Sally and the other nurses weren’t on Corregidor Island long. On April 29th, two seaplanes arrived to evacuate the remaining nurses and some wives of men stationed in the Philippines. The aircraft were PBYs, or patrol bomber (with the Y being the code assigned to the manufacturer). These were US Navy medium to heavy twin amphibious aircraft used for maritime patrol, water bombing, and search and rescue. In the 1930’s, the Navy invested heavily in developing these long-range flying boats, which did not require runways, instead having the entire ocean to pick up speed to take flight.
An older colonel on the Rock told Sally it was Emperor Hirohito’s birthday, so it was a good day to make a break for it and evacuate the last of the nurses. The colonel said it was pretty certain that the Japanese would not be fighting that day, and sure enough, about noon all the enemy planes disappeared out of the sky. The women were anxious to get the evacuation over with, but the planes had to go through a safety check first. Each plane had a crew of seven, including the pilot and co-pilot, a navigator, a radio operator, a radar operator, and from one to four gunners. All equipment needed to be checked out. Add in a half dozen or more nurses in each plane, trying to get to safety, flying in 100 plus degree heat pouring in the glass windows, and this was not a luxury ride.
“There were twenty of us,” Sally later told friends. “We got on two different airplanes, PBY’s, and that was where I ran into Col. Wood again. He oversaw the women on our plane, and I felt I could trust him.”
The plane Sally left at midnight enroute to Mindanao, an island about 500 miles from Corregidor. The plane needed to take on fuel at several points to make the four-thousand-mile trip to Australia. They place landed at about 4:45 in the morning, and the nurses had a leisurely day to see the shops and outdoor markets in the small town near the dock. The owners of the hotel there told the nurses they could all come to the hotel and get some rest before taking off again at dark. Sally was excited to sleep in a real bed with real sheets, even if it was for a few hours!
“I realized it was the first time I had been out in the daylight without being under gun fire since we fled from Manila!” Sally exclaimed. Was that just four months ago? How could so many crazy things have happened in that short amount of time?
After that night, the PBY crew and the women assembled at the landing dock. They all got aboard, and the first plane took off in a huge spray of water. When they were a safe distance out, the plane Sally was on started to taxi across the water away from the dock, but there were large rocks in the water. The bottom of the plane made a horrible screeching sound as it bumped over some huge boulders. The fuselage now had a gaping hole in the bottom of it. Another nurse had a tennis racket. She got down on her knees and tried unsuccessfully to stem the flow of water. She quit trying when the water came up to her neck. The nurses all stood up in the plane, and the ankle-deep water in the cabin was rising fast. The pilot limped the plane back to the landing dock.
Immediately, everyone deplaned and scattered out across the little town. They agreed to travel with only one other nurse, lest they all be captured at once. Sally and another nurse went back to the hotel, where the owners had been so nice to them. But the owners were reluctant to shelter the women now. Finally, after much hand gesturing because of the language barrier between English and Tagalog, it was agreed the proprietors would put the nurses up for the remainder of that night, if they left early in the morning. But Sally was so frightened, she didn’t sleep at all, even in a real bed with real sheets.
Sally and the other nurse never saw anyone who was on that plane again. And they fully understood they might not be able to hide for long. There was now a target on their backs. The Japanese would surely find them.