During World War II, air evacuation of injured service members was a relatively new concept, and many nurses were trained--at times desultorily--to take part in evacuations that put them in grave danger.
Cate Lineberry, the author of "The Secret Rescue", conducted extensive research to unearth and publish the story of 26 flight nurses and medics whose journey across occupied Albania was rife with suffering, hunger, disappointment, heroism and a will to survive. She also describes the individuals--American, British and Albanian--who risked their lives to rescue the stranded personnel, and how the tale unfolded on various levels.
On Monday, August 5th, 2013, Cate Lineberry appeared on RN.FM Radio to discuss the story and how she came to write it. Her descriptions of the heroism of these courageous nurses and medics underscores the continued sacrifices made by medical personnel who contemporarily serve in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other dangerous theaters of military operation around the world.
In the prologue to the book, Lineberry writes:
On a chilly, overcast December day in 1943, Gavan "Garry" Duffy, a tough, no-nonsense twenty-four-year-old special operations lieutenant working for Britain, peered through his binoculars from the cover of an Albanian hillside and watched in frustration as waves of German troops and tanks moved through the steep and winding roads of a town on the valley's other side. The town was perched high above an abandoned airfield where American rescue planes were scheduled to land that morning in a risky and dramatic mission to evacuate a group of stranded American men and women, who had been missing for fifty-two days, barely suriving the treacherous winter landscape, or the Nazis.The disappointment of that failed rescue is only part of the story deftly woven by Lineberry as she describes how desire for freedom and great determination fueled the starving servicemen and women to avoid capture and continue their journey, aided by heroic individuals like Gavan Duffy.
As Duffy continued to watch the activity across the valley, three German trucks and one armored car drove from the town and parked near the main road that ran in front of the airfield. Now he was certain it was too risky for the rescue planes. With no way for him to communicate directly with the pilots, Duffy's plan had been to signal that it was safe to land by laying out orange parachute panels from a supply drop to make a large X on the field. Now that the Germans had moved in, there was nothing he could do but wait with the others and watch.
Whether you're a nurse, a veteran, or simply someone who enjoys history and a well-told story, I highly recommend "The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines", and encourage you to listen to the author's wonderful interview on RN.FM Radio.
Please visit Cate's website, Facebook page, and YouTube page.