It was soon clear that even Manila was too dangerous for the patients and their caregivers. Things were moving so fast. It was hard to know from minute to minute what orders were coming next. Sally thought wistfully about her suggestion to her commanding officer at dinner just a week ago, that perhaps they would be wise to pull together some warm clothes and other provisions in case they needed to flee the Japanese quickly. Sally was rebuffed. She felt hurt and angry now. Had the officer been holding back the truth? Or had she herself not received the intel that was now so clear to them all?

The Bataan Peninsula is largely covered by dense vegetation. There is a steep mountain range cutting through the area, with Mount Natib, about 4200 feet high in the north, and Mount Bataan, 4700 feet high in the south. Seven-inch tall tarsiers are one of the world’s smallest primates, and their adorable huge eyes study their surroundings, looking for danger. They are harmless but annoying when they become curious, especially when nearby humans are, say, performing a delicate operation on a fellow human. Long-glanded coral snakes are plentiful in the Bataan jungles as well. These are venomous snakes, as are cobras, vipers, and sea snakes, all native to the area, each fully capable of completely ruining a single nurse’s day in a heartbeat. Also, about twenty species of bats make their homes in the peninsula. Probably the most memorable is the giant golden-crowned flying fox, also known as the golden-capped fruit bat. It is one of the largest bat species in the world, weighing about three pounds, and having a “forearm length” of over eight inches. Not a welcome visitor during nighttime patient checks.

Why, one might ask, would the United States Army and Navy want to take patients out into this horrid jungle with potentially deadly species of snakes and many other animals all around them? The answer was clear: the Japanese wouldn’t be looking for them there, and hopefully, the Americans could hold off until more troops were sent in to rescue them.

Christmas Day was the first day several nurses were sent out to Bataan to begin setting up a hospital in a tiny town called Limay. At the same time as this new outdoor hospital was being set up, the Army was trying to get beds sent to what would be called simply, “Jungle Hospital.” This facility was soon renamed Hospital Number Two. Hospital Number One had been set up at a place called Little Baguio, which had been a Philippine Army engineers’ headquarters. Hospital Number One had a building and double-decker beds were built inside. The doctors and nurses assigned to Hospital Number One tended to their patients inside this building.

Sally was assigned to Hospital Number Two. They had no buildings. They had no double-decker beds. They had mattresses lying on the ground. There were no bedside tables, no chairs, no furniture at all to speak of. The only protection against the elements was a makeshift covering over the medical records.

“This is the bleakest affair I ever saw in my life,” Sally said the day she arrived.

Water was drawn from a creek, by the nurses, for use for their patients. The only baths given to the patients were with cold water from that creek. Water was heated for cooking, but not for bathing. The nurses and officers bathed in the same creek where they got water for their patients, and the water was just as cold.

Within a short period of time, there were eighteen wards in Hospital Number Two, strung out along a small river called the Reall. Whenever the wards all filled up, a bulldozer would come in and cut a pathway through the jungle. Just the bottom foliage was cut; the canopy was left alone so the Japanese could not see where the Americans were hiding.

“I felt completely protected,” Sally said later. “The canopy completely obliterated our view of the airplanes flying over and their view of us.  I loved it! I guess what you can’t see can’t hurt you!”

Shortly after the American and Filipino forces began to set up these open-air field hospitals, the commanding officer of the Nurse Corps requested permission to requisition smaller sized of khaki pants and shirts. It was not practical, let alone comfortable, to wear starched white nurses’ dresses and caps in an outdoor hospital. Permission was granted, and the women became the first nurses in military history to wear khakis in the line of duty. Angelo performed his “procurement magic” by producing khaki pants and shirts, both short and long sleeved, in abundance so the nurses would have plenty to choose from. No one questioned his need for the clothing; it was clear that it was the only solution for the nurses who were working tirelessly under very difficult conditions.

