Prewar Footage of FEAF in Critical Past Films

Critical Past is a website offering views and purchase of rare films, including many from World War II. There are a few from 1941 in the Philippines that show elements of the Far East Air Force just prior to the war, which give some idea of aviation in the Philippines in that day, though not quite the Bataan experience. But they are still worth a view to anyone interested. The links and descriptions for several of them (there may be more?), in no particular order, are:

(Note: Be sure to avail yourself to the still clip views from the films located below the videos at links below!)

Members of the U.S. Army 17th Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field in the Philippines, before World War II, in the Pacific. (1 minute, 43 seconds, no sound)

Description: “Scenes of Nichols Field, the Philippines, in 1941, before World War 2, in the Pacific. An airman plays with a budgerigar parakeet that sits on the shoulder and walks on his hands and arms. Group of airmen conversing in front of Squadron building. A truck, with Nichols Field painted on its side, arrives. A Bolo bomber (B-18), is seen in background. An airman drinks a coke and dons a checkered white cap with 17th written on it. A seversky P-35 pursuit airplane, originally slated for delivery to Sweden (note fuselage insignia), lands on the airfield.”

Blog comment: A close observer of the video above will notice ace pilot to be Buzz Wagner, with mustache and pipe, amidst the pilots seen.


U.S. Philippine Department Air Force activity at Nichols Field in the Philippines prior to World War II in Pacific. (2 minutes, 8 seconds, no sound)

Description: “U.S. Philippine Department Air Force personnel assembling new Seversky P-35A pursuit planes at Nichols Field in the Philippines prior to World War II in the Pacific. These have Swedish roundel markings with 3 yellow crowns on a blue circle background, identifying them as J 9 aircraft for the Swedish Air Force. They were initially sold to Sweden as Republic EP-106 aircraft and redesignated as P-35A by the US Army Air Corps. Because of imbargoes in place due to World War 2, in Europe, these aircraft were diverted to the U.S. Army. Mechanics push a Seversky P-35A (J 9) fuselage on the tarmac outside a hangar. Mechanics work on P-35 engine in the hangar. A sign reads ‘Headquarters 17th Pursuit Squadron’ at a tent bivouac area. Airmen talk outside a tent. Views from a car driving through nearby residential neighborhood of Ramaville. Two men in white suits with a woman on porch of a house Several P-35A airplanes flying low over the area. Airmen loading a car with baggage.”
Activities at the Philippine Air Force Batangas Air Base, prior to World War II in the Pacific. (1 minute, 48 seconds, no sound)

Description: “Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) and U.S. Philippine Department Air Force aircraft at the PAAC’s Batangas Air Field, prior to World War 2 in the Pacific. Large group of Filipino boys playing a game on the ground. Building with a sign reading ‘Last Chance Bar, Batangas Officers Club’. Two U.S. Army officers, one dressed in white shorts, step from the club and pose, drinking beer from bottles. U.S. Seversky P-35 pursuit plane parked on the field along with several USAAC P-26 Peashooter airplanes. Two P-26s take off. Arriving passengers stand around a Sikorsky S-43 Baby Clipper amphibious plane, as their baggage is unloaded. The Baby Clipper starts engines and takes off. The passengers walk toward the airfield gate. Logo on the aircraft nose indicates that the S-43 is operated by the Iloilo-Negros Air Express Co. (INAEC).”
U.S. military aircraft parked on an airfield in the Philippines prior to World War 2, in the Pacific. (1 minute, 22 seconds, no sound)
Aerial views of the Philippines coastline prior to World War II in the Pacific. Ships in a harbor. Views of U.S. military aircraft parked an airfield, including Consolidated PBY Catalina aircraft; Boeing P-26 Peashooters; and Seversky P-35 aircraft. Many ships are seen in waters off shore.
U.S. Army Pilots of 17th Pursuit Squadron pose with P-35 airplane on Nichols Field, Philippines. B-17 lands. (1 minute, 58 seconds, no sound)

Description: “Nichols Field, Philippines, prior to World War II in the Pacific. Seversky P-35 pursuit plane parked with engine running. Pilots of the U.S. Army 17th Pursuit Squadron pose on and around a P-35 airplane. B-17 Flying Fortress bomber lands and parks. U.S. Army airmen walking around and examining the parked B-17. The number 21 and 5B painted on the tail of the B-17.”

