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Friday, November 16, 2012

Women of Immeasurable Caliber: WWII Heroes

When my character, Evangeline, came to me in the wee hours of the morn one cold winter, I became interested in the stories of WWII nurses--as though I woke up from a dream. One moment I'd been researching the historical events and stories of male heroism, and in the next, I'd realized both genders contributed a great deal to defeating Hitler and the Japanese.

Before Evie came to me I'd only been interested in heroic tales of soldiers, infantrymen, and civilian acts of triumph. As a lot of other authors believe, I truly think my inspirations/characters/stories come from a place much larger than myself. Otherwise, without Evie popping up in my mind, I would've never looked at how women contributed to the WWII effort (outside of Victory gardens and the female factory workers who built bombs, planes, and made some spectacularly large ammunition).

Over in the UK, British and other foreign women who spoke fluent French were recruited by the British SOE Department as spies. Many of these women lost their lives while helping the French Resistance against German occupiers, and some of them returned home forever changed by their experiences--and recognized as real-life war heroes...though you rarely hear their names...

American women had never officially been part of the U.S. Army (or armed forces) previous to WWII. The Army Nurse Corps, as well as U.S. Navy nurses, were very close to the front lines and were subject to being taken as POWs and/or killed in the line of duty--just as any soldier.

Unarmed, in unsafe places, nurses risked their lives to save lives. And in the endless conversations I had with my dearest character, Evie, I asked her repeatedly: what is more heroic...an armed, trained soldier facing the enemy by shooting bullets, capable of hands-on fighting, or a nurse, only armed with her knowledge and compassion, continuously trying to patch each of those bloodied soldiers up? 

She always answered: they're equally heroic. Women just have more to prove.

All I have to say to the Greatest Generation of Women: you're my role models.    

  

3 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

When I was in grade school, which was in the late 40's and early 50's, I wanted to be a nurse and I wanted to go to Annapolis as a Midshipwoman. With your story, another generation will see the heroines and heros of World War II as role models. I'm looking forward to getting to know Evie better!

Shannon Yun said...

What a wonderful post! My grandmother was a WAVE. Brave, amazing women indeed.
Thank you,
Shannon

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Courtney,
Great post. Many years ago, I worked with a lady who had been an army nurse during WW2. She was one of the nurses captured by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in 1942. They became known as the white coolies, suffered terrible deprivation and many of them died. This lady told me she got down to 4 stone in weight and was the next to die, but the war ended just in time to save her.
I was humbled to have worked beside such a woman.

Margaret