When Americans woke up Sunday morning on December 7 1941, they were stunned to learn Japanese naval aircraft had attacked Pearl Harbor. What they would soon find out that was only the beginning. Pearl Harbor was just one part of the Japanese plan for the day. Within hours, Japanese naval and ground forces attacked and invaded Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Singapore, Honk Kong, Thailand and Burma.
Ten hours after the devastating surprise attack that crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Japanese planes launched the first in a deadly series of attacks on the Philippine Islands, bombing and strafing military airfields and bases in and around Manila. Caught in the air raids were ninety-nine army and navy women nurses. Immediately they rushed to their respective hospitals and began assisting with the endless flow of military and civilian casualties. It is almost certain that none ever dreamed they would be thrust into a deadly shooting war.
Unknown to them and others was two Japanese convoys were steaming toward Luzon with thousands of combat forces to defeat Philippine forces and their American counterparts.
Japanese forces landed first on the southern tip of Luzon on December 11, far away from Manila to become an immediate concern. Eleven days later on December 22, over 43,000 Japanese troops of General Homma’s 14th Army landed at Luzon’s Lingayen Gulf with artillery and 100 tanks, catching the already badly war-damaged Manila in a deadly crossfire.
By Christmas, with Japanese ground forces on the outskirts of Manila, American medical personnel were ordered to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. The Army nurses, together with Navy nurse, Ann A. Bernatitus, under the command of Capt. Maude Davison escaped within hours before Manila fell.
The navy nurses, under the command of Lt. Laura M. Cobb, stayed behind in Manila to support the patients there. She and her 11 navy nurses were soon captured and interned by the Japanese in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp on the campus of the University of Santo Tomas.
In Bataan, two field hospitals had been setup in the steamy jungle wetlands, complete with swamps, bugs, snakes, rats and mosquitoes feasting on patients and nurses, adding Malaria to an ever-growing list of problems. Within hours of arriving, casualties began pouring in. Early patients were placed in hospital beds but as more and more casualties arrived daily, others were stacked on triple-tiered bamboo bunks in overcrowded wards in open-air tents.
Soon the Japanese discovered the hospitals and started heavy aerial bombardments. Nurses dodged bombshell fragments while ministering to their patients. When explosions came close to the wards, some nurses would protect their patient from falling shrapnel by spreading their arms over them.
For four months the women worked their shifts in temperatures that reached 104 degrees. Every sort of Medicine including painkillers were running out. Rations were twice cut in half. Yet ridden with disease, starvation and in constant danger for their lives, these “Angels of Bataan” as they became known, worked from daybreak until dark giving aid to 5,000 wounded men and assisting surgeons perform operations.
With the constant bombing by Japanese planes and supplies running out completely, the nurses were ordered to retreat to Corregidor. They were also ordered to leave behind their patients. The women became angry and confused: Their job was to care for their patients, not abandon them. According to diaries and later interviews, they felt like traitors leaving behind “the boys” in their beds in the middle of a jungle wasteland. None ever got over the eyes of their patients as they left to board boats for transport to the tiny island of Corregidor. Each lived to regret it in her own way.
Two days later, on April 9, 1942, the weary, emaciated American soldiers on Bataan surrender to the Japanese. That same day, approximately 60,000-80,000 Filipino and American military prisoners of war began an 80 mile march to a POW prison at Camp O’Donnell where physical abused, denied food and water and wholesale murder were widespread it what became known as the Bataan Death March. Some 2,500-10,000 Filipino and 100-650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach their destination.
Conditions and treatment was so bad at Camp O’Donnell, around 20,000 Filipinos and 1,600 Americans died. It was liberated by the US Army and Philippine Commonwealth Army January 30, 1945. Some of the Japanese responsible for the atrocities on the march and in the prison were hanged for war crimes.
When the nurse arrived on the six square mile island of Corregidor,they were thrust into the dank underground maze of tunnels dug deep into the bowels of the island. They joined the medical staff already working in the underground hospital and wards in the cavernous Malinta Tunnel.
On April 29, a small group of Army nurses were evacuated, with other passengers, aboard a navy PBY Catalina. On May 3, the sole Navy nurse, Ann Bernatitus, a few more Army nurses, and a small group of civilians were evacuated aboard the submarine USS Spearfish (SS-190).
Three days later, on May 6, 1942, Corregidor surrendered.
At noon a bugler played “taps” as two American officers lowered the Stars and Stripes from the flagpole outside the entrance to Malinta Tunnel. In its place, a single white sheet of surrender was raised. A small piece of the flag was cut off by one officer as a memento and then set the rest of the Red, White and Blue on fire.
