Veterans’ Testimony – Ellan J. Levitsky & Dorothy F. Levitsky 164th General Hospital
Here follow some notes and pictures relating to the 164th General Hospital received from Mrs. Ellan L. Orkin and Mrs. Dorothy L. Sinner, following personal interviews and correspondence with the MRC Staff, and reproduced here with kind permission of above Nurses.
Ellan and Dorothy Levitsky, sisters, were both licensed Nurses. Dorothy is the elder sister, she was born on 17 April 1917, while Ellan was born on 27 December 1919. Ellan received her Nurse Training at and graduated from “Northeastern Hospital” in 1941, while Dorothy graduated from “Wilmington Grand Hospital” in 1938, both Hospitals were private institutions. After graduation, Ellan stayed with “Northeastern Hospital”, while Dorothy joined “Stetson Hospital”. They would probably have remained with subject Hospitals, were it not for WW2.
Both sisters decided to leave the Hospital, quit their jobs, in order to try and join the Army. They were young, single, and wanted to do something important in their lives; they wanted to play their part in the war and serve their country! But there were war restrictions on acquiring additional staff for stateside medical organizations, so the Hospital didn’t want them to go, and in the meantime, the Armed Forces were recruiting … requesting help from the A.R.C. and the A.N.C. they finally managed to volunteer for the US Army, provided they could join the same unit and stay together, while with the Service.
Report for Duty & Training:
On April Fools’ Day 1944, or thereabout, Dorothy and Ellan sent a letter from Salem, New Jersey (their permanent address) to Col. Florence Blanchfield, N-1, Chief ANC, in Washington. They offered 2 recruits, under one condition – the sisters must not be separated! The girls got their wish and began their service together in April 1944.
Finally, Special Orders No. 81, dated 04 April 1944, emanating from Headquarters Third Service Command, ASF, Baltimore 2, Maryland, ordered both Nurses (with their consent) to Active Duty with the Army Nurse Corps, effective on 14 April 1944 (as they were originally scheduled to go to USAAF Langley Field, they were at first not aware that their job would instead be with the Army). They were subsequently instructed to proceed to Ft. George G. Meade, Baltimore, Maryland (Army Ground Forces Replacement Center), and report to the Commanding Officer of the 1322d Service Unit for the purpose of undergoing the required Nurse Basic Training, and only 3 days of tests (since both were already qualified Nurses). They left the RC as commissioned 2d Lieutenants in the A.N.C. After completion of above training period, they were to proceed to Cp. Lee, Petersburg, Virginia (Army Service Forces Replacement Training Center) and report for duty to the CO of the 1326th Service Unit – they were now 2d Lt Dorothy F. Levitsky, N-762231, ANC, and 2d Lt Ellan J. Levitsky, N-762232, ANC. The final type of physical examinations was not required. Ellan and Dorothy were not alone, 6 other Nurses joined their group.
When at Ft. G. Meade, both Nurses (together with the rest of the personnel) were to follow training. Dorothy and Ellan felt they were not really athletically inclined for some activities and consequently decided not to participate. The sergeant in charge, didn’t agree of course, so the two Nurses laid down on the ground and ignored the NCO. After a week, he was almost down on both knees, begging them to behave, so they finally gave in a little. He told them that if they didn’t leave with the other people (after training), he would either commit suicide or murder them! When the training was over, and the group of trainees was about to leave, the sergeant kissed the sisters and whispered to Ellan: “I just hope you will never see me again!”
Also assigned to the 1322d SU at Ft. George G. Meade was 2d Lt. Claire M. Garrecht, N-762338, who briefly joined the 164th Gen Hosp. She was transferred to the 227th General Hospital in 1945 and remained with that unit until her separation from the Army in 1946. Nurse Claire Garrecht was to become Chief, Air Force Nurse Corps, and retired from the US Air Force a Brigadier General. She passed away 3 April 2000.
The war was on and Allied Forces were already fighting in Europe, closing down on Nazi Germany. The Nurses were getting nervous, ready for the unavoidable, since there were plenty of rumors about a possible assignment overseas.
