PRISONERS OF WAR IN THE FAR EAST
Ruby G. Bradley, Colonel, U.S. Army Nurse Corps
Director, Nursing activities, Brooke Army Medical Center,
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Colonel Ruby Bradley, reflecting on her experiences as a prisoner of war for37 months in the Philippines during World War II, wrote the following essay. Bradley was the Army's most highly decorated nurse. As a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, she was the third womanin Army history to be promoted to the rank of Colonel. She earned 34 medals forher service during World War II and the Korean War. Bradley retired from themilitary in 1963 and passed away at the age of 94 in May 2002. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
To be captured by an enemy in time of war could not be considered a mark ofdistinction by any standard. Nevertheless, during every major conflict inwhich the United States has been involved a certain percentage of her citizenshas been detained--prisoners of war. The percentage is not always the samenor is the status of the individuals. That there are always some prisonersof war is the point. The fact that there were US Army Nurses capturedduring World War II necessitates a chapter devoted to the subject in any historyof the corps--if it is to be a factual account of the corps. Although thisevent, the capture of the ANC officers, is not one which brings prestige to thecorps, the Army, or the nation itself; the fact that these nurses survived andwere a credit to their country during and following the episode doesreflect credit upon them, their corps and the United States.
The situation in the Philippines on 7 December 1941, the day which will livein history as a day of infamy, was normal for a neophyte nation stepping towardindependence. While the plans had been made earlier, in June 1900, acommission of five members was appointed to legislate for the Islands and toprepare for the establishment of civil government. Civil government wasestablished in 1901 and continued by commission until 1907 when the firstassembly was inaugurated. The rule of the Islands was by appointivecommission composed of a majority of Americans and an elective Philippineassembly. By 1913 the rule was by an appointive commission composed of amajority of Filipinos and an elective assembly. In 1934 commonwealthgovernment under Filipino executive was approved.
During these three decades, the Islands prospered. The nationallanguage, Tagalog, was established. Agricultural and forest products werethe main exports. Metropolitan areas flourished; Manila, the capitol,expanded to both sides of the Pasig River and boasted a four mile frontage onManila Bay. In addition to the Philippine General Hospital, there wereseven other hospitals in the city. Numerous churches, schools, hotels andplaces of business were housed in modern buildings. There were radiostations and the newspapers were published in both English and Spanisheditions. Baguio was established as the summer capitol of thePhilippines. Located in Northern Luzon, it thrived in an altitude of 5,000feet, not unlike Denver. The surrounding area was largely forest land andmining country. Much of the travel through the area was accomplished onlogging trails and the communities were logging or mining camps.
Corregidor will always be remembered, not for its size, not for itsimportance as a commercial center, but for its geographical location at theentrance of Manila Bay and for the strategic importance it held in the drama ofWorld War II, Far Eastern Theater. Although it was a tiny island, only atwo-square mile area, the United States had established the military there in1900. The average width of the island was only one mile and its totallength was four miles east to west.
At the outbreak of World War II, there was a total of 66 Army nurses, twocivilian nurses (who later were commissioned into the Army Nurse Corps), one dietitianand one physical therapist on the Islands of Luzon and Corregidor. Firstto be captured, on 28 December 1941, were the two Army nurses (the author andMajor Beatrice Chambers) in Baguio (onLuzon) who had originally been assigned to Corregidor and Manila in February ofthe preceding year. Ten Army nurses, who left Corregidor on 29 April 1942for the United States, were captured by the Japanese and transferred to Manila on9 September 1941, following the downing of their plane in Lake Lanao onMindanao. The 54 ANC's who were on Corregidor at the time of the surrenderwere transferred to Manila on 2 July 1942. One Army nurse from Baguio wassent to Manila in September 1943, while the other remained at Baguio.
On the morning of 7 December 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor,eighteen Japanese planes, 17 of them in formation, came over Camp John Hay, asmall Army post in Northern Luzon. This force dropped 128 bombs, many ofwhich did not explode. Had each one been "live," the resultswould have been even more disastrous. As it was, this was the beginning ofa war that was to result in the capture of many American Nationals, bothmilitary and civilian, in addition to people from other countries, all of whomhappened to be residing in the Philippines.
