Edith "Dee" Loveless
Edith Loveless, also known as Dee, was born on January 4th, 1920 in Foundryville, Pennsylvania. Dee is one of seven siblings, and one of her brothers joined the military during the war. Dee was 21 at the beginning of the war. She went to school for nursing in Miami, Florida and eventually joined in the Army Air Corps. As a nurse, she would treat and care for soldiers that were injured in combat. Additionally, she met her husband during her time serving. Dee currently resides in Chestertown, Maryland.
In this interview, Dee describes her experiences working at hospitals and taking care of injured soldiers. She provided care for American soldiers and generals sent home from Normandy, France. Dee recounts her time as a nurse in the Army Air Corps, and recalls triplets whom she roomed with, two of whom served in the Battle of the Bulge to provide treatment for the soldiers. Additionally, Dee discusses her experiences with nursing, meeting her husband, post-war life, patriotism, meeting José Iturbi, interaction with African-Americans, and her siblings. In her interview, Dee is joined by her son, Scott Loveless.
Treating the Blind Amputee Soldier
They were heart-rending group, you know, the kids that came to our hospital. They would be sent to a hospital in Germany, or France, I guess. And after they were there for about a couple of days until they stabilized their wounds, then they got on a hospital ship and brought them to Florida. They were sad. I mean it was amputees, all kinds of blind kids, and they were so precious,I mean. One of the young boys had a—he was amputated, leg, and couldn’t see. So he said to me, “Lieutenant, would you still love me if you were my wife?” And I swallowed, and said, “Of course, I would!” So then I went ahead and kept taking care of him. So then I went in the bathroom and cried. It was so sad to see these kids come there.
Meeting José Iturbi and her Signed Stamp
And I had this stamp that I was writing a letter to my husband when he was still overseas. And I asked José Iturbi to sign it for me, and he did. So I kept that all those years; I kept that stamp. And when he came in my hometown of Wilmington, I took that stamp, and I wanted to show it to him to see if he remembered that he had played a certain song for me. It was called Clair de Lune because he was in concert in the city and had made,I guess, came to see the soldiers. Gave them, you know, a nice concert. I guess he was practicing; it was like a rehearsal for that evening. But he wasn’t accepting anybody back stage; he had a very bad cold. But I think if I had gone and sent the stamp back to him, he would have remembered that. After all, he did play a special song for me, Clair de Lune. I’ll never forget that; it was such a beautiful song.
Roommates’ Experience at Battle of the Bulge
(Dee:) They couldn’t even talk about it for years. And they’d come visit me, and then we would talk about it. They said it was just, just horrendous. It wasn’t a good was there at that point.
(Scott:) Well, it was winter, and it was incredibly cold, and the troops were freezing, and they were surrounded by the Germans.
(Dee:) That’s right. Very cold and surrounded by Germans. They said that their life was on the line every minute in that battle. They lost some of the nurses because, I guess, the bombers would come, the enemy would come and bomb. And they’d have to try to save themselves if they could. But you know, they were in like a big, open hospital with big tents. They couldn’t run and hide too far away.
(Dee:) They came to see me, talked a little bit about it as I said though they said it was the worst experience in their lives. All the shooting and killing and their friends losing their lives, and the nurses, and the officers, the doctors. Yeah. But they were all so brave. Yeah, it was pretty bad. They came to see me one time at church, and I introduced them as two of my roommates, and I said, “And they were in the Battle of the Bulge!” And people went “ohhh!” And one of them got up and said, “And I’m still fighting the battle of the bulge!” Anyway, I thought that was funny. [laughs]
Meeting her husband
I was already enlisted in the Air Force as a nurse. And he was at dinner with my sister and her husband. And he was in Miami from Missouri or wherever he was stationed. And they had to practice flying at night so he would, they would fly across the United States so that they knew how to, you know, fly at night. So anyway, he walked into this officer’s club where my sister and brother-in-law were. There he was, a hot shot lieutenant with his wings on and everything. And he asked my brother-in-law if he could ask one of the ladies—I had a good friend with me, and she was so cute. She was blonde and all that jazz. He ignored me, and I thought, “Hmph! Huh!” So then asked her to dance, but he was trying to found out about me. So then he asked me to dance the second time, and we danced for 56 years.
Husband Flying and a Failed Pilot Cracking Her Rib
Well, whenever he had those over nights to practice, you know, flying at night, he would fly over and buzz the hospital [gasps.] And that was terrible because they had a lot of patients there who had flunked out of flight school. And they were in some section called “Section 8.” Some of them lied about their fear of flying and all that stuff just to get out of there. And then they had a lot of, not transgender, but, you know, homosexuals. Oh, yeah, and I worked in those places. They were scary in the psychiatric part because I had one guy that had been washed out, and he was so bitter. And he found out that my husband had been a pilot, he came over and grabbed me and called me “Coca-Cola,” and he lifted me up and cracked one of my ribs.
(Scott:) She had the figure of a Coca-Cola bottle.
Public Opinion of the War and Sharing
And they all pitched in, everybody had the greatest feeling of looking after each other. You know, like you had a garden, and you shared your food. I know my mother used to break bread and share it with her neighbors and things like that. They weren’t too good of times.
Political Discussion and Personal Opinion on US Involvement
Yeah, I’m sure we did, you know, talk about it a lot. Everybody was up to here, you know, listening to people debating, reading about it, and having meetings like town meetings and things like that— how they could improve what’s happening to their own, in their own situations. So, I think the Americans have a real great feeling of hope that things will get better, you know, things like that.
No, I think we should have did what we did. We couldn’t let down our allies. We had to support them. We can’t be an isolationist, as you said. But, no, I think that we should have done what we did.
Treating African Americans in the Hospital
Well I never even saw one [an African American] until I went in nursing in Philadelphia. There was not one African-American in my home town up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. And that was the first I ever saw one. I was a probationer so you got all the duties that senior nurses didn’t want, of course, or be assigned to, but you had to take your turn. But the first thing they did when I went, I was assigned to that ward, and I don’t want to tell you what they called it—racial slur, “Nigger Heaven.” That was terrible. But I had to wash their feet. And it didn’t bother me at all especially since I didn’t know too much about them, but I felt sorry for them. I felt sorry the way they were treated. And this was a Christian hospital, a Lutheran Deaconess Hospital. But they were segregated then. So that wasn’t very good.