Not very many of our heroes from the “greatest generation” are with us today. I met Martha this week. She is 97 and can remember details from World War II as if it were yesterday. When Charlotte Memorial Hospital was asked to send doctors and nurses to set up an evacuation hospital in Africa and Italy, Martha was one of the volunteers. “When I heard what they were doing, I said, ‘I believe I have to go'”. She spent the next couple of years living and eating in tents, working with the wounded during the war. Moving their “tent city” was a regular activity that required packing up all of their equipment and supplies to be transplanted to the next location.
While in Africa, Martha had a unique experience. She was asked to pose for sketches that would be used to produce paintings for Life Magazine. Life had artists embedded with the troops, depicting various aspects of the war and of our brave men and women serving there. Along with Life Magazine’s many photographers, Life’s artists captured scenes from the war for the people back home. Fletcher Martin was one of the artists illustrating the war in North Africa. His painting of Martha would become the cover of the December 27, 1943 issue of the magazine.
As a newly established hospital was getting its start, nurses and doctors agreed to join the 38th Evacuation Hospital being formed by Charlotte Memorial. Martha would make a commitment and sacrifice to help wounded soldiers recover from the war. Life Magazine would immortalize a nurse’s service through a painting adorning the cover of its weekly magazine.
In 1960, Life Magazine donated over one thousand graphic painting, watercolors, and sketches to the U.S. Army Center for Military History in Washington, D.C.