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Ensuring top medical attention

Since Henrietta V. Hill was a young girl, she realized her mission in life was to be a nurse and help others in need of healing.

She attended the nursing program at Millard Fillmore Hospital, and by 1940 was working as a registered nurse there.

Then history intervened.

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and Hill and several of her co-workers enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps, all eager to serve.

Hill recalls her willingness as a second lieutenant to go overseas and serve in field hospitals or anywhere her services were needed.

Anywhere turned out to be on American soil -- yet in the thick of action, though the 93-year-old hardly considers her labors heroic.

"We went and did what we had to do. All of the doctors and nurses never considered themselves heroes," she said. "They took the wounded boys and put them back together again so they could have some kind of life."

Henrietta Hill when she was in the service during World War II. This was copied on April 20, 2012. (Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News)

At Fort Dix, N.J., Hill treated soldiers injured during the rigors of boot camp or in advanced training. When she was promoted to first lieutenant, she received orders sending her to Camp Rucker, Ala., where she trained soldiers studying to become battlefield medics.

Under her tutelage, soldiers became experts in how to keep the badly wounded alive until they could be taken to field hospitals in the European Theater.

"We taught them how to take care of themselves and their buddies who would need help," she said.

Hill then advanced to chief operating room nurse at Camp Rucker.

She kept the operating room running smoothly.

"Some days were busy, and some weren't," she said.

And though insulated from the horrors of the battlefield, she encountered German POWs shipped to Camp Rucker.

"German prisoners of war were sent to the camp who needed health care. They were respectful, and they looked out for each other. They supported each other. So many of them were so young, but so were our boys," Hill recalled.

And while she would rather talk about those who served on the front lines, whether they be infantry or doctors and nurses who staffed the field hospitals, one aspect of her long life has never wavered -- gratitude for serving the United States.

"I've always been so proud that I could help and serve in the Army Nurse Corps," she said, adding that she holds in high esteem today's men and women in uniform. "They are protecting our freedom."

But her story of service in World War II does not end in the operating room. In the midst of duty, the unexpected occurred.

Hill found true love.

"I met my husband-to-be while serving at Camp Rucker. He was in the Army Air Forces and came to visit his sister, who was a nurse at the camp," she said. "We went to the officers club, and we saw each other and clicked."

On Dec. 8, 1945, as their military commitments were winding down, A.R. Hill and Henrietta married. Together, they raised three children.

Hill, whose husband passed away in the 1980s, also continued in her nursing career and eventually retired as a school nurse in Niagara Falls.


Henrietta V. Hill, 93

Hometown: Niagara Falls

Residence: East Amherst

Branch: Army Nurse Corps

Rank: Captain

Assignment: Stateside, World War II

Years of service: 1941-45

Specialties: Medic trainer, chief operating room nurse