St. Patrick’s Day, 1942

It was March 17, 1942.  Far across the Philippine Islands archipelago from Bataan, General Douglas MacArthur boarded a 19th Bomb Group B-17 Flying Fortress at Del Monte Airfield, Mindanao.

Arriving at Del Monte near midnight on March 16 after a 1,425 nautical mile flight from Batchelor Field, Australia, 1st Lt Frank P. Bostrom, the senior pilot of the B-17E “San Antonio Rose II” (S/N 41-2447), had eight cups of coffee before the return flight with the general to Australia. 

Captain Frank Bostrom (on left), of the US Army Air Corps. Pilot of the B-17 Flying Fortress that brought General Douglas MacArthur out of the Philippines. Lieutenant Mark Muller (on right), US Army Signal Corps, Assistant Signal Officers, HQS. Base 3 Somerville House, April 1942 (Courtesy Muller Collection (supplied by Bill Bentson), at

Captain Frank Bostrom (on left), of the US Army Air Corps. Pilot of the B-17 Flying Fortress that brought General Douglas MacArthur out of the Philippines. Lieutenant Mark Muller (on right), US Army Signal Corps, Assistant Signal Officers, HQS. Base 3 Somerville House, April 1942
(Courtesy Muller Collection (supplied by Bill Bentson), at

Not long after midnight on St. Patrick’s Day, Bostrom’s B-17 taxied out for takeoff, General MacArthur sitting in the radio operator’s seat in the middle of his aircraft.  Accompanied by another B-17 carrying members of MacArthur’s staff, and with runway lights provided by two flares, the two overloaded bombers took off on a five hour flight for Darwin, Australia, where MacArthur intended to rally forces for a return to the Philippines.

Boeing B-17Es (S/N 41-2557 and 41-9182), similar to the pair that brought MacArthur and his staff from the Philippines to Australia, in formation.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

Boeing B-17Es (S/N 41-2557 and 41-9182), similar to the pair that brought MacArthur and his staff from the Philippines to Australia, in formation. (U.S. Air Force photo)

They managed to avoid enemy forces all the way up until their approach to Darwin, when they learned it was under attack by Japanese aircraft, they diverted over to Batchelor Field, some 50 miles away, landing there at about 0900 local time.  Wishing to continue the journey to eastern Australia, the passengers from the B-17s boarded two Australian National Airways DC-3 airliners.  One report suggested the aircraft made a “rather bumpy and dramatic departure” after a Japanese air raid warning, though the field was not bombed.  Reaching Alice Springs later on March 18, the general had his staff continue on the aircraft while he took a train with his family 1,028 miles to Adelaide and on to other points.

MacArthur is welcomed at Terowie Station, north of Adelaide in March, 1942 (Courtesy

MacArthur is welcomed at Terowie Station, north of Adelaide on March 20, 1942 (Courtesy

MacArthur arrived in Australia expecting a large army awaiting his leadership.  But when he was informed that there were only 32,000 US, Australian troops in Australia, and less than 100 aircraft (and only a few modern types), he reportedly whispered “God have mercy on us.”  One report says it was his greatest shock of the whole war.

Back on Bataan, MacArthur’s departure resulted in the Luzon Force commander, Major General Wainwright, taking command of the U.S. Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) a new command, which included Army and Navy elements.    He pinned on a third star and moved to Corregidor to assume his new command early on March 21.  Wainwright selected Major General Edward P. King, Jr. to succeed his as Luzon Force commander.

Meanwhile, the health of the defenders of Bataan, Philippine Army, Americans and Philippine Scouts alike, gradually deteriorated due to the meager rations, disease and limited medicines. 

Filipino soldiers waiting for treatment outside an aid station on Bataan.

Filipino soldiers waiting for treatment outside an aid station on Bataan.

On March 14, an aide to General King noted that doctors indicated “that our combat efficiency is a little below 45 percent.”  On St. Patrick’s Day, 1942, it was a difficult situation all around.


