BUILDING UP TO SOMETHING

The summer of 1941 went by in a flash. The dresses the nurses bought in Manila were put to good use as each of them accepted invitation after invitation to accompany handsome young service men to night clubs and concerts in Manila. There was dancing on outdoor terraces amid fragrant blossoms beneath moonlit skies. There were bottomless cocktails with exotic titles served up in sparkling fancy glasses or hollowed-out pineapple and coconut shells. The local cuisine included ocean fish and sea food caught the same day they were prepared, and over-the-top desserts like flaming Bananas Foster and Coconut Mango Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce. The entertainment in Manilla riveled anything offered in any other well-known metropolis in the world. In fact, Manilla was dubbed the Havana of the Pacific The decadence was enough to make a young woman’s head spin. Enjoying that decadence with a handsome man in an all-white dress uniform took the experience to a whole new level.

Bedside Manner

The climate in the Philippines is tropical and maritime, with warm temperatures and high humidity, coupled with abundant rainfall. In Luzon, the area where Clark Field sat, it was not uncommon to have 150 inches of rain a year. This dampened many evenings of dancing under the stars, but there were plenty of indoor opportunities to enjoy. Gambling, legal and illegal, has been available in the Philippine archipelago since the sixteen hundreds, and the US military personnel spent many hours supporting the gambling establishments. Manila also offered a full array of indoor cultural events, including concerts, operas, and plays. Entertainment was available in Manila rain or shine.

It wasn’t long until the nurses began to talk among themselves about Christmas and all the opportunities to wear new and different dresses to the festivities planned in Manila and right on the Army base. The officers club would of course have its own gala, and every club and venue in Manila was poised to offer the best and most memorable holiday experience. Movie theaters were showing “Ball of Fire” with Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper, and “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” starring Jimmy Stewart.

***

Back at Clark Field and Stotsenburg Hospital, Sally noticed a difference in the men who were coming to serve there. For one thing, they were greater in number, and for another, they didn’t seem to have their dress white uniforms with them. Was it possible they were coming in as part of a troop build-up, and not to escort pretty nurses to fancy balls and renowned concert and plays? The news told of increasing allied military presence in other places in the world, like the United Kingdom, North Africa, and the South Pacific (on the doorstep of the Philippines). One would have to be blind not to see the “rumors of wars” in other parts of the world. But nothing had been said and no training held about what to do if war came knocking at the doorstep of the Americans in the Philippines.

One night at dinnertime in the hospital staff dining room, Sally and some other nurses were invited to sit at the table with the chief nurse and other higher-ranking officers. Sally leaned over and quietly asked the chief nurse, “Don’t you think it would be a good idea for us to get some heavy clothing organized and ready to wear in case we had to move into Manilla and had to bivouac on the way down?” The chief nurse was from Canada and Sally knew the Canadians displayed a lot of pomp and circumstance.

Her superior officer looked Sally square in the face and said, “I shall do no such thing…unless and until we receive orders from headquarters!” And with that, all talk about the potential for war was immediately stopped.

Little did the young nurses know that the “orders” would definitely come, sooner rather than later, “from headquarters.” The “orders” would come from the Japanese “headquarters.”

The Abyss whispered louder…

THE IMPORTANCE OF A NICKNAME

One of Ethel’s first mornings at Stotsenburg, she went to a patient’s bedside to take his vital signs, and in return she was given a very nice compliment and a new nickname.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” the young soldier in the first bed said to her when he saw her nametag. “I was hoping they’d give me a nice nurse when I came in to have my hernia repaired, but I never expected to see a Hollywood starlet in a starched white uniform and a nurse’s cap!”

“Whatever do you mean?” asked Ethel in her southern drawl. “I’m not from Hollywood. I’m from Bible Grove, Missour-a!” (Most people from the Show Me State pronounce “Missouri” as if it has an “a” on the end.)

“But your name tag says ‘Miss Blaine,’ and I’d swear on a stack of your Missour-a Bibles that you look just like the starlet Sally Blane. You was in a bunch a’ movies…lemmy think…Silver Streak was one movie—remember that? An’ City Limits an’ a Charlie Chan movie, but I can’t remember which one! Don’t try and fool me, Sally! Your secret’s safe with me.” He winked at her, then he turned to the other men on the ward and shouted, “Hey, everybody! We’ve got us a celebrity right here in this hospital! Hollywood starlet Sally Blane is our nurse today. Say hello to her, and don’t tell her I told you!”

