Another Of God’s ‘Angels Of Bataan’ Has Been Called Home!

We’re the battling bastards of Bataan.
No Mama, no Papa, no Uncle Sam.
No aunts , no uncles, no nephews, no nieces.
No rifles, no planes, or artillery pieces.
And nobody gives a damn.

The AP release on 9 Mar 07 stated, Bataan ‘Angel’ Nurse Jean Schmidt Dies. Please read the release, it is informative and presents an image of a wonderful women that lived a remarkable life.
The fall of the Bataan peninsula, followed by the fall of Corregidor, and Gen. MacArthur’s harrowing escape by PT boat, across the South Pacific to Australia, and his return to liberate the Philippines, is fairly well known, historically. As is the Bataan Death March, and the resulting horrors that followed for the U.S. and Filipino soldiers. Little is known of the nurses that served in that battle, and the fate they faced as POW’s of the Imperial Japanese Army.
The invasion of the Philippines began 8 Dec 41, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. As the Japanese Army fought it’s way south, into the Bataan peninsula, the U.S. and Filipino forces fought bravely, and some historians have described the combat in this battle as some of the most brutal ever fought. According to one man’s personal account,

Bataan was put on half rations. Rations for one day were:

4 oz. of rice
1.5 oz. of sugar
1 oz. of canned milk
2.5 oz. canned fish, salmon or sardines
tomatoes when available – ten men per can

This ration continued from early January, 1942 until the middle of February. Bread was issued for the first two weeks, but then disappeared. During the last part of February, the rice ration went from 4 oz. up to 8 oz. and up again to 12 oz. during the last two weeks in March. At the end they were given 16 oz. But this was not enough.
They began to eat anything they could find. They ate pony, mule, iguana, monkey, anything they could get their hands on. They ate the jungle.
The sad fact was that large stores of food had been abandoned to the enemy on both Bataan and Corregidor.
Dysentery, malaria and beriberi had combined to produce a weakened American and Filipino Army. Russ had dengue fever during this time. Most of the men were weak and sick actually to the point of staggering, and yet the fighting went on.

The surrender of Bataan came on 9 Apr 42, after four long months of brutal combat and privations. The Japanese Army then directed their aggression on Corregidor, a heavily fortified island at the mouth of Manila Bay, in continuous operation since Spanish Colonial times, and by 6 May 42, the siege of Corregidor was over. Approximately 68,000 Filipino soldiers, and 12,000 U.S. soldiers began the Bataan Death March, and when it ended with their arrival at Camp O’Donnell, only a total of approximately 54,000 were still alive.
There were 88 women, mostly nurses in U.S. military service, and 25 Filipina nurses, that were captured after the battle was over. Little historical information is available on this small group of women. There is one book available, simply titled “We Band of Angels,” of which some book reviews are available, including this one. What I found most remarkable in the tale of these courageous women, is that none…not one, of these women died during the four years of captivity, where they were exposed to harsh treatment, starvation, and many diseases. They gave each other strength, and simply refused to give up. That strength of character, that devotion to selflessness, is what I find so inspiring and remarkable. According to one reference I found on this book, it was discovered that all of these women made a successful transition from war-time to peace-time, and the now departed Mrs. Jean Schmidt is a reminder to us all, as to what a group of courageous women, through individual and group self-reliance, can achieve.
I never met Mrs. Schmidt, but I know her.
She is of the quality of individual I have known all of my life. My mother and aunts, and my friends mother’s and aunts. They too are of the “Greatest Generation.” They are the ones that married our fathers and uncles, and are now the elderly ladies you see while shopping, that are dressed so meticulously, and take the time to send birthday and Christmas cards. In their lifetimes, they have witnessed and participated in enormous historical events, such as the Great Depression, WWII, and the Cold War, without ever losing faith, never giving up, and continuing to thrive while rebuilding the world, and making many happy families.
I feel a sadness in thinking of Mrs. Schmidt’s passing, and it is more of a selfish kind of sadness. People like her have given me the world I grew to know, and the country I grew to love, by not offering an explanation to a curious young boy, as to why they had tears in their eyes at the Fourth of July parade, but instead held his hand a little tighter, and stood a little prouder. For any younger person reading this, there is still time to spend with the women of the Greatest Generation, like Mrs. Schmidt, but you need to act now. A younger person will need to reach inside for the patience and the understanding that people like Mrs. Schmidt possess. They are the really cool people, inspite of…or perhaps because of, their lack of interest in the latest electronic gadgets and widgets, and pop stars. They are more concerned with people, and how they can best serve them as a caring human, because they know that their greatest rewards in life are always in terms of how “we” are, not I.
Thank you Mrs. Schmidt, for all that you have done for so many. God Bless You, and your loving family. Your time allowed with us was well spent, and we are so much richer for having shared you. You are without a question, an Angel.

