By Jennifer Martin - email
Irene Worthy grew up on her family's farm in Lemon, Mississippi, just south of Forest. But she had dreams beyond picking cotton and tilling the fields. She went to nursing school in Laurel while her brothers went to fight in World War Two.
"While we were working at the Baptist hospital, the old Veterans Hospital. That's where all of our casualties were coming back. The wounded and a lot of the casualties. And we'd go out and visit them."
After her boyfriend died fighting in France, she decided to join the Army Nurse Corp. She did her basic training at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
"We actually had to learn how to shoot the machine gun, which we never did use."
Her first assignment was at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. There, she and a fellow nurse, Mary Suder, became inseparable.
"We saw they needed nurses in Germany. Well we signed up for that, but after we signed up for it the war was over in Germany. So then we decided we wanted to go to the far east. They accepted us.
Mary & I got on the hospital ship Hope as passengers. There was 150 nurses and 150 doctors they were sending to the far east. We went from Charleston to the Panama Canal. While we were going through the canal, they dropped the atomic bombs in Japan and we didn't know it till we got to California. So we signed up for the hospital ship coming out of New York to Germany & France."
That ship was the Blanche F Sigmond.
"We were taking back the German prisoners of war and the Italian prisoners of war and picking up our prisoners of war and bringing them back to the states. So i made several trips, I guess six or eight trips. We'd take back the prisoners of war that was well fed, muscular. And we were picking up our prisoners of war, that were like skeletons, some of them. Because they didn't have food."
Irene and Mary traveled throughout Europe and took their next assignment in Petangus, on the East China Sea.
"Everytime we were off, we had some days off, if we were in a new place, we were going out exploring that whole country."
They often gave out bits of food to begging children and expired medical supplies to local hospitals willing to take whatever the Americans were about to get rid of.
"It was hard to get supplies even for us, much less the other people. They moved on to Ft. Lawton in Seattle, Washington. But they weren't finished seeing the world yet.
"They were still using these transport ships and they would take our GI's and dependants who wanted to go they would take them to the Philipines and to Japan. They had 5 nurses assigned, it was like a clinic or emergency room in case anybody got really really sick.
I took the place of one of the nurses assigned to that, so I made two trips and that's when I got to go to Japan. And that's when we went in to Tokyo met General McArthur when we were in Tokyo. We were sightseeing. When his limo drove up, he spotted Mary and I he came over and shook our hands."
She went on to marry a pursar on that transport ship and left the military when she got pregnant. She had three children and moved back to Mississippi when her husband died in 1967.
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