Aunt Melissa was born November 10, 1912. Among her possessions I have found several newspaper clippings, photographs, and letters – many dating to her time during the war.
The photo below, published in The National Geographic Magazine, is an official U.S. Army Air Force photograph taken on June 6, 1944. Aunt Melissa is the one in the middle front row. Another photo from the same day1 shows two of the nurses also pictured below (Lt. Suella Bernard and Lt. Marijean Brown) who Aunt Melissa had mentioned in her letters home.
Not in Flander's but in France's Fields, These Poppies Grew - amid Land Mines The poppies are still fresh upon arrival in England, so short was the flight across the Channel. They were gathered from the mine-planted fields near an emergency airstrip on the Cherbourg Peninsula. These 9th Air Force flight nurses, among the first to land on the beachhead, brought back battle casualties in C-47's.
LT. CLARK SERVES IN COMBAT ZONE Is With Invasion Troops In France Lieut. Helen Melissa Clark, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Clark of Cornwall, was one of the five American nurses who first flew into the zone of operations and formed part of an evacuation unit which landed on an improvised air strip on Cherbourg peninsula. They sent back three plane loads of wounded, the first flown from France. After spending an hour and a half on French soil with shells bursting nearby, they returned to Britain carrying bouquets of red poppies they picked on the battlefields. Seven wounded prisoners, one a Japanese in German uniform, were among those flown back. The airstrip used by the C-47 skytrains was 3,600 by 200 feet - constructed by the Ninth Air Force engineering command which arrived at the beachhead the day after the invasion began. Mustangs circled overhead to ward off enemy aircraft when the nurses, doctors and six enlisted medical technicians landed amid the bursts of artillery. The nurses were 2nd Lts. Marijean Brown, Columbus, Ohio; Suella Bernard, Waynesville, Ohio; Eleanor A. Geovanelle, Hershey, Pa.; Mary E. Young, St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Helen Melissa Clark, Cornwall, Conn. The flight surgeon was Capt. Thomas L. Phillips, Jr., Kuttawa, Ky. Lieut. Clark went overseas in April, 1943. She met her brother, Capt. Ernest Dwight Clark, whom she hadn’t seen in 26 months, in England in May. The last letter her parents received from her was on May 17. Another sister, Miss Sarah Barbara Clark, was graduated as a nurse cadet May 23 from the Portsmouth, Va., hospital. Lt. Clark, an air nurse, was graduated from the air evacuation school, Bowman Field, Ky. She is a graduate of Litchfield high school, class of 1930 and Danbury Teachers College. Formerly a teacher, she changed to nursing and trained at Union Memorial hospital, Baltimore, Md.
The image above is an article clipping found in my grandmother’s things, most likely from a local paper in Litchfield, CT. The article mentions a letter her parents received on May 17th – I can’t be sure which one it’s referring to, as receipt date doesn’t equal postmark date, but knowing my family’s penchant for saving things, I am assuming it’s included in the ones I have.
Most of the letters are written in what I assume is an effort to put a mother’s mind at ease. Descriptions of every day activities, flowers in bloom, attempts to ship gifts and the speed of mail are all things that crop up frequently. Rarely does she speak of her work or her flights, except in late June to assure her family that she’s safe and in no danger.