A Woman Inventor the Veteran Administration Ignored

Bessie Blount was an African American woman who led a life that was dedicated to helping those in need. She was a physical therapist and an inventor of apparatus that was designed to help the amputees that suffered permanent injuries in World War II. Bessie Blount has been called a "savior of the handicapped" for her invention that allowed World War II disabled veterans to feed themselves, and for her unique method of teaching them to write again.
Honoring Bessie Blount. She died on December 30, 2009 in Newfield, New Jersey. Via blackhistory.net

Here is a woman everyone should know about especially American Veterans. Her name is Bessie Blout and she was a highly accomplished woman. She was born in Virginia and moved to New Jersey to pursue becoming  a physical therapist. Later she finished her training in Chicago.

After graduating she taught Physical Therapy at a hospital in New York, but also became an inventor of devices that were instrumental in helping soldiers who were injured (World War Two) to  become independent and feed themselves.

The device was used for a soldier in a wheelchair or a bed. Each time the soldier would bite down on the tube, it would transport food one bite at a time. She later invented a smaller portable device (Portable receptacle  support) that could be worn around the neck (see image below).

Drawing and Description of Bessie Blount's Invention: Drawing of Invention - Bessie Blount Honoring Black American Inventor
Bessie Blount’s patent was filed in 1951 under her married name of Bessie Griffin. Photo Credit: USPTO

The United States Veteran’s Administration did not support either of her devices. She then sold them to France and gave them the patent rights in 1952. They used them for their war veterans. She wanted to show, “that a Black woman can invent something for the benefit of humankind.”

She created another helpful device that the VA also rejected and never used in their hospitals. It was the invention of a disposable cardboard emesis basin.  Her item was also never patented in America so she sold it to Belgium where the basins are still being used throughout their country.  American hospitals continue to use the old standard basins of 1913.

In 1969, Bessie began a career in forensic science with law enforcement, and became a chief document examiner.

In 1977, she became the first Black woman to train and work at Scotland Yard, after J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director, turned down her application.

Bessie was named as one of many notable Virginia women in history in 2005

Learn about some other Inspirational women

A WWII-Era Protest Letter sent By Japanese-American Internees Resisting the Draft

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A WWII-Era Protest Letter sent By Japanese-American Internees Resisting the Draft

What is not taught in the history books. The Japanese American experience is an American story / history too. We can learn from all perspectives or experiences or simply stay with our one limited view usually from our limited awareness. Telling the truth of history is not Un-American or unpatriotic. It is very much American, at least it is supposed to be. Learn more about the story here.

Related Post: The Nisei Soldiers- Japanese American Veteran experience and recognition

There’s a great book on the WWII Japanese American draft resisters by Eric Muller titled “Free to Die for Their Country” that covers the resistance to the draft from a few different camps. There’s also a museum and National Historic Site in northwest Wyoming that has preserved parts of the Heart Mountain camp and commemorates the experiences of those imprisoned there. (More info at heartmountain.org)

 

The Nisei Soldiers- Japanese American Veteran experience and recognition

Learn about ALL American veteran experiences……………..

japanese vets
Credit: National World War Two Museum, Public Domain

 

Nisei Soldiers story and special recognition

A powerful letter from a son to his Japanese American Veteran father

New Broadway Musical about the Japanese American Musical during World War Two

Learn about new musical and documentary regarding the Japanese American experience- http://www.allegiancemusical.com/

World War Two Veterans Fight for Recognition

filipino vets

Frustrated, Filipino Veterans throw their medal downs

Break down of the Veterans involvement and fight for recognition

Learn ALL About it  (video testimony by Filipino American World War Two Veterans) here

Also great information from PBS here

The Veterans in this video (and link with further details) have been lobbying for a very long time. They have fought a good fight and many are now dying. Those who are left continue to TRY and do something. I have the utmost respect for them in doing so and the other American Veterans who get behind them.

These Veterans fought and sacrificed too. Maybe promises shouldn’t be made if  they can’t be kept.  This is the whole  mentality  that continues of dehumanizing, devaluing, and that lives are expendable.

Never forgotten Honor Flight

I would like to share my experience with my father on his memorable day of being honored as a WW II veteran.

