During World War II as she and her nurses cared for wounded soldiers in Italy, Captain Ruth Beery kept a small black notebook labeled “Addresses of Deceased.” Her earliest entry was dated December 23, 1943, and her last, more than 200 deaths later, was dated May 23, 1945, about two weeks after the war ended in Europe. The entries gave information such as the geographic location where the soldier was injured, the cause, the types of wounds, time of death, date of death, whether the patient was pre- or post-operative or dead on arrival, and the next of kin with or without an accompanying address.
Letters to the families. After the war Beery wrote letters to the next-of-kin of many of the soldiers who had died at the 8th Evacuation Hospital. Her letters were brief and conveyed minimal information, basically that the loved one had been cared for in a hospital by doctors and nurses who did everything they could for his comfort and recovery.
Beery was principal chief nurse—today, director of nursing—for the U.S. Army’s 8th Evacuation Hospital, which was sponsored by the University of Virginia. A former faculty member of the School of Nursing, she had been invited by the University to recruit and lead the nurses.
To see letters that families wrote her in reply and to learn more about her and the 8th Evac Hospital, see the online exhibit from the Historical Collections and Services, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia: http://www.hsl.virginia.edu/historical/uva_hospital/8evac/letters/ruth_beery.cfm.
For more information about Historical Collections and its other online exhibits, see http://www.hsl.virginia.edu/historical.
Joan Echtenkamp Klein
Alvin V. & Nancy Baird Curator
for Historical Collections