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Getting Started in England

Diss, Norfolk, Juli ‘43 - juni ’44

Dolly's unit - 806 MAES - in England was dispatched to Thorpe Abbotts in Diss, a villlage in Norfolk.

Jean Bartholomew was a Flight Nurse who was stationed with Dolly at Thorpe Abbott . She was the first Flight Nurse who made a transatlantic flight evacuation where patients were flown directly from England to America for emergency treatment.

Flight Nurse Winna Jean Foley Tierney was stationed there. She can still remember Dolly. In a brief history of 806 MAES she writes about their training period:

“All the while, of course, we were continuing to learn things – how to set up tents in the snow (Major Jordan’s idea!), how to get coke to burn, lessons in English history, classes in emergency ditching procedures over at Coremose, how to get a good night’s sleep on biscuits and bolsters, and how to catch te train to London before our 48 hour pass actually started and how to get back at the last minute – Dolly Vinsant made a science of this!”


The first evacuation flights

Omaha Beach, Juni 1944

On June 11, 1944 - five days after D-day - Lieutenant Grace Dunham 806 MAES made the first evacuation flight to the beaches of Omaha Beach. She and her crew brought 18 patients on stretchers back to England.

In the following months up to August Dolly and her fellow nurses from 806 MAES evacuated as many as 20,142 patients.

They received a certificate of appreciation from the headquarters for their work.


To the mainland

December 1944 – april 1945

806 MAES was posted on December 5 to the mainland of Europe: Orly Airport in Paris. 806 MAES followed the advance of allied troops and later they were dispachted to airfields in Villacoublay and Melun and later to airfields in Germany.

The Flight Nurses Flight Nurses of 806 MAES, including Dolly, frequently made flights to and from the front line.

There was always only one Flight Nurse aboard an aircraft to take care of the wounded.

In April 1945 806 MAES reached a new record with as many as 17,287 patients evacuated. Dolly made a total of 30 flights between June 1944 and April 1945. The majority of them were from the front to hospitals behind the lines, with the occassional flight with the injured to London and New York.


A mysterious accident

Eisenach, April 14, 1945

On April 14 Dolly left for an evacuation flight in Thuringen. It should have been her colleague Dolores Dilger who went, but she had a cold and had been told by the doctor not to travel. Even though Dolly had already completed 30 sorties and should have been returning to the US to train Flight Nurses, she went instead of Dolores. It turned out to be her last flight, and fatal.

The C-47 The C-47 with Dolly and 5 crew members never arrived at its destination, but crashed on the way. What exactly happened is still unclear. The German archives relating to April 14, 1945 do not mention 'Abschuss-Meldung (report of the shooting) of a C-47 transport aircraft. transport aircraft. In case of a technical fault they could have diverted to another airfield. Maybe it was due to bad weather. We do not know. Dolly's death is thus as mysterious as that of her role model, Amelia Earhart.


Buried in Margraten

Margraten, June 24th, 1945

After the accident, all the crew were temporarily
buried at the cemetery in Eisenach. In late June they were transferred to Margraten.

After the war, there was the question of where Dolly should find her final resting place: in Europe or in America. That choice lay with her husband, Major Walter L. Shea. Dolly had married him on January 15, 1945 (the marriage lasted for only three months).

Walter Shea decided that Dolly should be buried in Margraten. After the redesign of the cemetery she found her final resting place in Section B, Row 17, Grave 4. Shea never remarried.

The crew Richard C. Mervyn (pilot), Franklin P. Totten (navigator) and Jack Sims (crew chief) are buried in Margraten. Vincente Lopez (co-pilot) and Edward S. Michalak (radio operator) were reburied in the United States.