It began last year when I went to Mosinee to honor those vets that have given their service for this country. It was suggested that my father would be a candidate for such an honor because of his service by those that have been involved and familiar with the Honor Flight program. I thought on this awhile and decided that this would be a great idea. My father, having seven boys and a girl, where five of the boys served in the various branches, should have recognition for his part in history.

I thought we, meaning those that would help me set up the arrangements to get him on this flight, could surprise him by not letting him know that I would be going along as his “Guardian.”

I talked to my father about the idea and at first he was reluctant because he felt that he was unworthy of such an honor. It took much convincing to get him to understand that he was entitled like all WW II veterans that served in this war regardless of his direct involvement or position. My father served in the Navy Reserve for one year on the USS New Orleans. He was, in his eyes, just a common sailor doing his job – no recognition required.

With the paper work all done and sent it, the arrangement for his travel to Wausau for meeting those that would travel with him, and preparations for the day, we began to plot the surprise of keeping from him my involvement.

We picked him up in Eau Claire, WI and drove him to Wausau to the Johnson Hotel the day before the flight were he had the pleasure of registering in and meeting his guardian, having a banquet in his honor and getting a good nights sleep.

It was during the registration period that dad began to suspect the deception that we kept from him. As explained by him later – “I knew bits and pieces by clues I was seeing.” “When you told me that you were staying over night in the hotel with me and when you had to go to this special meeting pretty much gave it away.” “I only knew the truth when I was sent into the room to meet my “Guardian” and you was standing there holding the number that was assigned to me was the surprise real.”

I have to share this bit of the story. During the registration of the veterans, of which many of the veteran’s daughters were guardians, the register without looking up heard my father’s name and going down the list asked if this was his daughter going with him, as my name is Terry. Having said that she looked up and saw me standing there – ouch!. Now, my father and I look very much alike, despite our age difference and throughout the day many persons whom saw us asked, “Are you brothers?” My father always replied, “No this is my daughter.” At the end of the affair, he informed me that he would never let me live this down. I am sure he won’t as he still tells this part of the trip to everyone that asks how it was.

To make a condensed version of this experience – We flew out of Mosinee, WI in a group to WashingtonD.C. to be greeted by a “fan-fair” of welcome home recipients. We boarded buses and went to the WWII Memorial were a group picture was taken. A short trip by bus through downtown WashingtonD.C. with a commentator explaining many of the sights out the windows was provided. The next stop was the Korean Memorial where many pictures were taken of the statues and sights. My father’s brother fought in Korea and was amazed at the Memorials that were erected for all veterans in WashingtonD.C. We walked and talked through the Nurses Monument, The Three Soldiers Monument, The Vietnam Wall, ending at the Lincoln Memorial, taking pictures as we went. Then off to the Air Force Memorial and finally the Arlington Cemetery, were we saw the changing of the guard at the Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers. As impressive as all this was, what impressed us the most was the six acres of grave markers that filled the rolling hills of Arlington Cemetery. This was the emotional sadness and reflective time we spent together, thinking of the loss for preservation of peace in the world and the American way of life. The final monument that we stopped at was the Iwo Jima Memorial, which was most impressive in Washington D.C. at sun set time.

After a full day of walking and pushing my dad in a wheelchair, it was time for the flight home. Aboard the plane, military mail-call was made and each veteran received letters from home (friends, relatives, children and organizations) giving thanks for their service. My father was surprised and confused as he didn’t know how the organization knew about his sister in Florida, which he got a letter from. I had to tell him that we requested various people to write without his knowledge.

Upon arrival back in Mosinee, the vets were met by a band, honor guards from various organizations, wives and various relatives – the community at large. My father said, “Damn, half the city is here.”  This is something he never expected or received when he returned to the States in the past.

Before leaving Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C., I said to my father, “Is there any last words you would like to say to Washington before we go?” His reply was, “Goodbye.”

In brief, his attitude and emotional state of mind was changed by this experience and he was looking forward to seeing the twenty-eight pictures that he took on his camera that was given to each vet for this specific day. He was glad that he went and his thoughts of being unworthy of such honor changed when he was that thousands of people do care.

I encourage all veterans that qualify for this “Honor Flights” take advantage of them, whether they feel worthy or not – because it is a personal experience that is once in a life time.

More pictures from Mr. Anger and his son’s Honor Flight experience, please click here

You can also see him on our Veteran Tribute page