Milford residents Dorothy and Ellan Levitsky were recently presented the French Legion of Honor Award at the French Embassy in Washington D.C. for their heroic service in the United States Army during World World II. The sisters were among 13 veterans that received the prestigious recognition as they were honored as Knights of the Legion of Honor.
First Lieutenant Ellan J. Levitsky and Second Lieutenant Dorothy F. Levitsky both served as Nurses with the 164th General Hospital in World War II. Stationed in Normandy, France both sisters most notably served in the Battle of the Buldge which was fought in the winter of 1944 and marked the last major offensive effort by the Nazis during the war.
Raised as children in Salem, New Jersey, Dorothy and Ellan both were trained and worked as nurses at hospitals in Philadelphia when WWII broke out. Ellan, the more outspoken and younger of the two sisters, had a desire to join the war effort and support the troops that were fighting against Nazi Germany. Being inseparable acrossed their entire lives, Ellan knew that if she signed up Dorothy would answer the call to serve as well. Dorothy’s one request when she enlisted was that the two were not separated during the war.
“It was not a question of if I wanted to, but more that I knew I had to go,” stated Ellan.
“I did not want her to be alone,” commented Dorothy. “I told them that we would only enlist if we could be together.”
After coming home from work early one afternoon, Ellan and Dorothy surprised their mother with the news that they had quit their jobs and were enlisting in the United States Army to serve in World War II. On September 11, 1944, at the ages of 22 and 24, the pair departed New York for Normandy, France aboard the HMS Cynthia.
While on duty in France, Dorothy and Ellan served as members of the 164th General Hospital from August 1944 to April 1945. During the war Ellan applied anesthesia to soldiers and Dorothy worked as a staff nurse in the hospital wards. According to the WWII US Medical Research Centre, the hospital saw a total admission of 3,455 patients from October, 5 to December, 31 1944, with 31% medical cases and 69% surgical cases. There were 1303 battle casualties admitted.
“We did everything we had to and it is something we will never forget,” commented Ellan. “Keep in mind these were eighteen year old men we were taking care of and they always made a point to thank us. Many of them never got to see being a man as they gave their lives for this country, they are the ones that deserve the medal.”
Both sisters, now retired and living together in Milford, make an annual commitment to visit France as hosts of D-Day services held in several small towns across the country. In 2008 they attended the inauguration of a monument in Picauville, France, dedicated to the 90th Infantry Division. Since then the sisters have visited numerous WWII ceremonies in France including the towns of Le Fiere, Gourbesville, and Amfreville.
“We love going back to France, there is so much camaraderie and the kids bring us flowers. They were taught that the Americans liberated them,” commented Ellan. “After the war we left Normandy but Normandy never left us.”