1LT Isabelle V. Cedar Cook

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Isabelle Cedar had just graduated from The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing in 1940 when the U.S. Surgeon General proposed that Mount Sinai establish a 1000 bed hospital to treat soldiers overseas who had been wounded in the war. When the call was made for nurses to volunteer, Cook felt moved to action and enlisted to do what she felt was her duty to her nation. Cook was accepted into the Army Nurse Corps as part of Mount Sinai’s 3rd General Hospital unit, and in 1942 she reported for basic training at Camp Rucker in Alabama.

In May 1943 Cook traveled from Alabama to Casablanca, Morocco, where she and the rest of the unit awaited orders to report to the 3rd General’s site in Tunisia. Cook arrived in Tunisia as part an advance team that included 10 nurses. Upon their arrival, the nurses took over the French army barracks that the Germans had used as a hospital. The nurses were surprised to find the barracks still occupied by severely wounded Germans and a single doctor, all of whom had been left behind when the fighting ended. The nurses assumed the responsibility of caring for the wounded, and the doctor and all of the German soldiers became prisoners of war.

Over the next three years, the 3rd General Hospital would follow the front into Italy and then France. Cook celebrated the end of the war by marching in the VE (Victory in Europe) Day parade in Aix-en-Provence, France alongside Allied soldiers. The order came to close down the 3rd General in August 1945. She received her formal discharge in December 1945 having earned the rank of First Lieutenant.

We honor you, Isabelle Cook.

(#Repost @Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

COL Martha Roed Bell

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Looking to expand her horizons beyond her home state of New York, Colonel Martha Bell joined the Army Student Nurse Program in 1967–though she didn’t imagine that it would eventually take her as far away as Vietnam. Arriving in country, she treated primarily Vietnamese patients rather than American GIs, first at the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Cu Chi, and then later at the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. In her interview for the Veteran’s History Project, she discusses the “bonds like glue” that she developed with her fellow nurses, the disillusionment she felt upon seeing the politics of war played out in Saigon, and the lessons in empathy and ingenuity that her Vietnam service taught her.

We honor you, Martha Bell.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

1LT Geraldine Lillian Edwards Boock

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Geraldine “Gerry” Boock graduated from nursing school in 1944, and she and several of her classmates decided to join the war effort. One of her friends volunteered the two of them for overseas duty, and after six weeks at sea, she landed in Calcutta, where she worked with patients wounded or taken ill in the China-Burma-India Theater. She wasn’t immune to an occasional bout of dysentery; she also encountered a shifty snake charmer, and, on a moonlight visit to the Taj Mahal, an amorous British soldier. After the war ended, she stayed on in India until spring 1946 and in the Army until December of that year. Her last assignment was in a California hospital obstetrics ward, as different an experience as possible from her sojourn in India.

We honor you, Geraldine Boock.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

Mary Lucile Cain

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Born Sept. 25, 1921 in Quincy, Florida, Cain joined the Army Nurse Corps in July of 1943 and was transported to Camp Robinson in Arkansas after basic training. Cain, who had attended nursing school, said her decision to sign up was made partly because fellow nursing students wanted to join.

“I joined because I had some friends that wanted to; we got together and we signed up,” Cain said. “Three or four of us had been to nursing school together, and they were needing a lot of nurses, so we just signed up. I really enjoyed my experience.”

Once orders were received, Cain was sent to Boston, where she boarded a ship bound for England. The ship, USS Argentina, was an ocean liner that hadn’t been fully converted to a troop ship at the time Cain boarded, so she recalls being required to dress for dinner. After arriving in the UK, Cain was sent to Abergavenny, Wales, to work in the station hospital there.

“We were stationed near where troops were stationed, so we could take care of the soldiers while they were in waiting,” Cain said. “We were at a station hospital; there was a field hospital that was closer to the front line, so when they got them stable they would send them to us. We lived in Quonset huts while we were there, and I was in Wales for one year and 11 months. I never thought I’d wind up in Wales.”

Though Cain and the other nurses were healers instead of front line soldiers, certain precautions had to be taken to ensure their safety. Cain recalls being taught to handle guns despite her status as a Reserve Nurse.

“In England, we had to learn how to fire every kind of gun they had, which scared me to death. It scared the people that were teaching us too — really scared them,” she laughed. “I never had to shoot, but what happened was some of the people who weren’t ours had gotten behind the lines before, and they taught us to shoot so if it came down to protecting ourselves, we could do it.”

When her time in Wales was concluded, Cain was sent to Berlin and Paris on various assignments before returning to the United States and being discharged in February of 1946. As a woman involved in what was primarily a man’s war, Cain’s experience could have been difficult or isolating; however, she remembers that at the core of things, the difference between male and female wasn’t such a great gulf.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of difference, except that you had to learn to put up with whatever situation you got into,” Cain said. “I learned to get along with any and every kind of people in situations that sometimes got intense, and I got to know a lot of people, a lot of male people too. It changed me in so many ways, meeting so many different people from so many different places in the world… It really affected the whole world, our world.”

Cain celebrated her 96th birthday in September and has done a lot of living since her involvement with WWII was concluded, but if given the choice, she said she would join up and do it all over again, and encouraged other young women who are considering joining the military to do the same.

“I would do it over again, yes. And I would say join. Learn all you can about what’s going on and where you’re traveling. You have to know what’s going on in the world,” Cain said. “We knew what we would be getting into then because they told us. But you never really know until you experience it.”

We honor you, Lucille Cain.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson. #Repost @The Enterprise Ledger)