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Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurse Corps on Bataan and Corregidor

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Journal article

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When Second Lieutenant Minnie Breese, United States Army Nurse Corps, arrived in the Philippine Islands for a two-year tour of duty in 1940, she reported to an assignment much coveted by the 942 Army nurses then on active duty. The balmy green islands were a paradise for liberty, and the ratio of patients to medical personnel ensured a reasonable work schedule for the nurses assigned to the various Army medical installations on the islands. For the Army nurses there, it was a time when duty hours were short--often they worked half shifts because of light patient load--and liberty opportunities were unlimited. Many of the nurses took advantage of their abundant free time to develop their golf or tennis game. Night life might consist of dinner and drinks at the Army-Navy Club in Manila, followed by dancing and entertainment at the popular Manila Hotel. For those who enjoyed spectator sports, an evening of jai alai might be followed by a visit to La Paloma, where the taxi-dancers always drew large crowds. In such a carefree atmosphere, romances flourished. Minnie Breese met her future husband in Manila, where he was serving as an artilleryman. Second Lieutenant Lucy Wilson was dating Dan Jopling, a lieutenant in the 200th Coast Artillery, and just beginning to think seriously about resigning to marry him. Both weddings would occur, but not until a world war was fought. Life was good for the military nurses in the Philippines, and if they didnt have the status of or make the same money as their male contemporaries, well, that was the law. The military rank held by Army and Navy nurses was called relative rank. It was authorized for the ranks second lieutenant through major in the Army and ensign through lieutenant commander in the Navy. Roughly, it gave nurses authority in and around military hospitals directly beneath that of officers of the medical corps. Base pay was not the same for a male officer and a nurse of the same rank.

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  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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