2nd Lieutenant, Ora Mae Hyatt, was nominated by her grandson, Robert Hyatt, who is currently serving in Afghanistan! Right after high school, she enrolled in nurse’s training at the old Salt Lake General Hospital. It was during her first year there that Pearl Harbor was bombed. Ora suddenly knew exactly where she had to be. Ora Mae’s overseas training included learning to escape from a ship on a rope ladder about three stories high, and crawling on her stomach under a rope 12 inches off the ground. She finally embarked from Seattle just before D-Day, as the war focus shifted from Europe to the Pacific. Ora’s ship carried 5,500 service troops with the expectation that the battle for Okinawa would be over. They were simply to clean-up, care for and transport the wounded. As they embarked 57 days later, however, they discovered the battle was far from over. Rather than wait for the MASH hospital to be set up, some nurses were sent as a detachment to get closer to the action to care for the wounded; Ora Mae volunteered. Working 12-hour shifts, she performed surgeries, cleaned wounds, and administered penicillin, pain killers and the promise of hope. They frequently heard gunfire and explosions and were escorted by armed guards wherever they went. A steady stream of new patients, Prisoners of War from other islands in the Pacific, were released and sent to Okinawa, where Ora and her team cared for them. In Ora Mae’s words, “That was a terrible sight to see these prisoners, who were almost like skeletons and so weak. Some of them couldn’t even lift their hands to hold a spoon, so we had to feed them like babies. The tears would roll down their cheeks as they were so appreciative of the care that we gave them. You don’t think about going home really, when you feel like you’re so needed and you can be so useful–that’s what’s rewarding.” Six weeks after the atom bomb was dropped, the medical unit was sent to mainland Japan with the army of occupation. During what was supposed to be three days of ship travel to Yokohama, Ora Mae survived a frightening typhoon, the ship arriving four days late. She left those emotions behind her as soon as she saw the released prisoners they were charged to care for—many of them from the Bataan Death March. Ora Mae was stationed in Tokyo for six weeks before the married nurses were sent home. It was heart-wrenching to leave, knowing more wounded needed care. Traveling by military transport, it took four days of travel, landing on several islands to change planes and refuel.
Picture in your heart, if you will, the sight Ora beheld as she approached the California coast. “It was night, and we could tell that we were coming into San Francisco. There… was the Golden Gate Bridge. And then we saw along the coast, spelled out in lights, the words, ‘Welcome home! Well done!’ and that was such a thrill! I’ll never forget what it meant to see those words and to know that this was America we were landing on. I had never appreciated the luxuries we have in America like I did after we arrived [to turn the tap and have a steady stream of water to have hot shower and to be able to have fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh cold milk and all the American plumbing] it was just wonderful. I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted again.”
Ora Mae Hyatt you are a true American SHERO!
SHEROES United 1st Annual Salute to Female Veterans
Women from around the state were Nominated by their Commanders, Civic Leaders, their employers, their friends and family. It was a difficult decision because there are so many WOMEN to THANK and to HONOR
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