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Nursing News: Hail to the Nurse Hero and POW

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, May 2nd, 2013

Mildred Dalton Manning, an Army nurse who was held captive for almost three years in the Philippines and who was the last known female military prisoner of war from World War II, died March 8, 2013 at the age of 98.

Mrs. Manning, then known as Millie Dalton of Georgia, joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1939 and landed in Manila in October 1941. Six weeks later Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and also bombed a U.S. air base near Manila. The Battle of the Philippines raged on for months and Mrs. Manning was one of about 100 military nurses who cared for wounded soldiers around the clock.

She worked for two months at a makeshift outdoor clinic at an underground hospital. She and the other nurses became known as the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor.

When U.S. forces were overrun in May 1942, Mrs. Manning was one of 77 military nurses among the 4000 people taken prisoner. The POW camp was built on the grounds of Manila’s Santo Tomas University and run by Japanese civilians. The prison camps had no showers, beds or kitchens and a single toilet shared by hundreds of people. The nurses persevered, maintaining strict military order among themselves, always wearing their uniforms and caring for the sick.

Early in 1944, the Japanese military took control of the camp, and conditions deteriorated. Dozens died of starvation. The nurses suffered many of the same ills that afflicted the other prisoners of war. They survived on two watery bowls of rice per day. She endured beriberi, dengue fever and malnutrition and, in the years after her imprisonment, lost all her teeth.

Though ailing and undernourished, the nurses continued to care for the sick and dying in the prison camp.

Finally, on Feb. 3, 1945, a U.S. tank battalion broke through the gates of Santo Tomas, as the rescued prisoners sang “God Bless America.” Mrs. Manning and the other nurses were awarded the Bronze Star Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation.

In 1943, two Hollywood movies were made about the heroic nurses of the Philippines, “Cry ‘Havoc’ ” and “So Proudly We Hail,” but the real-life Angels of Bataan and Corregidor were almost forgotten after they were captured.

In a 2004 interview with the Trenton Times, Mrs. Manning reflected on her sense of duty while living under horrific conditions. “I had a job to do,” she said. “I was a nurse.”

Let’s honor Millie Manning and all nurses who serve our beloved country.

I often share stories like Millie’s in my speaking and training. To learn strategies on nurse recruitment, nurse retention and how to motivate nurses and healthcare professionals, go to SelfCare for HealthCare. CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to talk about customizing this powerful program for your employees.

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