“General Douglas MacArthur in Australia during WW2,” at

Morton, Louis, “The Fall of the Philippines,” Center of Military History, US Army, Washington D.C., 1993, at:

The T12 Gun Motor Carriage on Bataan

     After the success of the German Blitzkrieg against western Europe in 1940, the US armed forces increased efforts to prepare for war.  One weapon which was developed in response to Nazi armor capabilities was the tank destroyer.  Hasty efforts to develop a tank destroying capability from then-available resources yielded the T12 Gun Motor Carriage in 1941.  This was an M3 half-track vehicle on which was mounted an M1897A4 75-mm gun, an American version of the famous World War I “French 75.”  In 1941, 86 of these prototype T12 vehicles were produced, of which 50 were sent to the Philippines.   (Note:  The type was standardized in October, 1941 and produced as the 75mm GMC M3 after this.)

75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3, T12 prototyp[e similar (Source:  Wikipedia entry for M3 Gun Motor Carriage)

75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3, T12 prototype similar (Source: Wikipedia entry for M3 Gun Motor Carriage)

The T12 had the following characteristics (data on the very similar 75-mm Gun Motor Carriage M3):


20,000 lb (9.1 metric tons)


20 ft 6 in (6.24 m)


 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)


 8 ft 0 in) (2.44 m)


5 (Commander, (3x) gun crew, driver)




 ¼-⅝ in (6–16 mm)


75mm M1897A4 Gun, Traverse 40° (19° left and 21° right, manual); Elevation:  +29° to -10° (manual)
59 rounds carried on board




White 160AX
142.5 hp (106.3 kW)


15.71 hp/t


Semi-Elliptic Volute Spring


 200 miles (320 km)


43 mph (70 km/h)

     The M1897A4 Gun had an indirect fire range of 9,200 yards (8,400 m).  This weapon fired the AP M72 (Armor Piercing) shell which could penetrate up to 3.2 in (8.1 cm) of armor at 500 yards (460 m), the APC M61 (Armor Piercing Capped) shell that could penetrate 2.8 in (7.1 cm) of armor at 500 yards, and the HE M48 (High Explosive) shell for use against infantry and other non-armored targets.  It isn’t clear to the writer on this blog what type(s) of ammunition were available in the Philippines at the time.

Five-man crew of a 75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3 stand by their vehicle. (Source:

Five-man crew of a 75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3 stand by their vehicle. (Source:  Lost)


     No organized unit came to operate this equipment; the War Department with all haste made great efforts to get materiel to the Philippines as war clouds threatened in the Far East.  The Self-Propelled Mounts (SPMs, as the T12s became known in the Philippines) arrived in the Philippines in September and October of 1941, and were in the ordnance depot in Manila for a while before being assigned to what was called the Provisional Field Artillery Brigade. Information indicates the SPM were not issued to the brigade at Fort Stotsenburg until four days before the war began.  At least one battery commander arrived to take command of his SPM battery just two days before the war began. (Reed)


     The vehicles were initially organized into three SPM artillery battalions with 4 batteries each. Each Battery was equipped with 4 T-12s for a total of 16 SPMs per battalion.  Men for the unit came from several different units and hardly had time to get acquainted before the war began.  American Army officers were the battalion and battery commanders; gun commanders were Philippine Army soldiers, half-track drivers were from the 14th Engineer Battalion (Philippine Scouts), and 96 trucks with American soldier drivers transferred to the brigade from the 200th Coastal Artillery (Anti-Aircraft).  There is even a report of volunteer Filipino civilians drivers serving in the unit.  The brigade was commanded by Colonel Louis R. Dougherty.  The battalions were commanded as follows according to one source:

1) 1st Battalion – Lt. Col. Joseph Ganahl

2) 2nd Battalion – Lt. Col. David S. Babcock

3) 3rd Battalion – Lt. Col. Lindsey


     Another source (Reed) indicates a slightly different battalion command lineup, presumably at the start of the war, as well as identification of the battery commanders:

First Battalion Commanding Officer:  Major D.S. Babcock

Battery Commanders

Captain John Curtis

Lieutenant Murray M. Day

Lieutenant Brunette

Lieutenant Corrigan


Second Battalion Commanding Officer:  Major Joseph Ganahl (who later became commander of the First Battalion on Bataan)