A few officers and men hid in the mountains for the duration of thewar. They used a road which was practically impassable. It wasactually a mountain pass originally used by other invading forces, but it hadbecome little more than a trail. Prior to its employment by these officersand men, the trail was used by the Filipino operators of an American-ownedlumbering camp. In one day the two Army nurses from Baguio tramped 30kilometers through the mountainous terrain to the lumbering camp. Theirobjective was Manila, however, all main roads to Manila were blocked. Bridges had been destroyed by the departing American forces and Japanese planespatrolled every major access to the city. Obviously, the objective couldnot be attained. The nurses were captured along with men, women andchildren from the lumbering camp.
The nurses who were later captured on Corregidor lived in the Melinta Tunneland were privileged to care for American military patients. After thesurrender of the Island, the Japanese moved all personnel from the tunnel to thepeacetime hospital and adjacent buildings at Topside. By order of theJapanese, the Army nurses could no longer care for the wounded soldiers. The nurses were told that they would soon be transferred to a well equippedhospital in Manila. The nurses did remain at Topside until transfer toManila approximately ten days later. Army and Navy doctors and corpsmenattended the patients at the Topside hospital. The Army nurses were deniedthe opportunity to provide routine care of the patients. Only on rareoccasions were they permitted to assist and at those times they wererestricted to the operating room. This was very distressing to the nursesas it was one of the first times that the full impact of being under the controlof an enemy nation was realized.
After the surrender, the nurses were not able to return to Melinta Tunnelwhere the Army personnel stayed during the seizure. They later left fromCorregidor on the same boat with the sick and wounded as the Japaneseordered. Although the nurses didn't know where the sick and wounded werehoused, it was believed that they were sent to Bilibid prison where manyinternees remained for the duration of the war. Until the interneesarrived in Santo Tomas the nurses did not actually know that they would stillnot be privileged to care for the soldiers and the personnel indigenous to thePhilippines and friendly to the United States.
The US military area on Corregidor was divided into three parts referred toas Topside, Middleside and Bottomside. During peacetime, GeneralMacArthur's headquarters was at Topside; Middleside was devoted to hospitalarea, housing for Filipino scouts and housing for American officer and enlistedpersonnel. Bottomside encompassed the Port and the Melinta Tunnelprimarily.
When the Japanese first dropped bombs on Northern Luzon shortly after PearlHarbor, the U.S. Headquarters was moved to the Melinta Tunnel. This tunnelhad been previously used as a training area and a warehouse. Before itcould be occupied however, it had to be thoroughly cleaned and the suppliesreorganized to make way for the establishment of General MacArthur'sheadquarters. Food had been stored there for months in advance so thatwhile US citizens residing on the mainland had heard about "training"missions, to those who were actually on Corregidor and in other parts of thePhilippines prior to the bombing by the Japanese, these "training"operations they knew to be something much more. The military populationhad been increased and the dependents of Army and Navy personnel had beenreturned to the U.S. mainland in 1940 and 1941. Thus, while it may appearto some that we were totally unprepared for the conflict which was brought uponus on 7 December 1941, we were not, in fact, totally unprepared as this notationconcerning the Melinta Tunnel will testify.
On the arrival of the nurses at Santo Tomas, the internees extended a warmwelcome and prepared spaces in the already overcrowded buildings. TheJapanese, however, had other plans and the nurses were moved to a separatebuilding, which later became the camp hospital. The enforced rest was goodfor the weary nurses but it was short lived. More people became ill andthe Japanese no longer permitted internees to be hospitalized in localhospitals. This had been the procedure originally but it was soondiscovered that the internees were taking advantage of their trips to thehospital. As an example, the women who needed to take their children forhospital treatment were frequently found to be taking time to stop at one of thelocal hair salons to have themselves beautified before they returned tocamp. In any care, the Japanese authorities soon eliminated thepossibility of this innocent frivolity by discontinuing the use of localhospitals by the internees.
