Military families have front seats to history

Circe Olson Woessner

Recently on Facebook, a friend mentioned the difficulties of talking about her military childhood because people think she’s bragging when she speaks about having lived overseas. She admits, “I rarely bring it up any more.”

As the Director of the Museum of the American Military Family, I tell people that in order to understand history, one needs to see it from all perspectives. Military families have often been present during historic events, but much of the time, their experiences are not widely shared.

My husband was overseas conducting multinational exercises on September 11, 2001. I was driving to work listening to the radio when the news of the attacks came over the airways. I remember initially thinking it was a remake of that old radio show, “War of the Worlds.” As it sunk in that it was real, I realized I’d better pick up my kids from their off-base schools, as the base we lived on would go on lock-down. Our lives were about to change. Read the rest of this entry »


1st Lt. Adela Lutz

image0021st Lt. Aleda Lutz

Twenty-six years ago, on August 15, 1990, Congress enacted Public Law 101-366 to name the Saginaw, Michigan, VA Medical Center after World War II flight nurse, 1st Lt. Aleda E. Lutz. Saginaw was the second VA facility to be named after a woman. There are currently two VA medical centers named for women.

Aleda Lutz was born in Freeland, Michigan on November 9, 1915 to German immigrants, Fred and Margaret Lutz. She graduated from Saginaw Arthur Hill High School in 1933 and shortly afterwards entered the Saginaw General Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1937 and worked at the hospital as a registered nurse until February 10, 1942 when she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps. She was initially assigned to Selfridge Air Field near Mt. Clemens, Michigan.

In December 1942 she was transferred to the 349th Air Evacuation Camp at Bowman Field near Louisville, Kentucky, where she was part of the first group of women to train as specialized flight nurses. The first class of Army flight nurses—then called “air evacuation unit nurses”–graduated on February 18, 1943. She was then assigned to the 802nd Medical Air Transport Squadron, the first of its kind activated in the Army Air Corps, and deployed to North Africa.

She served as a flight nurse through the Tunisian, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns and logged over 800 combat hours flown. She was killed while evacuating 15 wounded soldiers to Italy on November 1, 1944, eight days shy of her 29th birthday, when her transport plane crashed near Lyon in southern France. It was her 197th mission.

She was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, the Oak Leaf Cluster, Red Cross Medal, and Purple Heart, posthumously. In addition to the VA Medical Center name designation, a U.S. Army Hospital Ship and C-47 airplane have been named in her honor.

Aleda Lutz is buried in the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France, which is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Historian, Veterans Health Administration

 


VA History: Atomic Research

Seventy-one years ago the world’s first atomic bombs used for military purposes were dropped by the U.S. on Japan to facilitate an end to World War II. The first bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” using the uraninum-235 isotope was dropped on August 6, 1945 on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, a second bomb using plutonium and nicknamed “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. Both bombs had been built under the special “Manhattan Project” which officially began in 1942 under the U.S. Army. Six days later, on August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered. A formal signing of the surrender took place in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. Each bomb leveled areas four miles wide, killed and injured tens of thousands of men, women, and children, and ushered in a new era of exciting scientific possibilities tempered by fear from the new reality that they could annihilate all of mankind.

After the war, atomic research flourished worldwide and followed two major paths: development for use in warfare and development for peaceful purposes. Barely one year after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, the U.S. Congress enacted the Atomic Energy Act on August 1, 1946. The act established the Atomic Energy Commission, which became the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1974. An important component of the law authorized the use of atomic radioisotopes for biological and environmental research to benefit society. By the end of 1947, the Veterans Administration was among the first federal institutions to initiate an Atomic Medicine program. Read the rest of this entry »


Nisei Service During World War II – Asian American-Pacific Islander Heritage

Celebrating Asian American-Pacific Islander Heritage!

