Tribute – WWII Army Nurses

Army nurse, July 1943, headed to the Pacific.

Army nurse, July 1943, headed to the Pacific.

NEW YORK (AP) — They were young Army nurses in World War II, sharing a room and experiences that forged an extraordinary bond.

A monsoon destroyed part of their hospital on a South Pacific island. They were swamped with the sick and wounded near the front lines. A disease outbreak killed colleagues. Yet Amelia “Mimi” Greeley and Ruth “Brownie” Girk survived, and so did a friendship that still spurs near nightly phone calls as both turn 100.

In this Tuesday, March 1, 2016 photo, a photo of Amelia Greeley, left, and Ruth Girk sits amongst other photos and notes on a bar top inside Greeley's apartment, in New York. As Greeley and Girk turn 100 this year, their World War II rapport has become the friendship of an extraordinary lifetime. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

In this Tuesday, March 1, 2016 photo, a photo of Amelia Greeley, left, and Ruth Girk sits amongst other photos and notes on a bar top inside Greeley’s apartment, in New York. As Greeley and Girk turn 100 this year, their World War II rapport has become the friendship of an extraordinary lifetime. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

“We’ve always appreciated our friendship, but as it gets later and later, we appreciate it more,” says Girk, who turns 100 in June. Greeley celebrated her birthday this week.

“We’re sort of like sisters — that get along,” says Greeley.

Then Amelia Devivo (Mimi) and Ruth Brown, (Brownie), the two women met after volunteering to serve in a war hospital being organized by what is now New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where both worked. They thought the same way about medicine and shared a readiness to laugh and enjoy life, traits they’d need after getting to Goodenough Island in early 1944.

In this Tuesday, March 1, 2016 photo, Amelia Greeley looks over old photos taken in the South Pacific during World War II as she reflects on her time spent as an Army nurse in New York. Greeley, who goes by Mimi, celebrated her 100th birthday this week and will be sharing the milestone this year with a friend she made nearly 70 years ago during the war. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Amelia Greeley (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

A monsoon on the mountainous island, part of what’s now Papua New Guinea, poured mud into the newly built Ninth General Hospital and destroyed several wards, according to histories compiled by NewYork-Presbyterian. An outbreak of scrub typhus, a mite-borne disease that causes high fevers, sickened dozens of the hospital’s personnel and killed eight.

Within months, the Ninth General moved to Biak Island, off Indonesia’s Papua province and closer to the fighting. A hospital designed for 1,500 patients sometimes cared for as many as 2,500. By the war’s end in September 1945, the hospital had cared for about 23,000 people.

“It was awful” sometimes, says Greeley, who lives in New York. “But if we saw them get well, it was worth it.”

They thought they would be stationed in Australia, but were sent to Goodenough Island.

They thought they would be stationed in Australia, but were sent to Goodenough Island.

Yet there were adventures, too, such as a 15-day leave that stretched far longer as Girk and Greeley waited to hitch flights in Australia. And there was the camaraderie preserved in a fading photo from the hospital’s archives, showing Greeley, Girk and a half-dozen colleagues with broad, carefree-looking smiles.  “When you’re in the service, you’re away from home, you become very close to people,” says Girk, of Peoria, Arizona. “They’re your alternate family.”

After both worked six postwar months at a now-closed Army hospital in New York and finished their service as captains, Girk studied industrial nursing and worked for an insurer before marriage and moves to the Midwest and elsewhere. Greeley returned to work at New York-Presbyterian until her marriage in 1966.

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But their friendship held fast. They spent holidays and traveled together with their husbands and later without, after both were widowed in the 1980s.

If there’s a secret to a long life and friendship, Girk thinks it’s “happiness and a pleasant outlook on life. “We couldn’t care less about being 100, believe me,” she said.

And Greeley’s opinion?

“I think, very often, that we were just two lucky gals.”

The idea for this post was contributed by Bowsprite and supplemented with an article put out by the Associated Press.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

followed

"It's some game she learning in the Army."