Underground the women ripped a large square of cloth from a rough muslin bed sheet and wrote at the top, “Members of the Army Nurse Corps and Civilian Women who were in Malinta Tunnel when Corregidor fell.” Underneath in three columns the 69 women signed their names.
On July 2, 1942, the nurses were transported to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. Capt. Davison, 57 years old and with 20 years of service experience, took command of the nurses and instructed her fellow nurse captives to put on their working uniforms and create an infirmary. The Angels of Bataan had arrived.
Over the course of two years the nurses ministered to captive soldiers and American civilian. To maintain morale, Davison created a structure within the ranks, requiring nurses to work at least four-hour shifts each day. She wisely understood that keeping her nurses busy caring for others would give them purpose and less time thinking about their own miseries.
In May 1943, the navy nurses, still under the command of Lt. Cobb, were transferred to a new internment camp at Los Banos, where they established an infirmary and continued working as a nursing unit and became known as “the sacred eleven.”
Photo was taken of the navy nurses shortly after they were liberated in February 1945.
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.
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 Davison’s body weight dropped from 156 lbs. to 80 lbs.
News of the captured military nurses spread throughout the U.S. While their status as POWs was known, details of their living conditions were sketchy. Using the plight of the nurses as a battle cry on the home front,federal authorities distributed posters urging American citizens to “Work! To set ’em free!”
Lt. Juanita Redmond, one of the few nurses to escape during the last few days before Corregidor surrendered, published a memoir of her experiences on Bataan in 1943 that concluded with a dramatic reminder that her colleagues were still prisoners. Her best-selling book, “I Served on Bataan,” was also the basis for the motion picture, “So Proudly We Hail.” In the theaters where the movie was shown, recruitment booths staffed with Red Cross volunteers were set up in the lobbies.
True to his promise that he would return to liberate the Filipino people, General Douglas MacArthur’s forces retook the Philippine Islands from the Japanese. The internees at Santo Tomas, including the nurses, were liberated on February 3, 1945, by a “flying column” of the 1st Cavalry. The navy nurses were subsequently liberated in the Raid at Los Banos.
While thousands of men had died during the course of the Philippines Campaign, all 77 nurses made it out alive. Through four years of deprivation, cruelty and constant death, they valiantly served to save others. None of the Army or Navy nurses are thought to survive today. Many died fairly young. Others had chronic gastrointestinal and dental problems, as well emotional and post-traumatic stress symptoms.
The men whose lives were touched by the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor erected a bronze plaque in their honor on April 9, 1980. It is at the Mount Samat shrine on the Bataan Peninsula. 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.
View the military history of Actor:
SM3 Tony Curtis
Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/213818
Short Bio: Born Bernard Schwartz, his father was a tailor who immigrated from Hungary; he was brought up in poverty in a tough Bronx neighborhood. He developed an interest in acting after visiting a neighborhood settlement house, and following service in the US Navy, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill and studied at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (New York City).
Read the service reflections of US Marine
Sgt Mary Glaudel DeZurik
U.S. Marine Corps
If you served, join your brothers and sisters at TogetherWeServed.com.
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MARINE CORPS?
I had thought about joining the Marine Corps when I was a junior in high school. Like many young adults of my generation I was influenced by President Kennedy to give something back to our country.
During the next year I knew that is what I wanted to do and the Marine Corps was the only service I considered. I believed it to be the best then as I do now. However, my Great Uncle, who had spent 20+ years in the Air Force, tried to talk me into joining the Air Force but my mind was set. There had been no Marines in my family so I was the first one. I have to admit that when my father first heard of my idea he was a bit reluctant and told my mother to “talk her out of it” but my mother said “no, let her go.” I think since I was the youngest of three girls my dad had a hard time seeing me go that far away with a 3 year commitment. He had been in the Signal Corps during WWII and worked under the Army as a civilian repairing electronic equipment. When I came home on my first leave he was very proud but I needed to remind him that he didn’t need to hold my hand crossing the street, after all, I was in uniform.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
I left for Parris Island, S.C. in Jan 1966 for three months of boot camp and one month of Administration school.
I was then sent to Wash. D.C. to work at MCI (Marine Corps Institute). I loved my job there and had the best CO ever possible (Capt. John J. Sheehan). I was the only Woman Marine to work in the section with three platoons of male Marines.
I have to admit that the first day I reported to work I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know what to expect being in this section with all these male Marines. My job was to receive all the incoming lessons and tests and distribute them to the different areas of the section for review and correction. I also did all the administrative work that needed to be done. It also included receiving calls from the Marine Barracks 8th and I Company office who needed to get in touch with any of the Marines at work. My phone never stopped ringing.
