On the Army birthday, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Beatrice Mary MacDonald, who received a Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart.
Beatrice Mary MacDonald was born in 1881 in North Bedeque, a small town in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. MacDonald came to the U.S. to study nursing at New York Training School for Nurses on Blackwell’s Island, which is now Roosevelt Island. In 1905, she became a registered nurse and worked in New York City as a surgical assistant.
In 1915, MacDonald experienced war for the first time when she volunteered for four months with Hospital B, American Ambulance in Juilly, France. Then, MacDonald returned to New York and resumed her job. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps. In May 1917, MacDonald joined a team of doctors and nurses from New York’s Presbyterian Hospital to establish Base Hospital No. 2 in Étretat, France.
For the next year, MacDonald served as a surgical nurse at Base Hospital No. 2 and at British Casualty Clearing Station No. 61, a mobile unit always within a few miles of the front line. Casualty clearing stations triaged patients, provided emergency treatment and surgeries, then sent the soldiers back to the field or to other facilities for further care. Base hospitals were farther from the front line and provided longer-term care.
On the night of Aug. 17, 1917, MacDonald was at the clearing station in Belgium, four miles from the front line, when the Germans started an air raid in the area. MacDonald continued caring for the wounded until shrapnel hit her right eye, causing instant blindness. Surgical efforts to save her sight failed, and she was later fitted with an artificial eye. But, she insisted on staying. According to a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study article, MacDonald declared, “I’ve only started doing my bit.”
She returned to her base hospital until May 1918. MacDonald then got orders to report to Evacuation Hospital No. 2, the American equivalent to British casualty clearing stations, in Baccarat, France, and promoted to chief nurse. She remained in Baccarat until the Armistice. After the war ended, MacDonald went to Germany to serve for two months with Allied forces, but then returned home and resumed her nursing career in New York.
MacDonald received numerous medals, awards and accolades for her service from the United States, France and Great Britain. In addition to her service, MacDonald made history as the first woman to receive a Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart.
MacDonald passed away September 1969 in White Plains, New York.
We honor her service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Michael Veronda
Editor: Christine Myers and Julia Pack
Fact checker: Shiv Lamba and Vivian Hurney
Graphic artist: Nicole Barto