WWII nurse, Battle of the Bulge veteran, and Native elder dies at 102

| November 24, 2021 | 11 Comments

Then-Lieutenant Marcella LeBeau (US Army Nurse Corps)

Jeff LPH 3 sends in word on the passing of Marcella LeBeau, a WWII US Army nurse. She’s got an amazing life story that I thought worth sharing. As we prepare for our annual Thanksgiving, spare a moment to be thankful for people like Marcella.

From Military Times;

Marcella Rose LeBeau, an Army nurse who was honored for her service during World War II and leadership in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has died. She was 102.

Family members said she “passed on to journey to the next world” late Sunday in Eagle Butte, South Dakota after experiencing problems with her digestive system and losing her appetite. LeBeau had remained active all of her life and earlier this month traveled to Oklahoma for a ceremony honoring her induction into the National Native American Hall of Fame.

Her daughter, Gerri Lebeau, said the matriarch of her family demonstrated fortitude, as well as an ability to seek healing, as she overcame the abuses she faced at an Indian boarding school during her youth. She went on to treat frontline soldiers as an Army nurse in Europe during the Allied invasion of Normandy. After returning home, she became an outspoken advocate for health in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

“She was the foundation of our family,” said her grandson Ryman LeBeau. “She had a lifetime of good things that she had accomplished.”

Lebeau was born in 1919 and grew up in Promise, South Dakota, as a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Her mother died when she was 10 years old, and her grandmother gave her the name Wigmunke’ Waste Win’, or Pretty Rainbow Woman.

But LeBeau grew up at a time when the government was attempting to eradicate her culture — while her grandmother only spoke the Lakota language, she could be punished for speaking it at the boarding school she attended.

LeBeau’s father had instilled the importance of education, and that led her to become a registered nurse, Gerri LeBeau said. At 24 years old, LeBeau served with the Army Nurse Corps’ 76th General Hospital based in Minster, England. As Allied forces retook France and Belgium, she treated injured soldiers from medical tents, sometimes with bombs buzzing overhead.

“It was one of my greatest privileges and honor to have cared for those soldiers,” LeBeau told the Rapid City Journal in 2004 when she was honored with the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honor.

After the war, LeBeau kept treating patients on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation and with Indian Health Services for over 30 years.

“In addition to keeping her people healthy, she protected their heritage by helping repatriate important cultural items belonging to the tribes,” Gov. Kristi Noem said in a statement. “Through it all, it was her joyful spirit that connected her with many in her community.”

As a member of the tribal council in the 1990s, LeBeau helped push an ordinance to ban smoking in tribal office buildings, even as she initially faced tribal council meetings that billowed with smoke from her fellow councilmembers.

Here’s a write-up on LeBeau from last year. It is definitely worth the read. War History Online

According to these accounts, LeBeau was at Normandy on D-Day. As so often happens with memories more than 75 years past, I think the record may have gotten muddied. Her unit, the 76th General Hospital Unit was stood up in the European Theater in March 1944. They were part of the massive buildup in advance of D-Day.

The 76th General Hospital arrived in France in July 1944 according to their combat chronicle. This would definitely place her participating in the Battle of Normandy, but not D-Day itself. The 76th General Hospital did indeed move forward with the battle lines and was in Belgium November 1944, in line with the Battle of the Bulge.

Rest easy, Ma’am.

Category: Army, We Remember

Comments (11)

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  1. 2banana says:

    And damn good looking too.

    • President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neanderthal B Woodman Domestic Violent Extremist SuperStraight says:

      I’ll bet she was a looker even when older.

    • Mike B USAF Retired says:

      Sad, it’s the first thing I thought when I saw her picture!

      Seems she had an impressive life of various service to people.

      • KoB says:

        Steady Men…the line woulda had to form up on me. I’da courted her, wooed her, and charmed her with my ways.

        Godspeed and Fare Well, Pretty Rainbow Woman. An amazing life story. Anytime I see/read about another certain demographic and their whining about how bad they had/have it, I think of the treatment of the “Native Americans” from the US Federal Grubermint. Pisses me off. Full disclosure…GGGrand Mother was Muskogean Creek.

        • Hatchet says:

          Well Sir, with that disclosed; it’ll be a heart-felt honour for me to put some tobacco down for your Muskogee Creek DNA(Descendants Now Ancestors) at this season’s very last Inipi(Sweat lodge)during our final prayer round.

          You already know it but I’ll say it anyway – be proud of that ancestry, K!

          MITAKUYE OYASIN!!

          ALL MY RELATIONS!!

  2. STSC(SW/SS) says:

    Thank you for your service Marcella.
    Peace and happiness be with you in the next life.

  3. Hondo says:

    Rest in peace, elder sister-in-arms.

    Thank you.

  4. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    Another of the Greatest Generation is gone… RIP Marcella!

  5. Hatchet says:

    Lakota – Ah key chee ta Wigmunke’ Waste Win’, Wopila Tanka Santa.

    English – Veteran Pretty Rainbow Woman, the Greatest of Thanks.

  6. Old tanker says:

    A life well lived by a great person. May she rest in peace surrounded by friends, family and those she helped.

  7. Hatchet says:

    A big Wopila Maya(Thank you) to Jeff LPH 3 for sending this article in. Jeff, this tune is for you because YOU MAKE ME PROUD!!!

    Jim Boyd – Makes Me Proud

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