1943_12_23_First 5 Nisei WACs_article_MorningRegister-DesMoinesIA_uiowa-edu After the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, looming fear of more imminent attacks on Los Angeles and the West Coast led the U.S. government to embark on a controversial program that targeted people of Japanese descent. Families and individuals of Japanese heritage were rounded up and relocated at isolated internment camps which were intentionally located far away from the American West Coast. The majority of them remained in these camps for the duration of the war. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, signed on February 19, 1942, initiated the program. Relocation efforts escalated in the fall of 1942 with more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent relocated to 10 internment camps. The majority of individuals in the camps were American-born children of Japanese parents–known as “Nisei.” Nisei is a Japanese term used for children born to Japanese (known as Issei) in a new country. The Nisei children were U.S. citizens and many of them were young adults, vocal about their loyalties, and wanted to serve in the U.S. military during the war. Read the rest of this entry »


In Honor of the Ironing Board Brigade: THE SERVICE WIFE

Submitted by Marcia S Klaas, original author unknown

What is a service wife?? You might say the service wife is a bigamist, sharing her husband with another demanding entity called “DUTY”. When duty calls, she becomes wife number two. Until she accepts her competition, her life can be miserable.

Above all, she is womanly, although there are times she begins to wonder … Like the time when “HER” serviceman answers the call to duty, and she finds herself mowing the lawn. Then she suspects she is part male.

She usually comes in three sizes: Petite, plump, and more pleasingly plump. Amidst constantly changing settings, she finds it difficult to determine what her true size is.

A service wife is international. She may be an Iowa farm girl, a French mademoiselle, a Japanese doll, or an ex-Army nurse, but when discussing her problems with newly found friends, she speaks the same language and from the same general experience. Read the rest of this entry »


First nurses in VA’s history – in honor of Nurses Week

In 1890, VHA’s predecessor–the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers–hired its first women nurses at the Northwestern Branch in Milwaukee (known today as the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center).

Able-bodied men who were residents of the National Homes served as wardmasters, nurses, and assistant nurses prior to 1890. An 1880 National Home board of managers report recommended that two wardmasters be paid $15 per month and have supervision of all wards–day and night–under supervision of the post surgeons. “These men should be strictly temperate, skillful, good-dispositioned, intelligent, and faithful. The other nurses should be divided into two classes, viz, nurses and assistant nurses. The nurses should have $8 per month for the first year, $10 per month for the second year, and $12 per month thereafter. The assistants should have $6 per month for the first six months, $7 per month for the second six months, and $8 per month thereafter.” The National Home veteran population was approaching old age by 1900, so a solution to replace them as nurses was sought.

The nursing profession in America was in its infancy after the Civil War. Hundreds of women had served as nurses during the war, but most had no formal training. The first nursing school in America opened at Bellevue Hospital in New York in 1873 and taught Florence Nightingale’s philosophy and practices of nursing care. New nursing schools opened up across the country afterwards. Read the rest of this entry »


“SHOUT: Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writings by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services”

MAMF Special Projects Writer Caroline LeBlanc is seeking stories for:

SHOUT: Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writings by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services”

This anthology seeks first-hand experiences—good, bad, and in between—as an LGBT veteran or family member, during and/or after military service. Our goal is to create a book that will allow you to tell parts of your story that will also be helpful for others to read—others who live or want to understand the LGBT veteran experience. The last chapter of the book will list resources available to LGBT veterans.

Do not submit any materials previously published in print or online. Identifying information should be included in the body of the email only.

What Genres to Submit:

Fiction: up to 1200 words.

Non-Fiction (memoir, essays, and other non-fiction): up to 1200 words

Poetry: up to 40 lines.

Reviews: up to 1200 words about a movie, book, music, etc. that you think are important for others to know about.

Resources: submit information on resources you have found particularly helpful. (Name, webpage, telephone number, and services)

 You may submit up to 2 pieces in each genre. Each piece must be attached in a separate file. All pieces in a given category must be submitted in the same email. Pieces in separate categories must be submitted in separate emails.

Submissions are accepted between March 20 and June 20, 2016. For more information or for guidelines on how to submit, please visit:

 our projects website