Helen Brammer in Caserta, Italy, 1944. Photo/U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Capt. Helen G. Brammer, Principal Chief Nurse of the 32nd Station Hospital, received the Bronze Star for meritorious duty while serving in U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War 2 on July 20, 1945.

Brammer was born on November 30, 1906 in St. Ansgar to Reverend Paul and Clara Brammer.  She graduated from St, Ansgar High School in 1924. The September 2, 1925 edition of the St. Ansgar Enterprise mentions a farewell party given to Laura and Helen Brammer who were leaving to attend nurses’ training at the Lutheran Hospital.

Nurses of the 32nd Station Hospital in Caserta, Italy. Photo/U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Brammer spent 10 years as an R.N. and supervisor at Glen Lake Sanitorium, Hopkins, Minnesota, before joining the Army Nurse Corps in January 1941. The November 20, 1941 edition of the St. Ansgar Enterprise reported she had returned home on a 15-day furlough from Camp Robinson, Arkansas. She joined the 32nd Station Hospital in December 1942 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

The 32nd Station Hospital. Photo/U.S. National Library of Medicine.

As Principal Chief Nurse, Brammer supervised 55 nurses assigned to the 32nd Station Hospital. In January 1943, the unit deployed to Algeria. As she wrote in her Report of Nursing Activities – 1943, “…we quickly discovered that our comfort depended largely on the ability to improvise and with true pioneer spirit each one furnished an idea that added to our personal well being.” She also noted “Often, the hours of duty were long and our compensation not measured in material values, was in the smile and “thank you” of a front-line weary soldier. All of us will long remember an expression that was uttered by the American soldiers returning from combat zones and the thrill experienced by those simple words, “Ah! An American Nurse!”.”

After Christmas 1943, the 32nd Station Hospital was sent to Naples then on to Caserta, Italy. In the 1944 report, Brammer wrote “There were no windows or doors, no water or heating facilities” in the new hospital site which previously had been barracks used by Italian, German, British and American soldiers. Nevertheless, five days later patients began to arrive at the hospital. The unit’s previous year’s experience allowed them to scrounge and make use of everything at their disposal. Packing crates, wire, string, paper and cardboard were all converted into
hospital use.

Brammer near Oran, Algeria. Photo/U.S. National Library of Medicine.

As the front lines of the war moved away from Italy she wrote, “Many of our nursing duties in the past six months have been routine nature and not as interesting as the care of battle casualties.” She added that from the past two years all the nurses were exhibiting “physical wear and mental strain of life and work under war conditions.”

When allowed time for recreation, Brammer enjoyed Italian opera and met her future husband at a performance of Carmen at the Royal Palace near Caserta.

Brammer was promoted to Captain in June 1944. After receiving the Bronze Star in July 1945, Brammer returned to the United States. She visited St. Ansgar in September 1945 to attend to her father who had been ill. Brammer left active duty in December 1945. She married a fellow Bronze Star recipient Robert A. Hulcy on April 24, 1946 in Wausau, Wisconsin. Her father performed the ceremony. They move to a ranch near Palestine, Texas. She retired as the Director of Nursing at Anderson Memorial Hospital and was active in her community. Brammer died in 2001.

If you would like to know more about the history of the 32nd Station Hospital, an excellent website is dedicated to the men and women who served can be found at 32ndstationhospital.com. Great thanks to Lowell Silverman for his assistance in the creation of this article. 

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