In an interview with this reporter on the Fourth of July in 2012, she said, many of her contemporaries had passed away and she was grateful to be around still. For Jean, she did not know of any other WWII female veteran still living.
With four brothers in the military, she wanted to experience what it was like to serve the country. She became part of the medical corps.
Jean said they went in early to build the hospital to take care of the wounded.
She was on Tinian when Col. Paul Tibbets plane dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. “I was there when the bomb was dropped to end the war,” said she commenting further that it was a game changer.
“Being on Tinian, we had so many soldiers who were bombing at the time. When the bomb was dropped, we knew that would be changing things,” Jean said.
They had long known that there was going to be a special bomb, but Jean said they were not allowed to talk about it publicly. “We knew what they were planning. Finally, when the special bomb was dropped, it did end the war.”
She still remembered that Colonel Tibbets called his plane “Enola Gay” as he named it after his mother.
She fondly recalled posing for a photograph beside the “Enola Gay” on the day that it was to fly to Japan.
On Tinian, she was the only physical therapist and she had learned so much about public health there “more than the average person would have.”
Although bulk of her work was on Tinian then, she also managed to make the trips to Saipan and Guam as they were building hospitals.
She told Variety that she soon moved to Japan where they also set up a hospital. “I was in Japan for over a year during the occupation,” she said.
As the only one experienced with acute polio, she had had seen several patients brought in with polio. She also helped train nurses.
Moreover, she said they did not only treat American soldiers; they also tended to the needs of the wounded and sick Japanese.
It was while serving in Tokyo that she met her husband, clinical psychologist Alfred Lit whom she married on Jan. 27, 1947 following their return to the United States.
She served for three and a half years in the WAAC.
They lived in New York for 10 years before relocating in 1962 to Southern Illinois where Alfred worked at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
She had been living in the same house she and her husband built in Murphysboro, outside of Carbondale.
On the Fourth of July 2012, she told this reporter how she cherished the memories and wealth of experience she gained serving during the war. She was glad to have served the country and to share her brothers’ experiences.
On the role that women played during the war, Jean was elated that women were given the opportunity to serve the country. “It was marvelous!”
She said they were needed at the time, initially in the hospitals. Then, she said, women became involved in other areas of the military service.
For those wanting to know more about Tinian where she served, she recommended the book, “The Enola Gay,” which she said had a lot of history particularly about Guam and Tinian.
When asked to give an advice to the young generations, she said for them to count their blessings, one by one; that they should not dwell on what they missed, but instead cherish what they’ve got.
Jean stayed in her Murphysboro home until her death on April 18, 2013. She was 96. All her siblings — sister Pauline Speegle Murray and brothers Clyde Wesley Speegle, John Harold Speegle, Quinton Brice Speegle, Henry Elisa Speegle, and James Raburn Speegle — and her husband had all preceded her in death.