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November 11, 2013

WWII Nurse Corps veterans recall WWII experiences

MORRISONVILLE — As a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II, Dorothy LeClair didn’t find the discipline too rigorous.

“I got three whole days to come home and get married!” she said with a wry smile.  

A Lake Placid native, LeClair graduated from Mercy Hospital in Watertown in 1943 then began her nursing career in maternity. 

She enlisted on April 1, 1945.  

BIVOUACS

Since the war ended later that year, LeClair’s military experience was brief, but it was a momentous time in her life.

It began with 30 days of training. 

“We had to do all the physical things, we went on bivouacs — and we also had to work in the hospital.” 

When her training was completed, LeClair was assigned to a military hospital on Long Island, where wounded soldiers returning from the European Theater were cared for.

SHORT HONEYMOON

It was during her time there that she approached the chief nurse and asked for leave to get married.  

“She said, ‘Are you marrying a serviceperson, and where is he stationed?’”

LeClair, 92, explained that her future husband was an Army corporal stationed in California, but added, “I knew him long before I went in the service.”

She was given the short leave and returned to the North Country to marry Carl LeClair. 

The wedding was in Ellenburg Depot. Days later, she and her new husband were each back on duty, far away from each other.

Although the honeymoon was short, the marriage was long, lasting until her husband’s death a few years ago. 

“We were married 65 1/2 years.”

SCARS OF WAR

LeClair has never forgotten her experiences at the military hospital where she worked in the service.

“I was assigned to psychiatry. It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but you had to go where you were assigned.”

Working with soldiers who were emotionally and psychologically scarred by the war was very difficult, LeClair recalled.

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