|Angels of Bataan and Corregidor|
Liberated Nurses, February 12, 1945
|Active||December 1941-March 1945|
|Country||United States of America|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Army; United States Navy|
|Nickname(s)||Battling Belles of Bataan|
Battle of Bataan|
Battle of Corregidor
World War II
Capt. Maude C. Davison (US Army);Lt. Laura M. Cobb (US Navy)
The Angels of Bataan (also known as the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor" and "The Battling Belles of Bataan") were the members of the United States Army Nurse Corps and the United States Navy Nurse Corps who were stationed in the Philippines at the outset of the Pacific War and served during the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42). When Bataan and Corregidor fell, 11 Navy nurses, 66 army nurses, and 1 nurse-anesthetist were captured and imprisoned in and around Manila. They continued to serve as a nursing unit throughout their status as prisoners of war. After years of hardship, they were finally liberated in February 1945.
At the outset of World War II, US Army and US Navy nurses were stationed at Sternberg General Hospital in Manila, and other military hospitals around Manila. During the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42), eighty-eight US Army nurses escaped, in the last week of December 1941, to Corregidor and Bataan.
Two Army nurses, Lt. Floramund A. Fellmeth and Lt. Florence MacDonald, accompanied severely wounded patients from Sternberg aboard the improvised hospital ship Mactan that departed Manila shortly after midnight of the New Year of 1942 for Australia.
The navy nurses, under the command of Lt. Laura M. Cobb, stayed behind in Manila during the initial invasion to support the patients there. One of them, Ann A. Bernatitus, escaped from Manila to Bataan just before Manila fell. The remaining 11 navy nurses were captured upon the fall of Manila and interned by the Japanese at Santo Tomas.
In late December 1941, many of the nurses were assigned to a pair of battlefield hospitals on Bataan named Hospital #1 and Hospital #2. These hospitals included the first open-air wards in US history since the Civil War. Tropical diseases, including malaria and dysentery, were widespread among both hospital patients and staff.
Just prior to the fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942, the nurses serving there were ordered to the island fortress of Corregidor by General Wainwright (commander of the forces in the Philippines after MacArthur was ordered to Australia).
A Few Escape
On 29 April, a small group of Army nurses were evacuated, with other passengers, aboard a navy PBY Catalina. On 3 May, the sole Navy nurse, Ann Bernatitus, a few more Army nurses, and a small group of civilians were evacuated aboard the submarine Spearfish.
Fall of Corregidor
At Santo Tomas
The campus of the University of Santo Tomas was converted to an internment camp by the Japanese during their occupation of the Philippines. The camp is described in detail in The War by Ken Burns. In addition to its civilian population, Santo Tomas became the initial internment camp for both the army and navy nurses, with the army nurses remaining there until their liberation.
Capt. Maude C. Davison, 57 years old and with 20 years of service experience, took command of the nurses, maintained a regular schedule of nursing duty, and insisted that all nurses wear their khaki blouses and skirts while on duty.
At Los Baños
In May 1943, the navy nurses, still under the command of Lt. Cobb, were transferred to a new internment camp at Los Baños, where they established a new infirmary and continued working as a nursing unit. At Los Baños they came to be known as "the sacred eleven."
On the Home Front
While the capture of the nurses was widely publicized in the U.S., little specific information was known of their fate until they were liberated.
Lt. Juanita Redmond, one of the few nurses to escape, published a memoir of her experiences on Bataan in 1943 that concluded with a dramatic reminder that her colleagues were still prisoners. The nurses' story was dramatized in several wartime movies, including:
- Cry 'Havoc' (MGM 1943)
- So Proudly We Hail! (Paramount 1943) (based on the Redmond book)
- They Were Expendable (MGM 1945)
When So Proudly We Hail! was shown in the theaters, a recruitment booth staffed with Red Cross volunteers was set up in the lobby.
Final year of Internment
In January 1944, control of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp changed from Japanese civil authorities to the Imperial Japanese Army, with whom it remained until the camp was liberated. Access to outside food sources was curtailed, the diet of the internees was reduced to 960 calories per person per day by November 1944, and further reduced to 700 calories per person per day by January 1945.
A Department of Veterans Affairs study released in April, 2002 found that the nurses lost, on average, 30% of their body weight during internment, and subsequently experienced a degree of service-connected disability "virtually the same as the male ex-POW's of the Pacific Theater." Maude C. Davison's body weight dropped from 156 lbs. to 80 lbs.
Emboldened by the success of the Raid at Cabanatuan, General Douglas MacArthur ordered Major General Vernon D. Mudge to make an aggressive raid on Santo Tomas in the Battle of Manila (1945). The internees at Santo Tomas, including the nurses, were liberated on 3 February 1945, by a "flying column" of the 1st Cavalry.
The navy nurses were subsequently liberated in the Raid at Los Baños.
