First Lt. Willie Evelyn Webster served as an Army nurse during World War II, and she’s turning 100 years old on Dec. 14. Let’s all send her a birthday card in honor of her service and for reaching birthday triple digits!
Webster graduated from Celina High School in Texas and then from St. Paul Hospital’s nurses training course in Dallas. She received her Army commission in January 1944.
Evelyn deployed to Europe and served with the 168th General Hospital, which was actually a tent hospital set up in an open field in rural France. In the field hospital, she administered penicillin and sulfa drugs. Nurses changed dressings on wounds and gave the injured hot packs and alcohol rubs while archaeology best working closely with the ward surgeon.
“There’s nothing we could do for our wounded men that would be too much,” she said in an interview with her hometown paper during the war. “They come in from forward area hospitals, many with deep wounds, amputations, bad burns — but they never whimper or complain.”
Like many World War II veterans, her unit made a complicated journey to the front. From Camp Grant, Illinois, they took a troop train via the southern route. After they arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, in the rain, her group took the ferry to Hoboken and boarded the Queen Mary. Winston Churchill was aboard for their five-day trip to Scotland.
They took a train to Southampton, England, and crossed the English Channel aboard a ship called the Neuralgia (seriously, that’s what they told us) and climbed a ladder down to transfer to a Landing Craft Infantry. After coming ashore at Omaha Beach, they traveled to Cherbourg in open trucks. During their trip, rain soaked everyone to the skin.
The nurses lived in tents, and mud was everywhere. And, since it was life near the front, everyone had armed escorts to the latrine. Like the soldiers they were helping, nurses took their baths with helmets. Since they were in France, wine was plentiful and Saturday nights at the club got very loud.
The hospital treated wounded from the front lines and paralleled the 56th Armored Infantry Battalion so it could move forward.
After a stockade was built around the hospital, they oversaw German prisoners as they did work. One carved a pair of wooden shoes for Evelyn, and she has them to this day.
Later, the unit took a train to Paris and then to detached service in Reims. Once V-J Day arrived, they were sent home before they could be redeployed.
After Evelyn returned from the war, she married Bryan Tucker in 1947. He served with the 2nd Marine Division in the Pacific, including the Battle of Tarawa. He died in 1994. Bryan and Evelyn had three children, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.