With Special Orders No. 191, dated August 10, 1944, from Headquarters Third Service Command, ASF, Maryland, a number of ANC Officers were released from their assignments and were to join the 164th General Hospital at Cp. Grant, Rockford, Illinois (Medical Replacement Unit Training Center). As a matter of fact, the 164th Gen Hosp had been officially activated there on 15 July 1944. Ellan and Dorothy (part of a group of 84 Nurses) were to remain on duty (originally intended for limited service in the ZI, and not overseas) at their present Station, and be available for call of the Port Commander of a P/E by 15 August 1944, for transshipment to a permanent Station outside the continental limits of the United States (only a small group consisting of ANC personnel Angel – Dorothy – Ellan – Bobby would remain together till the end).
There is a funny little story tied to Cp. Grant, involving the sisters. It seemed like double talk when two certain Nurses sounded off with: “Lt. Levitsky reporting for duty, Sir.” After being ushered into Lt. Colonel Ralph H. Fouser’s Office, by Captain Welma Wiehe, Chief Nurse, Camp Grant Station Hospital. “What an unusual coincidence,” exclaimed the Colonel, returning the salute to the second Levitsky Nurse. “That was no coincidence, Sir. ” came an echo, “That was my sister!” (the anecdote traveled around Cp. Grant, and was even published in “ The Camp Grant Sentinel”, Vol 1, No 24, Friday, 9 Nov 45).
Medical personnel were being collected from different units and from different locations, such as:
- 1318th Service Unit – Cp. Pickett, Va.
- 1322d Service Unit – Ft. George G. Meade, Md.
- 1323d Service Unit – ASF Replacement Depot, Cp. Reynolds, Pa.
- 1325th Service Unit – Indian Town Gap Military Reservation, Pa.
- 1326th Service Unit – Cp. Lee, Va.
- 1340th Service Unit – Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
- 1385th Service Unit – McGuire General Hospital, Va.
- 1386th Service Unit – Deshon General Hospital, Pa.
- 1387th Service Unit – Valley Forge General Hospital, Pa.
- 1388th Service Unit – Woodrow Wilson General Hospital, Va.
Both sisters and the other Nurses were to be sent to France and staged at Ft. Dix, Wrightstown, New Jersey, (Training & Pre-Staging Area), finally departing New York P/E on 12 September 1944, on board RMS “Scythia”, with destination France. The ship only transported medical personnel, and was part of a large convoy (CU 39). It took the ship 13 days to cross the Atlantic, and passengers disembarked at Cherbourg, France, on 24 September 1944 (without transiting over the United Kingdom). Upon debarkation, they were to pitch their individual tents in rows, until everybody could be transported to the site reserved for the Hospital.
There were 87 Nurses in total, and all Nurses, except the Chief Nurse, Major Carrie E. Barrett, N-7028651, ANC, and the Chief Hospital Dietitian, 1st Lieutenant Sylvia Plotkin, R-418, HD, were from Third Service Command, while the 5 Red Cross workers were civilians attached to the Hospital unit.
Orders 10-220, dated 03 October 1944, were received from Headquarters Normandy Base Section, ComZ, ETOUSA, APO 562, directing that a group of Nurses and one Hospital Dietitian belonging to the 164th General Hospital were to be placed on Detached Service with the 5th General Hospital (a contingent of 20 Nurses and 1 HD were sent to the Carentan area) for a period of approximately 15 days (3 Oct > 17 Oct 44), and upon completion of their Detached Service, to return to their proper Station.
