By Chris William
Helen Anne Mangold was born on April 28, 1909 in Racine, Wisconsin, to George and Theresa Mangold — the seventh of ten children who filled the modest two-story house located just minutes from Lake Michigan. With seven brothers and two sisters, the Mangold house was a busy place during Helen’s childhood. It set the stage for her further thirst for adventure.
In the spring of 1943, Helen was a 34-year-old registered nurse when she volunteered to do her part to serve her country in the fight against the Axis nations (as three of her brothers had already done). In uniform for the first time, she joined other nurses traveling to St Louis, Mo., then to Camp Livingston, La., where they begin their indoctrination into to the military. Basic training consisted of physical and mental conditioning as well as learning the advanced medical skills needed for serving in fast-paced army medical installations.
In September 1943, Helen joined friends on a brief leave to San Francisco before reporting to Camp Stoneman, Pittsburg, Calif., where they would debark to the Asiatic theatre of war. She arrived in Brisbane, Australia on, October 3, 1943, where she began a series of more intensive training exercises used to acclimate new arrivals to the tropical environment. Another army nurse, Lt. Rosemary Elskamp, stationed with Helen in Australia, told the Racine Journal-Times, on October 16, 1943, “At present, we are relieved of all hospital bedside duty, and are undergoing a program to “toughen” us for invasion duty.We go through exercises, long hikes, and other forms of athletics and have been told that we will go wherever our men do to invade enemy territory”.
Following training, Helen transferred to the 42nd General Hospital, a 1,000-bed convalescent unit far from the front lines at Camp Columbia, in Wacol. Here, Helen worked in the large 47-hut complex labeled “Section II,” attending soldiers recovering from combat wounds and those suffering from tropical diseases that included malaria (the malaria unit was the largest ward in the complex).
On January 16,1944, Helen transferred to the 105th General Hospital, located on the agricultural school campus at Gatton. This was the main hospital complex for the South West Pacific theatre, seeing more than 20,000 combat patients during its two years of operation. Lt. Margold provided care at this massive facility for two months before being transferred to the newer 42nd General Hospital section at Holland Park in March 1944.
The Holland Park section was located below the Gothic turn- of-the-century Stuartholme convent and girls’ school building that sat high on a hill overlooking the distant city of Brisbane. The original 42nd had taken over the old convent buildings, but the expanded installation was constructed downhill in nearby Holland Park. It had built to treat the overwhelming number of casualties flooding in from the battlefields and accommodating the growing medical staff members needed to take care of them.
Helen’s time at Holland Park was brief. She was soontransferred to Goodenough Island (Papua, New Guinea) in late March 1944. There, she applied her skills to help the wounded at the 1,000-bed 9th General Hospital.
In October 1944, she boarding the hospital ship, USS Comfortto travel to Milne Bay, New Guinea, then to Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, where she joined the 54th Evacuation Hospital. Most evacuation hospitals consisted of 450 to 700 beds and were located within 30 miles of the front lines. They were highly mobile, using temporary structures of either tents or existing native buildings such as schools, residential, or commercial facilities.
When the 54th was disbanded, Helen transferred further back behind the lines to the 27th General Hospital, the furthest forward of all general hospitals at the time. The 27th administered more than 21,000 patients (physically and mentally affected casualties from Biak to Luzon) in the less than one year of its existence.
On March, 27, 1945, Helen was on the move again. This time landing at Clark Air Field, Luzon, on a C-47. There, she joined other nurses along with the 23 officers and 195 enlisted men of the 24th Field Hospital. Like evacuation hospitals, field hospitals (with a maximum of 400 beds) were temporary mobile units stationed close to enemy lines. Combat casualties came into the field hospital from more distant areas via C-47s or light planes. Land transport had become too dangerous and took too much time. Patients requiring for emergency surgeries or care received treatment in the field facilities before being transported further back behind the lines to general hospitals.
The 24th Field Hospital began winding down its operations as the battlefield moved inland.In May 1945, Helen transferred to her final stop in the Asiatic theatre: Manila. While in the once-great city, she toured the wreckage of buildings that had housed the brutal Japanese invaders. She traveled to Corregidor where she visited the American camp where Japanese prisoners fared much better than their American counterparts had when the roles were reversed.
After two years away from home, 1st Lieutenant Helen Mangold left the Philippines when she transferred back to the United States. When she finished her military career, Helen returned to Wisconsin, She married and excelled in business and community service. She passed away on October 31, 1989, at 80 years of age — another example of the greatest generation.