Upon returning to the U.S., the US Army awarded their nurses, among other decorations, the Bronze Star for valor and a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action. The Navy nurses were likewise awarded Bronze Stars upon their return.
Memorial and Recognition
On April 9, 1980, a bronze plaque was dedicated at the Mount Samat shrine by men who survived Bataan and Corregidor. It reads:
TO THE ANGELS-- 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 Corregidor. 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 CORREGIDOR."
Maj. Maude C. Davison, credited by many for keeping the army nurses alive by her insistence on the nurses maintaining their identity as nurses throughout their internment, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal on August 20, 2001. A similar effort has not yet been undertaken for Chief Nurse Laura M. Cobb.
- The first large group of American women in combat.
- The largest group of American women taken captive and imprisoned by an enemy.
- During World War II, the captured nurses were portrayed to motivate industrial production.
- During World War II, the captured nurses were portrayed to motivate recruitment of additional military nurses. By the end of the war, 59,283 army nurses volunteered to serve, more than half volunteered for and served in combat zones, and sixteen were killed by enemy action.
- By the 1980s, the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor" were characterized as: "The role model of Army Nursing."
- Wilma Leona Jackson (One of five navy nurses captured on Guam)
- Agnes Newton Keith (American author captured and imprisoned on Borneo)
- Day Joyce Sheet (Secret record kept at the Stanley Internment Camp, Hong Kong)
- Paradise Road (Women interned on Sumatra during World War II)
- Margaret Utinsky (American nurse who aided American POWs under cover as Lithuanian nurse in Philippines during World War II)
- Margaret Dryburgh (UK Nurse and Missionary imprisoned in Singapore; author of "The Captive's Hymn")
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Angels of Bataan.|
- According to research by Dr. Elizabeth Norman, the nurses first referred to themselves as the "Battling Belles of Bataan" in 1942; the phrase "Angels of Bataan" appeared later, in 1945. E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 53, pg 296 note 8.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, Appx. II; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg 193-195 (Appx. G).
- E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II, pg. 19 (First Anchor Books Ed, November 2004)(ISBN 1-4000-3129-X); E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg 103.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 24.
- Condon-Rall, Mary Ellen; Cowdrey, Albert E. (1998). The Technical Services—The Medical Department: Medical Service In The War Against Japan. United States Army In World War II. Washington, DC: Center Of Military History, United States Army. p. 26. LCCN 97022644.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 25; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 31.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 27-29; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 60.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 23-24; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 40
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 32, 39; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 30, 40.
- Jungle Hospital. Time Magazine (Monday February 16, 1942)
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 52; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 42-43.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 84-89; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 59-60.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 96; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 67.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 104-105; 112-113; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 81.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 108-109; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 85.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 130-134, 150-151; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 91, 99.
- Santo Tomas Internment Camp: 1942-1945, by Frederic H Stevens (1946) forward by Gen. Douglas MacArthur) (ASIN: B0007DK618); So Far from Home: Manila's Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 1942-1945, by Bruce E Johansen (1996) (ISBN 1575790378; ISBN 978-1-57579-037-4); G. Ward and K. Burns, The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945, pgs. 79-82 (Alfred A. Knopf 2007)
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 151-155; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 103, 107
- Lyn Kukral, WWII Nurse POW Gets Posthumous Award (Army News Service, Arlington, Va. August 21, 2001); A. Booher, Celebrating Angel Maude Davison, Stories, American Ex-Prisoners of War 
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 173; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 116.
- Kevin Sforza, Bethesda nurses honor former POW, National Navy Medical Center Public Affairs, posted 4 August 2002 see also K. Sforza, Bethesda nurses honor former WW II POW Nurse, Navy & Marine Corps Medical News, #01-38, September 28, 2001
- Lt. J. Redmond, ANC, I Served on Bataan, pgs 166-167 (JB Lippincott Co. 1943) (dedicated to the staff of Bataan Hospital No. 1)
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 125.
- Kathi Jackson, They Called Them Angels, pg. 3 (2000)(ISBN 0-8032-7627-3)
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 183; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 125.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 194, 199.
- W. Skelton, American Ex Prisoners of War, pgs. 26-28 (Independent Study Course Released April 2002)(Sponsored by Department of Veterans Affairs Employee Education System)
- E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg 190(Appx. F).
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pgs. 201-204; E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pg. 156.
- 50th Anniversary Commemorative Album of the Flying Column 1945-1995: The Liberation of Santo Tomas Internment Camp February 3, 1945, by Rose Contey-Aiello (1995)(ISBN 0964515008; ISBN 978-0-9645150-0-0); G. Ward and K. Burns, The War, pg. 342
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 313, Chap. 15 endnote 57
- Dates in American Naval History: March
- The story of how this plaque came to be is summarized in Dr. Elizabeth Norman's history, We Band of Angels, at page 318 note 2 (Epilogue note 2).