Then he grinned at Ethel and laughed as all the boys began chanting, “Sal-LY, Sal-LY, Sa-LY!”

By now Ethel…er, Sally was turning several shades of red, but she continued checking on her patients, tending to them one by one. And each one of the patients either whistled at her or tried to hug her or kiss her and even the sicker ones got in on the fun. One soldier in the very last bed she checked on sealed her fate.

“Well, Miss Blaine,” he said, “different spelling or not, I think you just got yourself a new nickname!”

***

By the time Sally got back to the nurses’ station that day, the women all wanted to know what was going on in Ward 3 where she had just come from.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Sally said. “One patient kept insisting that I look like the movie star, Sally Blane. I told him her last name isn’t even spelled the same as mine. But he wouldn’t give up, and pretty soon, all the patients were calling me ‘Sally,’ and they said they believed I was her. They all said they thought I was stuck with the nickname!” Sally was almost in tears.

“Well, I think you do look a lot like Sally Blane, whether you are related or not. And I like the nickname. I think we should all start calling you Sally!”

Within a week or two, Ethel wasn’t called Ethel anymore. The nurses and the staff, as well as all the patients began to call her Sally, and the name grew on Ethel. “Yeah,” she thought. “I do like the name ‘Sally’ better than ‘Ethel!’ Besides, if they think I look like the Hollywood star named Sally, I think I’ll keep it.”

LIGHT DUTY, ENCHANTING NIGHTLIFE

When the bus pulled into the main gates of Clark Field, the nurses began to get an idea what a large complex they were being assigned to. Their Filipino driver, Angelo, told them that the base was originally called Fort Stotsenburg, named after a US Captain, who was killed in combat in the Philippines in 1899. Angelo called out each area they passed by.

“There are three parade grounds,” Angelo told the nurses, “all on the west end of the base. The telephone exchange building over to our right serves as both a post office and for housing the operators for telephone connections. The railway station, over on the left, is a very important place to know, because that’s how you gonna get to Manila for the nightlife!” Angelo laughed heartily. “Oh, you don’t want to miss out on the night life! It is like something you never see before! Trust me, ladies, I tell you the God’s truth.”

The bus wound throughout the base so the nurses could see important buildings like the base exchange, where they could buy anything from socks to underwear to shampoo to small appliances, and the commissary where groceries, paper goods, and alcoholic beverages could be purchased. Finally, Stotsenburg Station Hospital came into view, and next door was the dormitory where the nurses would live while stationed there. Angelo pulled the bus up close to the front door of the barracks, and several men in US fatigues miraculously appeared to help unload the luggage.

Angelo opened the bus door, produced a dusty and tattered carpet that used to be some shade of red, and with a flourish, he stepped down out of the bus and laid the “red carpet” on the ground for the girls to walk on.

“Only the best for our American nurses,” he said, “for you to walk into your new home getting the ‘Red Carpet Treatment!”

He offered a hand to each of the ladies, and when they had all stepped out of the bus, he gave each one a map of Clark Field, the Hospital, and the surrounding area.

“Where did you find all these nice men to help us with our bags?” cooed one pretty nurse.

“Oh, these are the guy in mechanics where I work part of the time,” Angelo replied.

“You must stay pretty busy working in two different places!” said another nurse.

“Yes, I work one-terd time in Transportation,” Angelo said, holding up one finger, “and one-terd time in mechanics.” He held up another finger. “And one-terd time in Hospital where you nurses will see me bring the very best medical equipment and supplies.” He held up another finger. “And one-terd time in the Base Exchange.” He now had four fingers in the air.

“Wait a minute,” one of the nurses said, “four thirds doesn’t make sense! You can’t work that many places!”

Angelo let out a belly laugh. “I just wanted to see if you were paying attention!” All the nurses and the guys unloading the luggage laughed at that.