When these Marines weren’t busy doing administrative work with the lesson plans and tests, they were busy doing ceremonial duties at Arlington National Cemetery, 8th and I St. Barracks Summer Evening Parade and the Tuesday night ceremony at the Iwo Jima Memorial. I also volunteered to work at the Friday night parades where I would hand out programs to the spectators.
When a list of volunteers for overseas duty stations was posted in the Company office, I signed the list to volunteer to go to Vietnam. It was a hard decision to make as I did love my current job but I knew this opportunity would only happen once and Vietnam was a place I wanted to see for myself. I wanted to help in the war effort in whatever way I could. I volunteered not knowing exactly where I would be working or what my job would be. Another reason was that there were very few overseas duty stations open to Women Marines at that time and I wanted to see how others lived. To say the least it was quite the learning experience.
With the help of Capt. Sheehan I was picked to go and arrived there in August 1967. I was assigned to US MACV located in Tan Son Nhut in the Adjutant General’s Mail and Distribution Section. From there I spent 1 year in Vietnam working in the Adjutant General’s Mail and distribution Center at US MACV Headquarters in Tan Son Nhut where I made distribution on incoming classified documents throughout the MACV Headquarters.
The monthly average of mail was 500 pieces of incoming registered mail which contained approximately 1600 classified documents of which 600 were classified secret. Those documents required a separate inventory, control and tracking process. These figures were unknown to me and just recently when I ordered a copy of my SRB from the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, MO. I did see the recommendation for my Joint Service Commendation Medal. I don’t know who kept track of the incoming mail to arrive at these figures but it does explain why I had so little time off. I also maintained, for six weeks, a Piaster Exchange facility where I converted the MPC (military pay currency) into the Vietnamese piaster.
I was there for the 1968 Tet Offensive and for the first time I had to wear fatigues and combat boots. It took a little getting used to but after a while it was really comfortable.
I had wanted to extend my time there as it was getting near the end of my three year enlistment and had the paperwork authorized and signed when I received news from home that my father was very ill so I had to request the extension voided. This turned out to be the right thing to do as he passed away within 6 weeks of me arriving home.
I had to return to USMC Recruit Depot San Diego and finish off the remaining three months. My job was updating Service Record Books (SRB). At times it was difficult being the only Woman Marine on base with my Vietnam history as I was the first WM back from Vietnam and therefore the only WM on base wearing the Vietnamese Campaign and Service ribbons. It seemed that every time I walked through the front gates I was stopped and my military ID was thoroughly examined. I guess they were just curious. In the end I will always be happy and proud of my three years in the USMC.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I loved my job at MCI and all the Marines I worked with. I can honestly say that at no time did any of them say or do anything I would consider out of line or rude.
I did, however, receive a lot of teasing since I was assumed to be a bit naive, which I was, but tried not to admit it.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
The morning of the Tet Offensive I was living in the Plaza Hotel on Tran Hung Dao Street in Saigon. We knew something was up as we had walked to the lobby to catch our bus to take us to MACV but all the lights were out and there was no one on the street – not even a dog was in sight. We were told to return to our rooms and wait for information and instructions. We soon found out about the attacks going on in and around Saigon/Cholon and the rest of the country.
The only time my nerves were tested was that first night of Tet when we could hear small arms fire coming from a nearby roof top and once when something exploded that shook our room and sent me flying off the bed. Since we didn’t really have a plan of action we just had to sit tight.
My roommate, Pauline Wilson, another Woman Marine, and I, for days after kept busy by going to the 6th floor of the Plaza and helping make food for any troops coming in off the street. We turned it into a mini mess hall. Once we were able to get back to work our bus now had a military escort on board and our route to MACV varied every day. We were now in fatigues and combat boots everyday.
One of the memories that stand out was while I was in Vietnam. I was sitting by a window on the 6th floor of the hotel (after the Tet Offensive had started) and at night, watching the flares float down from the sky over the city of Saigon. In its own way it was beautiful to watch. Eerie as it cast such a glow.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
I appreciate the Joint Service Medal for my year in Vietnam since it reflected a year of hard work. But the one award I really am proud of is the Meritorious Mast I received from my tour in Washington DC. It was such a pleasure to work there that it hardly seemed like a job.
I would take leave over the holidays and couldn’t wait to go back. It was always great to go home and relax but I missed the constant activity. It wasn’t the same with my friends as they didn’t particularly care to hear about the military and couldn’t relate to what I was now doing and feeling. At that time the issue of being in Vietnam had not reached its peak yet so my friends had no feeling about it one way or the other.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
The most important person in the service for me was my CO, Capt. John J. Sheehan at MCI. He was my boss and mentor. Every day was a pleasure to come to work.
