Katie Lange of DoD News of the Defense Media Activity recently revealed the stories of a lot of nurses stationed in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941, among whom was Teresa Stauffer Foster and others. Her narrative is among the handful of stories being remembered by nurses in the military who witnessed and survived the Pearl Harbor attacks on that fateful December day. Many of these stories are now being told.
Foster’s daughter, Winnie Woll, says that very few stories are known about those women. She currently gives lectures and talks to spread stories of these pioneering women. Many of these World War II survivors are known never to discuss and prefer to forget the things they went through due to the trauma involved. It is now Woll’s mission to be the voice to tell the myriad stories of Pearl Harbor nurses.
The story of Ann (Danyo) Willgrube was only uncovered by accident. She was a part of the Navy Nurse Corps assigned on USS Solace. She refrained from sharing anything regarding her life in the military with her family. Joe Danyo, her brother, did not expect to read a detailed letter regarding her experiences of that day. Cleaning her house during the mid-1980s, he saw the letter addressed to a student doing a report regarding Pearl Harbor.
“…nurses worked ‘round the clock, caring for over 130 patients.”
After the attack, Willgrube narrated that the Solace nurses worked ‘round the clock, caring for over 130 patients. Seventy percent of patients suffered from burns. Being too busy, they failed to be overly worried about the ship’s shaking, the guns roaring, and the flying planes.
The attack destroyed USS Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma, also damaging other aircraft and ships as well. Over 2,400 were killed, 50% of whom were on the Arizona. It was the most damaging attack on America, but Willgrube relayed that it took them some days to realize its extent.
Willgrube added that they were very grateful that their attackers were not aware of the extent of their damage. Otherwise, they may have taken over Hawaii altogether. Willgrube decided to finally share her story because she wants America always to be prepared for any attack. She further added that military discipline is essential; it saves lives and wins wars. She served the military for 27 years and married Commander Wayne Willgrube, also a Solace officer. She died of Parkinson’s disease in 1988.
Woll also shared other nurses’ stories, including a Purple Heart that was returned, one love story, and a story involving General Patton. And as their generation slowly dies, many other amazing stories are being lost to the ravages of time. Thus, people like Danyo and Woll share such stories to as many people as they possibly can.
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