World War II Army nurse Irma Darphin turns 101

A World War II nurse from Southwest Louisiana celebrated more than a century of life Tuesday surrounded by family and friends at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home.

Irma Boulet Darphin, who turned 101, has the distinction of being the oldest and only female World War II veteran in the home.

A native of Crowley and longtime resident of Iota, Darphin joined the Army following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. She served as an Army nurse with the 127th General Hospital in England and France from 1943-1945. She was a general duty nurse, but her specialty was in orthopedic nursing.

She was among nearly 100 nurses and 80 doctors who spent 16 months in England attached to the Army’s 127th General Hospital before landing on Utah Beach in Normandy, just six weeks after D-Day, where they took care of hundreds of wounded soldiers and POWs.

Darphin said the days were long, often working 12 hour shifts to set up hospitals and take care of the many casualties, but she enjoyed being an Army nurse.

If given the chance, Darphin says she would do it all again.

“I wouldn’t have had my life any other way because I loved being a nurse and we had good people around us,” she said.

Like many of the nurses, Darphin said she never considered the perils of war.

“We were young and never thought about being in danger,” she said.

While in Europe, the nurses were told they would be sent to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, but Japan surrendered before they were deployed.

Darphin said she volunteered to be an Army nurse.

“It was good because I enjoyed nursing,” she said. “I worked in the orthopedic ward, so it was busy and that’s why we were there. We needed to be busy.”

She said it was a wonderful time in her life and was made enjoyable by the people around her.

“I enjoyed it because it was important to people,” she said. “People were so happy in those days.”

She and the other nurses entertained themselves by riding bicycles and singing.

“We sang,” she said. “That’s how we entertained ourselves. I still like to sing, but I don’t have a voice anymore.”

Darphin found her voice again Tuesday as she joined family, friends and others in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.

After the war, Darphin returned to her nursing job at a hospital in Orange, Texas. She worked there until she moved to her family’s farm in Crowley and worked in public health. She also worked at the Southwest State School for 20 years.

Darphin, who is the last of her surviving siblings, now resides at the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home.

She attributes her longevity to eating healthy, working and “not laying around doing nothing”. She said she smoked for a while, but quit.

“Maybe I have good genes,” she chuckled. “That means a lot.”

Darphin said if she had to do it all over again she’d do it the same way, but for now she says she is going to “slow down a little bit” and just enjoy life.

“If you manage to love people, you’ve got it made,” she said. “It feels good to have a lot of family and friends. What more could you ask for?’

Darphin and her late husband, George, had four children, 10 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

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