Battery Commanders

Lieutenant William Jones

Lieutenant Travis Perrenot

Lieutenant  Daniel W. Cranford

Lieutenant (Gordon H.) Peck


Third Battalion Commanding Officer:  Major J. R. Lindsay

Battery Commanders

Lieutenant Wayne Fisher

Lieutenant George A. Reed

Lieutenant Van de Lester

Lieutenant Svobodny


     George Reed also listed the officer roster of his SPM battery as follows:

Fourth Field Battery, 3rd Provisional Battalion, Field Artillery (SPM)

Commanding Officer:  First Lieutenant George A. Reed, USA

Executive Officer:  Second Lieutenant Amador Lim, PA

Supply Officer:  Third Lieutenant Amado Santiago, PA

Liaison Officer:  Third Lieutenant Romero, PA


     In the early days of the war, defensive actions and withdrawal into Bataan, two SPM battalions were assigned to the North Luzon Force and one battalion to the South Luzon Force.  The Second Battalion commanded by Major Ganahl and three batteries went north, minus the battery commanded by Lt. Perrenot which was attached to the 26th Cavalry (PS).  Major Babcock’s First Battalion went to South Luzon with four batteries.  The Third Battalion remained in the Clark Field area guarding against paratrooper attack, though later they aided the fighting withdrawal of forces into Bataan. 

     The SPM battery commanded by Capt. Gordon Peck (who survived the Death March but was lost aboard a Hell Ship in 24 October 1944 distinguished itself in support of the Provisional Tank Group. (Zaloga, p. 24)  His notable actions were noted in northern Luzon at San Manuel and in late December, 1941, and on the withdrawal to Bataan at Lubao in early January, 1942.  Combat losses of 17 SPMs, not all to enemy action, caused the inactivation of one battalion – these two battalions fought through the Bataan campaign. 

     In early January, 1942 as the defensive line in Bataan was being established, a battery of SPM was assigned to I Corps on the west side of the peninsula, and the bulk of remaining vehicles in a group of SPM in the II Corps sector on the east side, where the main enemy attack was anticipated.

     In late January after Japanese attacks on both sides of the peninsula outflanked the Fil-Am defenders, I Corps was successful in withdrawing from the breached Mauban Line to the new Bagac-Orion Line with its battery four SPMs.  In the east, SPMs and M3 tanks covered the withdrawal of forces from Abucay on the night of 24-25 January, and the next day.  The SPMs with M3 tanks were part of the last of the covering force to leave, and did so under enemy attack, though the SPMs under then-Maj. Ganahl were quite engaged against elements of the Japanese 141st Infantry and along with the tanks, successfully stopped the enemy infantry from advancing before they disengaged and made it to the new defensive line.

     Although details are lacking, By March, 1942, attrition led to the survival of only two of the SPM battalions.  A battery of SPMs helped to guard the II Corps beaches from Limay south to the corps boundary.  Army artillery supporting both I Corps and II Corps had 26 SPMs assigned.  In late March, as evidence of an imminent Japanese offensive was noted, the Luzon Force organized a mobile reserve which included a battery of 75-mm. guns (SPM) and a company of tanks.  It is unclear to this blog writer if this was the same battery of SPM formerly assigned beach defense duty.

     As the enemy forces went on the offensive in early April, the SPMs were called upon on April 8 in response the disintegration of II Corps.  But the SPMs, and tanks too, found it difficult to counterattack along narrow, crowded trails lined with jungle growth and the lack of infantry to help defend them.  Despite efforts to establish holding positions, they were forced back, heading for Cabcaben along with other broken units of II Corps.

A USMC M3 GMC in the jungle of New Britain, at left, gives some idea of the environment the T12 SPMs operated in on Bataan. (Source:  USMC)

A USMC M3 GMC in the jungle of New Britain in early 1944, at left, gives some idea of the environment the T12 SPMs operated in on Bataan. (Source: USMC)

     On the morning of April 9, 1942, two SPMs with some tanks and infantry were on the front line, on the east coast road as a surrender delegation left for the Japanese lines.  After the surrender, the vehicles were ordered to be destroyed, but there are reports the Japanese were able to salvage some vehicles which were later encountered by American forces returning to the Philippines in 1944.