Another change that may have been more subtle was a shift in attitude for the nurses, from shift-work caregivers to “guerilla nursing care,” beating back jungle vegetation as it grew like magic in and around the area where the patients lay. There seemed to be nothing—absolutely nothing—that kept the nurses from their appointed duty. No matter how hot the jungle got, no matter how few medical supplies they had to work with, the nurses brought professionalism, patience, and most of all, a special kind of healing to their patients lying in front of them on the jungle floor. There was literally no sacrifice these women were not willing to make to foster a restorative atmosphere in their “wards.”


No one was surprised to see that Angelo had managed to get assigned to drive the bus transporting the nurses to the bigger hospital in Manila. He was a man with many surprising talents, including assignments to work with the nurses. He greeted them with his usual positive attitude. Only a few days had passed since he had been injured during the bombing of Clark Field, but Sally knew Angelo was determined to keep his passengers in the spirit of the Christmas season.

“Hellooooooooo, Ladies!” he squeaked into the microphone. “I have for you sheets of American Christmas carols, and we sing them together, no?” He began passing out a sheet of song lyrics, making sure each nurse took one as he walked the aisle to the back of the bus.

“But, Angelo,” one nurse asked, “no one is here to accompany us! There are no instruments on the bus that I can see.”

“Ah, have faith, please, Miss Nurse! I have been practicing in my spare time and I will sing with you while I drive you. I will have my microphone on in the front.” He grinned as he took his seat at the wheel of the bus. “We start with ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ first tune.”

And with that he began to sing in a rich tenor voice so compelling that the nurses soon all joined in.

As they drove through the gates of the beleaguered Clark Field, many signs pointed towards a wartime atmosphere. The gates were heavily guarded now, with many guards with bigger guns. A banner across the gate still wished those entering a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” but every nurse on the bus wondered what state the Philippine Islands would be in by Christmas. The sacred day was less than two weeks away, and some nurses had brought bags of wrapped gifts with them. Sally wondered if they would ever see anyone opening them.

After “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” they sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” while passing through the quiet countryside, followed by “Joy to the World” as they rode through a small town. The civilian community looked perfectly normal. Holiday decorations were everywhere. The people were going about their lives and getting ready for Christmas celebrations as if the American military installations had never been bombed. It seemed the people didn’t know the island nation had been invaded, or perhaps they thought the American troops had beaten back the Japanese forces. Or they were just holding their breath until they couldn’t deny what was happening any more.

Next was a familiar song, and Sally knew most of the words.

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r

Suddenly she stopped singing. Those words, Save us all from Satan’s pow’r… Sally felt a darkness descending over her. As much as she appreciated Angelo’s efforts to keep the nurses’ spirits high, Sally knew the signs were all around them: the Japanese had invaded the country, they had destroyed a great many US aircraft and buildings, and now they had forced the hospital to close. She thought of Statsenburg Hospital and what might become of that building. The nurses had left most of their belongings in the barracks, all Sally’s pretty dresses and jewelry for each outfit. She managed to pack some of her belongings—including her precious cosmetic kit—in a duffel bag. But things she had collected since her arrival here were mostly gone now. She knew they would never return to retrieve them. They were only told to bring their starched white nurses’ uniforms, white nylon stockings and white shoes, and of course, their nurses’ white hats.

Sally shuttered at their situation. To Save Us All From Satan’s Power? Satan seemed alive and determined to make life very, very difficult. Difficult indeed.


The abyss didn’t hiss. It didn’t growl. It cast a dark net of fear over the bus full of nurses. They thought the roaring in their ears was 0dd. They didn’t suspect that Pure Evil was coming for each one of them.

Meg Blaine Corrigan is the author of four books: Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child, a memoir about growing up in an alcoholic home; Saints With Slingshots: Daily Devotions For The Slightly Tarnished But Perpetually Forgiven Christian, Books One and Two; and Perils of a Polynesian Percussionist, a novel depicting Meg’s time playing drums in a Hawaiian Road Show. Her latest project is to tell the story of her Aunt Ethel “Sally” Blaine Millett, who was an American Army nurse in the Philippines when WWII began. “Sally” joined about a hundred other nurses and 50-some doctors in transporting about two thousand patients from Statsenburg Hospital north of Manila to the jungle on the Bataan Peninsula. They hid the patients from the Japanese for about four months until they were all captured and placed in POW camps for over three years before being liberated by American forces. This blog contains excerpts from the book in real time as Meg is writing and posting a blog once weekly. The book’s title is MERCY MORE THAN LIFE: Sally Blaine Millett, WWII Army Nurse. The anticipated date of publication is spring 2023.Meg’s website is . She lives in Little Canada, Minnesota.


