Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Evelyn Kowalchuk also was an avid supporter of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Evelyn Kowalchuk never forgot the moans of wounded men, some of them dying, she heard as a flight nurse in World War II.
In the days following the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944, she was assigned to a plane that ferried wounded troops from the bloody sands of Normandy to hospitals in England. Many of the men had lost limbs during the battle and were barely alive.
“All we had to give them was morphine,” Kowalchuk said in a 2001 interview with The Roanoke Times.
Kowalchuk, a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, made the trip over the English Channel as many as three times a day to treat the wounded. Later, she moved ashore and worked at air bases in France, sleeping in foxholes, one of only 500 flight nurses who served during World War II.
Kowalchuk, a Huddleston resident who was active in veterans groups and was an avid supporter of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, died Sunday at age 93.
The New Jersey native, born Evelyn Chaychuk and nicknamed “Chappy” during the war, graduated from nursing school in 1942 and joined the Air Corps a year later.
“My mother wasn’t very happy about that,” Kowalchuk told a Roanoke Times reporter in 2008.
She was assigned to the 818th Medical Air Evac Transport Squadron , which was stationed in Spanhoe, England. She and many fellow nurses lived in a building with one bathroom and no kitchen.
She was the lone nurse tending to 24 wounded soldiers on modified C-46 and C-47 transport planes. The cabins were not pressurized, which meant that the planes had to fly low to keep soldiers from bleeding excessively because of thin air at a higher altitude. That made the transports more vulnerable to German fire.
“We were game for the Germans to shoot at, and they did,” Kowalchuk said in 2008. “We had to have flight escort coming and going back.”
Kowalchuk never knew what happened to any of the men she treated.
She traveled a postwar path similar to that of male veterans of World War II. She married, raised a family and tried not to think about the war.
In 1973, however, she began tracking down her fellow Air Corps nurses. In 1974, Kowalchuk hosted the first reunion of her squadron. For nearly three decades, the women gathered every two years. Their ranks have dwindled to just a few now.
In her later years, Kowalchuk was a regular presence at the D-Day Memorial, where she was a featured speaker during a lecture in February.
In her 80s, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal. She was credited with service in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe campaigns.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday