June 2007 Issue
Little did the second lieutenant know when she reported for her hospital shift in Honolulu that Sunday morning 65 years ago that the world was about to change forever. At approximately 7:50 a.m., on December 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor, and for the next four days she tended to the seemingly endless number of casualties.
Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette presented 90-year-old Celeste Brauer with five service medals recognizing her work following the attack: the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze service star, the World War II Victory Medal and an honorable service lapel button. The Hudson resident also received a dozen red roses, a key to the city and a lifetime membership to Hudson's American Legion. "I was very excited," she says. "I didn't expect it at all."
The Pennsylvania native served as an Army nurse from November 1, 1939, to August 5, 1942. After a tour at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she was assigned to Honolulu's Tripler Army Hospital in June 1940, where she met her future husband, Albert Brauer. He was stationed at Schofield Barracks, about 25 miles away, and the couple went on a date to the new officers' club at Hickam Field the night before the bombing.
"I went on duty that morning at 7 a.m. right before the attacks," she recalls. "We didn't realize right away [what was happening]. It could have just been maneuvers."
When reality hit, the casualties poured in. "It was the only general army hospital there," Brauer says. "We were overwhelmed."
It took the young nurse five or six days to find out if Albert was alive.
"I didn't see him, but I contacted him [by phone] and found out he was OK," she says. "I sent a telegram to his mother, and I was able to send one to my family to tell them I was OK."
The two wed in 1942 and, since Army nurses could not serve if married, Brauer was forced to leave the military. The couple remained in Hawaii until 1958, when Albert was assigned to the ROTC program at Kent State University. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1962 and died in 2003.
Brauer was a nurse at Kent State University's student health center, and her husband taught history and government at Kent Roosevelt High School. They raised two sons, Albert Brauer II (who contacted LaTourette to see if his mother was eligible for recognition) and Jerry.
Brauer's new fame has made her a celebrity with friends and neighbors.
"They're saying, ‘We all want your autograph,' " she admits with a laugh.