WWII Army Nurse at Dover AFB, AMC Museum honors bronze star recipient
By Airman 1st Class Shen-Chia Chu , 436 AW Public Affairs
/ Published May 15, 2008
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- At the age of 25, Dorothy Richter joined to serve her country honorably during World War II.
But today, near the age of 92, this combat nurse has retired an emblem of honor.
More than 100 people came to recognize the military heroine in a ceremony May 7 at the Air Mobility Command Museum.
Ms. Richter, now Mrs. Lewis after marrying Maurice Lewis in 1947, donated her clean, pressed dress uniform and medal she earned in combat.
The shiny rank of 'captain' on her flight cap reflects off the display light of the glass case as a gleaming bronze star sits proudly on the front left pocket, where it rests as a symbol of the courage she displayed during her service.
Visitors would never imagine that this brave woman joined the military because it was, as she described, "just something to do."
"I thought joining the Army would be exciting," she said.
Visitors at the museum may come across an Army nurse uniform and discover the story about a courageous first lieutenant who led 18 nurses on the beaches of Normandy.
The group, called the Normandy Nightingales, were charged with taking care of wounded Allied Soldiers just four days after landing in France during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
"It was just like the Fourth of July. All the shooting and guns and flares all around us," Mrs. Lewis said.
While the fighting continued, the "bedraggled, wet, souls wearing lipstick" immediately set to work, trying to save as many Soldiers as possible, despite the hazardous circumstances, said Hank Baker, AMC Museum volunteer and master of ceremonies who put together the event.
The women worked on the blood-soaked beach, caring for and treating wounded Soldiers and continued their mission through the battle, transporting the hospital with the moving front line.
Two of the remaining Normandy Nightingales also attended the event.
Mae "Monti" Bowen, served alongside Mrs. Lewis at Omaha Beach, while Grace McDonnell remained in England, treating troops in a 1,400-bed hospital.
Mrs. Lewis described the feeling during the event in their lives during the war as "no time to be afraid" and "taking everything in as it came along."
"Wearing lipstick was the only way to tell we were women in the midst of the men on the battlefield," said Mrs. Lewis, who is one of 6,000 woman veterans in Delaware.
"There's nothing my mother couldn't do or couldn't accomplish," said Maurice Lewis, son of the war hero who made a short speech at the ceremony.
As one of only four Normandy Nightingales alive today, Mrs. Lewis said she felt truly honored.