Army nurse one of two women on Honor FlightWASHINGTON — While sitting in front of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a statue depicting three nurses — Hope, Faith and Charity — tending to an injured soldier, Anna Peterson couldn’t stop her tender flow of tears. While Vietnam wasn’t her war, the image brought back a stark reminder of what it was like for her as an Army Nurse tending to the boys of World War II.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WASHINGTON — While sitting in front of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a statue depicting three nurses — Hope, Faith and Charity — tending to an injured soldier, Anna Peterson couldn’t stop her tender flow of tears. While Vietnam wasn’t her war, the image brought back a stark reminder of what it was like for her as an Army Nurse tending to the boys of World War II.
Peterson, of Canby, was in the Cadet Nurse Corps in the early 1940s as part of her nurse’s training.
“They would send us out to Army hospitals, and we’d work for a week or two, come back and do our studies,” she said. “My whole class was in the Cadet Nurse Corps because the war was on. We went out of there and … went directly into service.”
There were 21 women in Peterson’s class and all but the two or three married women opted to enlist in the Army. They traveled together to Camp Carson, Colo., for basic training.
“The guys were mostly drafted,” she said. “We nurses, we volunteered.”
After basic training, during the early summer of 1945, about three-fourths of the nurses in her class were assigned to O’Reilly General Army Hospital in Springfield, Mo.
“We were there when the boys came back,” she said. “We pretty much stayed there until the end of the war.”
Peterson spent six months in Springfield, tending to soldiers in the paraplegic ward.
“I was just a plain, ordinary nurse,” she said. “The paraplegic ward, those guys were all paralyzed. You really felt sorry for all of them.”
As a nurse, she said she felt like she owed them.
“They did a lot, and they were drafted when they were all so young,” Peterson said. “Those that were married, their wives would come and sit by their bed.
“You’d do anything for them, and they were such good kids,” she added. “They laughed and they joked. You never heard them complain or ask for extras.”
Peterson said she treated the soldiers of war just after penicillin was made available on a mass scale, and the medication was administered “around the clock” to treat infections.
“The boys themselves were swell kids,” she said. “I heard from some of them for years and years afterward. We got pretty close — (they were) just like your own family.”
While stationed at Springfield, Peterson was visited by her mother and younger brother Wayne Maynard who, at the time, had a three-day pass from his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Together, the trio traveled to the Ozarks for a brief vacation from the war effort.
“That’s the only time we were together, and then he was shipped overseas,” Peterson said of her brother, who was drafted into the Army to be part of the invasion force on Japan. The war ended before the mission took place, and Maynard ended up sitting in on the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazis involved in orchestrating the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Peterson re-enlisted after her six-month assignment had ended at O’Reilly General Army Hospital. She was then sent to Denver, Colo., to work with black patients in the tuberculosis ward of Fitzsimons Army General Hospital.
Peterson remained in contact with some of the patients she aided during and after World War II for many years, though as she sat in front of the Nurse’s Memorial Saturday, April 30, on the National Mall in Washington, her voice trailed off as she said those soldiers are no longer living.
As for the nurses she served with, Peterson said, “I think they’ve all died. I’m the last one.”
It was at that point that she asked to be wheeled away from the nurse’s memorial — it was just “too emotional.”