     Despite the lack of experience in tactical employment of the SPM, the weapon was employed by the men of the Provisional Field Artillery Brigade to good effect, and appears to have performed a useful role in the Bataan Campaign.  It’s impossible to say how much more effective this unit could have been had the men had the time and resources to properly prepare for combat.  But they fought their best as they knew how at the time, and we can appreciate that.



     “75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3,” detailed vehicle technical data in American Fighting Vehicle Database at:

     Babcock, David S. USMA Memorial at:

     M3 Gun Motor Carriage, Wikipedia, at:

     Morton, Louis, The Fall of the Philippines, Center of Military History, US Army, Washington D.C., 1993, at:


     Peck, Gordon H., Memorial for, at:

     Reed, George A., “The 3rd Field Artillery Battalion (Provisional) in the Philippines, 1941-42,” World War II Journal, Issue 5, pp 40-43, edited by Ray Merriam, 2003

     T12 halftrack self-propelled mounts for 75mm guns during the campaign on Luzon, Discussion threads at:


     Whitman, John,”Bataan: Our Last Ditch,” Hippocrene Books, 1990

     Williford, Glen, “Racing the Sunrise: The Reinforcement of America’s Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942,” Naval Institute Press, 2010

     Zaloga, Steven J., “US Half-Tracks of World War II,” Osprey Publishing, London, 1983

Remembering Bataan’s Veterans

The National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. honors the World War II generation who defended our freedom and liberty in a global conflict.  It commemorates the service of more than 16 million who served in uniform, the 400,000 who sacrificed their lives, and all those involved in the war effort.   See the Memorial website for more information, at:

The World War II Memorial also sponsors the World War II Registry, an electronic database of Americans who served in the war.  This registry actually has three official databases containing the names of those killed and missing in the war.  It has a fourth database, called the Registry of Remembrances, which is an unofficial record of service and tributes to men and women who served in WWII.  According to Ms. Aileen Garra Lim, whose father served in the China-Burma-India Theater, “Any WWII veterans, can register themselves, and any WWII veterans, descendants or other entities may honor a WWII veteran and may also submit a photo by mail or online and are encouraged to do so.”  (Hat tip to Ms. Lim!)  You can view the webpage for these registries at:

 A number of Bataan’s Veterans are now honored in this Registry of Remembrances, for example, you can see

Willibald C. Bianchi

John D. Bulkely

Jose C. Calugas, Sr.

William E. Dyess

Edwin P. Ramsey

Please consider contributing to the WWII Memorial’s Registry of Remembrances in honor of a Bataan veteran!

Browning’s 37mm anti-aircraft gun on Bataan

Many people are aware of John M. Browning-designed weapons which were used on Bataan, such as the M1911 .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, the M1917 Browning .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun (and M1919 air cooled variant), the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun.  But Browning designed an even larger caliber weapon that saw action on Bataan.

Coming out of the experience gained in the First World War, the United States sought to develop a large-caliber gun for use in aircraft.  The Baldwin 37mm automatic gun was considered, but ultimately rejected.  The famous John Browning was called upon in 1920 to look at this matter, and by 1924 he developed two 37mm prototypes for testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground.  He developed two types given the U.S. Army had also developed a requirement for a lightweight 37mm gun for air defense against ground attack aircraft.  

The anti-aircraft gun was eventually designated as the US 37mm Gun M1.  It fired a 21-ounce explosive shell at a rate of fire of 120 rounds per minute.  The effective altitude it could fire up to was 10,500 feet – the shell was fitted with a self-destruct mechanism set for this altitude.  It could also be used against ground targets, with a maximum range of 8,850 yards (though the self-destruct mechanism would detonate after 4,000 yards of horizontal flight).  Given the defense economies of the day, the gun was shelved.  But in 1935, the Army took the anti-aircraft gun off the shelf and began an effort to design a suitable carriage for the weapon.

