Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wwii Army Nurse Recalls `Bedpan Commando' Life

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wwii Army Nurse Recalls `Bedpan Commando' Life

Article excerpt

Standing in her Army nursing uniform, complete with combat boots, retired 1st Lt. June Wandrey recently told fifth-graders at Mark Twain Elementary School in Brentwood, "Here you have a 50-year-old uniform with a 74-year-old body inside."

Wandrey, of Portage, Mich., proceeded to bring to life the Battle of the Bulge and her other experiences in World War II. She holds eight battle stars and has written a book titled, "The Bedpan Commando."

Fresh out of nursing school, Wandrey was listening to the radio and dreaming of medical school on Dec. 7, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt interrupted and announced the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

She and a friend promptly tried to enlist, but they were 21 years old, and they had to be 22. After Wandrey's birthday in February, she joined the Army Nurse Corps. "The army gave us no training in combat, regulations, marching, anything, but we volunteered to go to North Africa when the Army landed."

"We were like little field mice following the 45th Infantry Division from battle to battle," Wandrey said. "From North Africa, we went to Sicily, then to Anzio Beachhead where we were surrounded by the Germans."

Wandrey said they had heard Hitler was going to attack the Allies in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and Luxembourg and drive through to Antwerp. The Germans began the push on Dec. 16, 1944.

The Battle of the Bulge was fought in an abundance of snow, ice and slush in frigid conditions, Wandrey said. "Over one million men were involved from the United States, Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France. We had 81,000 casualties with 19,000 killed."

Wandrey said that when most people think of hospitals, "They think of long corridors, starched uniforms, things squeaky clean. We worked in field tents."

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Wandrey described her Christmas in 1944. "We sterilized our equipment and set up a hospital in an old bombed-out factory. …

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