Elizabeth Flavelle was born October 14, 1910 in Easton, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Frank and Elizabeth (Flaherty) Flavelle. Elizabeth graduated from Easton Catholic High School in 1929, and from French Hospital School of Nursing in New York City in 1932. She taught at Misericordia School of Nursing in New York and served as a nurse for 10 years before she volunteered for the Army Nurse Corps in 1942.
Elizabeth served in the United States Army from October 1, 1942 until November 30, 1963. She entered the service with the rank of Second lieutenant. She earned $70 a month. Her first assignment was an assistant chief of nursing services with the 201st General Hospital in Europe during World War II. She was promoted to First Lieutenant on August 23, 1943. Not until 1944 did she earn the same pay and privileges as a man of the same rank.
As an Army nurse she worked a 12-hour duty and then went for two hours of basic training each day. After basic training she was transported by barge to the battlefront. “We arrived at Normandy Beach in what was the heart of the war.” Landing at Normandy behind the U.S. troops, the nurse and her complement of 105 Army nurses followed the Army across Europe. “I remember we crossed the English Channel on Christmas Day,” she said. The 201st served as an evacuation hospital and set up shop wherever a building was available. “Sometimes it was a chateau or it could be any place that could be fixed up for a hospital. Often it had no windows because of bombings, and there was no heat. Sometime we didn’t have beds at all.” As the invasion progress so did the hospital. “The longest time we stayed in one place was at Verdun,” said Elizabeth. “We were there about a year. I didn’t see a white dress or any other kind of dress for three years,” she said. “From 1942 to 1945, I wore long johns and fatigues.”
Having served with the European Third Offensive, she recalled famous battles such as the Battle of the Bulge. Among her most frightening memories is a train ride to Verdun, France. “Bombings were going on all around us. At one point, the train was forced to stop, and we had to crawl underneath the train for protection. That was frightening, but every day during the war was a frightful experience,” she said. She earned a Battle Star of the Bulge.
Elizabeth Flavelle had fonder war-time memories of generals Bradley, Eisenhower and Patton. She knew all three men and even had dinner with them. “He had this reputation of being very rough. He was actually a very understanding man,” she said of General Patton. “He was it. A fine, fine general,” she said of of General Omar Bradley. “He was tops. Real good,” she said of General Eisenhower. “We (the nurse) were always treated as ladies.”
After two years in Europe, the chief nurse earned her right to come home under the “Points” system. By then a first lieutenant, she returned home bringing the 16th Field Hospital. She was assigned to Fort Totten Hospital in Bayside, Long Island, and later served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. By 1950 she was commissioned a Major.
The Korean War broke out in 1950. She served in Korea and remembered the 40-below temperatures. After serving for nine months in Korea, she was transferred to Yokohama, Japan and helped organize an evacuation hospital for wounded soldiers. From 1952 to 1954 Elizabeth was in charge of the 600 – 700 bed 8168 General Hospital in Yokohama, Japan. There, the wounded from the Korean battlefields were flown in and treated, only 18 hours removed from the scene of the conflict. She said the men came in at a rate of 250 a day. The wounded were rapidly evacuated from the 8168th and returned to the United States.
While serving in Japan she had the opportunity to instruct 18 members of the newly-organized Japanese Nurse Corps. She instructed them in nursing administration and procedures. The classes were taught through an interpreter.
She was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1957. She served as Chief Nurse at the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany. She served as a Chief Nurse at Fort Lee’s Kenner Army Hospital in New York until her retirement in 1963. Her rank at retirement was Lieutenant Colonel. As an Army nurse she performed her duty on three continents and served overseas during two wars.
Once retired, she volunteered as a nurse at Notre Dame High School in Green Pond, Pennsylvania for ten years. She was a member of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Easton, Pennsylvania. She suffered cardiac arrest and died on February 2, 1994 in Easton, Pennsylvania.
This remembrance provided by her granddaughter-in-law, Susan Stitt.
Photos of Elizabeth Loretta Flavelle during World War II and Korea:
(Click thumbnails to view full photo in slideshow)
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