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Off the Editor’s Desk – 11-7-2012

I hope everyone had a chance to read the article about Teddy Roosevelt that appeared in the October 12 issue of the Tribune and the October 24 issue of the Colfax Messenger. Glenwood City attorney, Jim Krave, wrote it.

Krave got the idea from the photo of Roosevelt that was on the current community calendar when Roosevelt came through Colfax on the Soo Line train in 1912. Jim researched the information and gathered information from the files of the Tribune and Colfax Messenger. We omitted giving Jim his due byline on the great article. Thanks, Jim.

Honoring those that served their country!

The only woman from Wisconsin to die from enemy fire during World War II was Ellen Ainsworth.

I recently came across my copy of Avis D. Schorer’s book, “A Half Acre of Hell.” Schorer was a combat nurse in World War II along with Glenwood City resident Ellen Ainsworth. Both were Lieutenants and were serving at an American evacuation hospital at Anzio, Italy. Ainsworth was injured on February 12, 1944, during a German heavy artillery shelling of the hospital where she was stationed at.

In her book, Schorer describes Ellen Ainsworth as a “free spirit from Wisconsin. We would soon know On Wisconsin better than our own state song. Ellen loved to sing and started a songfest at every opportunity. Ellen was especially eager for overseas duty. She was friendly and outgoing and liked to shock those around her.”

Schorer wrote in her book, “The Germans unleashed their heaviest raid after dark on February 12. Bombs screamed earthward and landed with a thud. Above the chaos and bedlam, someone shouted, ‘They’re falling on the nurses’ tent!’

A soldier ran to the air-raid shelter shouting hysterically, ‘is there a doctor in there? We need a doctor!’ Before anyone could answer, he said, ‘Ellen’s been hit!’ ”

Schorer goes on to say that a piece of shrapnel about the size of a quarter pierced her chest. She had a sucking chest wound and massive internal injuries. Despite the best efforts of doctors and surgery, Ainsworth died six days later.

During the air raid she placed patients under mattresses to protect them. She found a flashlight and lead an evacuation effort to remove the remaining patients left in the rubble to safety.

Six nurses were killed at Anzio by German bombing. Ainsworth was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for her actions during operation Shingle while serving with the medical corps. The Silver Star is the nation’s third highest award. Three other nurses who survived the bombing were also awarded the Silver Star.

Lt. Delores Buckly of Spring Valley, also an army nurse stationed at Anzio was wounded in action on February 7, 1944.

The citation that accompanied the Silver Star stated: “By her disregard for her own safety and her calm assurance she instilled confidence in her assistants and her patients, thereby preventing serious panic and injury. Her courage under fire and her selfless devotion to duty were an inspiration to all who witnessed her actions.”

Ainsworth was born on March 9, 1919 to Mr. and Mrs. Guy Ainsworth and graduated from Glenwood City High School with the class of 1937 and Eifel Hospital Nurses School in Minneapolis. She embarked from New York in May of 1943 and served in North Africa and Italy. Ellen was the youngest of three children, a brother, William, who was an officer serving in England at the time of her death and a sister, Lydia who is currently a resident of Glenhaven and will turn 103 in December.

In her honor there is a display at the Glenwood Area Historical Society of her army record. A conference room was named in her honor in the Pentagon, and a dispensary at Fort Hamilton, New York is named for her and a Nursing Care Building at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King is named Ainsworth Hall. The Glenwood City American Legion is named Curry-Ainsworth.

Thanks for reading.

— Carlton