Rare woman of war talks about serving in WWII

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on November 11, 2011 at 6:51 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 11 at 7:36 PM

In a sea of male World War Two veterans invited to a luncheon at the opening of the Omni Hotel in Dallas on Friday, 92-year-old Orpha Mae Blood stands out, as a very rare woman.

Back in 1942, there were not many opportunities for women, but Blood wanted adventure.

"They couldn't be the president of a company or anything," said Blood. "You could be a teacher or you could be a nurse. I chose being a nurse because I heard all the men fell in love with their nurses.”

She added, "After some years of experience, "I realized that you wouldn't want one of them."
About 400,000 women served in the armed forces during World War II. Very few of them are left.

Even though Blood did not know it at the time, she helped pave the way for future women by wanting to serve and work as hard as the men.

Orpha Mae said she and three girlfriends signed up for the Army.

Initially, she was turned down, because at 101 pounds, she didn't weigh enough. But she adjusted the "one" to a "seven" on the Army's form, and they let her in.

She, and the other girls, ended up being assigned to the USS Charles Stafford, an Army hospital ship. For four years, they traveled the world by water, bringing injured soldiers home.

"I have 94,000 miles at sea," Blood said proudly. "I'm a lousy sailor but other than that, they were good. I loved the adventure of it, I loved being on the move and going someplace."

Orpha Mae remembers long days at sea, on the way to pick up soldiers.

"The bridge games started at 8 a.m. and ended about midnight," she recalled fondly.

She said she will never forget the faces of injured soldiers in her care.

"Some heartbreaking stories," she said. "I don't know if they remember me."

She wrote a book, called 94,000 miles in Uncle Sam's Army about the World War II adventures of four army nurses. The sub-title is "They never would have won the war without us."

After the war, Blood said she wanted to continue working and serving. She got a degree and worked at the Veterans Administration.

"I said if I enjoy taking care of young soldiers, I'd certainly enjoy taking care of old soldiers," she said. "And that's the way it turned out."

At 92-years-old, her humor and her mind are both very active, even if her body isn't. She's had knee, neck and shoulder surgery.

She still keeps in touch with the girlfriends she joined and served with. They all outlived their husbands.

And, she is proud to call herself a World War II veteran.

"I served because I wanted to serve the country," Blood said. "I didn't have any thought of the benefits or being paraded at a parade in Dallas. Our first thought and our only thought was our country needed us and we wanted to serve."

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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