A hospital was established at Santo Tomas in a building that was about aquarter of a mile from the University buildings. The senior Army Nurse wasthe chief nurse. (Maude Davidson for whom Davidson Hall, a BachelorWomen's Officers Quarters at Brooke Army Medical Center, was named.) These Army nurses, along with the Navy nurses, helped tocare for the other sick internees and ran a well organized hospital, thesupplies and equipment for which were secured from local agencies and/orappropriated from hospitals which had been abandoned.
In addition to this main hospital, there was also a building for patientswith tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. A small children'shospital was also established in the housing area. These were staffedprimarily by civilian nurses. The Navy nurses who were already at SantoTomas worked with the Army nurses until 1943 when an additional internee campwas established at Los Banos. The Navy nurses were then transferred to LosBanos by the Japanese.
Few people realized the dangers involved in administering the activities ofan internment camp. Furthermore, it is not always true that the mostcapable people are chosen to be the leaders of the camp. At Baguio andManila, not two cultures were present, the East and the West, but many classesfrom all strata of society were included. The Japanese did notunderstand the Americans, nor did the Americans understand the Japanese, asituation out of which many differences arose.
If one can visualize a wealthy thriving community like Baguio or ametropolitan city like Manila suddenly reduced to poverty and ruins, then onecan better understand that problems arose very quickly. From the first dayof internment the primary problem, next to procuring food, was to safeguard thehealth of all the internees.
At Camp John Hay, the US Army post near Baguio, the first internment camp wasestablished. A group of more than 500 men, women and children was crowdedinto one building. The group consisted of missionaries, miners and twoArmy nurses. The missionaries had been evacuated from China the precedingyear and had established a language school in the Philippines while awaiting theopportunity to return to China. The miners, some of whom were actuallylumbermen, had been living and working near Baguio. The Army nurses werethose first captured after their unsuccessful attempt to escape to Manila viathe logging trail out of Baguio. For purposes of alliteration mainly, thegroup was known as "The Missionaries and Miners" and will go down inhistory as that.
The building which the Japanese selected for the internees was an old barrackbuilding that had not been used by the American Army for several years becauseit was declared unsafe for occupancy. Designed for 50 men, the buildingnow housed this human conglomerate, making the only walking space a small aislein the center. Bedding was on the floor and each bed was rolled into abundle during the day to allow for more space. After a few weeks, becauseof the obvious need, an additional building was obtained for male internees.
It may be said that camp life was more bearable for the medical personnelthan for any other, as these people performed essential services consistent withtheir previous professional training. The hospital patients consisted ofother internees, many of whom were known to the Army nurses prior to thewar. The were well educated, highly respected citizens, members ofcharitable societies and select clubs.
The first project for the weary internees was to clean the building. Water had to be carried for one mile as the water main had been broken duringthe bombing. Drinking water was boiled as chemicals were notavailable. Lack of water, outside latrines, lack of screens for doors andwindows, crowded buildings and general lassitude of the internees contributed topoor sanitation. For the most part, these people had been accustomed toservants who cleaned their homes and cooked their food. Suddenly, thisstate no longer existed. The internees were not aware of the dangersinherent in poor sanitation so at the beginning they were not interested inmaintaining sanitary conditions. As time went on, however, it becameevident to everyone that sanitary measures were necessary for survival. Soap was available from the supply that had been buried by the US Army prior toits departure from the camp--a fact known to only a few of the internees. Supplies were retrieved during wood gathering safaris made by male internees.
Due to poor sanitation, intestinal diseases soon developed. Dysenterybecame so prevalent among the children, and adults as well, that a smalldispensary was set up in the barrack. Bedding was rolled up to make roomfor the table during the day and a bed was made under the table during thenight. Medicine was contributed by the internees from their own suppliesand a few drugs were purchased from a drugstore.
Most important was the intensive teaching program in the prevention ofdisease. Simple sanitary procedures such as washing the hands seemed tohave been forgotten. Among the many people were representatives fromdifferent professions, business groups, skilled and unskilled labor. Theirhabits of sanitary practice were as widely different as were their walks oflife. Some of the better educated internees had extremely poor healthhabits. It was even necessary to place at least one individual in each washroom to instruct the internees to wash their hands.
