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May 28, 2004
An interview, this Memorial Day weekend, with a former Army nurse who served in Normandy shortly after D-day. She was twenty-three years old when she jumped into the water with a forty-pound pack on her back. She almost drowned, she said on the radio, because the water was deeper than she thought. She stood 5 feet three inches tall in those days.

What brave women they were. They set up field hospitals as close to the front as they could get -- they didn't evacuate the wounded with helicopters then, they used ambulances, bumping over the pitted roads as fast as the driver could drive, desperate to start treatment within the golden hour just after an injury. Get to them within an hour and your chances of saving them were good. It went down fast after that. An incredible 96% of the wounded who were gotten to the field hospitals within that hour made it home.

It was such a hard life. But the spirits and bodies of people in their twenties are resilient. They find ways to have fun. There are jokes that can still make them laugh, sixty years later.

My stepmother, aged 94, was also an army nurse. An injured Norwegian soldier was recuperating from his wounds under her care. His English was limited and she spoke no Norwegian. He needed to answer nature's call and, groping for the proper word, asked her for "a vase, please."

She was puzzled at the request. Flowers, here? "Well, how large is your bouquet?" she asked.

Both young people turned bright red at about the same time, and she fled the ward. She made a friend go in there and give him the urinal he had requested. Her friends didn't let her forget the incident for the rest of the war.
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