Muriel Engelman passed away on June 30 at the age 101, The Washington Post reported. A World War II veteran, the centenarian served the Army Nurse Corps as a second lieutenant on the front lines. She was one of nearly 60,000 American nurses to volunteer for the war effort.
According to Forever Young Veterans, Engelman’s journey began during her second year of nurse training in Cambridge, Mass., when Pearl Harbor was attacked — sparking America’s entry into the second world war.
After graduating a year later, Engelman enlisted in the Army and was ultimately commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps in April 1943. She was sent to the nearby Fort Devens to join with the 16th General Hospital after requesting overseas duty.
“For six months, the nurses trained for with fifteen-mile hikes, daily calisthenics, classes in communicable diseases, learning how to descend a swaying rope ladder under full backpack, and going through the Infiltration Course on hands and knees under live ammunition,” Forever Young Veterans said in their report.
Roughly six weeks after D-Day, the 16th General Hospital disembarked at Normandy’s Utah Beach. The unit camped out in a nearby cow pasture for nearly two months as they waited for German troops to move out of Liège, Belgium — clearing the way for the unit to establish a tent hospital on the outskirts of town.
The Battle of the Bulge, Hitler’s final major offensive on the Western front, forced many hospitals in the area to evacuate. Engelman’s unit, however, did not retreat.
“Instead, the nurses were told to pack their musette bags with warm clothing and first aid supplies in case they were captured,” the report said. “She remembered packing the French perfume purchased in Paris months earlier and her cigarette ration ‘because a pack of American cigarettes could go a long way for bartering in war-torn Europe. I was more scared than most because I had that ‘H’ for ‘Hebrew’ on my dog tags.’”
German pilots bombarded the area the night before the Christmas of 1944.
“I stepped outside the tent to take a look,” she previously told Forever Young Veterans. “All these red flares were dropping through the sky. The plane flew back and forth over the hospital tents and nearby enlisted men’s tents, dropping antipersonnel bombs and strafing the tents. Many patients and hospital personnel were killed or wounded that night. It was a night of horror.”
V-E Day, Germany’s surrender on the European front, marked a victorious moment for America. For Engelman, there was still much work to be done.
“Everyone was so happy,” she said. “You were just singing and yelling and drinking and dancing. It was wonderful.”
Her unit was ordered to leave Liège and return to France to take care of 600 German prisoners of war.
“I had to take care of these krauts who had been trying to kill me and millions of others,” she said. “But we did it because this was our job.”
In 2008, Engelman released her memoir Mission Accomplished: Stop the Clock. According to legacy.com, she is survived by her children Curtis Engelman of Binghamton, NY, and Dr. Suzanne Engelman of Laguna Niguel, Ca., grandsons Morgan and Aaron O’Reilly and great grand-children Marli and Maverick.
Hunter Boyce is a writer, digital producer and journalist home grown from a Burke County, Georgia farm. Throughout his career, Hunter has gone on to write sports, entertainment, political and local breaking news for a variety of outlets.