York County Army nurse had a long military career
Sources say that about 350,000 women served in the United States armed forces during World War II.
WACS (Women’s Army Corps), WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service in the Navy, women in the Coast Guard (SPARS) and Women Marines served as nurses, administrators, instructors, office workers and in many other positions. Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) ferried planes from factories and base to base and performed other flight duties.
Nurses, such as Mildred Klineyoung, whose story is below, were often in danger at field hospitals near the front lines and in towns being bombed by the enemy. After the end of the war, many of the women returned to civilian life; others, such as Klineyoung, had a successful and fulfilling military career.
Here is my recent York Sunday News column on Colonel Klineyoung:
Colonel Klineyoung saw the world while helping others
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Mildred Klineyoung, a York County native, served as an Army nurse and instructor from 1943 to 1971. Her career spanned World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I was privileged to do an oral history interview with her a few years ago, in conjunction with the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives, participating in the Library of Congress Veterans’ History Project. Here are some highlights of that interview:
Klineyoung was born in Hopewell Township, and grew up along the Plank Road, attending Bowman’s School and then Stewartstown High. When her family moved, she spent her last two high school years at New Freedom High, graduating at age 15. She worked at area jobs, such as a canning factory and sewing factory, until she was old enough to be accepted into the three-year nursing program at Maryland General Hospital. After finishing that course, she and a friend moved to New York and took their state board exams there because New York had better licensing reciprocity, and they wanted to be qualified to nurse anywhere. After a brief stint at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, she enlisted in the Army, taking basic training at Fort Dix and field training at Fort Bragg. She and her friends were eager to enlist, wanting to do their part in the war effort, thinking: “Who could better do it than nurses?”
After training, her unit was quickly sent to the U.S. Army’s 347th Station Hospital at Marlborough, England. It served as a “transit hospital” in the evacuation pipeline. The wounded would be evaluated and emergency work done immediately at a field hospital, then they were passed on to an evacuation hospital, also in forward position. As soon as they could be transported, they were flown to the 347th and other transit hospitals, still in field clothes. It was the job of Klineyoung and colleagues to clean their wounds or prepare them for immediate surgery, if needed, before they went on to a general Army hospital for further care.
Since Marlborough was their first stop back from the front, the staff took the opportunity to treat the wounded soldiers to fresh eggs, fried chicken and ice cream, luxuries they vastly appreciated after life on the march and in battle.
London was only about 75 miles away, besieged by enemy bombers at night, so air raid sirens would go off at Marlborough, sometimes two or three times a night. The hospital staff had to have their clothing, including helmets, ready and each time go in the dark to get patients under the beds for protection, in case bombs were dropped there.
Sometimes they were allowed to go to an Army recreation facility in London for a few days off. One evening when Klineyoung and others were preparing to go out to dinner, word came that they all had to go back to Marlborough. D-Day was about to begin. With the hospital situated in the south of England, the Normandy beaches were just across the English Channel, so casualties started pouring in, sometimes almost a thousand at a time.
After serving out the war at the 347th at Marlborough, Klineyoung was discharged from regular duty, but kept active in the Reserves. She returned to New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and then went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
Since she liked working with the troops and was interested in progressing in rank, she reenlisted to go on active duty again in 1951. She went to Fort Eustis, Virginia as head nurse, then served general duty and as supervisor at 130th USAREUR (United States Army in Europe) hospital at Heidelberg, Germany for a couple of years. Since headquarters was there, they took care of the soldiers and their families stationed at that large base.
Returning stateside, Klineyoung served as head nurse at several Army hospitals and received her bachelors’ degree in nursing and furthered her education in administration through the Army.
From July 1959 to September 1960 she was stationed at Uijongbu, Korea at the 43rd Surgical Hospital, Mobile Army, the field hospital that inspired the M*A*S*H book, movie and television series. After that, she was Instructor in Medical Surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. There she also taught new recruits who would become medical aides, doing such basics as taking blood pressure and temperatures and recognizing signs of shock.
Back again to Europe in 1966, first to the 20th Station Hospital at Nuremberg to supervise and then as chief nurse at Brussels NATO SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe) International Hospital. Returning after three years, she went to Texas to be chief nurse at Fort Wolters, retiring from the military in 1971, having obtained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1967. She received many military awards, including the Legion of Merit.
After military retirement, she obtained her Masters’ degree in nursing and completed planning projects concerning nursing for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. She was active for years with her church, Aldersgate United Methodist, and recently endowed a nursing scholarship at York College. Klineyoung’s philosophy is helping others as a way of giving back to those who had helped her, such as retired Methodist minister, Dr. James Nicholson and his wife of New Freedom, who helped her many years ago to fulfill a young girl’s dream of becoming a nurse.