During WWII, more than 500 U.S. military women lost their lives while serving their country. Our friends at Stories Behind the Stars are compiling their stories, and we’d like to share just a few.
Aleda E. Lutz was the first American woman to die in combat during WWII. Lutz enlisted in the Army Air Forces Nurse Corp on February 10, 1942. She served in the 802nd Medical Air Evacuation Squadron and was part of a highly classified unit that used unmarked C-47 cargo planes to fly to the battlefront with supplies and return with the wounded. On November 1, 1944, 28-year-old Lutz was flying on a Medevac C-47 with nine wounded American soldiers and six wounded German POWs from Lyon, France, to a hospital in Italy. The pilot lost control in a violent storm, and the plane crashed near Saint-Chamond, France. There were no survivors. At the time of her death, Lutz had the most evacuation sorties (196), the most combat hours flown by a flight nurse (814), and the most patients transported by any flight nurse (3,500). Lutz was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the first given to an Army Nurse in WWII. She was also honored with the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters and a Purple Heart, in addition to other commendations. The Aleda E. Lutz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center was named after her by Congressional decree.
Cornelia C. Fort was a young civilian flight instructor from Tennessee. On the morning of December 7, 1941, she took off from John Rodgers Airport in Honolulu with a student. Fort noticed a military plane approaching from the sea. Suddenly, she realized that the plane was headed straight towards her on a collision course. Fort wrenched the controls from her student and managed to pull up just in time to avoid a collision. Just then, she noticed the red sun symbol on the plane and saw smoke rising over Pearl Harbor. Fort had just witnessed American’s entry into WWII. The following year, Fort joined the newly established Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Service (WAFs). She was thrilled to join the war effort and flew planes from factories to military airbases. Her work freed up male pilots for combat missions. On March 21, 1943, Fort was ferrying an airplane to Love Field in Dallas when another male pilot’s landing gear clipped her plane, sending it plummeting to earth. Fort died on impact. She was one of 38 female pilots who died flying military airplanes during the war.
Blanche F. Sigman was working as a public health nurse in Brooklyn when she enlisted in United States Army Nurses Corps in 1942. She was assigned to the 95th Evacuation Hospital as a Chief Nurse. On September 13, 1943, Sigman was serving aboard the hospital ship for the Eighth Army, the HMHS Newfoundland, in the Gulf of Salerno, Italy, when German planes bombed the ship. She survived the attack and went on to serve in Italy during the Anzio campaign. Along with some 200 nurses, and while being bombarded, Sigman cared for 33,000 patients at Anzio. On February 7, 1944, a Luftwaffe pilot fleeing from a British fighter dropped a load of bombs on the hospital where Sigman was caring for the wounded. Sigman died in the attack. Fellow soldiers temporarily interred her body on the Anzio beachhead next to her patients. In 1948 she was reinterred in her hometown of Byesville, Ohio. A US Army Hospital Ship was named the Blanche Faye Sigman in her honor.
To see more stories of heroic women who lost their lives while serving during WWII, click here. These stories have been compiled by volunteers dedicated to telling the story of every fallen WWII soldier. If you would like to get involved, visit the Stories Behind the Stars website here. To learn more about WWII, search our complete collection of WWII records on Fold3® today!