By Stephen D. Lutz
On September 27, 1944, a C-47 Skytrain named “Mary,” tail number 43-48395, prepared to depart Royal Air Force Base Wharton in Lancashire, England, filled with assorted medical supplies destined for a U.S. Army field hospital in northeast France. After delivering the supplies, “Mary” was to have been loaded with wounded American soldiers and flown back to a hospital in England.
“Mary” was under the command of 1st Lt. Ralph Parker and co-pilot 2nd Lt. David Forbes. Two enlisted men were also on board: Sergeant Harold Bonser, the flight engineer, and Corporal Chester Bright, the radio operator.
Also on board was flight nurse 2nd Lt. Reba Zitella Whittle of Rocksprings, Texas—140 miles west of San Antonio—and surgical technician Tech-3 Jonathan Hill. The 25-year-old Lieutenant Whittle was an experienced flight nurse; this was her 40th flight. While there was not much for her to do on this leg of the journey, she knew that coming back she would have her hands full caring for a planeload of wounded men, many in agony.
In the late 1930s, before the war began, Reba had completed the nursing course from Medical and Surgical Memorial Hospital’s School of Nursing in San Antonio, then invested another year at North Texas State College in Denton, Texas, studying Home Economics.
On June 10, 1941, Reba attended the Army’s primary medical post at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for an Army induction physical. Standing five-feet five-inches tall and
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