The first time Clark Field was bombed by the Japanese, everyone on duty knew the plan. At the hospital, the patients were to be moved to the basement of the building where they had the best chance of not being injured. Several storage rooms had been cleared of furniture, scrubbed clean, and made ready for the patients. The bombs kept falling, but not one hit the hospital. The Japanese kept up a continuous barrage every day for almost three weeks. And each time, everyone had to take cover. This lasted from December 8th until the 24th, Christmas Eve. The day before, Sally and a new nurse named Ann were off duty. Ann had been moved from Stermmer Hospital to help out. They decided to go swimming, and both being Midwest girls, they thought donning their bathing suits in December was crazy.  They had a grand time. It was good they didn’t get caught because the head nurse would not have thought it was cute at all.

The next day, things began to change rapidly. The bombs were getting closer and closer to the hospital, and the powers that be decided the patients and the medical staff had to be evacuated. The patients were loaded onto trains, and the medical staff came on board to make sure IVs were still inserted and bandages had not slipped. A small number of doctors and nurses stayed on the train and rode with the patients to Manila. The others were getting ready to board a bus when the air raid siren went off. They all had to take cover and there was a great scramble to get someplace safe. Sally saw a culvert and thought that was a terrific place to take cover. She crawled into a drainage pipe so small, she could not use her arms to move forward; she had to shimmy in. She took a deep breath and then realized there was an iguana not much smaller than her staring face to face at her. She tried to shimmy right back out of the culvert, but she was wearing riding boots, and one got stuck. The iguana did not look happy. Sally couldn’t move. It was a wartime standoff between woman and lizard. Sally shimmied harder and finally got her foot unstuck. She nearly bolted out of the culvert and came face to face with the cook from the nurses’ barracks.

“Oh, Missy Blaine, Missy Blaine, Missy Blaine!” he said, wringing his hands. “I want to help you but I could not do so!”

“I’m okay now,” Sally said, “and the bombs seem to have quit for the moment. Let’s make a run for the buses.”

HEY, EVERYONE! I’m pleased to announce that we have a winner of the Name The Book Contest! My friend Michele Hein submitted the winning title: MERCY MORE THAN LIFE: SALLY BLAINE MILLETT, WWII NURSE. For having the winning title, Michele will receive an autographed and personalized copy of the book when it is published, and she will be included in the acknowledgments page as the person who chose the title. CONGRATULATIONS, MICHELE!


Sally and some of her nurse friends had been gone the whole weekend of December 6th to the 8th. A group of them had ridden the train to Manila from Statsenburg Hospital. The girls rented a hotel room, ate their meals out and went to some of the well-known dance clubs on Friday and Saturday evenings. You might say they painted the town red, but they paid the price riding the train back north to Clark Air Base overnight. They arrived back at the barracks at about 6:00 a.m. Some of the nurses went right to the hospital to work the early shift, but Sally didn’t have to work until the next day. She was asleep before she hit the pillow. Soon, an older nurse named Wila, who out ranked Sally, began shaking her.

“Wake up!” said Wila. “Pearl Harbor’s been bombed!”

Well, Sally thought that sounded bad, but in her tired brain, she reasoned that Pearl Harbor was a long way away, so that didn’t affect the Americans stationed in Manila. And anyway, Wila didn’t say who bombed Pearl Harbor. Sally expected it was the Japanese, but she didn’t think about the fact that the Philippines were a lot closer to Japan than Hawaii.

Wila was having none of this nonsense. She came back shortly later and almost tore Sally’s mosquito net off her bed.

“You get up right now,” she said to Sally. “Get up out of that bed, because Camp John Hay has been bombed now.”