Work always came first or I would not have been able to stay in the section. He was always fair and impartial and I could count on him telling me what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear. When the volunteer list was posted in the Company office he was the one I told first and asked for his recommendation. I appreciated that he had the confidence in me to volunteer for this assignment. He rose to the rank of four-star general.
And then there was Sgt. Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Lynch Jr., my co-worker and best friend at MCI. He was the one I missed the most when I left. I could always count on him being cheerful and looking on the bright side. He rarely had a bad day.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
After the service I returned to Minnesota and got a job at a bank for a couple years until I met my husband, got married and raised four children. I was able to be a stay at home mom until they were all in school. I then started working for the State of Minnesota at the Pollution Control Agency in the Water Quality Division.
The MPCA is an environmental regulatory agency covering not only water but also air, ground water and hazardous waste. My division was concerned with lakes, rivers, streams and the potential threat from discharges from business and communities (farms). I was a Record Manager there so when information was needed, past or present, on permitted sites, I got the call. It was a good job and kept me very busy.
One important concern I bring from my years there is that our world is a gift, given only once, and we need to take care of it. Everyone can do something – many things can be reused or recycled. I retired in 2013 after 25 years.
I now spent my time doing some traveling with my husband; doing grandmotherly activities with my 9 grandchildren; working on my family history and reading whenever I get the chance.
I’ve also been involved with the Women Vietnam Veterans. They are in the process of writing a book about women who served in Vietnam who were not nurses. I was put in charge of tracking down 36 Women Marines and getting their information and a story as related to their service in Vietnam. This endeavor has been quite revealing to me since I was one of the first ones to go to Nam. If you didn’t work at MACV than the other office where other Woman Marines worked was the Marine Corps Personnel Office/NAVFORV. This office supported the Marines who were advisors to the Vietnamese Marines.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I am a member of the Women Marines Association. I’ve only joined recently so haven’t done very much. I do plan to turn over all the research I’ve done on the Women Marines Vietnam Veterans to their historian. I’ve collected much more information for the Women Vietnam Veterans book then they requested as their primary interest is only in the Vietnam experience. I would like our history to have a place and the WMA sounds right to me.
My husband and I are both members of our local VFW Post and partake in activities with them. We’re the only husband and wife team in the post.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
One of the best things I have brought from the service is that I know I can adjust to anything or any situation. If I find myself in a difficult situation then I know I just need to work at it to make it better. I know I can work on my own with a minimal of supervision.
It is so true that attitude is everything. If you work hard you don’t have to make a lot of noise to get noticed. And if you don’t get noticed you still have the self-satisfaction of knowing you did a good job. I take pride in having good work ethics and hope to influence by example and mentoring.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE MARINE CORPS?
I would suggest to take all the training you can that is available to you. I have no doubt that the responsibilities and training you receive will be beneficial in a civilian job. Employers will know that you’ve understand teamwork and how it is accomplished.
From my own experience I saw people with little confidence, improve 100 percent once they were given a task and with some instruction and mentoring, worked their way through it with a feeling of satisfaction.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
I’ve been with TWS for a few years now and have not yet connected with anyone I served with but I will keep looking. I enjoy reading the profiles and reflections.
I’ve joined one of the forums about Vietnam vets and they have all been very nice. It good to have “brothers” that I never had growing up.
When war raged through Europe in the summer of 1914, the American public wanted nothing to do with it. Not our war, they said. President Woodrow Wilson agreed. He pledged neutrality for the United States. But over the next few years, three incidents turned public option away from isolationism to one of wanting to take action against Germany and its allies.
First was when a German submarine torpedoed the British-owned passenger liner Lusitania without warning, killing 1,2,00 passengers including 128 Americans. Second, a German submarine sank an Italian liner without warning, killing 272 people, including 27 Americans.
The final straw was the Zimmermann Telegram, a 1917 coded diplomatic proposal from the German Empire for Mexico to join in a military alliance in the event the United States entered the war against Germany. The telegram’s main purpose was to make the Mexican government declare war on the U.S., which would have tied down U.S. forces and slowed the export of U.S. arms to England, France, Russia and their allies.
As part of the alliance, Germany claimed they would assist Mexico to reclaim Texas and the Southwest.
When the content of the message was decoded by British Intelligence and went public, Americans were outraged. President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for “a war to end all wars” that would “make the world safe for democracy.” Congress voted to declare war on April 6, 1917.
