Mina Harrison, American Red Cross volunteer
Née Wilhelmina Kuzmenko and born in Philadelphia of naturalized Ukrainian parents, Mina graduated from Quaker School
at 17 in 1944 and signed up with the American Red Cross by stealing and altering her older sister's birth certificate. "Everybody liked
George M. Cohan's music so I adopted the name. Oh Boy! You can take a lie to the ends of the Earth but you can't come back."
Now as Minna Cohan, she shipped out to England "to serve coffee and donuts to our boys". But when the push came
for the invasion and her boss told her, "It's time to go home to Philly", she instead volunteered
to land "Normandy Beach D-Day+4", getting assigned to duty in a front line field hospital
of "Patton's Army". There she got used to living rough and "getting strafed at night by Gerry".
In the Battle Of The Bulge, she estimated, "1,200 soldiers died in my arms". Casualty estimates on each side reached 75-80,000
according to some estimates. "I have never been so cold in my life. With the wards so full, my head
nurse taught me to sleep standing up." The Allies fought for Freedom, many Germans for their Homeland, and many
Nazis for their "Third Reich".
Perhaps more significant, the teenage girl fresh out of a Philadelphia Quaker School also volunteered
to be captured twice by the Nazis in order to establish where their front lines were located
in the chaos of the inexorable Nazi advance. After the war she was awarded the Medal Of Freedom,
the highest civilian award for this. While both sides had reached "Take No Prisoners" status, she figured
that as a neutral Red Cross worker who treated both enemy and friendly casualties, she had a better chance
of surviving. But she was captured not once but twice.
As she related, "When a German sergeant grabbed me, I hauled off and hit him across the face as hard
as I could and yelled at him in German, "You save me for your Commandante!" Thank goodness my father spoke
seven languages and taught us kids. It probably saved my life right there." When I met with their
commander, I tried my poor German again but he surprised me with his perfect English. "You are
lost!" I informed him, but then he tells me, "It is you who are lost, fraulein. We know exactly where we are.
What are you doing out here so far from your lines? " and sends me back on exactly the right road. Brother, that
was a close call."
"Getting back was no walk in the park either. The Germans had spies impersonating American
soldiers and how could you tell they weren't, I mean a lot of them went to school in America
before being called up for service back in Germany. Our lines were shooting first and asking
questions later. When I rolled up in my Jeep, I was held at gunpoint.
But the funny thing was,
although the German spies spoke English, they couldn't sing this silly little
song which I had been taught to sing
to get back inside our lines. Anyone who'd ever
been to Jersey could do it but not the Nazi spies.
MerseyDotes ["Mares eat oats]
And DoseyDotes ["and does eat oats"]
And little lamsey-divey ["little lambs eat ivy"],
a kiddley-divey-two wooden ewe ["a kid will eat ivy too. Wouldn't you?"].
So I sang them the password song and here I am today".
Liberating Death Camps
Another of her duties: Feed Lifesavers™ to "the Living Dead"
In liberating Nazi Death Camps, the Red Cross found many prisoners too thin ever to be expected
to recover from their starvation even though now their Holocaust imprisonment was over. [See her own pictures]
"When we arrived the furnaces were still burning."