Nurse Anna K. Westman, Base Hospital No. 21, Rouen.

Westman, ca. 1917.

Kansas-born Anna Katherine Westman (1880–1970) was the daughter of Swedish immigrants John and Matilda Westman and one of seven siblings. She earned her nursing credential at the Kansas City Research Hospital. Westman joined the Army Nurse Corps in May 1917, heading to US Base Hospital No. 21 (the unit from Washington University in St. Louis) at the former Champs des Courses racetrack in Rouen, France, that was led by Julia C. Stimson as chief nurse. In May 1918, she wrote a letter to her friend Grace Donnell in Twin Falls, ID:

We are not so busy as we were the latter part of March and the first of April. For two weeks we worked from 7:30 until late at night. It seems there were convoys in and out every half hour. Everything was surgical at that time, even turned medical lines into surgical. It was dreadful—one lot would come in on stretchers with their khaki on. It would take quite a while to get it off and get their dry dressing caked with mud, soaked off, after they had been fed, cleaned up and rested a little they would be sent on, and we would get another lot perhaps worse than the lot before them, with more holes and pieces of shrapnel to take out and this went on for two weeks. I had three wards, fourteen beds in each ward. Of course all one can do, is to do dressings all day long over those low beds and the anxiety was great and it seemed the Boches kept on coming nearer. How I despise even the sound of a German name. But how splendid the British stemmed the tide, and held the mean things back . . .

I am on a medical line now where we have a number of gas cases, it is worse than being wounded. We had a good many come in over two weeks ago. Eight were put on the dangerously ill list at once. The M. O. said they would not any of them recover. There is one left and he does not seem like he can last much longer. Their lungs seem to liquify and they cough up large wash pans full of pus. . . . .

A few days ago a lot of Australians came in. They had all been gassed and had bad eyes but they were a jolly lot. . . .

The best thing about this kind of work is the appreciation. . . .

I believe nothing will ever seem hard to me after this and being on a line without a drop of running water and no sewerage and yet we do all of this with perfect ease. (“Re[d] Cross Nurse in Letter from France,” Greensburg [IN] Daily News, 26 July 1918, p. 8).

Westman returned to the United States in April 1919. In July 1919, she spoke in Ottawa, KS, of her war experiences, stating that US Base Hospital No. 21 had cared for 60,428 patients. She said, “Such a life either makes or breaks . . . I’m all right but very tired and I mean to rest now for a while” (“Nursed Heroes in France,” The Ottawa Herald, 7 July 1919, p. 1)

In 1920–21, she worked for the Red Cross as a public health nurse in Cass County (MO). In 1926, she was the nurse at Stafford (KS) High School. The 1930 census in Kansas City listed her as a public health nurse.

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