On the eve of Pearl Harbor, twelve Navy nurses were serving at the Cañacao Naval Hospital, in the Philippines. When the Japanese first bombed the airfields around Manila and afterward destroyed the Cavite Navy Yard on December 10, 1941, these women not only had ringside seats, but got a firsthand taste of the horror of modern war. As the Japanese onslaught continued unabated, eleven of the nurses (one escaped) became prisoners of war shortly after the American and Filipino resistance ended in Manila.
Chief nurse Laura Cobb and her ten subordinates spent the next three years in captivity. First at Santa Tomas, a college campus in Manila, and later at Los Baños, at the site of the University of the Philippines agricultural college. The camp at Los Baños, was located about 35 miles south of Manila, near the shore of Laguna de Bay, a large lake. The nurses and all the internees including a three day old baby (for a total of 2,147) were liberated in a dramatic rescue on February 23, 1945.
Dr. Tom McLaughlin, a former Navy physician and cardio-thoracic surgeon, first became aware of the Navy nurse POWs while he was researching his father's wartime service. He was not only taken with the haunting images of these women preserved in photographs, but also with their heroic story. Each survived her captivity because, as Navy nurses, each had a purpose--caring for their patients. Regardless of the circumstances, they ran their prison hospital as a U.S. Navy hospital, even though they were forced to practice their healing art under armed guard and behind barbed wire. Their dedication to duty enabled every one of them to come home with dignity.
The following is a roster of the 11 Navy nurses
Chief nurse, Laura Mae Cobb, Wichita, Kansas
Mary F. Chapman, Chicago, Illinois
Bertha R. Evans, Portland, Oregon
Helen C. Gorzelanski, Omaha, Nebraska
Mary Rose Harrington, Elk Point, South Dakota
Margaret "Peg" A. Nash, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Goldia "Goldie" A. O'Haver, Hayfield, Minnesota
Eldene E. Paige, Lomita, California
Susie J. Pitcher, Des Moines, Iowa
Dorothy Still, Long Beach, California
Edwina Todd, Pomona, California
Note: Two civilian nurses were imprisoned along with the Navy nurses.
Helen G. Grant, a Scottish nurse
Basilia Torres Steward, wife of an American
From a photo taken by Japanese guard. Santo Tomas & Los Baños were civilian internment camps, except for a few hiding service men.
Nurse Peggy Nash
A Japanese guard was obsessed with her & took this photo without her knowledge. The photo was later published, and that was when her family learned she was alive.
"We knew something big was up the night before because they gave us a hot meal."
Now our people are converging for a prison camp raid to free a nation and a region--and a world, from tyranny and death.