Valor Friday

| February 28, 2020

Distinguished Service Cross

Continuing on last VF’s theme, Mason relates the heroism of unique recipients of valor awards. Six of them.


Last week I spoke about Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor. She served with the Union Army during the Civil War and fearlessly rendered aid to all who needed her skills as a surgeon. Her example was followed in succeeding conflicts by many other women in uniform. Today I’ll be discussing six of the seven women who received the Army’s second highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Jane Jeffrey

Jane Jeffrey (later Ricker) was born in Britain in 1881. A registered nurse, she was living in Massachusetts caring for a sick relative when, at the age of 36, she volunteered to serve with the American Red Cross upon the US entry into World War I.
Initially sent to Bordeaux, France with the American Expeditionary Force, she was sent to an Army hospital set up in the Jouy-sur-Morin commune in Seine-et-Marne, France. It was here that she rendered aid to Allied troops in harrowing conditions.

The field hospital had so many casualties arriving that they were housed in tents. Sanitation was non-existent and there was no plumbing. During the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918 German guns fired on the hospital. As a result of the shelling she received shrapnel injuries to her back.

Medical staff assessed her injuries and during triage decided that her injuries were too severe to warrant help from the overworked surgical staff. Undaunted, she demanded medical attention, eventually receiving it.

Some time later, while recovering in Auteuil, France, she was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in armed conflict with the enemy. This was such an unusual occurrence that the Army had no forms with which to properly present her. Her official award citation, visible here, was designed for a male recipient. They have crossed out himself, his, and him and chicken scratched in the appropriate pronouns. Her citation is signed by General Pershing.

Nurse Jeffrey recovered from her war wounds, married, and continued to work as a nurse, living until 1960.

Beatrice MacDonald

Beatrice MacDonald was 35 when she volunteered with the US Army Nursing Corps to serve during World War I. Born on Prince Edward Island, she’d relocated to New York City where she graduated nursing school. She had, prior to the US entry into the war, worked at the American Hospital in Paris for a time in 1915.

Serving at British Casualty Clearing Station Number 61, August 17, 1917 her station was attacked by a German air raid during the Third Battle of Ypres. During the attack she continued to attend to her patients, showing remarkable courage under fire.

She continued at her post until she was wounded, losing sight in her right eye. Despite that, the chief nurse described her as being “very plucky” and said that she greatly influenced staff there and maintained high standards.

In total during her overseas service she spent 21 months in France and Belgium. During that time she earned the Army Distinguished Service Cross, one Wound Stripe, the Distinguished Service Medal, the British Military Medal (analogous to an American Bronze Star w/ “V”) for “bravery in the field”, the British Royal Red Cross (Second Class), and the French Croix de Guerre.

The Royal Red Cross is an award specifically to recognize exceptional military nurses. Though not exclusively a combat bravery award, it is one of the highest honors in the very complex British system of awards. It ranks higher than the UK Distinguished Service Cross (analogous to our Silver Star) and ranks with, but just below, the Distinguished Service Order. The DSO was the British second-level award for combat valor, so comparable to our service crosses. It’s fair to say the British Army held her in exceptionally high regard.

In 1936, after the creation of the Purple Heart she petitioned to have her Wound Stripe changed. She was thus the first female recipient of the Purple Heart.

Nurse MacDonald lived until 1969 in Suffolk County, NY.

Helen McClelland

Helen McClelland, born in Ohio in 1887, was a graduate of nursing school in Pennsylvania in 1912. In 1915, as the US ramped up its preparation for entry into World War I, she went to France to assist the war effort as a member of the American Ambulance Service. She continued her service through the war with the US Army Nursing Corps.

On the night of August 17, 1917 McClelland was serving at the same British casualty station as Nurse MacDonald. McClelland and MacDonald were actually tent-mates. During the attack on their station, McClelland also served through the din of battle attending to patients. When her friend and comrade was struck in the head by a shell fragment, McClelland gave her care, controlling the hemorrhaging, and is credited with saving the nurse’s life.

For her bravery under fire McClelland was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The British also recognized her heroism and contribution to military nursing with the Royal Red Cross (First Class).