The first carriage made for the M1 was designated as the M3.  It was a four-wheeled trailer with wheels carried on detachable axles.  The gun itself was mounted on a levelling block that could be adjusted up to ten degrees to compensate for unlevel ground.  The top of the carriage had the gun, gun sights, two seats for the layers (one for azimuth, the other for elevation) and a platform for the loader.  Operation of the weapons in traverse and elevation was manual, as was sighting of the weapon, though later versions of the carriage (e.g. M3A2) had remote power-control motors and receiver dials for operating with a fire control predictor.

The Gun M1A2 on the Carriage M3 was standardized in 1938 and production began in 1939.  Watervliet Arsenal made the guns the Rock Island Arsenal the carriages, and Bausch and Lomb the gun sights.    Colt also made some of the guns until early 1941 when they shifted focus to aircraft cannon.  Some 7,728 examples were produced until production ended in 1944.

Anti-aircraft gunners practice their skills on an M1A2 37mm anti-aircraft gun circa November, 1941 (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

Anti-aircraft gunners practice their skills on an M1A2 37mm anti-aircraft gun circa November, 1941 (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

According to an inventory of “Principal Weapons Philippines” dated 21 November, 1941, there was the following information on the “M1A2 37mm antiaircraft gun: ON HAND 66 U.S.; 0 P.A.; REQUIRED 96 U.S., 144 P.A.; SHORTAGE 30 U.S.; 66 P.A. [likely a typo, when 144 P.A. meant].”

As for identifying the units which operated these 66 M1A2 37mm anti-aircraft guns, it is hard to pin down.   The 200th Coastal Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) Regiment of the New Mexico National Guard arrived in the Philippines shortly before the war began with 24 37mm guns, according to Morton.  Cave mentioned that the 200th had 22 37mm guns arrayed for the defense of Clark Field just before the war began, though seven of them were defective and had been sent to Manila for repair.  A Wikipedia page suggests the 60th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment on Corregidor and the forts in Manila Bay had 37mm guns, though other sources do not corroborate this. 

In any event, in December, 1941, the 200th Coastal Artillery (AA) was split into two units (the 200th and the new 515th CA (AA) regiments when enough equipment was on hand to equip the two units, and they used their 37mm guns on Bataan to provide an important defensive capability, and were used to defend the airfields on Bataan (Bataan and Cabcaben), critical assets such as the I and II Corps artillery and/or command posts and important rear area installations, through the campaign.   

When the final Japanese offensive broke through the Fil-Am defensive line in April, 1942, these two regiments were ordered to destroy their remaining weapons save those which could be used for infantry support, and form a line of defense as infantry on the high ground to the south of Cabcaben Airfield.  As an example of what was left, by this time the 2nd Battalion’s Battery F had only one functioning 37mm gun remaining.  On the night of April 8, they were the last line of defense between the approaching enemy and the vulnerable rear echelon area of Bataan.  The anti-aircraft gunners’ mettle was not tested, however, as the surrender of Bataan occurred the next day, April 9, 1942. 

By the end of the Bataan Campaign, the 200th had claimed 86 enemy aircraft shot down.  The unit was equipped with the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun, 37mm anti-aircraft gun as well as .50 and .30 caliber machine guns.  No doubt a portion of these claims were due to the M1A2 37mm anti-aircraft gun.



Cave, Dorothy, “Beyond Courage: One Regiment Against Japan, 1941-1945,” Sunstone Press, 2006

Hogg, Ian, “Anti-Aircraft Artillery,” The Crowood Press, 2002

Kirkpatrick, Charles, “ADA in Bataan:  A Retrograde Operation,” Air Defense Artillery, Spring, 1985, at:

Moore, George, “The Moore Report, Table of Organization & Equipment, Organization of the Coast Artillery in the Philippines,” at:

Morton, Louis, “The War in the Pacific:  The Fall of the Philippines,” Center of Military History, Washington D.C., 1953

“Principal Weapons Philippines” listing, in 24 Jan 2012 discussion thread “Questions for John Gordon,” at:

 “REMEMBERING CHARLES F. JAMES,” Congressional Record Volume 157, Number 44 (Wednesday, March 30, 2011), Senate, Pages S1973-S1974, From the Congressional Record Online, at:

Wikipedia page for 60th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment                                              

All the Angels of Bataan

Although the Bataan Campaign was mostly a male operation, there were a number of brave women who served in the medical service as nurses on Bataan, military and some civilian volunteers, Filipina and American.  They are remembered as the Angels of Bataan.

