Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Monica Benning, who took care of patients as a nurse during the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
In 1914, Monica Benning was born to her parents, August and Mary Anne Conter. Her father was a doctor, and she chose to follow in her father’s footsteps by becoming a nurse. She attended nursing school at Providence Hospital in Mobile, Alabama. After graduating in 1939, she landed a nursing job in Baltimore, Maryland. After one of her colleagues told her about military nursing, Benning joined the Army Nurse Corps.
In 1940, she commissioned as a second lieutenant and served at National Naval Medical Center, now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland, until mid-1941. That summer, Benning served in Hawaii, and she was ultimately went to the base hospital at Hickam Field near Pearl Harbor.
Less than a month after arriving at Hickam Field, the sounds of anti-aircraft fire and explosions filled the skies above Oahu on Sunday, Dec. 7. She was one of six nurses assigned to Hickam’s 30-bed hospital, which quickly reached capacity as wounded soldiers and civilians were rushed to the nearest hospitals.
Benning reflected that “it was chaos, complete chaos” as she tended to those she could while doing her best to make a record of those who died.
Things quickly got out of hand, but Benning persevered along with civilian support.
“They were bringing people on doors and in chairs,” said Benning. “The ambulances just kept coming and going.”
The following Wednesday, Benning was able to see a gentleman she went on a date with before the attack. Barney Benning was happy to know that she had made it through the battle and vice versa. The two eventually married on Aug. 20, 1942.
After the war, Benning left the service to care for the couple’s newborn child, and her husband Barney left the service in 1946. The couple returned several times to Pearl Harbor to visit and speak at events.
Benning passed away on July 22, 2012, at the age of 97.
We honor 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/.
Writers: Katherine Berman and Jarrett Dodson
Editors: Amra Kandic and Cassidy Reid
Fact checker: Kinsley Ballas
Graphic artist: Katie Rahill