Mexico, far weaker than the U.S., ignored the proposal and after the U.S. entered the war, officially rejected it.
By the time the Great War ended on November 11, 1918, more than 2 million American servicemen had served on the battlefields of Western Europe. Of those, 53,402 were killed in action with another 63,114 deaths from disease and other causes. About 205,000 suffered wounds.
Those who returned home were treated like heroes. As some proudly marched all along Broadway, hundreds of thousands of spectators crowded the sidewalks and other looked down from skyscraper windows. They cheered and shouted and tossed confetti in a shower that became a blizzard of shredded paper falling on the motorcade and the marching troops below. Flags, marching bands, and music heralded the procession. When the parades ended and the fighting men and women were discharged, they returned home to farms, towns, and cities throughout America hoping to pick up life where they had left it. But the returning veterans found things had changed, including themselves. Those suffering from emotional and physical issues struggled to adjust. Those who lost the jobs they had before marching off to war, found it difficult to find other work in an economy that was weakening by the day.
Aware of their plight, some legislators attempted to get bills passed that would assist veterans in getting their lives back together but it never got off the ground. Eventually in 1924, six years after their service, Congress did pass a bill providing World War I veterans compensation for their service. But President Calvin Coolidge vetoed the bill, saying: “patriotism…bought and paid for is not patriotism.”
Congress overrode his veto a few days later, enacting the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924, commonly known as the Bonus Act, providing a bonus based on the number of days served. But there was a catch: most Veterans wouldn’t see a dime for 20 years.
As years passed and the American economy grew worse, continued efforts by veterans groups to get the bonuses paid out sooner went nowhere. And although there was some Congressional support for the immediate redemption of the military service certificates, President Hoover and Republican congressmen opposed such action; they reasoned that the government would have to increase taxes to cover the costs of the payout, and thus any potential recovery would be slowed.
As the Great Depression of 1929 worsened, hundreds of thousands war veterans found it difficult to make a living. Many joined the groups already pressuring the government to pay out the bonus immediately. It would help them get through the rough times, they pleaded. Their efforts fell on deaf ears. Neither President Herbert Hoover nor the Congress would budge.
With the deepening of the depression, veterans and their families began marching on Washington D.C. in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand cash-payment redemption of their service certificates.
Thousands of war veterans began difficult journeys across the country, traveling in empty railroad freight cars, in the backs of trucks, in cars, on foot and by any other means that became available. By mid-June it was estimated that as many as 20,000 veterans and some family members had arrived in Washington, and were camping out, often in dirty, unsanitary conditions, in parks around the city, depending on donations of food from a variety of governments, churches and private citizens. Most of the Bonus Army, as they became known, camped in a Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats, a swampy, muddy area across the Anacostia River from the federal core of Washington.
On June 16, 1932, the House passed the bonus bill to immediately give the vets their bonus money by a vote of 209-176, but on June 18, the Senate defeated the bill 62-18.
Many marchers remained at their campsites hoping President Hoover would act positively on their plea for assistance. That did not happen.
Rather, on July 28, 1932, Hoover had his Attorney General, William D. Mitchell, order police to remove the Bonus Army veterans from their camp. When Veterans rushed two policemen trapped on the second floor of a building, the cornered police drew their revolvers and shot two veterans, killing William Hushka and Eric Carlson. When told of the shootings, President Hoover then ordered the army to evict the Bonus Army from Washington.
In charge of breaking up the camp was Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Six battle tanks supporting the operation were commanded by Maj. George S. Patton, formed in Pennsylvania Avenue while thousands of civil service employees left work to line the street and watch.
The Bonus marchers believing the troops were marching in their honor, cheered the troops until Patton allegedly ordered the cavalry to charge them- an action which prompted the spectators to yell, “Shame! Shame!” Soldiers with fixed bayonets followed, hurling tear gas into the crowd.
Army troops stormed several buildings that the veterans were occupying as well as their main camp, setting tents on fire and forcing an evacuation. When it was over, in addition to the two veteran that had been killed by police, several babies died from tear gas, and scores of veterans and Washington police had been injured in various confrontations. Nearby hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties.
The incident marked one of the greatest periods of unrest our nation’s capital had ever know. General Douglas MacArthur and President Herbert Hoover suffered irreversible damage to their reputations after the affair.
Perhaps as atonement for their shabby treatment of the veterans and pressure from the public, Congress passed the Adjusted Compensation Payment Act of 1936, replacing the 1924 Act’s service certificates with bonds issued by the Treasury Department that could be cashed at any time.
