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Navy nurse recalls Pearl Harbor survivor's role on day of the attack

Peg Albert, Navy nurse
Posted at 8:05 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 10:39:25-05

NORTH COLLEGE HILL, Ohio — Eighty years ago, the quiet waters of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were shaken awake as Japanese torpedoes tore through the sides of ships and bombs blew holes through their top decks.

“None of us should ever forget,” Peg Albert said.

Albert is a retired nurse from the Navy, having served more than two decades helping heal our nation’s heroes.

“It really was an honor to work with the retired men, they were just so humble,” Albert said. “Many times they would never tell you about their service.”

She served at what was once the Bethesda US Naval Hospital, now renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Centers. At the time of her service, her patients ranged from the Korean War and World War II. The Vietnam war was in full swing, and Albert said she felt pride in knowing she was helping those who were willing to give their life for our country.

During her time as a naval nurse, she had some VIP encounters.

“I actually saw President Nixon when he was being discharged,” she said.

But it was always the war heroes who were the real VIP guests for her. On this anniversary of the U.S. being pulled into World War II, she recalls one patient in particular she and her fellow nurses helped treat at the hospital during her time there.

“We found out he was the officer on duty when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and he was the one that said this was not a drill,” Albert said.

It was the message sent out to the fleet notifying everyone that Pearl Harbor was under attack.

Peg Albert now sits as the commander of the Women’s American Legion Post 644 in North College Hill. The post was founded in 1946 and officially chartered in 1948. The all-women post was significant following the war.

“When they came back from WWII they said our problems are not the same as the gentleman,” Albert said.

They currently have 62 members and are always looking to bring in younger women veterans to the group.

“Sometimes you’ll find that people were stationed at the same duty station at the same time and they’re like, 'Oh my gosh, did you know so and so did you know so and so?' You know it’s like family,” Albert said.

Four women from the post have been inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Lynn Ashley was an original Rosie the Riveter. Sister Marguerite McHugh served in the Navy prior to her service to God with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Kelly Knox is a Desert Storm and Bosnia veteran and served in the United States Air Force. Jo Wildman served in the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.

Albert took over command last year amid the pandemic. Their monthly meetings continue, and they have been able to keep the support system in place for her fellow women veterans.

“I’ve heard from some gals that when it wasn’t wartime, they kind of felt like their service didn’t count and we’ve been trying to tell some of the gals in the post your service does count,” Albert said. “If they would have called you up to go wherever you would have gone so your time, the time you gave was very important.”

As Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day comes around again Peg remembers her special patient and pauses for a second to think about the others on that fateful day Dec. 7, 1941.

“You think about all the other folks [whose] stories were important too, but you will never hear,” she said.

While the USS Arizona continues to tell the story of the deadly attack, its crew entombed within its steel walls, bubbles of oil still coming out all these years later. Albert hopes by sharing her memory tied to the war will help keep the eternal flame alive.

“I think I’m just hoping that younger folks you know are taught what happened it’s a piece of history none of us should ever forget,” Albert said. “Hopefully it’s not going to repeat itself.”

If you have a veteran story to tell in your community, email homefront@wcpo.com. You also can join the Homefront Facebook group, follow Craig McKee on Facebook and find more Homefront stories here.

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