One of the interned American physicians, a well known pathologist (DoctorFrank Haughwout, deceased), gave aseries of lectures on the prevention of the dysenteries. The series,entitled "Dysenteries as a Household Problem" was well received byall. In addition to this, inspections were conducted regularly in aneffort to maintain sanitary conditions at a reasonable level--to ascertain thatsoiled clothing was promptly washed and boiled in soap solution, and that eatingutensils, consisting of one spoon and one tin pan per internee, were washed andkept covered to prevent contamination by flies. There was also a flyswatting detail which did help in reducing the fly population.
In spite of all the preventive measures, the number of dysentery casesincreased to such an extent that a small cottage was obtained to house thesepatients. This cottage became the camp hospital. There were usuallymore patients than beds, so the less acutely ill were treated in the barrack,while the acutely ill and contagious cases were treated in the camphospital. All bed linen and clothing used by patients was boiled andexposed to the sunshine for two hours after the drying period. When soapbecame practically nonexistent, a soap product was made from lye obtained fromwood ashes and then mixed with fats or oils. This was an effectivecleaning agent although it was very hard on the hands.
The making of this soap product illustrates the use to which "home towntalent" was put. As the soap supply decreased, the chemists and thosewho had chemistry in their backgrounds joined forces to make the soap substitutefrom the materials available. Since coconuts were reasonably plentiful,they constituted the source of oil. Further, these men produced ironcapsules from scrap iron found about the camp. Gelatin capsulesretrieved from the American hospital were filled with the product producedfrom scrap iron. While these iron capsules were scarcely like thosenormally used by the Army Medical Service, they were better than none atall. They were used almost as a last resort measure for those patientswhose red blood count was so low that they were predisposed to manydiseases. As the red blood count could not be increased by variation indiet or standard items for supportive therapy which were not available, the"make-do" iron capsules had to be used--another example, this, of theefficacy of American "know-how" and the ingenuity of the citizens whowere caught, but not inextricably, in the web as prisoners of war.
Every activity of the internees had to be approved by the Japanese armycommander. This was a frustrating situation and contributed to feelings of rebelliousness among the interneeswho were U.S. citizens. Everything was regimented by the Japanese; admission ofpatients to the hospital; determination of the number of doctors, nurses andattendants who could work in the hospital at any one time; details concerninggarbage collection and disposal and an almost unlimited number of other details. As a matter of interest the garbage detail was one of the most coveted asit carried with it the privilege of going outside the fenced camp enclosure. Usually two or three men carried a single garbage container to apreselected and approved spot. There, a pit was dug and the waste was buried. A significant technological advancement was made by the addition of awagon which was used to haul the containers to the burial spot thus relievingweary and weakened men from the expenditure of energy necessary to carry thegarbage according to the original system.
Before the hospital wasestablished, the internees needing hospitalization were taken to an established Philippineactivity. This privilegeended without warning at Camp John Hay at the time a maternity patient requiredhospitalization. The Japanese incharge of the camp had promised that all obstetrical patients would be taken tothe civilian hospital in Baguio. Anestimated date of confinement for all thirteen interned expectant mothers wasgiven to the Japanese. (TheJapanese people were known to be very exacting.) One mother went into labor on a Saturday night when she was scheduled togo to the hospital the following Monday. TheJapanese guards could not understand the reasons that she could not wait untilthe scheduled time for delivery. Thisrequired much explaining, and permission had to be obtained from the CommandingGeneral of the Japanese Army to take the mother to a hospital. Permission was not given and the baby was delivered in Camp. After the arrival of the first 'camp baby' one of the camp guardsremarked: 'The General is a greatgeneral, but he does not know anything about babies.'