Congress was given another chance of redemption near the end of World War II. Again, it failed its duties and came close to stopping a bill designed to provide returning veterans with money for education, unemployment and home loans. Those against the bill said it would encourage veterans not to seek work and that providing money for a college education was not necessary since college was for rich kids.
In spite of their opposition, the bill passed by a single vote (Rep. John Gibson of Georgia was rushed in to cast the tie-breaking vote) and even before the war had ended, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, otherwise known as the GI Bill of Rights, on June 22, 1944.
The G.I. Bill prevented a repetition of the Bonus March of 1932.
Unlike the Bonus Bill, the GI Bill offered Word War II vets a raft of benefits that reshaped postwar America for decades to come. It established hospitals, made low-interest mortgagesavailable and granted stipends covering tuition and expenses for veterans attending college or trade schools. From 1944 to 1949, nearly 9 million veterans received close to $4 billion from the bill’s unemployment compensation program, which was actually less than 20 percent of the money set aside for unemployment. Instead, most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education. Many also took advantage of home loans.
The education and training provisions existed until 1956, while the Veterans’ Administration offered insured loans until 1962.
Those more visionary elected officials representing that small majority that help squeak through the enactment of the GI Bill knew it had far greater implications. For them, it was seen as a genuine attempt to thwart a looming social and economic crisis. Some saw inaction as an invitation to another depression.
Recognizing the importance of the GI Bill years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966, which changed the nature of military service in America by extending benefits to veterans who served during times of war and peace.
One can only hope today’s Congress and those in the near and distant future understand the value and importance of keeping the GI Bill in full force and sufficiently funded. To do less would be to dishonor our veterans and the many sacrifices they made and continue to make.
View the military service of columnist:
S/Sgt Andy Rooney
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/309825
Short Bio: Rooney was drafted into the U.S. Army in August 1941. Rooney began his career in newspapers while in the Army when, in 1942, he began writing for Stars and Stripes in London during World War II.
In February 1943, flying with the Eighth Air Force, he was one of six correspondents who flew on the first American bombing raid over Germany. Later, he was one of the first American journalists to visit the Nazi concentration camps near the end of World War II, and one of the first to write about them.
During World War I, in the bitter winter of 1914, on the battlefields of Flanders, one of the most unusual events in all of human history took place. The Germans had been in a fierce battle with the British and French. Both sides were dug in, safe in muddy, man-made trenches six to eight feet deep that seemed to stretch forever.
All of a sudden, German troops began to put small Christmas trees, lit with candles, outside of their trenches. Then, they began to sing songs. Across the way, in the “no man’s land” between them, came songs from the British and French troops. Incredibly, many of the Germans, who had worked in England before the war, were able to speak good enough English to propose a “Christmas” truce.
A spontaneous truce resulted. Soldiers left their trenches, meeting in the middle in fortified trenches to shake hands. The first order of business was to bury the dead who had been previously unreachable because of the conflict. Then, they exchanged gifts. Chocolate cake, cognac, postcards, newspapers, tobacco. In a few places, along the trenches, soldiers exchanged rifles for soccer balls and began to play soccer in the snow.
According to Stanley Weintraub, who wrote about this event in his book, “Silent Night”, “Signboards arose up and down the trenches in a variety of shapes. They were usually in English, or – from the Germans – in fractured English. Rightly, the Germans assumed that the other side could not read traditional gothic lettering, and that few English understood spoken German. ‘YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT’ was the most frequently employed German message. Some British units improvised ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ banners and waited for a response. More placards on both sides popped up.”
Rare photo shows German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment and British soldiers of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment meeting in “no man’s land” on December 26, 1914.
It truce didn’t last forever. In fact, some of the generals didn’t like it at all and commanded their troops to resume shooting at each other. After all, they were in a war. Soldiers eventually did resume shooting at each other. But for a few precious moments there was peace on earth good will toward men. There’s something about Christmas that changes people. It happened over 2000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem. It’s been happening over and over again down through the years of time.
Although the Christmas Truce of 1914 may seem like a distant myth to those now at arms in parts of the world where vast cultural differences between combatants make such an occurrence impossible, it remains a symbol of hope to those who believe that a recognition of our common humanity may someday reverse the maxim that “Peace is harder to make than war.”
From The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches”
A cross, left in Saint-Yves (Saint-Yvon – Ploegsteert; Comines-Warneton in Belgium) in 1999, to commemorate the site of the Christmas Truce. The text reads: “1914 – The Khaki Chum’s Christmas Truce – 1999 – 85 Years “Lest We Forget”
German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment and British soldiers of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment meet in no man’s land, December 26th.