McClelland returned to Pennsylvania Hospital, serving as the head of the nursing department for more than 20 years. She was instrumental in getting the hospital’s nursing program accredited and also developed both a two year and four year nurse training program there.

McClelland retired in 1956. After retiring she returned to Ohio and died there in 1984.

Photo Not Available
Eva Jean Parmelee

Parmelee was an Army Nursing Corps nurse in France in September 1917 when German aircraft bombarded their hospital (a British Expeditionary Force unit). On September 4th, just after the lights in the facility had gone dark, the nearby air raid sirens began wailing. Parmelee’s orderly, Oscar Tugo, came running up yelling “Why, they’re here!”

After a deafening roar and concussive blast she found herself in a ditch, choked by the sulfurous cloud and smoke as four more blasts echoed through the compound. After the attack ended she heard the calls for nurses in the mens’ screams of “Sister! Sister!”

Jumping up, flashlight in hand, she swept out into the fray and attended to patients. Finding the ambulatory patients and medical staff had moved to intact facilities she ignored her own wounds and took care of the men around her. Seven officers in the command tent had been killed, with many more gravely wounded. Parmelee’s orderly Tugo had been killed as well, after giving her the warning of the coming attack.

It wasn’t until the following morning that she attended to her own injuries. She found she had two small face wounds and a black eye. Her apron and skirt had several shrapnel tears through them. Some of the shrapnel had come so close it cut her wrist watch clean off, leaving behind only the band.

Parmelee was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her courage and dedication under fire. The British awarded her the Royal Red Cross (Second Class) and the Military Medal.

Parmelee continued to serve through the remainder of the war. She returned to the US. I’m unable to locate what she did or where she lived, but it appears as if she passed in 1952.

Isabel Stambaugh

Isabel Stambaugh was a 38 year old Army Nurse Corps member in France with the American Expeditionary Force on March 21, 1918 when the hospital she was serving in was attacked by German shells. In the middle of a surgery at the time of the attack, Nurse Stambaugh was seriously wounded.

For her bravery that day she was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

She recovered from her injuries and returned to her unit near the front lines. She returned to the US in 1919 and lived to the age of 89, passing in 1969.

Photo Not Available
Emma Sloan

As little as I can dig up on Nurse Parmelee and Isabel Stambaugh, I can find remarkably little on Emma Sloan from New Haven, Connecticut. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while serving as a “Reconstruction Aide” with the YMCA in France.

I’d never heard of a Reconstruction Aide (re-aide) before, so I imagine many of my readers haven’t either. The Reconstruction Aide’s role in WWI was to help rehabilitate injured and shell shocked troops so they could return to their units. They were a major influence on occupational and massage therapy in the years that followed the war.

Though some re-aides were occupational therapists, many were teachers, artists, or similar craftspeople. They were all civilians, with many, if not most, working for the Medical Department of the US Army. There must have been some employed by the YMCA there as well, because everything I can find on Miss Sloan lists her as a YMCA member/employee.

Unfortunately I cannot find what the circumstances of Miss Sloan’s award were. Re-aides typically didn’t serve near the front, so they must have been unusual to say the least.

All six of these women show that bravery has no gender. At the award ceremony for MacDonald’s Distinguished Service Cross a letter was presented from General Pershing to MacDonald (and Parmelee). Though the letter was specific to those two ladies, it could easily apply to any on this list. Pershing’s letter read:
“The commander-in-chief wished to express appreciation of the exceptional conduct which you have displayed upon this occasion. Such bravery on the part of one of our compatriots calls forth our deepest admiration, and is a source of inspiration to us all.”

No truer words could be written or said. All of these ladies are making my list of role models for my daughters.

There’s one final lady who has received an Army Distinguished Service Cross. Her story is far too long for this article, so you’ll have to check back for next week’s iron willed woman.

Hand Salute. Ready, Two!
Thanks again, Mason

Category: Army, Guest Post, Historical, Valor

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    “…bravery has no gender.” These accounts just go to show that you don’t have to “have balls” to have balls. BZ Ladies! Much respect!

    Battery Fire…by the piece…PREPARE….COMMENCE FIRING!

    Thanks Mason! Another fine job. Keep ’em coming.

