In Her Words

Letter from Captain Margaret Beumer, September 21, 1944

Margaret Beumer, 1942
Margaret Beumer, 1942

Many nurses in the 21st General Hospital were graduates of the Washington University School of Nursing. The unit’s chief nurse and others maintained a correspondence with their friends and associates at the Nursing School to keep them abreast of news from the army unit. Some of the letters were published in the School’s Nurses Alumnae Association Bulletin.

Margaret Beumer was a 1928 graduate of the School of Nursing. She served as an unofficial historian of the 21st General Hospital nurses, keeping up the correspondence with the school’s alumnae and writing summaries of the unit’s experiences in Algeria, Italy, and France.

The following letter was reprinted in “The Cherry Tree,” the Alumnae Bulletin of the Washington University School of Nursing, in November 1944.

August in Southern Italy is very much like August “dog days” in St. Louis, hot and humid, but we would exchange places without a murmur! The greater part of May and June was “crammed full” of long, hard-working days. No one gave a thought to how many hours they worked. The operating room had two shifts of nursing personnel and doctors to take care of operations during day and night. One day and night 74 operations were done in 24 hours in the operating room proper. During that same day and evening 115 secondary closures were done in one clinic and 10 in the orthopedic clinic.

During the summer months we had nurses on temporary duty from a number of hospitals staying in this area. Some of them stayed one week to several weeks. One group of 20 stayed from February to June. They were of tremendous value to us while we were so very busy.

All of us have been permitted to have two 5-day rest periods on the Isle of Capri, Sorrento or Rome. We have made the most of this privilege. A limited number were allowed to go at a time, and we were relieved by temporary duty personnel. Capri is as enchanting as the story books relate and Rome is clean, attractive and interesting historically and scenically. Mussolini’s Forum is a work of art, all for one man. Bases of unfinished statues bear inscriptions of his military and civic achievements, a number of them in a long row. Other statues unfinished and bearing no inscription at the base is evidence of anticipation of possible future conquests and achievements. A large monument at the entrance of the grounds has the inscription of his name in very large letters. Beneath this and near the base (several months ago) was a sign “5th Army Rest Camp.”

An impromptu party was held Aug. 3rd for Major Spalding when gold leaves replaced the Captain bars, a much deserved promotion. The party was given on our “penthouse” on the roof.

Congratulations also to Captains Dorothy Kroc, Susan Vedder, Mary Burkholder; to 1st Lt. Frances Anyon, Judy Price, Mary Sue Prince, Maudie Morris, Eleanor Brinkmeyer, Virginia Dyer, Emma Frohbieter, Verona Blesse, Mary L. Harrison, Mary Carter, Willie Isenhower, Ruby Willwerth, Ruby Walker, and Alice Walker, Tiffany Ferrell, Una Gilbert, and Kathryn Kulig.

1st Lt. Metta Baxter, physiotherapist, 21st, received the “Legion of Merit” on June 6th for very excellent care given in the physiotherapy department by one physiotherapist and trained but limited number of enlisted personnel only for a hospital expanded to three times its original size. According to table of organization, four physiotherapists are required for a hospital this size.

We surely enjoy news in the Cherry Tree from all part of the globe. Our thanks to all of you.

– Margaret Beumer, N-741211 ANC, APO 362