The delivery of this first babytested the ingenuity of all the nurses - six missionary and one civilian nursein addition to the two Army nurses. Therewas no room available in the barrack for a delivery, so a small storeroom wasquickly cleared and a thin mattress was placed on the floor. An ether mask was made from a tea strainer to use the cans of ether,which one of the Army nurses had carried into camp. A baby bed was made from a cabinet drawer. The few instruments available were boiled over a wood fire. An obstetrical pack was brought into camp for the US Army Hospital, whichhad been vacated. This pack hadbeen kept in a closed box. Themother was not allowed out of bed for ten days and she was hospitalized for atotal of fourteen days, a period of time that was considered necessary accordingto medical practice at that time. Thiswas a waste of time according to the Japanese guards who visited the hospitalseveral times during the day and informed the mothers that Japanese women wereout of bed caring for their families the day following the birth of theirbabies. There were thirteen babies(11 American; 1 English; and 1 Chinese) born in the hospital at Camp John Hayduring our first three months of internment. At the Manila Camp, the mothers were still permitted to go to a localhospital.
It was six weeks after theinternment in Baguio that the Japanese gave permission to establish a hospital. The building authorized was a small cottage that had been an officer'shome. The living room was used as award for women and children, one bedroom was a nursery, and one bedroom was usedfor adult male patients. Thelaundry room was painted and used as an operating room and delivery room. An operating table was constructed from old pieces of lumbar and paddedwith an old blanket. At a laterdate an examining table was obtained from a civilian hospital.
The now occupied US Army Hospitalwas about ? mile from the barrack and many useful items had been hidden therebefore the Camp was vacated. Alarge amount of hospital supplies had been given to a civilian hospital prior todeparture to assist in the care of wounded soldiers. It was believed by many people that the war would be of shortduration and that the Camp would soon be occupied by US troops. The Japanese gave permission for one dentist, one physician and on Armynurse to visit the hospital. Theguards warned the group that only toilet paper was to be taken from the oldhospital as the new hospital, the barrack at Baguio, was to be a 'dysenteryhospital' and that toilet paper would be the only item needed.
The dentist and physician loadedthe truck with toilet paper until there was only hanging room on the side. The Army nurse collected the remaining drugs and placed them in doctor'spockets. Packages of surgicalsupplies, a bundle of surgical instruments, which had been wrapped fortransporting prior to evacuation of the hospital, and even a box of soap wasfound and smuggled into the truck. Thesurgical instruments consisted of nine Kelly hemostats, six mosquito hemostats,two pairs of surgical scissors, two abdominal retractors (not matched), twoknife handles, four packages of blades, two handling forceps and one uterineforceps. It was fortunate thatthese instruments were wrapped in such a manner as to prevent any noise inhandling. The truck was loaded tocapacity and not one more item could be concealed. The Army nurse was invited to sit between the driver and the guard andthe instruments were carried on her lap. Shealso had every pocket full and it was doubtful at the time if she could even beseated in the cab.
On return to the Camp, the Armynurse took the package of instruments into the hospital, placed it under amattress and then returned to help unload the truck. The hospital retained almost half of the soap and toiletpaper; the Japanese took the balance of that supply. The doctors were happy to know that the surgical instruments had beenhidden. The final warning from theguards was that no surgical proceedings were to be performed at the hospital.
The following day an emergencyappendectomy was performed in the hospital with the few instruments available. Despite their warning the preceding day, the guards were very happy thatthey had given the internees a hospital and that so much could be done withavailable supplies. Patientoriented as they were, the doctors expected the operating room to be ready inthe usual thirty minutes! With sucha request, the nurses felt as if they had been liberated.
In preparation for the emergencyappendectomy, the improvised operating room was scrubbed from top to bottom withLysol solution. The few surgical instruments were washed thoroughly in soap andwater, boiled for ten minutes, then the film from minerals in water was removedwith a sterile towel. The surgicalinstruments were placed on a tray from the Mayo table and baked in the oven fortwenty minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately the same time asrequired to bake a cake two inches thick. Theseinstruments were carried on a wire shelf from the stove to the operating roomand then placed on the Mayo table. The sound of instruments on an enamel tray was quitedifferent from that of instrument on a well-draped table. Sterile sheets, drapes, towels, and sponges were used from apack that had been sterilized nine weeks prior to use and had been kept storedin a closed wooden box. The patientwas given drop ether as an anesthetic and in spite of all the difficulties hehad an uneventful recovery.
