Many years after the war, the photo was confirmed by the couple to be Major John D. Davis walking toward 1st Lt. Helen Pierson .
1st Lt. Helen E. Pierson was born 13 August 1922 in Union Vale, New York. She was the daughter of James and Hannah (Monson, also Monsun) Pierson. James immigrated from Sweden in 1903. Hannah was also born in Sweden and immigrated in 1904, probably aboard the SS Cretic. Helen married Major John D. Davis 2 February 1946 in Poughkeepsie, NY. Helen (Pierson) Davis died 30 October 2010 and was buried in Florida National Cemetery at Bushnell, Florida. Her brother, James William Pierson, also served in the Army from August 1942 through January 1946.
Lt. Pierson was assigned to the 163rd General hospital, working out of Wimpole Hall, Wimpole, England. The hospital was adjacent to the air base and provided care to wounded airmen.
Quotes of Lt. Pierson from an interview with The Ragged Irregular, newsletter of the 91st Bomb Group, January 1994 issue.
- “[I remember] the courage and spirit of those boys, never complaining, and always thankful for the care they received.”
- “[And] the sound of the B-17s starting out on their early morning missions. Our thoughts and prayers went with them”
At the beginning of WWII, there were less than 1000 nurses in the U.S. Army. Prior to mid-1943, the Army required that an enlistee have two years of training as a registered nurse and, of course, be a U.S. citizen or a citizen of an allied country. In 1943 the Army established a basic nursing program, which included rudimentary military training. Army nurses did not receive officer’s commissions until after the D-Day landing in June 1944. By the end of hostilities, an estimated 59,000 nurses had served in all theaters. During WWII the ANC remained segregated, as did the other components of the U.S. armed forces.
The 163rd Gen. Hosp. was activated 7 July 1944 at Camp Grant, IL. The 163rd arrived in Europe 7 September and took in their first patients 5 October 1944. The hospital had 1266 beds and was staffed by 622 medical personnel. The unit was deactivated in 1946.