Having already served a period in 1915/16 in the war, she would return to the US and join the US Army Nursing services. Soon she would be among the 65 nurses, 29 officers, 6 Red Cross clerks, 1 Master Sergeant, 7 sergeants, and 145 Privates all from the medical services and aboard the SS St Louis when it sailed out of the New York harbour on 12 May 1917 and into harms way.
Oh, I forgot, there was also one private... a cook, who no doubt was going to be a very busy fellow. A cook that may very well have been the soldier of the same profession, destined to never see the shores of America again.
Just three months after leaving the US, Beatrice was almost killed while at her hospital work station.
As a result of the German deliberate bombing of a near front line hospital, and further stiffing with Machine Gun fire as the unarmed patients scattered for cover, she was wounded severally in the face. Thought to be dead, she would recover but not before losing the sight in her right eye. Despite the horrible set-back she continued to serve at the same facility and several others throughout the war and remain in the theater till after the Armistice was signed.
As previously noted, the British Expeditionary Forces comm ander of the Western front, actually made mention of her heroism in a dispatch. Britain soon followed up by awarded her that country's Military Medal.
Back at home in the US, in July 1918 the Congress created an award they called... the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) It was just one medal of bravery below the Medal of Honor, and was created with the new pyramid of medals. A structure that in itself, came about as a result of the horrible purge of Medals of Honor a year earlier and of which much space in this place has been dedicated in the past.
The DSC was a medal for the army. The navy has a medal equal in ranking, and created also as a result of the purge, and called the Navy Cross. Recent blogs in this space told you of the first NC ever awarded to a woman.. Lehna Higbee, a Canadian nurse working with the US Navy, and born at Chatham NB.
Beatrice MacDonald, in the army, and also a nurse, would also become a first. She would be awarded the DSC.. and be the first ever in the history of the award to be do honoured. Over 6,300 would be awarded in WW1, and Beatrice's was the first.
Newspapers across the US brought readers the news of her deeds, past recognition and now getting the DSC. Here are a few of a massive amount of newspaper stories.
Though unreadable, the last two lines make reference to a soldier earning the award and being referred to as "HE" did the deeds resulting in the award. Apparently matters had to be taken back to congress to have the wording changed, and thus, while not readable, the above document in those last 2 lines has the word "HE" crossed out and "HER" inserted.
Here is the original wording of the law creating the medal...
When the medal was created, the government had a problem on its hands. It had to get some medals made in a hurry an get them off to France. While about 100 were rushed into service, there were many who in fact simply purchased their own French version, which is slightly different than the US version, and it is unknown yet to this blog, which version was presented to MacDonald.
The "French or, as sometimes called..First..version had oak leaves on the four arms and the eagle mounted of a Diamond background, whilst the US later version removed these and changed the motto from reading..."E. Pluribus Unum" to "For Valor."
Here are images of both, with the US version on the right ...