On Nov. 11, please join me in paying tribute to World War II veteran Audrey Beyer Jones of Corpus Christi, Texas. This 101-year-old native of Madison, Wisconsin, stepped on France soil as a nurse with the 12th Evacuation Hospital about eight weeks after D-Day on June 6, 1944. That offensive, the largest seaborne invasion in history, turned the tide of the war in the Allies’ favor.
Attack on Pearl Harbor was unforgettable
Audrey graduated from Milwaukee-Downer College in 1941 with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in foods, nutrition, and chemistry. She was in Denver doing her hospital internship at Colorado General Hospital when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
“My roommate and I listened to the radio all that Sunday afternoon. That night, I had a dinner date with a U.S. Air Force soldier stationed at Lowry Field. The minute we walked into the restaurant, there were cheers, pats on the back, and offers of drinks. He couldn’t spend a dime. Our meals were paid for, and only patriotic tunes played on the nickelodeon. That was heady stuff!” Audrey recalls.
How Audrey got ‘over there’
Audrey’s first nursing job was in New Orleans, but there was a war on. The U.S. Army needed hospital dieticians.
“So I enlisted and was sent to England with orders to report to the 12 Evacuation Hospital, a 750-bed ‘tent’ operation managed by Lenox Hill Hospital in New York,” she says.
Previously operating in Wales for 15 months, the 12th Evacuation Hospital moved to southern England in preparation for the D-Day Invasion.
“On the night of June 5th, 1944, an armada of planes began flying over our location for hours. The invasion had begun!”
Heading for France on July 31, 1944
“We crossed the English Channel in a boat that dropped anchor at Utah Beach in France. After several bivouacs, we rode on trucks inland, where the liberated French people met us with cheers. For the next 10 months, our hospital was constantly on the move, closely following behind the Third Army.”
Evacuation hospitals received casualties and provided major medical and surgical treatment before the wounded moved to rear medical installations.
“Sometimes, we took over a hospital or barracks as in Reims, Nancy, Luxembourg and Trier. We also worked and lived in tents in Verdun, Frankfurt and Nuremburg.”
General Eisenhower and General Patton visited the 12th Evacuation Hospital several times during Audrey’s World War II service in France and Germany. The USO brought stars like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby to entertain the hospital’s patients and staff.
The war ended when the Western Allies celebrated Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945. After that much-anticipated event, Audrey was then sent to Marseille, a port city in Southern France, to board a troop ship sailing to New York. She was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on Dec. 28, 1945.
Lives of valor
Audrey is especially proud that four 12th Evacuation Hospital medical staff received a Silver Star medal for parachuting into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. That is the third-highest military decoration for valor in combat awarded by the United States Armed Forces.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, only 167,284 members of the Greatest Generation are living now, according to The National World War II Museum.
Audrey is one of those surviving veterans.
At the great age of 101, Audrey and every member of the 12th Evacuation Hospital that so courageously cared for injured U.S. personnel are due our gratitude and heartfelt thanks for their fearless service. Let’s remember and honor their contributions to winning the war.
If you’d like to send Audrey good wishes for Veterans Day, please type your message in the comment box below. Paul will see that his mom receives all our messages.
Let’s make this Audrey’s most memorable Veterans Day ever!
* * *
Other WWII-related posts I’ve written: