In Her Words

Letter from Captain Margaret Beumer, February 18, 1945

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, a 1928 graduate of the School of Nursing, was nursing supervisor for the 21st General Hospital. She served as the unofficial historian of the unit’s 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, dated February 18, 1945, was reprinted in “The Cherry Tree,” the Alumnae Bulletin of the Washington University School of Nursing, in March 1945.

Feb. 18, 1945

Belated Xmas greetings and every good wish for the New Year from the 21st Unit. Duty in France has proven to be of the more rugged type for all of us. We are more consistently busy with larger numbers of patients and more of them are severely wounded. They require detailed excellent nursing care and they get it inasmuch as it is possible to give with the number of patients per nurse. It is truly remarkable how these nurses have organized their wards and their work and are able to give the excellent care they administer to such a large number of patients. A large tribute also is due the ward man who so efficiently aids the nurses and relieves them almost entirely of so many duties. They too are limited in number, however.

The operating room operates on a 24-hour basis very frequently, with 2-3 shifts of personnel as needed. Unbelievably large numbers of patients are adequately taken care of as major operations and secondary closures. Capt. Susan Vedder as surgical supervisor deserves a world of credit for her own organization of the administration of penicillin to patients. Approximately one fourth of all surgical patients receive penicillin intro-muscularly. These injections have always been given by nurses and hours have been consumed on each ward in the preparation of the drug into solution, cleaning of needles and syringes and actual administration of drug. Permission was obtained from the Chief of Service by Capt. Vedder to organize a team of enlisted men to administer the drug and free the nurses for nursing care. Since administrations were given every three hours, day and night to several hundred patients, it was no small task. Many long hours, more commonly 16 hours, were spent by Capt. Vedder and asst. surgical supervisor Lt. Ahlquist each day for well over 2 weeks in close supervision of this work in addition to surgical rounds each day. This had freed nurses of many hours spent in this task for services badly needed in administrative and bedside care.

Carolyn Klingle was married to Capt. Edward Burtonshaw at 8:30 on Monday, Jan. 15th in the chapel of the Officers Mess Bldg. The groom was delayed two days by weather and planes, and the bride to be suffered much teasing and comments in the interim. The bride wore a lovely pink lace gown with long sleeves and pointed cuffs. She looked just like a French doll. Her two bridesmaids, Pauline Tipton and Margaret Robertson Loomis, wore blue lack French-made dresses in beautiful pastel shades.

Dorothy Chinnis of Ravenel, S.C. was married to Captain Jackson Light of the 100th Div. from Roanoke, Va. The bride wore beautiful blue taffeta and looked lovely and petite as she walked down the aisle. Sgt. Hosey sang for the services of both brides. Col. Cady and Major Spalding are past masters in the art of giving the bride away and representing the brides’ family.

We appreciate sending of the Cherry Tree and keeping us up with the news.

– Capt. Margaret W. Beumer, Historian, APO 362, 21st Gen. Hosp.