“Hey, Angelo,” shouted one of the men, “you don’t do nothin’ at all when you’re in the mechanics department, so you can’t count that one!”

Angelo feigned a heart attack and said, “How can you say that when you know I work twice as hard as you do, Freddy!”

The nurses followed Angelo and the other men carrying all the luggage through the front door and everyone stopped dead in their tracks. Standing inside the doorway was the head nurse and she did not look happy.

***

“Girls,” she said, “this isn’t a cotillion ball. It’s a military installation, and I expect you to regard these quarters with the respect they are due.” She pointed up the stairs behind her. “My assistant is at the top of the stairs with your respective room assignments. Your gentlemen escorts will kindly deposit your bags here in the lobby and they will promptly take their leave. You girls may return for your bags as soon as you receive your room assignments. Supper is at 6:00 p.m. sharp in the dining room behind me, and you are expected to wear your dress whites in the evening. Fort Stotsenburg has been here for four decades, and it has long been a tradition in the Philippines to wear formal attire after 6:00 p.m. We are not about to change it now. There will be a brief orientation following the evening meal, after which you may spend the evening in your rooms unpacking and resting up. More orientation will follow tomorrow morning, including a tour of the two-hundred and seventeen bed Stotsenburg Station Hospital across the parking lot.”

With that, the head nurse saluted the girls who saluted back. Then, she turned on her heel and marched down the hall to her office.

The nurses scurried up the steps, with a few offering a wave and mouthing “thank you” to Angelo and the startled baggage bearers.

PEACEFUL PARADISE

The Army bus that pulled up alongside the troop ship in Port Manila was painted a dull shade of olive green, the signature color of all Army vehicles. A destination tag on the front of the bus said: Statsenburg Hospital, which was located forty miles northwest of Manila. While the nurses assigned to Statsenburg said their goodbyes to others assigned to different hospitals, several men transferred the women’s baggage from the ship to the bus. The men moving the bags seemed to be under the direction of a young Filipino man in army fatigues with Filipino military patches on the chest and the sleeves. Soon, the buses were all loaded, and the nurses could see the amount of activity of the busy port as they waited to get underway. The Filipino bus driver finally closed the bus door and lifted a microphone out of its holder with one hand as he started the engine with the other. The gears ground and they were on their way.

“Helloooooooo, ladeezzz!” he cried into a crackling speaker system. “My name is Angelo,

pronounced with the ‘hard G,’ like ‘angle-O,’ no ‘an-jello; I am not jiggly dessert. My name means ‘message from God.’ The night I was born, my mother, she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary through the window of our home, this is true family story, and she gave me a special name.” He tapped his chest for emphasis. “I am Catholic and I practice Christ. Welcome to our peaceful island paradise where our God looks with favor on us each day!” He kissed a crucifix hanging on a chain around his neck. “I am grateful to my God for everything I have, and I try help other people move with Christ.

“And now, on behalf of the Filipino people, I wish to welcome you and offer you some excellent observances as we drive to Clark Field, Statsenburg Hospital, and the modern barracks you will be living in.”

The bus went through the main gate of the Port Manila grounds and soon the views from the windows were much more enticing than the shipyard.

“What’s that beautiful purple flower climbing up that iron fence over there?” one of the nurses asked.

“That,” said Anglo, “is bougainvillea, a beautiful native plant that thrives here year-round. But, ladeezzz, you have seen nothing yet! I will take you on…how you say?..whirling winds tour of our wonderful island of Luzon and the city of Manila. I will show you the excellent happiness of Ayala Triangle Gardens, Mehan Gardens, Dolomite Beach, and many top-rate buildings for your looking pleasure, such as Coconut Palace, Roman Santos Building…”

Angelo was a great guide and soon the nurses were listening to his patter and relaxing in their seats. Some even dozed off; the trip to Manila on the troop ship was long and often boring, and the city sights were a welcome change from the wide-open ocean.

Suddenly a building a block from their route caught Ethel’s eye. She shuddered at the sight of it, though she obviously knew nothing about it.

“What is that walled compound over there?” she asked, pointing out her bus window.

