Today in Texas History – February 18

From the Annals of Heroism –  In 1943, First Lieutenant Wilma Vinsant “Dolly” Shea of San Benito graduated with the first flight-nurse class of the U.S. Army Air Corps at Bowman Field, Kentucky.  Shea had received her nurse training at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, and had worked as an air nurse for Braniff Airlines before she enlisted in 1942. Shea completed rigorous training for flight nurses which included jumping, with heavy pack and fully clothed, into water twenty feet deep and gaining shore unaided.   Shea was posted to the European Theater during World War II.  On January 15, 1945, Dolly Vinsant married Maj. Walter L. Shea, an air force navigator from the Bronx, New York.  Shortly thereafter she was promoted to first lieutenant.  Shea had completed her hazardous-flight quota, the maximum number allowed under United States Military regulations.  However, her commander reluctantly granted her request “to make one more trip.” She was killed in action on April 14, 1945 when her evacuation plane which was carrying wounded GI’s to hospitals behind the front line was shot down over Germany. She was one of only three women in the Army Nurse Corps known to have been killed by direct enemy action.  Shea was awarded the  Air Medal, the Red Cross Medal, a Special Citation from President Harry Truman, and a posthumous Purple Heart.  She was honored by her hometown through the Dolly Vinsant Memorial Hospital.

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