March 9 – Happy Birthday Lieutenant Frances Skiba

Skiba333Frances Skiba was born on March 8, 1919 in Amsterdam, NY. She grew up in a large family on Amsterdam’s Reid Street. She was one of John and Sophie Skiba’s nine children. Her eight siblings included six sisters and two brothers. Miss Skiba had evolved into a very attractive young woman by the time she graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1938 and a determined one as well. She wanted to become a nurse and  that’s exactly what she did, graduating from the Long Island University Hospital School of Nursing and then accepting a position at that facility as the Assistant Charge Nurse of Pediatrics. That’s the job she was doing when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941.

Nine months later, she did something that took a lot of courage. She left the safety of her state-side job and volunteered for the US Army Nurse Corps. She was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on October 14, 1942. Her unit, the 79th General Hospital, was activated on November 5, 1942 and was sent to Camp White, Oregon for basic training. She then shipped out to Northern Ireland in October, 1943.

After the D-day invasion on June 6, 1944, the 79th was sent to Southampton in southern England to staff the busiest hospital in the United Kingdom. Despite a capacity of 1,000 beds, many more wounded soldiers than that were triaged, cared for and admitted. The hospital saw more than 18,000 casualties in a period of three months.

After VE Day, May 8, 1945, Skiba and the rest of the 79th sailed to France where they cared for American soldiers and German prisoners. She and six other nurses were then sent to Frankfurt, Germany to the 2nd Medical Dispensary, which was attached to General Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarter location. After spending more than two years in Europe, she sailed home, arriving in the United States on Christmas Day 1945. She was discharged from the Army Nurse Corps as a 1st Lieutenant in March 1946. The then 27-year-old veteran was the recipient of the American Campaign Medal, the European Africian Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and the Army of (German) Occupation Medal.

Three months later…

I’ve already started work on the second volume of “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays” and Frances Akiba Iwanski’s complete story will be featured in it. I will be sharing the complete posts of some of the Volume II birthday celebrants in future issues of the Amsterdam Birthday Blog Newsletter. If you are not yet a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up for free here.

Frances shares her March 9 Birthday with one of the greatest Bishop Scully athletes of all time.

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