This group consisted of following personnel:
|1st Lt Sylvia Plotkin,||R-418, HD|
|2d Lt Eleanor R. Brown||N-723258, ANC|
|2d Lt Michaela J. Brown||N-761790, ANC|
|2d Lt Anna M. Burns||N-762016, ANC|
|2d Lt Claire A. Causey||N-762317, ANC|
|2d Lt Mary W. DeLauder||N-762179, ANC|
|2d Lt Nora Duiggnan||N-760797, ANC|
|2d Lt Marie F. Echterhoff||N-762072, ANC|
|2d Lt Doris E. Friedel||N-761155, ANC|
|2d Lt Mary P. Furrer||N-762318, ANC|
|2d Lt Carolyn P. Gray||N-762308, ANC|
|2d Lt Dorothy F. Levitsky||N-762231, ANC|
|2d Lt Ellan J. Levitsky||N-762232, ANC|
|2d Lt Mildred J. McIntyre||N-762407, ANC|
|2d Lt Rosina I. Magee||N-761985, ANC|
|2d Lt Geneva A. Melberg||N-762406, ANC|
|2d Lt Laura J. Pack||N-761914, ANC|
|2d Lt Bessie A. Raybuck||N-762390, ANC|
|2d Lt Monica J. Roche||N-761971, ANC|
|2d Lt Helen K. Smull||N-761926, ANC|
|2d Lt Anna L. Wallace||N-761926, ANC|
After moving to the site designated for the 164th General Hospital, around 5 October, everyone first had to sleep in individual tents, waiting for the large tents to arrive and final setup of the Hospital. While food was alright, quality was horrible, and some of the medical staff started bartering. The lack of fresh vegetables and fruit led to an overall lack of vitamins which damaged gums and teeth. Every Sunday there was canned chicken, and every Sunday night some of the Nurses had to run to the latrines with diarrhea, so some Nurses decided to get their own chicken! As the Hospital was located outside of La-Haye-du-Puits, four Nurses who shared a common tent (among which Ellan), packed a duffel bag with canned butter and sugar, and headed for the countryside. Notwithstanding the language barrier, none of them spoke French, they opened the bag to show its contents to a French farmer, while pointing at a chicken. After a while, everything seemed OK, and a deal was about to be made, when the farmer’s son wanted one more thing – Ellan’s shirt! So, while the farmer took care of the poor chicken, even defeathered it, the od shirt came off. No one could tell under the field jacket, anyhow. Back at the Hospital, the Nurses shared a bottle of gin with some kitchen personnel, and a kind cook arranged for the group to have fresh chicken for dinner, it was very good, and very stringy, and no diarrhea that night!
Part of it became a ‘wishbone’ which was tied on a shoestring from the light chain in their tent. When leaving for the States in August 1945, the 4 Nurses each wanted to keep the ‘wishbone’ as a souvenir; they drew cards – the highest card won – it was Ellan Levitsky who got it (it now hangs in the Milford Museum).
The 164th G.H. set up at Bolleville, a little outside of the town of La-Haye-du-Puits – Dorothy and Ellan Levitsky both remained with the Hospital from August 1944 to April 1945.
Members of the 164th General Hospital, at first lived in pup tents, while the OR was set up in 2 Quonset Huts, and more Wards were set up in tents (each had a capacity of 8 operating tables). The OR had a concrete floor, but there still remained more building to do. Luckily, the unit received help from a company of Army Engineers who not only built roads, alleys, and sidewalks, but also installed lighting and plumbing. It rained a lot during that particular building phase, and this somewhat affected group morale.
The Nurses slept on folding cots, without any mattress, and with merely a single blanket for cover. In order to keep warm at night, Dorothy and Ellan used to wear flannel pajamas under their herringbone twill fatigues in order to be able to sleep. The stoves wouldn’t always keep burning, and during the fall and winter period of their stay, medical personnel were quite often cold! With relation to the cold, there is one particular occurrence that Lieutenant Ellan remembers well.
There was a pot bellied stove in the tent and one day Ellan got up early, it was very cold and damp, and no heat available. She took some paper, poured gin over it, threw it all in the stove, and lit a match – what a beautiful fire – it was even getting light in the tent – for … the roof was on fire! Luckily, no one got injured, and everything quieted down and a new tent was set up, while she was told to be more careful. She didn’t tell how the fire had erupted. A while later, the second tent burned down and then the truth came out. Result, quite a stiff lecture about starting fires with alcohol and preserving Army property! The tent was replaced, and Ellan was warned, should this happen again, no more tent! Dorothy, Bobby and Angel took away Ellan’s ‘fire lighting privilege’…
Although not everyone was very happy when enemy labor was introduced, it became necessary to bring in German Prisoners of War for all kinds of odd jobs that couldn’t be filled in by the Hospital’s personnel, there simply wasn’t enough available manpower. The medical personnel, and more particularly the Nurses gradually became used to seeing the ‘enemy’ wander about camp.
After the Battle of the Bulge was over, this must have been somewhere in January or February 1945, Ellan was promoted to 1st Lieutenant – in fact this was a dirty trick to hurt the sisters. Their overall relation with the Chief Nurse wasn’t very good. This Officer always tried to break them apart, or hurt them one way or another, but they always stuck together!
Here comes another anecdote; Dorothy was on night duty (and now sleeping) – it was payday – so Ellan went up to the paymaster’s tent, signed her voucher, and against the sergeant’s protest also signed Dorothy’s, as she didn’t want to wake up her sister. Of course, the difference in signature was noticed and reported. This made the Chief Nurse very happy, and both sisters were made to report to the CO for a hearing. Rumors circulated around camp that both Ellan and Dorothy were about to be court-martialled (while poor Dorothy had done nothing). The sisters reported and were to remain outside the Commander’s tent, while the Chief Nurse discussed the matter with the Colonel – she wanted them “nailed to the wall, for sure.”
