When the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Lamon Bay on December 24, 1942, just a few days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 8th, General Douglas MacArthur launched War Plan Orange 3, which mandated that the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East troops retreat to Bataan. As the Allied troops continuously defended Bataan from the Japanese, the women of the army medical corps continue with their duties. They remained with the troops despite the looming threat of Japanese invasion and attended to the sick and wounded soldiers amidst the constant bombings and lack of supplies. These women, composed of both American and Filipino medical officers and nurses, came to be known as the Angels of Bataan and Corregidor.
On April 9, 1942, the Allied forces, under the leadership of Luzon Force commanding officer General Edward King, were forced to surrender to the Japanese forces. The troops, consisted of 63,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans, were forced to march from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, Tarlac. American and Filipino nurses were ordered to evacuate the area to avoid being caught by the Japanese.
Even when most of their colleagues have already left the medical service in Bataan following the surrender of the Allied forces, three women remained – Dr. Guedelia Pablan, a Lingayen native who graduated from the University of Santo Tomas; and Nurses Carmen Lanot and Bruna R. Calvan. They witnessed how Filipino and American troops passing through the town during the Bataan Death March suffered not only from the heat of the sun but also from the brutality of the Japanese guards.
Because the hospitals have been burned down by the Japanese, the three were forced to treat the sick and wounded in nipa huts on small parcels of ground situated within the fish ponds of Hermosa. Initially, the Board of Health in Manila rationed food and Nurse Lanot was given the perilous task of traversing Manila Bay using a banca in order to get their ration.
The three were not only treating the civilians of Bataan but was also administering care to the Filipino guerrillas and American soldiers in the mountains. In addition to food rations from the Japanese government, they were also consistently given quinine, a medication used to treat malaria. Malaria was widespread in the guerrilla camps in the mountains. They took it upon themselves to deliver quinine to the guerrilla camps and treat the wounded and sick. It was only when the Japanese grew suspicious that they had to delegate the task of delivering supplies to the guerrillas to others.
The three women continued to provide medical care and assistance to the people until the liberation of Hermosa, Bataan on January 27, 1945. On their heroic feats as medical practitioners during the war, Dr. Pablan said, “We have lied and we have cheated, perhaps, but we do not care. We have tried to care for our people in need.
Manning, Michele. “Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurse Corps on Bataan and Corregidor.” ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA (United States Defense Technical Information Center), 1992: 87-100. Accessed on 12 May 2020 from https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a528103.pdf.
Norman, Elizabeth M. We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan. New York: Random House, Inc., 1999.
Ritt, Carl. “Filipino Nurses on Bataan.” The American Journal of Nursing (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) 45, no. 5 (May 1945): 346-347. Accessed on 12 May 2020 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3417042.