Anna M. Spillman Atteberry
1 Lt
U. S. Army
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 12/27/1942 - 12/27/1945
Nurse, 56th Evacuation Hospital; 10th Field Hospital
Audio Samples

Anna was born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, as the eldest of six children of Ewell H. and Nellie Spillman. Soon the family returned to her father's hometown, St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish, where he farmed and worked in the timber industry. There she grew up living in a farmhouse without running water, and attended a rural school. "In my first year of school I had two streams of water I had to cross barefoot. There were no bridges over those streams then," she recalls. By the fifth grade the school had closed so she rode the school bus into St. Francisville. At home Anna helped with household chores, including washing clothes in a "great big pot" in the yard and assisted with the care of her siblings. On Sundays the family attended New Hope Methodist Church. For entertainment they listened to a battery-powered radio and attended church parties. Anna graduated from Julius Freehan High School in "'38 or '39", and then entered nursing training at Baton Rouge General Hospital. A day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941, she saw long lines of men volunteering for service. After graduating in spring of 1942 she entered the U.S. Army Nurse Corps on July 27, and was sent for training at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas. At Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio she joined a unit medical unit formed from doctors and nurses of Baylor Hospital in Dallas. The unit became 56th Evacuation Hospital and sailed overseas early in 1943 aboard the SS Mariposa, a luxury liner that had been converted into a troop ship. "The Tuskegee Airmen from Alabama were on that ship with us," she recalls. At that time, army nurses held only relative rank. She was accorded the privileges of a second lieutenant and performed much the same work, but she was paid less than males of the same rank. Later, while in Italy, she would receive the same rank and her pay increased. Arriving near Casablanca in Morocco, the 56th followed the front lines through Algeria and into the Atlas Mountains near a town called Bone. As a surgical nurse Anna often worked 24 hours a day in tent hospitals. "We would work until there were no more casualties," she says. Later there were two, 12-hour shifts in the surgery. The hospital was often set up so near the front she could hear the artillery. While in Bizerte, Tunisia, shrapnel from German shelling fell on nurses' quarters. The 56th followed the fighting into Italy and accompanied the invasion at Salerno and at Anzio, where hospitals were targets for German aircraft. "Our hospital had a great big white cross. It was on all tents, you know, a big white cross in the middle. And boy, one night they did a bull's eye right on the cross," she recalls. One of her nurse friends was killed. After 78 days the 56th left Anzio. For her role in that campaign she was presented a Bronze Star by Lieutenant General Mark Clark in a ceremony with six other nurses. Anna recalls riding into Rome after the fall of the city and visiting the Sistine Chapel. In August of 1944 she was sent to the 10th Field Hospital and participated in the invasion of southern France. Anna fell ill in France and was evacuated, eventually returning to the States on a hospital ship. She completed rehabilitation at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado, enjoyed leave at home, and then underwent further recuperation in Miami, Florida. While serving at Ashburn General Hospital in McKinney, Texas, Anna received an award from Avon Cosmetic Company. She was feted in New York, and sent on war bonds tours, once appearing at a rodeo with war hero Audie Murphy. Anna was engaged to Marion F. Atteberry, a native of Westminster, Texas and an army officer in medical administrative work, whom she had met at Fort Sam Houston in 1942. He also served in Italy, where Anna would see him occasionally. She left military service and was working at Baylor Hospital in Dallas when the couple married on June 2, 1946. (They would have one daughter, two granddaughters and one great-granddaughter.) Marion remained in service, and the couple moved often with his assignments. They returned to San Antonio where she worked at Nix Hospital while Marion was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. Anna belongs to Women Overseas Service League.