Most of these military women on Bataan were US Army nurses.  One Navy nurse accompanied them, along with 25 Filipina civilian nurses.   These civilian nurses had volunteered for duty in US Army hospitals in Fort Stotsenberg and Fort McKinley, as there was no Army Nurse Corps in the Philippine Army at the time. Unfortunately, these Filipina nurses are rather forgotten in the accounts of the campaign, and have not received much recognition, unlike their American sisters. 

The first of All the Angels of Bataan arrived on the peninsula by motor convoy at the town of Limay on Christmas Eve.  Twenty four Army nurses, 25 Filipino nurses, and Lieutenant Ann Bernatitus, Navy Nurse Corps, prepared a field hospital in a collection of run-down barracks. “Their Christmas celebration consisted of cleaning floors, washing windows, assembling cots, and setting up a hospital facility from stored supplies. The equipment at hand was certainly not modern. The nurses noted that most items were wrapped in 1918 newspapers! This makeshift hospital became General Hospital No.1, and patients began arriving within days. Since this would be the field hospital closest to the fighting, all battle casualties were brought there for surgery and recovery.”   (Note:  Hospital 1, initially at Limay from late December, 1941, and relocated a month later to the “Little Baguio” area near Mariveles.)

The next day, Christmas, 20 more Army nurses were sent to Bataan from Manila by harbor ferry to the town of Lamao, south of Hospital No.1.  They established Hospital No.2 near Cabcaben as a convalescent hospital for patients who were strong enough for evacuation from Hospital 1. Hospital 2 was a much more primitive open ward operation, the first for the US military since the Civil War, with no tents or buildings.  This jungle facility covered a three acre area – a canopy of trees was all that sheltered thousands of patients.

All the Angels of Bataan performed critical medical services at Bataan’s two field hospitals.   More than 1,200 battle casualties requiring major surgery (traumatic amputations and head, chest, and abdominal wounds) were admitted to Hospital 1 within the first month of operations.

Navy nurse Ann Bernatitus recalled the difficult conditions in these primitive facilities: “Every operating table would be filled. They would come in from the field all dirty. You did what you could There were lice; I kept my hair covered all the time. He (Dr. Cary Smith) did a lot of leg amputations because we had a lot of gas gangrene out there. I remember one patient we were operating on. Dr. Smith didn’t want to sew him back up. He had died. I remember telling him that I didn’t want him to do that if anything happened to me. He said, ‘I’ll sew him up just to shut you up.’ We were washing the dirty dressings that they used during an operation. We would wash them out and refold and sterilized them and use them again.”

In addition to enduring the endless stream of casualties and the terrible conditions, the enemy also threatened the field hospitals on Bataan.  On March 29, Japanese aircraft bombed Hospital 1, despite red cross markings on the facility, hitting the wards and killing or wounding over one hundred patients.  A number of nurses were wounded.  One nurse recalled the terrible event:  “”The sergeant pulled me under the desk, but the desk was blown into the air, and he and I with it. I heard myself gasping. My eyes were being gouged out of their sockets, my whole body felt swollen and torn apart by the violent pressure. Then I fell back to the floor, and the desk landed on top of me and bounced around. The sergeant knocked it away from me, and gasping for breath, bruised and aching, sick from swallowing the smoke from the explosive, I dragged myself to my feet.” The sight that met her eyes was appalling. Patients had been blown out of their beds. Bodies and severed limbs hung from the tree branches. Although the nurses knew that nothing could be done to prevent further air attacks, they carried on.”

On April 7, Japanese aircraft bombed Hospital Number 1 again, directly hitting one of the wards and killing many already seriously wounded soldiers.   Hospital 2 was spared such bombings, though bombs fell all around it.