“That,” said Angelo, with a flourish, “is the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, built in 1611 when our country was a territory of Spain. We call it the Catholic University of the Philippines. It was originally supposed to train young men for the priesthood. But now it is a university with several thousand enrolled and many types of teaching. It is the oldest Pontifical college in Asia and has offered the courses all the time except in 1898 and 1899 during the Philippine Revolution against Spain. The walls completely surround the forty-acre campus and it has a center garden for prayer and meditation…”

“It looks creepy,” Ethel said, shuddering again. She looked back at the receding University campus, which seemed as if it was rising out of its foundation and…groaning.

Ethel did not know that the abyss, even now, was beginning to overtake the sacred community of higher learning, and the enemy was coming to invade the compound. And Ethel never suspected that the evil the abyss held would someday capture her and her fellow nurses as they risked their very lives to care for their charges.

The abyss hissed, but the nurses’ bus was hurtling along toward their new lives as Army nurses in paradise. They didn’t hear a thing except the chatter of the bus driver, Angelo.

THE EMPEROR HAS NO SOUL

The abyss hissed. The emperor ignored it. For now.

Michinomiya Hirohito remembered the day his father died at age forty-nine, in 1926. Hirohito was barely a man, only twenty-five years old. His father, Emperor Taisho, had not been well most of his life. When he was three weeks old, he suffered an attack of spinal meningitis, which affected his ability to walk, and his mental capacity. His speech was affected, as well as his ability to think critically and make good decisions. He became reclusive and acted oddly for a member of the Japanese dynasty. These limitations plagued Taisho all his life, requiring much supervision and grooming from the royal court to render him suitable for his role as emperor. The grooming was not successful. Finally, he went into full retirement in 1919.

At the age of eighteen, Hirohito was made Prince Regent, not fully a head of state, but able to lead the government because his father could not. Conflict, always conflict! When his father left this world, Hirohito became emperor, whether he liked it or not. He had been the first Japanese crown prince to study abroad, pursuing his interest in marine biology—not exactly a skill he could use in leading an Indo-Chinese nation. Hirohito had seen Western culture, and his return to the rigors of Japanese royalty was difficult.

Now here Hirohito was, no longer the reluctant heir to the throne, but supposedly solidly in the role of emperor for life. He wondered, from time to time, if he had somehow inherited his father’s difficulties, like the inability to lead a nation sensibly or to fend off the emotional tole the role would take on him. He was not of a military mindset, but he was required to watch the reviews of all the men in uniform, marching in goosestep, heads turned toward the young man who was now their leader. Hirohito had dark moments when he felt unworthy of his post, surreptitiously thrust upon him. There was no escaping his place now, and he wished his father had been more of a mentor to him. But the prince knew his father was not going to have any deep connections to him or his three brothers. Hirohito feared his own dark side and didn’t understand his deep feelings.

The abyss hissed again. That unseen, unexpected cavern of pure evil that taunted young Hirohito until he feared he might tumble right down into the void. He could collide with his darker self someday, like the icebergs he had heard about in faraway waters, where colossal frozen chunks showed just their tips, but underneath the water line, a deadly mass was lurking.

Hirohito did not know, when his father died and he became emperor, that fifteen years later, he would try unsuccessfully to be marginally involved with his military leaders. But they would persuade him that diplomacy was not the way mighty Japanese emperors were to approach things. Japan was to become part of the Axis, they told him: Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito. Eventually he would approve his nation’s plans for December 7, 1941, when just before eight o’clock in the morning, 350 Japanese planes supported by submarines, battleships, and destroyers, would attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A total of 2,403 people would die in that attack, in which Japan would destroy nineteen American ships. That would include the USS Arizona, which would lie quietly at the bottom of the harbor, cradling 900 souls for eternity.

And Hirohito would also approve the “Other Pearl Harbor,” just hours later when the Japanese forces would bomb Clark Air Base on Luzon Island in the Philippines, forty miles north of the capitol of Manila. Clark would be one of many targets that day. There, a young nurse in the barracks would stoop to tie her shoe, suddenly feeling the percussion of the bombs. She would look out the window and see the flash of light, and then she would hear the great booming and strafing of the motionless American aircraft as each in turn was obliterated. The young nurse and the emperor were both to be remembered after that terrible day, for very different things.

