Sunday, June 5, 2011

Muriel Phillips, U.S. Army Nurse: Normandy

US Army nurses in Chester, England, before D-Day. Muriel Phillips is in front, saluting the brass.

"For their next assignment, Muriel and her entire hospital unit . . . were going to cross the English Channel to nurse the wounded of the Normandy invasion (which had taken place several weeks earlier) and await orders for their final destination.

The nurses decided to sleep on the ship's deck as the rooms below were infested with bedbugs. Muriel could hear the German planes flying overhead as she lay in the darkness; she had learned the difference bretween the sound of a German plane and an Allied one. But because a blackout had been ordered on the ship, all the lights had been extinguished. Muriel and the other nurses were not visible to the enmy planes as their transport ship crossed silently thorugh the dark waters of the English Channel.

A trip across the Channel usually took only two or three hours, but all the debris in the water -- broken remnants of airplanes, pieces of ruined ships -- had slowed the trip down substantially so that it took them three days. Finally, the coast of Normandy came into view . . .

As their trucks approached the nearest village, Muriel and the others became silent. The sights -- and smells -- of war were everywhere. Homes and farms lay in ruins. Piles of rubble lay where buildlings had once stood. The smell of death and decay hung in the air . . ."

Excerpt from "Muriel Phillips: U.S. Army Nurse" from Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.

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