Monday was the 69th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. The Army records listed 108,347 casualties from the battle.
As I perused through Bulge websites, the headline “WWII Belgian nurse who saved Americans” smelled like a good story.
“Nuts Day” is when Belgians of all ages distribute nuts. They honor the day Gen. Anthony McAuliffe responded “Nuts” when Lt. Gen. Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz demanded is surrender.
Turn back the hands of time to Saturday, Dec. 16, 1944, a bitter cold winter morning at the Brussels Central train station in Belgium. Before dawn a 23-year-old black Belgium nurse, Augusta Chiwy, arrived from Louvain, a Flemish community, where she was a hospital nurse. Her plans changed when she heard an urgent tone in the public-address announcer’s voice: “There will be no departures for Luxembourg or Bastogne. Passengers wishing to reach these destinations should take the 7:50 (a.m.) to Namur.”
Augusta rode in an open cattle truck and hitched a ride with a GI to Bastogne about 5 p.m. The roads were clogged with terrified civilians heading west from Bastogne.
Immediately, she went to the home of her father, Dr. Chiwy, and learned about the panic situation. The attacking Germans were north and east of the city. Wanting to use her nursing skills, Augusta went to the center of Bastogne, where she met Capt. Prior, MD, with the 10th Armored Division’s aid station on Rue Neufchateau.
Augusta and Renee Lemaire, another Belgium volunteer nurse, became a medical team with Renee making wounded soldiers more comfortable while Augusta dressed their horrific battlefield wounds. Augusta exchanged her bloodstained and dilapidated clothing for a GI uniform. Anyone captured by the Germans who assisted the Americans would be shot immediately.
During a blizzard Dr. Prior, accompanied by Nurse Chiwy, rode in a 2½-ton truck to the front. Exposed to mortar explosions and bullets, they focused on tending to the wounded.
Returning to the aid station with a truckload of wounded GIs, Dr. Prior told Augusta the bullets missed her because she was so small. She responded, “A black face in all that white snow was a pretty easy target. Those Germans must be terrible marksmen.”
When the weather cleared on Dec. 24, USAAF’s C-47s dropped vital supplies over Bastogne. Unfortunately, the Luftwaffe used the clear skies to bomb Bastogne. The 10th’s aid station received a direct hit from a 500 pound German bomb, killing 30 wounded Americans and Renee Lemaire, “The Angel of Bastogne,” as she lovingly nursed wounded GIs.
At least 2,000 black soldiers, support personnel, picked up rifles and bravely fought alongside white GIs to stop the advancing Germans. In the middle of the worst winter in decades, during the biggest battle of the war, integration became the mother of necessity — leading to the Nazis’ surrender 4½ months later, May 8, 1945. “All gave some, some gave all.”
As dedicated nurses, Renee and Augusta lovingly saved numerous wounded GIs to return to the States, marry the most beautiful girl in the world and begin “the baby boom.” At 4 feet, 8 inches, Augusta casts a long shadow in history.
Ken Beaton of Carson City contributes periodically to the Nevada Appeal.