A large bolt of surgical gauzewas given to the hospital and tape sponges were made for future surgical use. Economy of supplies was most necessary from the beginning to the end ofinternment. When supplies wereexhausted there was no means of replenishing them. The procedure for preparing sponges for re-use in surgical procedures wastime consuming, but required. Theused sponges were washed in cold water, boiled for twenty minutes, placed onwire net to dry in open sunshine. Thesponges were exposed to direct sunlight for two hours on each side. This procedure often required a period of two days. The sponges were ironed on both sides with an old fashioned flat ironretrieved from a house, placed in a package and autoclaved. The steam autoclave was the upright type. It had been taken from adispensary at one of the local mines. Thesuperficial dressings were often damp after autoclaving. In this event, thedressings were removed to a wire rack and placed for drying in the oven of anancient wood-burning cook stove. Thislong procedure in sterilizing surgical supplies was considered necessary, asthere was no laboratory available for culturing bacteria on supplies or fordetermining the efficiency of the autoclave. Notably, there were no infections following major surgery even thoughpenicillin was not available at that time.
Smallpox and typhoid vaccineswere obtained from a Philippine hospital; but it was never determined whetherthe vaccines had been properly refrigerated. It was definite, however, that the vaccines were outdated.Despite this, they must have been effective as there were no cases ofeither disease. It was difficult topersuade the internees to be immunized. Thereminder that immunization would be necessary to enter the United States was thebest means of rounding up the internees. Thethought of being quarantined on arrival in the United States was too much forthe weary internees to bear at this point.
Availability of supplies wasalways a problem. The Army nursesat Santo Tomas used hemp for sutures. Thishad to be carefully autoclaved. Surgicalsupplies became almost non-existent. Availabilityof food was always a problem. Rice was the principal food, which with a few vegetables andsome meat was cooked to resemble a stew. Therice diminished in amount and quality until it resembled a thin library paste. Small white worms with a black eye soon found their way into the ricesupply and these were cooked with the rice. We never discovered whether these little worms had two eyes because wedidn't turn them over to see. Thiswas repelling at first, but eventually no one removed the worms. Malnutrition soon became a problem. Beriberi was a disease that most internees had at some period during thethird year of internment if not earlier. Severecases were hospitalized while the less acute remained ambulatory. These individuals were encouraged to rest as much as possible. When they were required to climb steps they were told to stop on eachsecond step, count to ten and proceed. Conservingphysical strength was vitally important; however, many over exerted themselves,required hospitalization and death rates increased in the final months. It appeared to take more courage to live than to die.
Being a prisoner of war was aunique status for which no one was prepared. The camp life had created a civilization within a civilization. The camp population, however, had one thing in common-they were allenemy aliens to the Japanese conqueror. Inthis 'New Civilization' the truths and laws whose validity had been believedand adhered to for centuries had been turned upside down. Many of the good had become bad and many of the bad had become good. In reality it was the interpretations that had changed, notthe values themselves. The goodremained good.
As the food supply diminished,people became increasingly irritable, hyper-sensitive to the actions of others,inclined to be seclusive in as far as possible-that is, the individual wouldseclude himself by sitting alone just a few feet from the usual crowd. His facial expression was enough to indicate:'I want to be alone.' Thenthere were the others who formed small groups, talked about the past and plannedfor the future. The hatred felt forthe enemy captor induced most people to endure hardships uncomplaining just totry to out live the enemy. Bysuffering, some were demoralized while others were raised to a higher level.
The Army nurses were highlyrespected by other internees. Theymixed freely with all groups but lived in rooms set aside for them. This made the arrangement of duty hours for hospital work moreconvenient. The ingenuity of theArmy nurses was continually tested in ways peculiar to the circumstances ofinternment. Although the medicaland nursing staffs were well trained, equipment and supplies were lacking. This was probably to the advantage of the internees as one couldimprovise to a certain extent for the lack of equipment and supplies. While this was taxing to the individuals who expended the energy to plan,create and coordinate improvisations, there was an undeniably beneficial sideeffect: People were gainfullyoccupied and each small success strengthened their determination to continue totry to serve the enemy. Had goodmedical and nursing staffs been unavailable, the difficulties would have beencompounded because of the time required to develop personnel to provide goodpatient care for which there is no substitute.
