Magdalene Fern (Angle) Fleckenstein
Written May 2022 by Julia Randall
Most everyone has looked at something old at one time and thought If that item could “talk,” I wonder what stories it could tell?
This Lady of Lawrence story has come from just such a wondering… A WWII issue footlocker recently found it’s way to the Lawrence County Historical Society. The dark green footlocker with leather handles is in very good condition, apparently lovingly stored away since the 1940’s. It holds a treasure trove of items and memories for Magdalene Fern (Angle) Fleckenstein, born in Lawrence County in the Chancey (Klondike) area on September 20, 1920. The footlocker was donated by Magdalene’s daughter who thought the museum would be an ideal place for these memories to be appreciated and kept for posterity.
The story begins with Isaac E Angle (1881-1956) marrying Nelly Elizabeth Shockey (1886-1959) and settling in the Chancey area of Lawrence County. They were blessed with 6 children: Hazel Berdeen Collins (1919-1958, Magdalene Fern Fleckenstein (1920-2000), Ralph L Angle (1922-1986), Irvan Henry Angle (1924-1929), Francis Ivan Angle (1925-1996), and Erma Jean Hale (1928-2004). There was also a half- brother, Burl Eugene Stevenson (1905-1986).
Magdalene, who was also known as Madge or Maggie, attended grade school at the one-room Bethany School near Klondike. She moved on to the Bridgeport High School in 1936 and graduated from there in 1940. After graduation from high school, Magdalene enrolled in the Olney Sanitorium School of Nursing and graduated in 1943 after 3 years of training.
Magdalene worked after graduation as a registered nurse until enlisting in the Army Nurse Corp as a 2nd Lieutenant in January 1944. She worked state-side at Hines Veterans Hospital near Chicago, Illinois, until June of 1944 when she shipped out to England and the ETO (European Theatre Operation).
Serving also in Paris and Belgium, Magdalene was promoted to First Lieutenant and served in the area until June 1946. Part of her duties included riding the Red Cross transport train to the battlefield and back to Paris with wounded soldiers. The Red Cross-marked transport trains were to be exempt from enemy fire. However, during one transport, the train was bombed. While Magdalene was not injured, she would later receive the Bronze Star for her involvement.
Four of the seven Angle children served in the military during WWII. Magdalene’s older sister, Hazel Collins, also attended the Olney Sanitorium of Nursing (1931-1934) and enlisted in the Army Nurse Corp in January of 1941. She had a remarkable career as well, serving from 1941-1946, receiving several awards and commendations. She was discharged as a Major, having served in executive positions.
While serving in England, Magdalene and her brother Ralph were reunited for a 2-week visit. Ralph was serving with Army Air Corp. Magdalene’s brother, Sgt 2/c Irvan Angle served in the US Navy in the south east Atlantic. All siblings survived the war and returned home.
After WWII ended in June 1945, Magdalene remained in France until sailing home in late December 1945 aboard the USAT Alexander, a three day-trip. Magdalene separated from active Army duties in February 1946 at Fort Sheridan, IL. She was decorated with the EAME Theatre Ribbon, three overseas bars, Rhineland. She continued to serve in the Army Nurse Reserves, including working at the Hines Veteran Hospital treating soldiers with paraplegia and quadriplegic injuries.
This brings us back to the footlocker. Inside we found her full-dress uniform in excellent condition along with Magdalene’s pins and medals. Memorabilia included items from her family and her early school years, pictures, papers, and nursing books. There was also a variety of army-issue supplies such as a mess kit, sewing kit, and medical kit. Nestled among all these things was even a German Baldina 35 mm camera gifted to her by a POW, a patient of hers.
The footlocker would have traveled by ship to England, France, Belgium and back, collecting memories. Stored away, quietly waiting for someone to open it, the locker has now given up Magdalene’s story. The pictures and collection of keepsakes have “talked” to us, sharing the fascinating tale of Magdalene and her patriotic family.
Army Nurse Corp Song
We march along with faith undaunted
Beside our gallant fighting men;
Whenever they are sick or wounded,
We nurse them back to health again.
As long as healing hands are wanted,
You’ll find the nurses of the Corps
On ship or plane or transport train
At home or on a far-offshore;
We do our part with loyal heart
To the Army and the Army Nurse Corps.