View the military service of Sportcaster:
Sgt Ernie Harwell
US Marine Corps
Short Bio: Legendary Detroit Tigers Announcer, Harwell served in the Marine Corps during World War II, including as a writer for Leatherneck magazine, and was on Wake Island in 1945 as a war correspondent.
Read the service reflections of US Airman:
CMSgt William Hamilton
U.S. Air Force
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
I was born in the Air Force. My father was stationed in Waco, Texas when I was born in an Air Force hospital. I grew up moving every year to a new assignment with my father, mom and sister. I loved living near the airplanes and the annual airshows was one of the best days of the year. By the time I started high school other things had peaked my interest, mainly sports and girls and not necessarily in that order. This was the late 60’s and Vietnam was in the headlines every night. My older classmates were joining up or getting drafted and it was a noble and honorable thing. By my graduation year in 1970, the war had turned ugly and the media and public were protesting it nightly. My father had retired from the Air Force and we lived miles from any air bases. I had a fairly high draft number and sat out my “draftable” year in college without any concerns about military service. Within a couple of years, I got married, got a job and started my adulthood. By 1975 I really started thinking about the military again. I’d watch aircraft contrails fly high overhead and wonder where they were headed. I started reading aviation books and magazines again. I went to the Air Force recruiters and took the AFQT to see what I was qualified to do. I did well but recruiters have a job and that is to put people in career fields that have shortages. I held out for a while as I learned more about jobs which would allow me to fly initially.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I wanted to fly. As an enlisted person, my options were limited. Aircraft loadmaster was one of the few jobs that allowed me to fly so that’s what I signed up for. I became a C-141A loadmaster and enjoyed it greatly. After about 8 years and 5000 flying hours I became a MAC ALCE loadmaster for about 10 years and got a much better view of the big picture through the Wing, numbered AF and HQ deployments. I then became an Air Reserve Technician and returned to the flying squadrons as a Scheduler/Training NCO and Flight Examiner. I later became the squadron loadmaster supervisor and then squadron superintendent before moving to the group retiring as a group enlisted superintendent for six squadrons.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
In 1979 and early 1980 I flew several support missions which were part of the Iranian Rescue mission attempt. It was all very secretive and since it was not successfully executed, not much ever came out publicly. I flew several support missions into Grenada after the invasion in 1983. One of them was dragging back several Army helicopters shot up in the operation. Also flew several missions into Panama after the successful invasion there in 1989. In August of 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, I deployed as an ALCE Loadmaster for nearly three months. We got the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) from Fort Stewart, GA shipped out of town and over to the desert. I then deployed forward for nearly nine months as the ALCE Superintendent in the 1610 Airlift Division in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. By 1993 I returned to flying full time as a C-141 loadmaster and flew combat support missions into Bosnia in the mid-90’s. I flew into the Kosovo Theater in 1999 during NATO operations following my transition to a new C-17 squadron. Following the 9/11 Terrorist’s attacks, I flew many missions supporting combat operations into Afghanistan and later Iraq when we went into there in 2003. All my wartime service was significant to me.
WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
Being assigned to the 1610th Airlift Division during the first Gulf War in 1990-91. I really had a great sense of accomplishment with what we had done when it was all over.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
Going to Saudi Arabia in 1990 was probably the most rewarding assignment of my career. Throughout the late 70’s and 80’s we built up our military and trained as though WWIII with the Russians could start at any moment. By 1990 we were be best trained and equipped military the world has ever seen. All that training paid off and we continued to train in that desert environment until we picked the time and place we wanted to start the operation. I worked over 120 days in a row at one point with no time off. We worked 12-hour shifts but with travel time it became 14 to16 hour days. When I returned home in June of 1991, I was very proud of what we had accomplished and that all my training had finally been utilized.
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
I received a Bronze Star for my service during Operation DESERT STORM in 1991. I was awarded the Aerial Achievement Medal for flying combat missions during the NATO Operation in Kosovo in 1999. During Operation’s ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM I received several Air Medals. Like everybody else, I was just doing my job.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Bronze Star Medal in 1991 for Operation DESERT STORM since it was my highest. I deployed to Saudi, Kuwait, and Iraq and saw much of the carnage the Iraqis had inflected on Kuwait as well as the aftermath of our bombing operations on the Iraqi’s. The medal was totally unexpected but helped open many opportunities for me later in my career. However the Air Medal was the one I always coveted as a flyer. I didn’t get those till late in my career but the wait was worth it.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
No doubt that would have to be my first boss SMSgt Art Dodgins. He was a rough gruff WWII vet who I thought was a hundred years old at the time. He smoke unfiltered Pell Mell Red cigarettes and drank Scotch with just a splash of water. He mentored me without me having a clue what he was doing. He watched after me early in my career and told me when it was time for me to be an instructor and flight examiner and later leaving the unit and becoming an ALCE Loadmaster. It wasn’t until I became a SNCO that I realized what he was doing and I’ve tried to lead other young airman down that path. He knew what it took to get promoted and he made sure I was ready when the time came.