The Army nurses demonstratedtheir ingenuity in many ways such as (1) hemp was taken from the plant leaves,pulled into threads, wrapped around pieces of wood, sterilized and used for skinsutures. Cotton sewing thread wasused for internal suturing as silk thread was no longer available (2) bandageswere made from old bed linen washed and used over many times (3) surgicalsponges were washed and used many times (4) instruments were sterilized byboiling on a cooking stove (5) birth certificates were made which contained asketch of the camp hospital and (6) stuffed toys were designed by one of thenurses. Other nurse volunteersassisted in the 'manufacture of the product.' The stuffing for the toys wasobtained from the already thin mattresses.
The lessons learned that wouldhelp in a like situation would be difficult to enumerate. Whether one could profit from such an experience would dependupon the individual's personality. Peopleare human. They want a place tolive, food, companionship and freedom - in a word: security. The question is - when an individual returns to a world of free peoplewill he be able to forget everything that he has experienced, will he beembittered, broken and disillusioned, or will he have enough strength to findpurpose and meaning in life again. Inreality, should he be expected to go counter to the laws of human behavior bytruly forgetting his experience or should he concentrate upon whatever smallgood the experience provided, guard those small bits of good, using them aschinking to rebuild the wall of his life?
Those who survive internmentcould be most easily classified into two categories. First, the antisocial, evidencing a completely selfish disregard foreveryone and everything not directly related to the enhancement of the'self' concept. In thiscategory the generalized attitude may be expressed as: 'I have done my share,let others do theirs and endure suffering and hardships.' Obviously, these would be the unhappy ones, the ones whose readjustmentto the American standard of living is actually minimal.
The second, the empathetic,evidencing more humanity than ever before. Humanity is here defined as a combination of the best principles of humanbehavior, based upon the best philosophical and religious tenets known to man. This individual will have learned here something that no other form ofeducation could have taught him. Hewill have learned the value of life - his own, and that of others - and theworth of freedom too.
We nee, therefore, a well adjusted, well educated and disciplined individual who can copewith adversity - roll with the punches so to speak - one who when faced withworms in his food can say: 'Aha! Protein! Just what my country and I need atthis moment. This I will eat for the good of my country.'
Tolerance of ones self andtolerance of others was a daily lesson. Ofcourse, this must have been learned long before a period of adversity. Realization and acceptance on ones self and others is not always'understanding.'
The idea of the value of freedomwas enhanced. Its meaning was madeclear, for perhaps the first time, to those who had enjoyed it for their entirelives until this period of internment which suddenly eliminated what had been aconstitutional right of the US citizens who were captured. The many privileges, normally enjoyed every day, become very cherishedwhen they no longer exist: Freedom to speak without censorship; freedom to communicatein writing without censorship; freedom to travel; freedom to enjoy various newsmedia, and the like.
It was immediately evident thatsurvival required belief in and practice of the philosophy of utilitarianism. Without the application of this philosophy, survival would have been evenless easily attained. One soonlearned that the value of an item could be measured by its utility.
When supplies and equipment are,or have become practically non-existent, there is no substitute for well-preparedworkers, be they physicians, nurses or teachers, or other professional,paraprofessional or nonprofessional personnel. What is lacking in equipment can be made up, to a point, by people whoare properly prepared.
Perhaps the major lesson learned,and certainly the most difficult to accept was that we were not thoroughlyprepared to win an armed conflict.
The following were interviewedfor material for this manuscript:
Major Josephine Nesbit, Retired
Major Beatrice E. Chambers,Retired
Major Eleanor Garen, Retired
Captain Ann Mealer Giles, Retired
Mrs. Minnie Breeze Stubbs, formerArmy Nurse, Veteran of Baatan and Corregidor
Mrs. Helen Black Harding, formerArmy Nurse, Veteran of Baatan and Corregidor
Major Hattie Brantly, SurgicalResearch Unit, Brooke General Hospital