- The plaque can be read near the end of the documentary "Angels of Bataan" (2008)(produced and directed by Rainer Loeser)
- Lyn Kukral, WWII Nurse POW Gets Posthumous Award (Army News Service, Arlington, Va. August 21, 2001); A. Booher, Celebrating Angel Maude Davison, Stories, American Ex-Prisoners of War; AAHN Gravesites of Prominent Nurses--Davison
- Both Cobb and Davison were recommended for such awards immediately after the war, but at the time they were denied in favor of the Bronze Star. E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. 239.
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. xii
- E. Norman, We Band of Angels, pg. xii;
- See, for example, the US Government Poster showing captured nurses behind barbed wire, guarded by a Japanese soldier, labelled "Nurses from Corregidor, and the slogan "Work to Set em Free."
- K. Jackson, They Called Them Angels, pg. 3.
- E Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, And If I Perish, pg. 458.
- (In April 1983, some of the surviving nurses were received by President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office and presented with plaques acknowledging their "courage above and beyond the call of duty" and their status as "the role model of Army Nursing..." E. Monahan and R. Neidel-Greenlee, All This Hell, pgs. x, 180. The nurses were further acknowledged by President Reagan in his July 2, 1983 "Radio Address to the Nation on the Observance of Independence Day. 
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
- We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese by Elizabeth M. Norman (1999) Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc. ISBN 0-671-78718
- All This Hell: U.S. Nurses Imprisoned by the Japanese by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee (2003) University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 978-0-8131-9061-7
- No Time for Fear: Voices of American Military Nurses in World War II by Diane Burke Fessler, (August 1996), Michigan State University Press, ISBN 978-0-87013-440-1
- The Angels of Bataan by E. Norman and S. Eifried, Image J Nurs Sch. 1993 Summer;25(2):121-6. Erratum in: Image J Nurs Sch 1993 Fall; 25(3):171. PMID 8340120
- Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945 (review) by Lynn Z. Bloom, Biography - Volume 23, Number 3, Summer 2000, pp. 549–552
- Dorothy Still Danner, Reminiscences of a Nurse POW, Navy Medicine 83, no. 3 pgs 36-40 (May–June 1992)
- Louis Morton, US Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific--The Fall of the Philippines (United States Army Center of Military History, 1952)
- A Tribute to Our Nurses. The Quan, Vol. 58 No. 2, pgs 1, 6-7, 9-11, 13-15 (September 2003) (published by the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Inc.)
- Condon-Rall, Mary Ellen; Cowdrey, Albert E. (1998). The Technical Services—The Medical Department: Medical Service In The War Against Japan. United States Army In World War II. Washington, DC: Center Of Military History, United States Army. pp. 23–43. LCCN 97022644.
- Angel On Embattled Seas, American Legion Auxiliary — Volume 1 February 2011 Recollections of Floramund Fellmeth & Mactan
- Partners in Winning the War: American Women in World War II - Nurse Corps
- SANTO TOMAS INTERNMENT CAMP (1942 - February 3, 1945)
- Victims of Circumstance-Santo Tomas Internment Camp
- Lieutenant (j.g.) Ann A. Bernatitus, "Angel of Mercy"
- Santo Tomas, Philippines WWII Internment Camp
- United States Army Nurse Corps (a brochure describing the experiences of the Corps during WWII)
- WELCOME TO ARMY NURSE CORPS HISTORY: "Preserving our past to guide our future"
- Oral Histories - U.S. Navy Nurse Prisoner of War in the Philippines, 1942-1945
- EXCLUSIVE: "Three Years In A Prison Camp" by Lt. Rita G. Palmer, ANC
- Angels At Bataan, Chronicling the Hellish Story of the Battle-scarred Nurses, by Chelsea J. Carter, The Associated Press, New Hampshire Sunday News, June 13, 1999
- Recollections of LT Dorothy Still Danner, NC, USN, captured by the Japanese in Manila and imprisoned at Santo Thomas and Los Banos in the Philippines
- Trailer for "Angels of Bataan" television documentary
- Excerpt from the Poem "Angels of Bataan" by Susan Terris
- "World War II Bataan ‘angel’ nurse dies: Jean Kennedy Schmidt was one of 77 taken prisoner at Corregidor"
- Caswell County Historical Association: Evelyn Barbara Whitlow (1916-1994)
- Lt. Rita G. Palmer of Hampton: Army Nuse Corps
- Rosmary Hogan (1912-1964) Colonel, US Army, WWII Nurse
- Dorothy Still Danner, Lieutenant, United States Navy, Bethesda nurses honor former POW, by Kevin Sforza NNMC Public Affairs
- The short film We All Came Home: Army and Navy Nurse POWs In World War II is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- The short film FORTRESS IN THE SEA is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Booknotes interview with Elizabeth Norman on We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese, August 15, 1999.
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