Now, Hirohito wished the darkness would depart from him. He turned away from the abyss and tried to tell himself it wasn’t there at all.

But he could still hear it hissing as he walked away. “Axis!” it whispered. “Axis!”

GETTING REAL NOW!

In November of 1940 when twenty-five-year-old

Ethel reported for her first duty as an Army Nurse at Letterman Hospital near San Francisco, most of the soldiers seen were going to or from active duty around the globe. Ethel noticed a sign-up sheet asking for nurses interested in going to the Philippines. A pencil on a string could be used to leave a name.

“I put my name on that list three times,” she told a fellow nurse. “And each time, the list goes down and they don’t get ahold of me.”

The next time a new sign-up sheet was posted, Ethel used a pen on the signup sheet, hoping she’d get noticed. Within a couple of days, Ethel was called into her supervisor’s office.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like in the Philippines?” Ms. Near asked. Ms. Near had been to the Philippines more than once herself.

“Well, no, I don’t really know,” she answered quietly.

“Honey, you’re going to have to work very hard if you go there.”

Ethel’s answer was swift. “Well,” she said, “has anyone ever told you that I’m lazy?”

“Oh, no,” Ms. Near replied. “But I just want to assure you it’s not going to be easy if you go over there.”

Bunks on Troop Ships

***

The morning fog was lifting across the San Francisco Bay as the troop ship left the marina and headed west towards the open Pacific Ocean. Ethel stood outdoors at the railing on the port side, not able to identify her mood, or moods. She was simultaneously feeling excited, scared, teary-eyed, slightly panicked, and a little bit crazy. It seemed like only yesterday she had graduated from her nursing program, and although she had confidence in her clinical training and experience, she still had a bit of that farm girl in her. She thought of her mother now, how hard her mother cried when her sisters helped her load her baggage onto the train in Missouri. How far from home California had seemed, and now…now she was taking a seventeen-day voyage to Manila, nearly seven thousand miles from San Francisco. Remembering Ms. Near’s inquisition of her— “You are going to have to work very hard if you go over there”— Ethel thought, Can it be harder than farm work? What if I can’t hold up?

The Presidio’s fortress stood sentinel, as it had since 1776, as if saluting the young Army nurse as she passed. The Golden Gate Bridge, built just eleven years before, shone in the morning sun like a steel rainbow in a sky of misty blue. The fog was almost gone by the time the ship passed under the bridge. A crew member used the massive horns to play a short tune, just showing off for the tourists driving over the bridge. And soon, the bridge, the Presidio, the Bay, and California were just a distant recollection.

Ethel soon met other nurses who were heading for Manila. She wondered if any of them had been grilled by Ms. Near, and if so, why they thought they were suited for the tough job ahead.

The troop ship stopped in Honolulu, and the nurses had a chance to try out their land legs again. People told them that the Philippines looked much like Hawaii: a group of islands with white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, abundant flowers, and lush, green forests. It was hard to get back on the ship after their brief stay in Honolulu, but they had more of an idea how beautiful the Philippine Islands would be.

And they would not be disappointed…

NEXT WEEK: LIFE IN PARADISE

RABBITT HOLE: THE HISTORY OF US MILITARY NURSES

I have “gone down a rabbit hole” today. What this means is that I started out sincerely doing research for Aunt Sally’s book, but I got lost reading about things I don’t intend to use, but they are interesting, nonetheless. Today’s “rabbit hole” is about the history of the military nursing staff in the United States. So here goes…

The thirteen original colonies which became the United States of America organized the Continental Army to fight the Revolutionary War of 1776. “Nurses” were needed to care for the sick and wounded soldiers. They were mothers, wives, and sisters of the troops. Their medical training was scant, and some were more acquainted with assisting their neighbors in labor and delivery. They cared for military casualties in tent hospitals and requisitioned private homes. They also cleaned the makeshift dispensaries, did laundry, made the meals, and managed the inventory of needed supplies.