There was some help for the All the Angels of Bataan from an Angel on Corregidor.  It was from 21-year old Helen Lang, who was a civilian nurse.  She was visiting an aunt in the Philippines on her first trip overseas when the war began, and soon volunteered to help the Fil-Am forces.  Initially assigned to Corregidor, she volunteered for duty on Bataan as they needed more help there, and soon experienced the aerial bombardments: “At Bataan it was very hard,” remembered Ms. Lang. “We were bombed day and night. The hospital was just four tents. It was bombed seventeen times… Afraid? Usually I was – but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that we couldn’t do our work. My own work wasn’t so much before; sometimes I’d been ashamed of being only a nurse. On Bataan I learned to be proud, to believe it was the best work anyone could do – but the Japs wouldn’t let us do it…I didn’t want to hate them. But after they bombed the hospital so many times…”

Hospital Number 1 was bombed by Japanese aircraft several times, killing and wounding many patients and staff.

Hospital Number 1 was bombed by Japanese aircraft several times, killing and wounding many patients and staff.

As the campaign continued and the health of all on the peninsula deteriorated from tropical diseases, including malaria, dysentery, beriberi, dengue fever, as well as malnutrition, the numbers of those admitted to the hospitals swelled.  Each hospital was built to accommodate 1,000 patients but by the end of March, was treating over 5,000 patients. These hospitals were staffed with 67 officers, 83 nurses, 250 enlisted men and 200 civilian employees. (Note:  The civilians were from refugee camps located nearby.)

 In April the number of admissions climbed, as the Japanese began their final offensive.  When Bataan surrendered on April 9, over 9,000 were on the roster at Hospital 2.

When the end of the campaign for Bataan came, the nurses were ordered to Corregidor.  But many of them did not want to leave the wounded behind, despite the uncertainty of what might happen to them as women captives of the Japanese.  Chief Nurse 1st Lt. Josephine M. “Josie” Nesbit, known as “Mother Joe” by her nurses, requested permission to remain on Bataan with her patients. Her request was denied.  Author Elizabeth Norman interviewed many of the nurses later and recalled:  “During my interviews, it was not their own fears or suffering that most haunted them, it was the memory of a certain evening on Bataan in April 1942 when they received word that the peninsula was about to fall to the enemy and they were ordered to leave their patients, just leave them there on bamboo beds in the middle of the jungle in the path of the advancing enemy, thousands of wounded and bleeding and feverish men, unarmed and utterly helpless….Fifty years later, I watched them weep inconsolably in the telling.”

But on one point related to the evacuation from Bataan Chief Nurse Nesbit was adamant: that she would not leave Bataan unless her Filipina nurses came out too. In this she won.

Nesbit’s after action report said that, all in all, there were 88 women in the evacuation convoy destined for Corregidor.  This included 53 Army nurses, 26 Filipina nurses, one American civilian nurse, one hospital dietitian (Ruby Motley), one physiotherapist, one Red Cross field director (Catherine L. Nau), and five civilian women (presumably including several military wives sent over from Corregidor earlier to help out).

The nurses “respite” on Corregidor did not last long and the conditions on the Rock deteriorated under extensive Japanese bombardment and assault.  Some were evacuated by submarine and seaplane before Corregidor fell, but most ended up as prisoners of Japan.  They endured difficult conditions until liberation in early 1945.

The service and sacrifice of these nurses are remembered in various ways.  A number of books were written, such as “We Band of Angels,” by Elizabeth Norman.  There are some motion pictures made during the war when they were captives, such asCry ‘Havoc’” (1943), “So Proudly We Hail” (1943), and “They Were Expendable” (1945).  And in the Philippines today where they served there are a couple of memorials.

At the memorial shrine atop Mt. Samat on Bataan is a bronze plaque memorial dedicated April 9, 1980, which 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.”

Memorial to the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor, at the Mt. Samat Shrine on Bataan.

Memorial to the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor, at the Mt. Samat Shrine on Bataan. (Source:  Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor posting at Legend Harry blog at:

Another memorial established at Limay remembers the Filipina Angels of Bataan. 







 There is also a memorial to All of the Angels of Bataan on Corregidor Island, though it does not list the names of the Filipina nurses.  Sadly, their names seem lost to history, at least on the internet.

Lower portion of the Nurses Memorial on Corregidor.

Lower portion of the Nurses Memorial on Corregidor. (Source:  Steve and Marcia on the Rock:  Corregidor Journal at:

So when mention is made of the brave Angels of Bataan, remember them well, and remember All of the Angels of Bataan when you do.