Harriet W. (Nelson) Swanson

Memorial Location


  • Captain
  • Served: April 14, 1943 – June 1946
  • World War II – Army Nurse Corps – with 217th General Hospital in England & France,  & 279th Station Hospital in Berlin, Germany
  • Operating Room Nurse
  • Awarded: Bronze Service Star for participating in Northern France Campaign, Certificate of Commendation

“When Harriet finished her nurses training on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border she wanted to do something for her country.  She joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1943 serving in England and France. She had memorable experiences as an operating nurse in those campaigns.  In order to acquire the needed points to return to the United States, she then went to the 279th Hospital in Berlin.

She did not meet her husband, Ralph, until after the war.  They were married in Ashland, Wisconsin in 1946.  Harriet was born November 23, 1920 and died February 7, 2020; interred with her husband of 73 years, in Iron Mountain, Michigan.

Excerpt from Mrs. Swanson’s Obituary:

“Harriet eagerly responded to the opportunity to serve her country during World War II.

After enlisting in military service, she was attached to the 217th General Hospital Unit. Harriet rose to the rank of Captain in The United States Army.

Harriet was dispatched to France from a military training base in England only a few weeks after the Invasion of Normandy which took place on June 6th 1944.

Only twenty two years old, fresh out of nursing school, and away from home for the first time, Harriet worked long hours, and endless days as an operating room nurse. She was in the European Combat Theater during some of the fiercest and most decisive battles of the war. Harriet was never far behind the American and Allied forces as they fought their way to victory, across France, and finally into Germany, as the war in Europe drew to a close.

Harriet displayed a reluctance, even among friends and family, to discuss her experiences during the war. This was because the extreme emotional burden of trying to care for so many casualties, so many young men with severe medical issues, often beyond the available resources of
doctors and nurses, equipment and facilities, was overwhelming.

Characteristically, Harriet made many friends along the way. In Paris, where she served in a hospital, which is still in operation there today, she developed life long associations.

In Berlin, after the war’s end, she stayed on to care for wounded American soldiers.

Harriet and Ralph, until several years ago, made trips to Europe to visit old acquaintances of hers from the war who kept in touch with Harriet because of their gratitude for her

service during this terrible period. These were strong bonds forged by war which Harriet never forgot.”