Between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, military nurses were not needed. But when war broke out between our own citizens, the battles were widespread in the North and the South, and casualties required nurses again. More than 3000 female and about 500 male volunteers worked dressing wounds, feeding, and bathing patients, and attending the dying. Many nurses fell ill themselves since they seldom got enough rest and were exposed to contagious diseases. In 1898, when the Spanish American War commenced, fifteen hundred contract nurses were mobilized, working to quell yellow fever, malaria, and other tropical diseases. These professional nurses’ efforts ushered in a permanent female nurse corps in the Army.

After the Spanish American War, the number of Army nurse corps members shrank to 220. The number rose to 450 during the Mexican border uprising in 1916. World War I saw nursing numbers swelling to 21,460 officers with 10,000 serving oversees in 1918. African American nurses were also admitted to the Nursing Corps for the first time. But segregation policies prevented them from rising in the military ranks until the War was over. By that time, it was estimated that one-third of all American nurses had served in the Army.

US military nurses continued working in hospitals and mobile units, displaying flexibility and focus on a variety of assignments from hospital trains in France to transport ships carrying wounded soldiers across the Atlantic. They were stationed at permanent facilities in the continental US, France, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. In 1920, Army nurses were allowed to progress from second Lieutenant to Major, although their pay remained half that of men of the same rank. From patients to active generals, the nurses’ outstanding performance was celebrated. This support, along with organized nurses lobbying for better treatment and higher pay, led to improving opportunities for these women. Their diligence began to pay off, but still lagged behind the men in service.

Onto this scene emerged our heroine, Ethel “Sally” Blaine Millett.

NEXT WEEK: NO RABBIT HOLES JUST MOREOF SALLY’S STORY!

Source: American Nurse Corps Association  https://e-anca.org/History/ANC-Eras/1901-1940

Feisty From The Start

Sally wasn’t always called Sally. That nickname came later. She was born Ethel Lenore Blaine, in February of 1915, on her parents’ farm outside the tiny town of Bible Grove in northeast Missouri. Ethel was the tenth of thirteen children. Their farm house had a porch all across the front side of the house. The flat roof of that porch had a low railing made with real two by fours, and the top of that railing was four inches wide. Ethel’s brothers used to drag their bedding through an upstairs window and out onto that porch in the summer and sleep where they had a chance of feeling a summer breeze now and then, unlike the still, dead air inside the hot upstairs bedrooms. The girls weren’t allowed to sleep out there because, well, they were girls.

One night, when Ethel was about eight years old, she came out on that roof in her nighty while she was sleep walking, which she was known to do. Young Millard woke up and poked his brother Mayhue.

“Hey, look!” he whispered. “Ethel just climbed out the window in her sleep!”

Mayhue put one elbow under himself. “What’s she doing?”

Ethel walked across the roof, avoiding the boys lying on their bedding, and she hopped right up onto that railing.

“Look!” Millard whispered. “She’s getting up on the railing! She’s gonna walk around the railing!”

And the boys watched, spellbound and silent, as Ethel proceeded to walk all the way around that porch railing, balancing with her arms, not missing a step. Then she hopped down, climbed back through the window, and went back to bed.

“Did that really happen?” asked Mayhue.

Older brother Carl was now awake too. “Well, you’ve gotta say one thing about our sister Ethel: she is brave enough to try anything—even in her sleep!”

Next week: Go West, Young Gal, Go West!

A NEW DIRECTION

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The Story of an Angel (Aunt Sally’s Book)

Greetings to all my blog followers! It’s been almost a year since I last posted. A lot has happened in that time, and I am definitely starting a new chapter in my life. To date, I have four titles published and on the market (two of which are compilations of the posts I wrote for this Christian devotional blog). I am now embarking on a new book project which doesn’t even have a name yet! The contest to select the book name ended at midnight on September 30th, and some friends and I will be choosing the winner soon. Since we don’t have a name yet, I will call the book, The Story of an Angel (Aunt Sally’s Book) for now.

So just who is this Aunt Sally I speak of? She was my dad’s younger sister who became a decorated military hero at the end of World War II. I am writing a book about her life, and I will be posting weekly, every Monday morning, letting you in on what I’m writing about. I will share some of the amazing research I’ll be doing, and maybe information about a few stray rabbit holes I go down which might be of interest to my readers. You will be part of this journey, and I will welcome comments and information you may have about this segment of history. (Come on, Blaine Cousins! It’s your chance to get involved!) If you don’t want to continue with my blog, please see the unsubscribe feature at the bottom of this page. But I would love it if you will at least read the first couple of blogs, and I hope you stick with me on this whole journey!