“It’s some game she learned in the Army.”

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Farewell Salutes –

 Hortense L. Chagnon – Fairfield, ME; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Mildred Kaiser – Dekalb, IL; US Navy WAVE, WWIIfb7bc2ae8dc9a210e4db2cd51e5e0d25

Georgilee “Hank” Elmore – Crane, MO; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

Lillie Ricketts Fitzhugh – Farmington, NM; US Army WAC, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

Norma Strohl Owens – Fremont, OH; US Army, WAC; WWII, Captain

Marilyn Gray Persson – Hebron, CT; US ArmyWAC, WWII

Vella Primm – Fort Wayne, IN; US Army WAC, WWII/ US Air Force, Korea

Phyllis Scott – Rockford, IL; US Army WAC, WWII, Sgt.

Emily Taylor – Sheboygan, WI; US Army WAC, WWII

Harriet Westin – Honolulu, HI; US Army, WAC, WWII, Sgt., radio operator

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Millie Kaiser’s story can be read HERE at her granddaughter’s blog.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 16, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 63 Comments.

  1. Amazing! These two ladies turned 100 after all terrible things they suffered during WWII.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great stories and tributes. I think these heroes often get overlooked. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  3. Another heartwarming tale of friendship and service. Lovely to see those doughty ladies still going strong!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Indeed – a fabulous outlook on life leads to a fabulous life despite hardships within. Great tribute here gp 🙂

    Like

  5. Fantastic post gp, a great follow up to the previous post on Woman in the services, Mimi” Greeley and Ruth “Brownie are exceptional Ladies, who deserve much respect for their service, beautiful to read that they reach the ripe old age, and are still in touch, Great Tribute gp.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They sure do deserve it!! It would make me feel better if I knew stories such as this were brought to more light. As of yesterday, females of WWII are still NOT being allowed for burial at Arlington! It disgusts me. They say there isn’t enough room, but the US owns tons of property, how about an annex cemetery at least? Sorry to vent here, you in Australia and all, but it really annoys me!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic heart-warming story, a great start to my day.

    Like

  7. What a great story on lasting friendship. Liked the fact that one of them said the secret to a long life was having a pleasant outlook on life. Think she’s got something there. We all need that attitude.

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  8. Gorgeous story and respect for all this ladies.

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  9. I loved reading this, their story would make a fabulous song cycle.

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    • Now that you mention it, Charlotte, I believe you’ve hit on a fantastic idea! The UK had such women as well as other Allied nations. You and your friends could collaborate on such a project!!

      Like

  10. Heart warming story – thanks for sharing it.

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  11. pls extend my best to them, my friend. and my snappy salute to them as well!

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  12. Great story about the nurses. Beautiful people.

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  13. All the best, and long lives to these two feisty ladies!:

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  14. What an amazing story! It’s so wonderful that Mimi and Brownie are still friends after all this time. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. What a great tribute to the nurses! They and others worked so hard. Glad they are celebrating 100 yrs old. Thanks, Everett!

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  16. They may be two lucky girls but it sounds like a lot of people were lucky that chose to serve.

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  17. What a life it must have been for them. Obviously the hardship they endured brought them close as life long friends.

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  18. A fine tribute to two incredible women. Thanks for sharing GP.

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  19. The secret of a long life is indeed what the two charming ladies said: happiness and a positive outlook on life. I am sure that their mere presence at the military hospital contributed to the healing of the wounded soldiers.

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  20. Along with some men, it seems that some women developed enduring friendships during the war. I also noticed in the top picture that the nurses had suitcases. I guess women weren’t issued duffel bags.

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  21. An excellent piece…these ladies did not get all the recognition that they deserved….well done…chuq

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  22. A wonderful post about 2 amazing ladies. Thank you for including this. All the very best. Kris.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. What an amazing story of survival in every possible sense

    Like

  24. Thank you very much, Kathy.

    Like

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