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The Angels of Bataan: The Brave Nurses Who Served Our Soldiers in One of WWII's Worst Campaigns

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
December 19, 2023 3:01 am

The Angels of Bataan: The Brave Nurses Who Served Our Soldiers in One of WWII's Worst Campaigns

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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December 19, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Anne Clare tells the story of a nurse who served in the Philippines during World War II, and shares the experience that she and others went through after the Japanese takeover of the island.

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The show where the American people are the star. One of our favorite topics to talk about on this show is history. The Angels of Bataan were Navy and Army nurse corps members who were stationed in the Philippines during the outbreak of World War II. These nurses face some of the most grueling conditions of the war, some even being captured and held as POWs by the Japanese.

Here's our regular contributor, Anne Claire, with the story of one of them. Nursing was not a career for a nice unmarried girl in the 1930s. After all, it was dirty physical work and it required learning far too much information about the opposite sex. However, it was also one of the few opportunities for a young woman who couldn't afford college to continue her education.

In the Depression-era United States, the 16 cents an hour a hospital paid wasn't bad either. Georgia-born Frances Nash was one of the many young women who ignored social stigma and joined the Army nurse corps. Nash was given the relative rank of lieutenant, meaning she didn't undergo military training and didn't rank a salute or full pay.

She didn't even have an official uniform, just insignia to wear on the collar of her white civilian nurse's dress. However, she did have the opportunity to volunteer for service overseas. In 1940, Nash volunteered for a two-year tour in the Philippines. Stirrings of war on the horizon concerned her family and friends. Was now really a good time to go abroad? Nash responded to the effect that if war were coming, the Philippines would be where nurses were needed.

She wasn't the only one who thought so. The United States preparations for war were slow and incomplete, but they had already begun increasing the medical staff of the six Philippine military hospitals, five Army and one Navy, doubling the complement of nursing staff. On Monday, December 8, 1941, which would be December 7th back in the United States on the other side of the international dateline, Nash and her fellow nurses awoke to news of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Three hours later, the first Japanese planes struck the Philippines.

Within two weeks, Japanese forces landed. General MacArthur removed to Corregidor, and the evacuation of U.S. and Filipino forces to the Bataan Peninsula began. On Christmas Eve, Lieutenant Nash's evacuation preparations were interrupted. Her commanding officer, Colonel J.W.

Duckworth, called her in. He told her that she would be expected to remain behind in Manila until all of the staff and supplies were evacuated from the hospital. She was also told to prepare herself to be taken prisoner. She spent her Christmas day working in surgery and burning documents.

That night, she was evacuated by boat, the waters lit by blazing buildings on the land and ships in the harbor. Eventually, after some time spent in foxholes and fleeing through the jungle, Nash arrived to serve in hospital number one on the Bataan Peninsula, the most forward of the hospitals. She and the other medical staff worked through the long, disheartening struggle to hold Bataan, struggling to save lives.

Not all of her patients were American or Filipino. At times, medics would bring wounded Japanese into the surgery, many of them were items they'd taken from American troops as spoils of war. The Japanese had not signed the Geneva Convention, which declared medical facilities off limits as military targets, and Nash's hospital suffered for it. After an attack on the 6th of April of 1,600 beds, only 65 were left standing. Three days later, the remaining defenders of Bataan surrendered.

A month later, General Wainwright surrendered Korgador. Along with the thousands of U.S. and Filipino troops who surrendered, more than 60 nurses, including Nash, were taken as prisoners of war. For years of captivity, Nash and the other nurses would continue to care for the wounded and for the sick. Nursing may not have been considered a nice profession in polite society, but as the monument on Korgador, which commemorates the service of Nash and her fellow nurses shows, in the eyes of some, they were far more than nice. They were angelic. The inscription reads, In honor of the valiant American military women who gave so much of themselves in the early days of World War II. They provided care and comfort to the gallant defenders of Bataan and Korgador. They lived on a starvation diet, shared the bombing, strafing, sniping, sickness, and disease, while working endless hours of heartbreaking duty. These nurses always had a smile, a tender touch, and a kind word for their patients. They truly earned the name, the Angels of Bataan and Korgador. Dedicated on this sixth day of May 2000.

And a great job on the production by Monty Montgomery. And a special thanks to Anne Claire for sharing with us the story of Frances Nash. She volunteered for service overseas, a two-year tour of duty in the Philippines starting in 1940. There's probably no tougher place to be in the world than the place she ended up being in.

And by December of 1941, just hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked, in came the Japanese into Manila and into the Philippines. And from there, became a POW. And this is the work and the duty and the service that so many of our women showed during World War II. And we showcase those stories, Frances Nash's story, the Angels of Bataan, here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.

Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do this show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-19 04:30:29 / 2023-12-19 04:34:26 / 4

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