An Army nurse from Utah crash-landed in Albania in World War II, along with a dozen other nurses. They lived by their wits behind Nazi lines for several months, aided and hidden by anti-Nazi partisans.
Helen Porter was usually away on military duty, but she often sent packages. Porter was involved in one of the most remarkable rescue operations of World War II. It was a big story back then — Army nurses rescued from behind enemy lines.
Most of the details were kept secret or falsified. One report said the nurses were in Yugoslavia. They were actually hiding out in Albania.
As recounted in a recent book, “The Secret Rescue,” the nurses’ ordeal began in November 1943 when 13 American nurses and 13 medics were on a flight to Bari, Italy.
For two months, the main group traveled hundreds of miles through Nazi-controlled territory.
They were escorted and sheltered by anti-Nazi partisans, communists, who eventually led them to a rendezvous with British and American rescuers.
Very early on, Porter and two other nurses were separated from the main group during a Nazi attack.
The trio of nurses spent five months behind enemy lines. They survived mainly because a prominent, wealthy Albanian family took great risks to help the Americans.
Partisans were able to smuggle Porter and the other two nurses out dressed as Muslims. Details were kept secret for decades.
For decades after the war, U.S. officials worried that those who helped the Americans might face retribution.
Helen Porter married after the war. She completed a career in the military and died of cancer at age 55.