They Called Them Angels: American Military Nurses of World War II

By Kathi Jackson | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 6C: THE GARDELEGEN BARN

We were unprepared for the sight and smell of our first atrocities. A large windowless storage barn stood alone in the middle of a field. At first glance there was no indication of its contents. As we drew nearer the unmistakable stench of burned flesh reached us and I thought of how it smelled like a thousand touches of the cautery needle.

First I saw what appeared to be a small rock at the edge of the foundation. To my horror a closer look showed it to be a burned head whose owner had managed to dig out this far before succumbing to the fire.

We peeked through the cracks in the boards and saw the entire scene. The floor of the whole barn was covered with blackened bodies, the faces not even recognizable as human. I believe the number who died there was counted as five hundred.

Later we heard most of the story which led up to this particular holocaust. Three Dutch prisoners who had escaped a few days prior to the fire had been taken to the Evac Hospital for care and protection. They told the following story:

A defeated German Army contingent was trying to hurry these prisoners along to get across the Rhine River ahead of the fast approaching American Army. The prisoners were in no shape to travel--starving, debilitated and ill, so the Germans contacted the local Burgomeister and informed him that the prisoners were being relinquished to his care.

The Burgomeister and Council were terrified that they had no secure place to hold these prisoners and feared reprisals should they escape.

It was then decided to lock them in the barn and burn them, which they did.

When the Americans arrived they ordered the townspeople to dig separate graves (they first tried to settle for one common grave) and bury these unidentified bodies.

During this time the Burgomeister attempted suicide by slashing his wrist[s] but was treated at the Evac and lived to stand trial for this mass murder.

One of the Dutch men who had escaped a few days before the tragedy told a heart-warming story of his two companions who hid out with him waiting for the "Liberators" to come. They became so hungry they decided to ask someone in town for food. They chose the house next [to] the Church which proved to be the parsonage. The minister fed them and hid them in his basement until the Americans came.

-- Rachel Gilbert Francis Unpublished Essay, October 22, 1993

-88-

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They Called Them Angels: American Military Nurses of World War II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Note xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Notes xx
  • Chapter 1 Uncle Sam Wants You! 1
  • Notes 6
  • Chapter 2 from Whites to Fatigues 7
  • Notes 15
  • Chapter 3 Following the Troops 17
  • Notes 21
  • Chapter 4 the Pacific Theater 23
  • Notes 47
  • Chapter 5 the Mediterranean Theater 51
  • Notes 62
  • Chapter 6 the European Theater 65
  • Notes 82
  • Appendix 6a: Rain on A Tent in Normandy 85
  • Appendix 6b: China Doll 86
  • Appendix 6c: the Gardelegen Barn 88
  • Appendix 6d: Second Lieutenant Frances Y. Slanger 92
  • Chapter 7 the China-Burma-India Theater 93
  • Notes 97
  • Chapter 8 the United States and Western Atlantic Minor Theaters 99
  • Notes 106
  • Appendix 8a: Nursing in A Stateside Burn Ward 107
  • Chapter 9 Wild Blue Yonder 109
  • Notes 117
  • Appendix 9a: Tales of An Air Force Nurse 119
  • Chapter 10 Life at Sea 121
  • Notes 135
  • Chapter 11 Camaraderie and Romance 139
  • Notes 152
  • Chapter 12 Leaving a Legacy 155
  • Notes 169
  • Appendices 171
  • Notes 182
  • Bibliography 183
  • Index 207
  • About the Author 213
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