Now that was only a little over sixty miles north of Clark Field and Statsenburg Hospital, so that got Sally’s attention. She got up and got dressed and everyone who wasn’t at the hospital went down to dinner.

And nothing happened. It was so quiet, no one knew what to make of the situation. When the news came that John Hay had been bombed, some of the pilots jumped in their planes and taken off to go see what was happening at the other facility. They came back quickly because whoever was doing the bombing had now disappeared. And it was true, no one was certain at first exactly who had bombed the Camp on the Philippines’ biggest island, Luzon.

The next day, still no sight of the planes doing the bombing. Sally was to go to work at 3:00 that day, so after lunch, she went upstairs to put on her nurse’s uniform. She put her foot up on a footstool to tie her shoelace, and she felt a kind of shudder. Even the barracks building shook a bit. She turned to look out the window, and saw a huge flash of light, past the hospital where the planes landed and took off. Finally, she heard a deafening noise that made her block her ears. And then black smoke. Billows and billows of black smoke. The air raid sirens screamed in protest. Sally knew instinctively that this meant the war had finally come to their very doorstep.

She slowly walked to the top of the stairs, as if in a bad dream. She could feel her heart racing and she could already smell the acrid odor of all that black smoke. Her commanding officer was at the bottom of the stairs looking up as Sally. Other nurses had begun to gather around their superior to hear orders of what to do next. Sally had a fleeting thought about the chief nurse telling her not to be talking about an escape plan. Wasn’t that just a few days ago? And now, here they were, unprepared for what was to come.

Sally spoke to the chief nurse from the top of the stairs.

“This is it, isn’t it?”

The chief nurse looked up at Sally and said, “I suppose it is.”

Meg Blaine Corrigan is the author of four books: Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child, a memoir about growing up in an alcoholic home; Saints With Slingshots: Daily Devotions For The Slightly Tarnished But Perpetually Forgiven Christian, Books One and Two; and Perils of a Polynesian Percussionist, a novel depicting Meg’s time playing drums in a Hawaiian Road Show. Her latest project is to tell the story of her Aunt Ethel “Sally” Blaine Millett, who was an American Army nurse in the Philippines when WWII began. “Sally” joined about a hundred other nurses and 50-some doctors in transporting about two thousand patients from Stotsenburg Hospital north of Manila to the jungle on the Bataan Peninsula. They hid the patients from the Japanese for about four months until they were all captured and placed in POW camps for over three years before being liberated by American forces. This blog contains excerpts from the book in real time as Meg is writing and posting a blog once weekly. Meg’s website is . She lives in Little Canada, Minnesota with her live plants and a robotic vacuum cleaner named Mabel.


Why were the generals so insistent that we engage in this war? I do not believe it is right, but they keep telling me this is a golden opportunity that cannot be allowed to pass by! I try talking to them, but they insult me with their ‘knowledge and experience.’ They treat me like a child, as if I don’t know right from wrong. How dare they say these things behind my back? I hear from others what is being said. But Japanese emperors are divine, and they know that. I do not wish to be forced into signing onto something I do not believe in nor stand for. I know what is right: we should not be persuaded to enter this unholy allegiance with the others who believe they will rule the world. Mussolini and Hitler think they are some sort of gods, but they are not like our Japanese rulers. Japan should have normal relations with other nations, and not bludgeon their societies into oblivion because we think we are stronger! And if we don’t prevail in this horrid war they are proposing, what happens then? Do we lose our way of life and suffer untold death and destruction in our own land? What then have we proven? Nothing! The French philosopher Voltaire said, “To the living we owe respect but to the dead we owe only the truth.” I will meet with these war mongers and tell them I do not approve of this aggression towards other nations, I will make them understand!

Hirohito paced the floor as his thoughts consumed him.

But Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and the stubborn generals bullied the young emperor to the point where he turned a blind eye to their plans to bomb Pearl Harbor, Clark Field, and many other targets. The genie was out of the bottle now, and there was simply no way to put it back inside. This time the abyss did not hiss.

The abyss growled.


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…


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.”


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.


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 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!”