Here is a very short version of Aunt Sally’s story:

Adapted from the Pacific War Museum Oral History recorded by Ethel “Sally” Blaine Millett: Ethel “Sally” Blaine Millett grew up in northeast Missouri and went to nurses training in San Diego, California. She volunteered to go to the Philippines and arrived there in June of 1941. Life was a paradise of normal shifts at the hospital and plenty of social life in this flower-filled paradise in the Pacific. On December 8, 1941, just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Sally witnessed the bombing at Clark Field and rushed to the still-intact hospital. The nurses took care of the soldiers wounded by Japanese strafing. Because of continued Japanese bombing all over the Philippines, about 100 nurses and 50 doctors, along with thousands of patients, had to keep moving as the hospitals became threatened or destroyed. Soon, medical staff and patients were retreating to the jungles of the Bataan Peninsula. The patients were “hidden” from view to the Japanese because of the dense jungle growth. The “hospitals” were open-air; the only things covered were the medical records. For the first time in history, the all-female nurse corps were allowed to wear fatigues on duty in the open jungle, instead of their regulation white starched dresses and caps. Sally described having malaria and then having to evacuate from Bataan to the island of Corregidor. Sally was among several nurses who were being moved because they were so ill. Their sea plane bottomed out landing at Mindanao to refuel. Here they were captured by the Japanese and eventually moved to Santo Tomas, a POW camp the Japanese had created on the campus of a Jesuit university in Manila. Sally described losing her possessions, and the difficulties in the internment camp: the food, the work required, the sanitary conditions, the self-government, the birthrate, and the entertainment. She also described executions. Sally had to undergo surgery while at Santo Tomas. Finally, the American soldiers arrived, and she took a plane home in February 1945. Her brother met her in San Francisco. She and others who served in the Bataan and Corregidor campaigns were welcomed home as war heroes and were eventually awarded medals of commendation for their service in the Philippines.

NEXT WEEK: A humble beginning for our war hero!

Grace and Peace,

Meg Blaine Corrigan

EATING DIRT

Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey Your word. You are good, and what You do is good; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:67-68

Humility is a good thing, but sometimes it’s hard. In fact, the word “humility” comes from the Latin word for “ground.” Being humble can often mean “being brought back down to earth.” Humility is a trait that every Christian should be willing to work towards, and we must do it in a way that honors God. We must know in our heart that we are not perfect, and we do get it wrong sometimes. It hurts when we finally realize we needed humility by looking in that rear view mirror!

Paul’s letter to the Philippians tells us to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Paul describes Christ this way: “though He was in the form of God, (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (vs. 6-7). So any time we begin to think we’ve got life completely handled…well, think again! Jesus Himself knew humility.

Proverbs 22:4 states that “The reward for humility and fear (or awe) of the Lord is riches and honor in life.” But being humble is not a “get rich quick scheme.” What God counts as riches may not be measured in monetary wealth! Here, “riches” are paired with “honor,” which is a good indication that the meaning here is abundance of God’s blessings, not winning the house in Las Vegas. Another clue comes from Colossians 3:12: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” Things coupled with humility are looking a lot like the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

When I was younger, I was a percussionist in a traveling road show that played some decent venues in Nevada, California, and other western states. The circuit was a plethora of egos and lofty aspirations. But the average of all professional musicians’ earnings is less than $50,000 annually, and 90% of all artists never get “discovered” or “make it big.” Just a short life lesson: humility will keep you…, well humble.

Lord, help us stay humble so that You may exalt us! Amen

Meg Blaine Corrigan is the author of four books: Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child; Perils of a Polynesian Percussionist; Saints With Slingshots: Daily Devotions for the Slightly Tarnished But Perpetually Forgiven Christian, and a second edition of Saints With Slingshots. She holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of New Mexico and has over thirty years’ experience working with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, war veterans, and other trauma survivors.  Her books may be purchased through her website, www.MegCorrigan.com or from www.amazon.com .