Twenty-two year old Joy Lillie began her service as a member of the U.S. Army Nurse Corp during WWII on April 1, 1943. She could not have imagined that she would be climbing the bluffs of Normandy searching for wounded soldiers six days after the landing at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. Lillie and 17 other women in her platoon were on the front lines of every major campaign in Europe: Normandy, Northern France, Battle of the Bulge, Rhineland, and Central Europe. Her medical team advanced as the battle moved forward. They were never farther than three miles from the front line. Joy recalled the time they got too close to the front and the whole platoon spent twelve hours in a ditch waiting for the fighting to stop. The 51st Field Hospital’s tents and cots could be relocated to treat the wounded. “We got used to the sound of the airplanes, the bomb, the fighting” she says. “I was brave in those days. The idea was to get as close to the front lines as possible, do the repair work, and send them to the evacuation hospitals as soon as possible.”
Learn more about Joy Lillie on the Grand Rapids Historical Commission website.
“Joy Lillie Obituary.” Throop Funeral Home, 2011. https://www.throopfh.com/obituaries/joy-lillie.