Sioux County

Lt. Jeanette Smit



Army Nurse From Hospers Tells Of Rescue From Bombed Hospital Ship

What an Army nurse thinks and feels when she wakes up at sea and finds the ship she is on has been bombed is described in the following letter from Lt. Jeanette Smit to her parents at Hospers. She also tells how the nurses are carrying on at the American hospital on Italy where she is now on duty. Lt. Smit is a sister of "Bill" Smit of Alton. Her letter appears in the Sheldon Mail:

Jeanette Smit, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Smit of Hospers, was one of the group of 100 American army nurses rescued from the ship bombed while enroute to Italy, according to word received here.

While flames from the burning ship lighted the sky, the nurses where taken off in lifeboats, picked up by a rescue ship and taken back to port. A few days layer they started out again and made the crossing to Italy, in which country Lieut. Smit is now stationed.

In a letter dated Oct. 16, "Somewhere in Italy" and received recently by her parents, Miss Smit says:

"You, no doubt have read about the hospital ship carrying over 100 American nurses, that was bombed? I figured the suspense is often worse than the actual truth, but we were amongst the group. Yes, we have more reasons than one to be thankful. This happened sometime ago but it's an experience we will never forget.

Fortunately none of us got panicky and we grabbed what clothes we could and rushed to the deck. It was still dark but the sky was lit by the rising flames. Everyone remained calm, thanks to our British crew. They lowered the life rafts and we climbed down one by one. All of our girls got off safely. A few were injured but not seriously.

Another ship came to our rescue and we were brought back to our starting point. There we were given some clothes and came back to these parts a few days later. Yes, we certainly have reasons to lift up our hearts to God for His Divine protection. It's surprising how many things run through one's mind at such a time. Then again if I look at our men at the front and what they go through, we certainly shouldn't ever complain. But as we read in II Chronicles 16:9 'For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth, etc, we know He is at their side just as He was with us. We all have a purpose to fulfill in this life and I'm here to do it to the best of my ability. May God give me the courage and strength to do so."

Details of a nurse's life are also shown in other excerpts from the letter. She writes:

"Several days have elapsed since my last letter to you. The only excuse I can offer is business. We have been working from 8 to 8. And by the time we get to our rooms, have a helmet bath, it's bedtime. Everyone feels as if they need all the rest one can get. So I hope you'll excuse us. No news is good news. Nevertheless I shall try and do better from now on.

Today I had my day off. Each day one of the girls has off. Personally I prefer having a few hours each day but its impossible at present. In this way it will take 40 days before I have another. I've been spending my time washing clothes, mending and now its my correspondence that's getting attention.

At present Do is on night duty. Reckon I'll just be next on the list. I'd just as soon since five more of my room-mates are going to a room, so our space is limited but we do have a good group and that makes a heap of a lot of difference.

We haven't had mail for a week or more again. Our mail clerk has gone up to our former set-up and he may come back with some -- we hope. We're all getting anxious for some news.

It's surprisingly cold in these parts. I've been wearing a field jacket on duty in spite of our being in buildings. These buildings have been sadly neglected of late but it's a nice set-up. A regular hospital area with several buildings all very compact and fairly well built.

Haven't had an importunity to do any shopping but several of the girls did manage to buy some pretty things as jewelry and souvenirs of all sorts. Guess the clothing proposition is still a sad state of affairs. Eventually some of it may come to light, but these people around here look as if they have lived in the same clothes for weeks.

This a.m. we drove out to a place to have showers. It was cold but the water was hot. A real treat. I took advantage of it and even washed my hair. While in Africa I noticed a sign, "Showers 5 miles" and the arrow pointed to little trail along the road. At that time we laughed, but now we're in the same predicament. Water, lights and sewage disposal plants are being put into working order again but up until that time it's still a mess particularly in buildings. I prefer living in tents since we are accustomed to it. Too much running for one thing as the hard floor makes my feet sore. Fortunately it won't be for long.

We've been able to get a nice variety of fresh fruits, peaches, pears, grapes and apples. Also all the walnuts we can eat. The natives sell them at a reasonable price. Wish I could get some over to you folks. It's really a treat. They taste like the Diamond walnuts we get back home.

Time to go to supper. Our variety of food is limited. Good thing we can buy some fresh fruit is helps fill us up.
Don't worry about us. we're well and happy. We only hope this war may soon end and we can return to our loved ones.

Love to all, Jen

Source: The Alton Democrat, November 18, 1943 (photo included)