Whether wounded troops or children, Army nurse and Sister Melanie Kambic tempted with candy and kindness.
Ep 13: Mar 2, 2020
World War II transformed women’s service both in the U.S. Armed Forces and in their stateside communities — millions would serve at home and abroad as nurses, clerics, drivers, front-line food peddlers, and even pilots. The work wasn’t easy. To survive the shifting job market, they had to work twice as hard for half the pay. They had to suffer how society could look up or down on them at any given moment. They had to adapt, grow, and endure.
Army Nurse Victoria Louise Kambic found when tempting wounded soldiers and fussing children, a bag of sweets in her pocket helped, too.
Victoria became Sister Melanie Kambic, and she shares her World War II war and food story with us from the Sisters of Divine Providence convent in Allison Park, Pennsylvania.
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Avery Keatley engineered this episode. Thank you to Sister Rose Anne and Susan Rhom at the Sisters of Divine Providence convent for assisting with this interview. Learn more about them on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.
Behind The Episode:
- Learn more about the Sisters of Divine Providence on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.
- Sister Melanie grew up as Victoria Louise Kambic in the steel mill towns outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Read about them in this gripping Topic piece, In the Shadow of the Steel Mill.
- Read about Camp Lee’s history during WWII – where Nurse Kambic would serve – at the US Army and about Fort Lee and the Legacy of Army Women at the Library of Congress
- For a deep dive, read Lessons Learned by Army Nurses in Combat, a Historical Review, a paper by Colonel Susan C McCall
- 77 Army Nurses were Japanese POWs in the Bataan Peninsula. Check out their fascinating story at History.com.
- Women Played a Vital Role in WWII – and Not Just in Nursing. Read more at the Associated Press and about Gender on the Home Front at the WWII Museum.
- We used clips from FDR’s 1940 Selected Services speech and his Fireside Chat from a few weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, where first called the United States the “The Arsenal of Democracy”.
- Read through a few highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps, from 1940 to 1950, at the Army Nurse Corps Association
- Click through a stunning gallery of WWII Army Nurses at Women of World War II.
Click on the names below to watch video interviews with these WWII veterans
One woman caught my clothes and pointed to the macaroni and cheese on her tray. Taking up a handful, she said… “You bring me more?” That woman had been a Hungarian political prisoner. Of the time of her capture, she had spoken seven languages. And here she was, just worried about getting their food.” If they couldn’t finished their food, they stuffed it under their pillow for later…Nurse Vera Cecelia Gustafson Palmer, speaking about tending patients at Dachau after the liberation of German and Polish concentration camps in 1945
You didn’t have time to worry about other people – you had something before you that meant a life. It meant a life. Maybe I didn’t weld it right – maybe that was the very one that ruined the whole thing. So I did not have one piece of my work come back on me.Welder Meda Montana Hallyburton Brendal
So we get there, and this big, big colonel – god, he looked like a giant – says to our chief nurse, “My god, you’re women! You’re not supposed to be here yet!” She said -she was all of five feet tall, and she had a long, red braid that she wore down her back – and she looked up at him, put her hands on her hips, and said to him, “We’re here. Deal with it.” So, we lived in foxholes. And that’s when I learned why the Army told me to keep my butt down, ’cause we had to crawl to the other foxholes and drag the kids back, that were injured. And we had a–they made us a rather large foxhole, and that was the first aid station. And you know what? Nobody was afraid. We were too young! We were all young, you know, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. We were not afraid! We were stupid! But we lost seven nurses…Career Army nurse Frances Liberty, on landing in the first wave into Anzo, Italy
I saw the whole experience as… it was an experience within a period of time which provided invaluable, invaluable opportunities: my first plane ride, first ride in a Pullman car, my first across from coast to coast, those kinds of things. I am very grateful, very appreciative, but I had no desire whatsoever; I wanted to move on to the next phase.Captain Violet Hill Gordon, one of the first African American WACs of WWII