“There was an explosion…it was a kamikaze…” So I called an amazing combat veteran – an incredible woman, 100-year-old Army nurse Lt. Doris Howard, who served aboard the USS Comfort in WWII. She is now in strict quarantine in California, wondering if she might be able to volunteer and help during the nation’s latest crisis.
75 years ago almost to the hour, 28 April 1945, Doris was below decks nursing badly wounded men from the Battle of Okinawa, fighting to keep many horrifically maimed young Americans alive with unstinting care and compassion. Then it happened, 75 years ago today – a kamikaze hit USS Comfort near its stack and the big red cross marked on the hospital ship.
There was a second explosion from the plane’s fuel tank and six of her fellow nurses were killed and 5ft Doris, weighing 92 pounds, was thrown eight feet and slammed into a bulkhead. It was the deadliest attack in history on American women in uniform. Doris was deafened and numb from the neck to the waist but vowed to stay with her patients even if ordered to abandon ship. She was back at her station within hours, despite suffering permanent damage to her hearing and spine.
28 Americans had been killed in the attack and 42 were wounded. The USS Comfort was not abandoned, however, and Doris was able to stay on duty until the ship docked for repairs and to evacuate the wounded. Her fellow nurses were then buried in a deeply moving ceremony, the stars and stripes coating their coffins.
Doris saw out the end of the war in uniform. Today, she is intensely proud of her service in the last, heart-breaking days of WWII. She says she would love to be able to serve on the USS Comfort’s namesake, USNS Comfort, today, helping those stricken in New York or anywhere else.
She is a little frail so it might be best if she worked in an office, doing secretarial work – anything to help. Thanks from the bottom of my heart, Doris, for reminding us of all the many heroic, selfless, beautiful women who fought a different frontline war – putting their lives on the line every hour of every day to save so many young lives.