Keep the faith in our country: as exhibited by those men and women who fought in defense of Bataan, Philippine in 1942. Freedom is not free. (motto of Camp O’Donnell monument)

Additional links:
Back To Bataan.
Battling Bastards Of Bataan.
Richard Hibbs, Bataan Death March survivor, dies.
Twelve Hundred Days.
By The Awful Grace Of God.*(Must Read)*

6 Responses

  1. Very good stuff N2L. I read ‘your must’ read at the bottom….Really makes one THINK. Not a lot of that going on anymore.
    Most tend to forget the sacrifices of “The Greatest Generation”, because we are the most “Spoiled” generation because of them. America has gotten so soft and lazy that we, well…half the country is a bunch of wimps and self absorbed pansies that will cower and let their heads be chopped off, rather than offend anyone. It makes me sick to think what people like Jean Schmidt went through, just so the likes of Reid, Pelosi, Murtha, Kennedy, Obama et al, can call for the destruction of America. By not actively going after the terrorists, and not letting the Commander in Chief do his job as he sees fit, they are Cowards. And not worthy to live in the U.S.A.

  2. Oh, and I read most of the rest too….

  3. Absolutely. It’s a great post N2l.
    May God bless Jean Schmidt and her family

  4. I like the Elvis pic nuke. 😎

  5. Indeed. As a child, I knew one of those survivors as a kind man who provided us kids with HUGE bags of popcorn that he brought home from the VFW meetings. We did not know what he had been through, just that mom said he had been a prisoner of the Japanese and would never, ever eat fish. He had chronic health problems (likely dating from the war) and died relatively young but I remember him as a kindly, happy man who would do anything he could for his neighbors.

  6. Seeing her press release yesterday, put me in a different place, thinking of the type of person she was, and all the women that have helped shape our society for so long, and now they are all being called home…their work is done. I couldn’t allow her passing to go unmentioned, she and her ‘sisters’ meant too much to us to be silent.
    Going through the web and gleaning the various links I posted, I must have read dozens more, and they all were meaningful, but most became duplicative to the ones I linked.
    The two years I spent in the PI were wonderful years, and very informative. I visited several of the different monuments that dot the island of Luzon, commemorating the sacrifices made the American and Filipino forces. The largest U.S. National Cemetery in the world is located on a 152 acre site in the city of Manila, a huge metropolitan area, and it is awe inspiring. I spent much time in and traveling through Tarlac, but never visited the site of Camp O’Donnell or Cabanutuan, but did visit the memorial to the first Japanese Kamikaze squadron, near Mabalacat, and I also visited the monument at the site where Magellan got his head chopped off, on Mactan Island.
    But the most interesting times I spent were when I would just get on my bike, and go for a ride, with no particular place in mind, and head down the highway, and take a side road I was unfamiliar with, until I came to a community or village. I would stop at their version of a convenience store, called a Sari-Sari store, which was made with cinder blocks, and a tin roof, and was very small, but had everything you needed…except for Squishies. I would stop there, get a cold coke or orange drink, light a cig, and just sit and relax. It never took long before some curious locals would come easing over, usually older men and children, and we would strike up a conversation, tell jokes, let the kids look at my hairy arms with wide-eyed amazement, and eventually engage the men with questions about life in their area, and the Japanese occupation. The elder gentlemen could disguise their pain better, but were more open and honest about their experiences. The younger men, that were small boys or teenagers during this time, could never contain there emotions, and saw a grown man that I had just met, but talked with me like an old friend, weep like the child he was when he saw his older brother hanged in the town square for being a member of the resistance, and left to hang in the hot Sun for a week, as an example. He told me he went with his mother everyday, until they were allowed to claim his body, to light a candle and pray for his brother’s soul. I had men tell me that their mother smeared human feces on his sister’s faces and arms, so the Japanese soldeirs would be revulsed, and not rape them. I also met a man, who as a small boy, would sneak through the jungles and mountains, looking for hiding Japanese soldiers, so he could go tell the “tall” American soldiers would come and kill them, and give him candy.
    They were still finding Japanese soldiers hiding throughout the islands, thirty years after the war ended, and I even heard reports of others that were found years after I left.
    Emotionally, this was a draining post for me. Not only my personal memories, but the respect I have for the men and women that fought, died, and lived, from that experience. The world needs the newest version of women like Mrs. Schmidt.

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