Paula Denman Webb

Paula Denman Webb

By Laura Jane Pittman
Resident Community News

Webb_03  When San Marco resident Pauline Denman Webb was sent to the small Pacific island of Tinian during World War II, she truly didn’t understand the magnitude of the war she had entered. Tinian had been captured by U.S. forces in July of 1944 and soon became one of the busiest American airbases.

After completing nurse’s training and basic training in obstetrics and orthopedics, Webb volunteered for overseas duty. She shipped out from Seattle to Tinian in July of 1945.

Young, single and carefree, Webb worked as a nurse, and in her off time swam in the Pacific Ocean, dated cute GIs and remembers having a generally “fun” time.

“We went to the island as the army of occupation, so there really wasn’t a lot going on,” remembered Webb. “We did basic things like take out appendixes and treat hepatitis. I didn’t understand at the time what a dangerous situation I was in.”
The secret airbase in Tinian was the launching point for the planes carrying the two nuclear bombs that subsequently hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Webb_01“If one of the planes taking off from Tinian had crashed, it would have obliterated the island,” said Webb.
But that didn’t happen. Webb instead fell in love with an Army major named Roy, wrote a bundle of letters home to her family about her romance (which didn’t last) and her adventures, and returned to the states after her tour of duty to get on with her life.
Life included settling in South Florida, marrying twice and being widowed twice, having two children and going back to work as a nurse after her second husband died. Her war experiences seemed like a different lifetime.

About 25 years ago, Webb moved to Jacksonville to be closer to her daughter, who teaches at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.
“On one of my visits, we just happened to be going to some real estate open houses for something to do,” recalled Webb, who said she had no intention of moving. “We saw this house on Gadsden Court and a room lined with bookshelves, and my daughter fell in love with the library. I’ve never lived anywhere longer than 25 years, but I love it here. I am very content here in my house with my cats.”
After she moved, her daughter found the bundle of family letters that Webb’s parents had saved from wartime, and the rest is history – literally.

“I didn’t even think much about Tinian afterwards because I was busy creating a life. I wasn’t even aware that my family had saved my letters,” said Webb, who in 2009 turned her letters and memories into a book called Letters from Tinian 1945. “My son-in law was always really interested in the fact that I was a veteran, and my daughter read the letters and encouraged me to do something with thWebb_02em.”
It took a frustrating 10 years – which included figuring out the world of computers, as well finding a literary agent and a publisher – but Webb is very proud of her accomplishment.

“I’m an author by chance and really just a retired, rusty old nurse,” she laughed. “I’m also shooting to live to at least 100.”
At a very active and vibrant 92, she is well on her way.

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