  2. David says:

    If you visit Arlington, head uphill toward the Rough Rider’s monument – before you get to the top of the hill there is a small section on the right dedicated to the nurses of the AEF in WWI. (I’m proud to have a great-aunt to visit there. Wish I had been born in time to meet her in person.)

  3. ninja says:


    I don’t think Emma Schlager Sloan Gregor received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) during WWI.

    Research various newspapers from April 1919 indicates Four (4) Men who were with the YMCA during WWI received the DSC.

    They were:

    (1) Mandeville J. Barker, Jr. of Uniontown, PA:

    (2) Frank C. Ward, YMCA Secretary, attached to the 106th Infantry.

    (3) Thomas W. Wilbor, Jr. of New Britain, Connecticut.

    (4) Rev Dr. Mercer Green Johnston of Baltimore, MD and Texas.

    According to Emma Tuch Schlager Sloan Gregor’s(1887-1968) 1917 passport submission, she identified herself as a Housekeeper who volunteered to be a YMCA Canteen Worker in both France and Great Britain (I found her passports and passports picture).

    Her Sister, Helen Schlager also applied for a Passport to join her and was in France as well.

    The Scranton Times (PA) did a nice newspaper article on her on 1 March 1919.

    At that time, “Emmie” was married to John Taylor Sloan, Jr of New Haven, CT. She and John later divorced in 1925 and in 1929, she married Fred Ralph Gregor, a WWI Veteran who was at one time, declared MIA and was wounded during a Battle. They later had a daughter name Ruth Church Gregor, born 1928 who passed away in 2006.

    In the 1 March 1919 article, Emmie was identified as the daughter of Walter Lincoln and Ruth Church Schlager. Walter was born in Germany and was a Coal Miner in PA.

    Emmie was called “Top” by the AEF Troops and was in charge of the “Y” Hut, Number 7. She was known to have worn “TOP” Chevrons on her sleeves as well as two Service Chevron and big rubber boots.

    Supposely, she had an AEF Corporal with Soldiers under him help her out with the Y Tent and when the Flu broke out at their Camp, her Hut was turned into a Convalescent Home, where she spent 18-20 hours a day taking care of Soldiers who came down with Pneumonia.

    The 141st Field Artillery Glee Club out of Louisiana
    gave her a Farewell Banquet before she returned to the US. They identified themselves as the “Chociat Army, De Whole Washington Artillery”.

    Just as you, Mason, have seen several references identifying Emma as a “Reconstruction Aide” (Occupational Therapists) receiving a DSC, but I think someone (perhaps her husband or family) embellished her time with the YMCA.

    Just my assessment.

    What do you think?

    Thank You again for researching and writing stories about our Heroes. It is a breath of fresh air.

    • Mason says:

      I bow before your superior Google skills. I tried for the better part of an hour and could just find references that she received it. They all likely were sourced from the same spot though, because every reference essentially just says “Emma Sloan, YMCA also received the DSC.”

      In my reading on what the re-aides were, I doubt many ever went near the front. Their whole thing was to rehab the guys to get them back to the front. You couldn’t exactly do much rehab for shell shock if you’re within range of German guns. I’d imagine they spent most of their time in Paris or points west and south of there.

      • ninja says:


        Emma’s WWI story was interesting.

        In a way, if the newspaper article about her was true, she probably WAS a Hero to alot of the AEF Troops.

        The article stated she gave some of them money. Others, she made hot chocolate for them, sang songs to them, etc.etc.

        She was a morale booster to many.

        The 4 YMCA Gentlemen who DID receive the DSC all interacted with the Germans and were part of different US Army units.

        The YMCA Founder, John Mott, received the Distinguished Service Medal for his organization’s participation in WWI.

        Again, no telling where the story or information came from reference Emma S. Sloan receiving a DSC.

        After the War, she and Sloan moved to Cleveland, Ohio. After her 2nd marriage to Gregor, she relocated to Cleveland, where she ran a Bookstore until her death in 1968. Her daughter Ruth attended Kent State, then married and moved to Williamsburg, VA, where she passed away in 2006.

        Emma’s sister, Helen, who served with the YMCA in France, never married.

        Thank You again for sharing the Valor Stories with us, Mason and to AW1Ed for posting them.