Former SOG soldier, John Walton, could have traveled the globe on luxury jets. Instead, the Wal-Mart fortune heir loved to take to the skies in an experimental plane built from a kit. On June 27, 2005, while a Cessna business jet he used sat on a runway at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming Airport, he took off in the plane, powered by a gas engine similar to those in snowmobiles. A third of a mile from the runway, the craft went into a steep dive and crashed in Grand Teton National Park, killing the 58-year-old educator and outdoorsman.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation indicated that the crash was caused by the incorrect installation of a piece of airplane equipment. At the time of his death, Forbes magazine had ranked John Walton as the 11th-richest person in the world, tied with his brother Jim. The brothers then each had an estimated net worth of $18.2 billion.
Walton was the son of Sam Walton, who founded the Wal-Mart discount store chain that became one of the world’s biggest companies. Unlike his father, Walton didn’t pursue a business career. He attended the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, dropping out after two years. He then joined the Army and served in Vietnam. But his duties were far from ‘regular.’ He was a Special Forces soldier in a unit code-named the Studies and Observations Group, or SOG (cover for “special operations group”), a secret, elite military unit that often operated in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam in what had been called America’s “Secret War.” Walton joined the unit in 1968, right after the Tet offensive.
He became a member of a SOG “Hatchet Force” which consisted of small cross border teams generally made up with two or three Americans and up to five Indigenous troops; sometimes South Vietnamese, sometimes Montagnards and sometimes Chinese Brue, but always very capable, loyal and fierce warriors who knew how to operate in the jungles with stealth and outstanding bravery. On almost every mission there was a firefight. A particularly horrifying battle occurred in the A Shau Valley in Laos while he was assigned to ST (strike team) Louisiana. The team mission was to find a fellow Green Beret who had been separated from his team when it was forced to evacuate after running into a large enemy force. John was the commando team’s No. 2 as well as its medic.
In the low light of early morning, ST Louisiana was dropped from Sikorsky H-34 helicopters onto a ridge near the DMZ and was attacked by North Vietnamese army soldiers. In a memoir titled Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam, fellow Green Beret John Stryker Meyer gives an account of that day: “Four of the NVA’s rounds struck the tail gunner, wounding him severely. As Walton swung his CAR-15 [a submachine gun version of the M-16] toward the enemy soldier … [his] rounds hit the NVA soldier and drove him back in the jungle.”
The account goes on to say that Walton’s commanding officer, Wilbur “Pete” Boggs, called in a napalm strike that landed yards away from John. Soon the six-man team was surrounded. One was dead and three were wounded. John tended to casualties, including Boggs, who was knocked semiconscious by shrapnel, and Tom Cunningham, who was badly hurt with a knee that was blown out and started hemorrhaging very, very severely. Walton applied a tourniquet to his leg to stop the severe hemorrhaging. With Boggs down, Walton was now in charge. He picked up the radio and called in two choppers for extraction. As the first Sikorsky H-34 (King Bee) dropped in and lifted off with some of the men, the NVA intensified its assault. A second chopper was needed to get all the men out, but the landing zone was too hot to make it in. Walton and his team thought they were doomed, but suddenly the first chopper came back down, even though their added weight might make it too heavy to take off again. With the enemy advancing into the clearing, firing at the helicopter, and Walton trying to keep Cunningham alive, the King Bee took off and barely made it over the treetops.
Cunningham and Boggs survived, though Cunningham lost his leg. That night while John was playing poker, someone pointed out that he had a flesh wound across his right wrist. A round fired by the NVA soldier John had killed had creased his skin. Later John was awarded the Silver Star.
To many who called him a friend, he was a Renaissance man who didn’t really care about the trappings of inherited power. When he returned from Vietnam he worked as a crop duster and a ship builder. He was known for choosing jeans and a T-shirt over a suit and tie. He preferred a beat-up truck over a shiny new car. Among his hobbies was flying, skiing, scuba diving, mountain biking and hiking and fulfilling his obligation on the Wal-Mart board. Aside from his passion for spending time with his family and playing various sports, he spent his adult life promoting education reform and throwing his considerable financial support behind efforts to educate low-income children.