Former LU instructor Dorothy Becker served in field hospital during WWII

Dorothy Becker

Dorothy Becker was one tough lady. Long before she taught vocational nursing at Lamar University during the 1950s and ’60s or worked at Baptist Hospital and St. Elizabeth, she joined the U.S Army after receiving a nursing degree from Columbia Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Becker, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 92, served as an officer and nurse during World War II.

“She deployed to England, and after D-Day they went in behind the troops. She was in an evacuation hospital with Patton’s Third Army and they went in after the invasion and were in Germany and France primarily,” said her daughter, Mary Jane Mouton, a Beaumont realtor. Mouton said her mother served in the Army Nurse Corps from July 15, 1942 – February 8, 1946. World War II lasted from Sept. 1, 1939 – Sept. 2, 1945. 

“Mother was very strong and had a bit of an adventuresome spirit, I think,” Mouton said. “And she was very patriotic. A big piece of why she joined is that she wanted to see the world.”

Becker documented her experience in World War II as a nurse with photographs she took. Becker donated the photos to the Lamar University Archives and Special Collections division before she died.

“The images that we have certainly show that she was on the battlefield,” said Lamar University Archivist Penny Clark. “They were in tents on a wheat field. Here she is saving lives, and they were very gruesome images. We certainly know the work she did was very serious.”

Many of the images are much too graphic to print here, some even showing faces blown off and eyes missing, but they serve as a reminder of the horrors of war. Although there is no “official” casualty figure for D-Day, according to the D-Day Museum’s website, more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy alone. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead among the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces.

“She saved lives on the battlefield of France in the most primitive of conditions,” Clark said. “One of the things that we often times don’t remember is how many women served in World War II and the sacrifices that they made.”

Mouton said her mother received five battle stars, the American Theater ribbon and the victory ribbon. While in her 80s, she received the Knight medal of the French Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration awarded for excellent military conduct from the French Consul General, Mouton said.

Dorothy met her husband Matthew Becker in the Army as well. The couple were deployed together. Matthew was a tank commander.

After serving in the Army, Becker, originally from Verona, Pennsylvania, moved to Beaumont in 1948 with Matthew, who worked at Bethlehem Steel’s shipyard. Dorothy continued her nursing career at Baptist Hospital and taught vocational nursing at Lamar University from 1953 until she began working at St. Elizabeth shortly after it opened in 1962.

“She loved her profession and her service,” Mouton said.

“I think often times we forget our women veterans,” said Clark. “Dorothy Becker is a prime example of the greatest generation.”

Dorothy and Matthew Becker were both buried at Arlington National Cemetery and were both given full military services.

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