowances for dependents and equal pay. Free education to nursing students between 1943 and 1948 was an important government benefit to many nurses.
Florence Maliszewski Becomes an Army Nurse
Florence Maliszewski especially appreciated the Army’s education benefits.
Florence Maliszewski spent her early years in Winona, Minnesota, but the Army Nurses Corp took her to Illinois, Oregon, New Jersey, England, France, and Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
After Florence received her BSN from the College of St. Theresa in Winona, Minnesota, she moved to Great Falls, Montana and taught in a school of nursing. She also taught first aid to civilians and remembers riding around the countryside with a bicycle basket full of supplies.
In July 1943, she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps, and received her basic military training at Camp White, Oregon, training which included classes, drilling, and infiltration. “Infiltration” included crawling up a hill wearing a full pack under live fire,” she says.
Florence Works and Teaches in France
When she completed basic training, Florence was assigned to the 170th General Hospital at Camp Groot, Illinois, and Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, in September, 1944. In October 1944, her unit arrived in Liverpool, England, after weathering Atlantic storms and zigzagging to avoid Nazi U-boats.
Then the nurses were trucked to Southampton and loaded into boats to cross the English Channel. They eventually landed in Le Mans, France, in a cow pasture. Soldiers and wounded men were housed in pup tents, the weather was damp, causing serious foot fungus problems, and blankets wouldn’t dry.
Other residents of the camp were German prisoners of war, who lived behind a barbed wire fence in pup tents. They did the cooking and laundry and helped to construct the camp buildings. A group of captured German women helped to care for the wounded, and supplies were so scarce and they had taken the clothes that they originally wore from dead German soldiers.
Florence worked in the chief nurse’s office and one of her projects was creating a procedure book and convincing a G.I. to provide the artwork. She also taught non-commissioned officers about nursing care.
A Heroic Countess
Another of her vivid memories is of the French countess who lived near the camp in a 13th century castle complete with moat and drawbridge. Her husband, who was one of the first aviators in World War I, had been killed in action. During the War, the countess had acted several times as a French Paul Revere, warning the villagers when the Germans were approaching. She planted sunflower seeds to mark the spot where she had buried her valuables.
Florence Becomes Chief Nurse
As time passed, Florence became chief nurse .After spending 1943 and 1944 nursing in France, on December 8, 1945; she was assigned to the 91st General Hospital which was assigned to carry wounded men back to the United States by ship. She arrived in the United States in January, 1946, and was discharged from the Army at Camp Groot, Illinois.
According to Florence American soldiers were fearless, noble, had great zest for life and were warm and friendly. They also had a sense of humor. “The G.I.’s were patient, uncomplaining and grateful,” she said.
Using the G.I. Bill and Pioneering in Gerentology
Using the G.I. Bill, Florence earned has masters degree in nursing science at the University of Chicago. After she graduated she taught administration and nursing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and did pioneering work in gerentological nursing. Students came from all over the country to take her classes in health care of the aged.
She was a 17 year member and chaplain of the Jane Delano Post for Army Nurses in Milwaukee. Florence feels that being in the Army brought her back to the United States “very service-orientated and with a number of firm friendships.”
Kuhn, Betsy, Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurses of World War II, Aladdin, 1999.
Norman, Elizabeth M., We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese, Atria, 2000.