LINKS
2018-05-10 / Front Page

Lakota Elder in WWII Nurses Film

BY JIM KENT
LCT CORRESPONDENT


Marcella LeBeau displays the uniform she wore while serving in the Army Nurse Corps during World War Two. Photo courtesy of Robin Massee. Marcella LeBeau displays the uniform she wore while serving in the Army Nurse Corps during World War Two. Photo courtesy of Robin Massee. HILL CITY, S.D. – When “Angels in Our Midst” was shown at the 2018 Black Hills Film Festival, Marcella LeBeau was nowhere to be seen. She was, in fact, at the Ft. Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming for the gathering that marked the 150th anniversary of the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty – which her greatgrandfather Four Bear signed. But this was typical behavior for the 98-year old Lakota elder from the Cheyenne River Reservation who’s known for always being on the move.

The film - produced and directed by Robin Massee and featuring 11 women, including LeBeau - gives voice to the memories of American nurses who were part of World War Two’s D-Day invasion and beyond. It explores what it took for these women to go to war, what they lived through and how they were changed by their experiences.


Marcella LeBeau on the beach at Normandy, France for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Photo courtesy of Robin Massee. Marcella LeBeau on the beach at Normandy, France for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Photo courtesy of Robin Massee. In fact, it was while she was in France in 2004 gathering footage for another film that Massee became aware of the American nurses and met LeBeau.

“I met Marcella during the 60th Anniversary of D-Day in Paris and in Normandy” Massee recalled, “where I was filming the remarkable trip of 100 U.S. veterans receiving the Legion of Honor from the French Government.”

The National Order of the Legion of Honour is the highest French award for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte and retained by all the divergent governments and regimes in France since.

Massee’s film, “A Hero’s Welcome”, was about the friendship between U.S. veterans and the Normans they liberated from Germany’s occupying forces and how that relationship had lasted for 60 years.

“It was during that trip that I met the American nurses who were there during World War Two,” Massee explained. “I felt I had to make a film about them, as I found their story was lesser known then the men’s. You know, you go on the History Channel and you hear about the men and about the women who were part of the war effort here. But those women who were over there I hadn’t heard enough of.”

And so, began the filmmaker’s “labor of love”.

Her goal was to present the women as if they were all at her house, sitting around her dinner table, sharing a meal and telling their stories. That wasn’t possible, of course, but Massee’s film does capture an intimacy with each of those WWII nurses interviewed that makes the viewer feel they’re alone in the room with each woman.

In order to achieve this Masse spent 7 years tracking down the nurses in the film, traveling to their homes and using her skills as an interviewer to get each to talk about what she’d experienced.

“I’d ask them what it was like and they’d say ‘Well, we had a job to do,” Masse explained. “But these were 22-year old women. They were with 18 and 19-year old men. There had to be some stories. And I got those stories. They felt the horror but, of course, they continued living. It was something I really wanted to hear. It touched me.”

And by touching her, Masse felt that the women’s stories would touch the viewer.

As an independent filmmaker, Massee had to continue on with her life and other employment while trying to complete “Angels in Our Midst”. Over the years between the time she interviewed the women and the film’s completion last year all but 3 of the WWII nurses passed away. One of those who remains is Marcella LeBeau.

After graduating nursing school in 1942, LeBeau volunteered for the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and eventually found herself in Europe – first caring for those wounded in the D-Day landings at a barracks hospital in Leominister, England, then assisting in surgical tents while bombs flew overhead. She was stationed in Liege, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge and once convinced a Lakota soldier who’d lost both his legs that there was still a reason to live.

“Today, you can look at the world the way it is and think ‘What do you do?” commented Masse. “But look at what these women did. You can do something. They can inspire us with their moxie. They just did it.”

Masse noted that the film “hit a nerve” with the Black Hills Film Festival audience.

“They loved it,” she advised.

“Angels in Our Midst” will next be seen at The Women’s Film Festival in San Diego this July. Masse is trying to get the film picked up by the Public Broadcasting Service.

For more info go to https://angelsinourmidst-ww2.com/

Jim Kent can be reached at kentvfte@gwtc.net

Return to top

Look Who's Reading!

5p1.jpg
5p2.jpg
5p3.jpg
5p4.jpg
Lakota Country Times
Powered by Como

New E-Edition

Click here for E-Edition
2018-05-10 digital edition

Oglala Lakota Nation Newsletter

Click below to read the newsletter

LCT Classifieds

Click below to view our classifieds!
Lakota Country Times, Newspapers, Martin, SD