Friday, April 29, 2011

Muriel Phillips, U.S. Army Nurse: Buzz Bombs in Belgium

Muriel Phillips during the Battle of the Bulge. Courtesy of Muriel Phillips Engelman.

Muriel Phillips was a US Army nurse stationed in a general tent hospital in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. Her wartime experiences are featured in her personal memoir, Mission Accomplished: Stop the Clock and she is also featured in the US section of  Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue, both excerpted below. (In addition, she is the platoon leader of the group of army nurses who can be seen marching across the cover of "Women Heroes of WWII").

". . . After Muriel and her hospital unit had been near Liege for about a month, the Germans began sending buzz bombs (the V-1 bomb, or the robot bomb) all over the area. A single buzz bomb contained nearly 2,000 pounds of explosives and made a "putt-putt" sound before plunging to the earth at a 45-degree angle with a loud, horrible, whining whistle. It would destroy everything within a few hundred feet and the explosion could be felt miles away . . .

Muriel wrote about this two-month bombing spree in a letter to her cousin, dated November 26, 1944:

"Never in my year overseas have I put in such a hectic life as I have the past few weeks and I'm afraid if the buzz bombs continue annoying us the way they have, I won't have to worry about any postwar plans. We've been lucky so far, having had some narrow squeaks, but it can't last. It's the most awful feeling in the world when you hear the motor of the bomb stop almost above you and then wait a few seconds for the explosion. I'd rather have it all at once and get it over with, but then, Hitler never consulted me. Incidentally, keep this mum, won't you, as I wouldn't want my mother or Ruth to worry though frankly, I'm scared silly and for the first time in my life I've lost my appetite.

"I'm on night duty in our tent hospital which is in a sea of mud, and with the continual rain for the past 2 1/2 weeks, it will never dry out. The work has been hard and the hours long but I really feel satisfied now because we're doing the stuff we came overseas for, and they really need us. Our quarters are in the heart of a city, some miles from here, so we have to commute each night -- leaving there at 5:00 p.m. and getting back at 10 the next morning -- and we're supposed to sleep. Sleep, however, is out of the question when buildings all around us are being bombed and each time they get it, the force practically knocks us out of bed."

(Letter taken from Mission Accomplished: Stop the Clock by Muriel Phillips Engelman and included in Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue).

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