When the sergeant yelled, to bring in the Levitsky sisters, Dorothy and Ellan looked at each other and said “What the hell!” – they joined arms and started dancing and singing in the tent (there was a ‘Sister Act’ in the States during the 1900s performed by Rosika & Jansci Deutsch, Hungarian twins who immigrated to the US in 1905, called the “Dolly Sisters”). Lt. Colonel Frederick S. Harrell, CO, O-28561 almost fell out of his chair, and the Chief Nurse was livid with fury. When the Colonel stopped laughing, he told the Chief Nurse to forget about it all and he sent the two Nurses back to their tent – the incident was over. Needless to add, this did not improve the relation with the Chief Nurse.
Sometime early March, Angel and Ellan went to a party organized by the 156th Infantry Regiment (Separate) stationed at Carteret – they were both dating a couple of their Officers. The Nurses did not check out officially, but went through a hole in the barbed wire fence behind the Nurses’ quarters. During that same evening, 8-9 March 1945, an alert was sounded – a German raiding party from Jersey (still occupied by the enemy, until its Liberation 9 May 1945) had broken through the naval blockade and attacked Granville.
As no one knew the extent of the raid, Angel and Ellan were taken upstairs in the building by their escorts, put in a closet, covered with blankets, and told not to utter a sound! There were lots of noises, even gun fire, and both Nurses stayed there all night. The road back to La-Haye-du-Puits was cut-off for security reasons, so the two ladies didn’t make it back until late afternoon.
Angel was frantic because no one had signed out, and Ellan was horrified about Dorothy worrying about her. When they returned, Ellan rose to hug her sister, and when she did Dorothy was crying and yelling “What was I going to tell Mother?” and socked her right in the face. Since Angel was one of the Chief Nurse’s pets, the Nurses were not disciplined.
Staging & Return to ZI:
In June of 1945, there was talk about a possible transfer to the Pacific, initially the Nurses thought they might be transferred to Okinawa. When orders came, everyone was sent by train from Normandy to a Staging Area in southern France, to learn about tropical diseases and medicine – Arles, was the place. The ride was awful! The cars were old, dirty, and held wooden benches that were rather uncomfortable. The toilet didn’t work, there were only K-Rations for food, everyone was constipated, and no water to wash. They were a dirty stinking bunch of females. The unit’s Protestant Chaplain was upset about Dorothy and Ellan’s condition, and brought a helmet filled with water, he even gave his own handkerchief to wash with. During one of the stops, some French women approached the train and offered some fresh fruit, this was heaven!
The redeployment trip was eventually cancelled after VJ-Day! After the training in Arles was over, the Nurses received 1 week leave, and finally shipped out of Marseille on 23 August 1945, for the United States.
Return to the ZI took place aboard AP 138 “General C.G. Morton”, (commissioned 7 July 44), which docked in the Zone of Interior 2 September 1945, at Newport News, Portsmouth, Virginia, at 2000 hours. Preparation for inactivation and separation got started, and people were gradually transferred out of the 164th. The 164th General Hospital was officially inactivated on 9 November 1945, at 2400 hrs!
Separation occurred at Ft. Sheridan, Highwood, Illinois, (Military Post) on 28 March 1946, and the two sisters returned home…
1st Lieutenant Ellan J. Levitsky, 164th Gen Hosp, Army Nurse Corps, N-762232, and 2d Lieutenant Dorothy F. Levitsky, 164th Gen Hosp, Army Nurse Corps, N-762231, left the ANC at Fort Sheridan, “Separation Center”, Illinois, on 28 March 1946. Their ASR Score (dated 2 Sep 45) was only 30. Both sisters obtained the American Theater Ribbon, as well as the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Ribbon, and were entitled to the WW2 Victory Medal. They had proudly served their country, as they wished, and their Active Duty represented 1 year in the Zone of Interior and 11 months and 20 days in foreign service.
Above images are courtesy of 1st Lt. Ellan J. Orkin (ASN: N-762232) and 2d Lt. Dorothy F. Sinner (ASN: N-762231). Both ladies served as Nurses with the 164th General Hospital in World War 2.