While many metro Atlanta retirement centers are home to veterans of World War II, the Atria at Buckhead has a particular distinction: Its only two female vets are former Army nurses who served at the same time on opposite sides of the world.
Betty Bing, the former Elizabeth Tick, and Dilly Morris, the former Odilla Lush, both became nurses in 1943 after cutting through the Army’s red tape.
Morris’ enlistment was held up by her 5-foot, 92-pound frame.
“You had to be 100 pounds, and I think the most I got to was 95,” said Morris, who has lived at Atria since 2006. “I went back so many times, they finally just wrote down that I was 100.”
Bing, a Canadian who completed her nursing studies in New Jersey, had to become an American citizen before joining up.
“I was 21, and my parents were heartbroken,” recalled Bing, 91. “But something about all those GIs needing help called to me. I just wanted to get over there.”
Both former nurses remember where they were 68 years ago today when the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy.
“I was in an Army hospital in Ohio, and each bed had a radio that we made them turn off at 10 p.m.,” recalled Morris, who turns 90 on Sunday. “But that night, we let the patients keep them on. I don’t think anyone slept, listening to the news of the invasion.”
Bing was already in England, close to an Air Force division with a large contingent of bomber pilots.
“I remember we’d bicycle to the field in the morning to wave them goodbye as they flew off,” Bing said. “Then we’d bike back about 4:30 to count how many didn’t come back. But it was the most exciting time of my life, even though everything was awful.”
Within months, Morris in Ohio was nursing wounded paratroopers who returned with tales of being stuck in trees, cutting their ropes to reach the ground and being shot where they hung. She also received her first gift of red roses from a soldier whose pass home she helped expedite. Eventually, she shipped out for Pacific field hospitals where she did everything from pitching tents to tending patients.
“We worked hard, 12 hours a night, but we partied hard, too,” said Morris, who was known as “Lieutenant Luscious” to her patients. “We celebrated the end of the war in Hawaii with a fresh coconut cake and a bottle of gin — not a great combination.”
Bing served in hospitals in France and Germany before returning stateside. She had a career in nursing, married twice, raised two children and has two grandsons. Morris, who bought a horse and took flying lessons when she got home, married and adopted two sons and has a grandchild. Photos of each woman are part of the wall of heroes in Atria’s lobby.
“It is still the time I cherish,” Bing said. “It was where I learned that life is so special. And it was an honor to be part of the war and this country.”