“We had patients to take care of. They were scared silly and you just had to be there. You couldn’t do anything. At night you didn’t do much sleeping but you did your best. But during the day, when you were on duty you just did what you had to do.”
Culture & Society
By Alan Simons
Muriel Phillips Engelman (1921 – 2022)
TORONTO. August 3/22 – Many of our readers will not be cognisant of the numerous unsung Jewish heroes amongst us. Muriel Phillips Engelman was one of them. Engelman was one of the last surviving U.S. Army nurses to serve near the front lines during World War II. She died this past June 2022. She was 101 years of age.
Born Muriel Phillips, January 12, 1921, in Meriden, Connecticut, 1LT Engelman, U.S. Army Nurse Corps, spent several months of her three-year service near the front lines at the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) treating American soldiers.
In her book, “Mission Accomplished: Stop the Clock,“ a personal memoir, she writes about her three years as an army nurse, serving in England, France, and Belgium, and detailing life in a 1,000-bed tent hospital, caring for wounded American soldiers in Liege, Belgium.
Engelman spent from the first part of November 1944 to the middle of June 1945 working as a nurse at the tent hospital.
In a 2009 interview with the Library of Congress’ Victory of History Project, Engelman was asked: “Were the buzz bombs the most frightening thing for you during that period?”
She responded: “Yes, they were horrible. Even though you lived through them, you worked, you slept, and you could hear them coming, the patients hated being in buzz bomb alley. That’s what they called the Liege area. They always said that they’d rather be at the front lines where it was comparatively quiet, some of the time. But it’s tough being hospitalized in a bed and you hear a bomb coming and you can’t move. Well, we couldn’t move either. We had to take care of the patients. But, you just never knew what was happening.”
“Then they [the Germans] started sending bombs that were coming from three different directions, all at the same time, and the bombs came every 15 minutes of the day and night, twenty-four hours a day, and they came for the next two months. Our hospital was hit three times by buzz bombs, killing and wounding patients and hospital personnel. The hospital that we were on detached service while in Liege, they were hit twice by buzz bombs and that hospital was in a huge Army-like building and the bodies were thrown 75 feet over the rafters and even though the people were still alive, by the time they extricated the bodies, they were gone.”
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. The offensive was carried out from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, towards the end of the war in Europe. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region between Belgium and Luxembourg. After their defeat, Germany retreated for the remainder of the war.
In July 2018, Engelman was recognized by French President Emmanuel Macron for her services to France, with the Legion of Honor. She received her medal, at the age of 97, in a ceremony in Los Angeles, on September 28, 2018, from the Consul General of France for the State of California.
In retirement, Engelman was a featured speaker at Military Reunions, schools, and public events.
Muriel P Engelman WWII Army Nurse
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Credits: CBS Los Angeles/YouTube; QTC Management Inc/YouTube; memory.loc.gov; Muriel Engelman Paperback/Amazon.com
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