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3 Descent into Hell We were in the situation and it doesn't do any good to wring your hands and say how terrible it is and "What's going on?" and "Why don't they do something?" and "Isn't it awful!" You just roll up your sleeves and do what you can to make better the situation that you're in. Lt. Col. Madeline Ullom, USA, NC (Ret.) On 23 December at approximately 1800, General MacArthur left Manila and moved his headquarters to the rockfortress ofCorregidor, at the mouth of Manila Bay. Less than an hour before, MacArthur had decided that to prevent the destruction of Manila, he would declare it an "open city." A member ofMacArthur's stafftelephoned Gen. Jonathan Wainwright and told him that War Plan Orange 3 was in effect. American and Filipino forces would make the desperate retreat to Bataan, planned more than a decade earlier. Army and navy nurses were among the last to learn the news. Lt. Hattie Brantley recalled the moment her group was informed: "During the evening meal of December 23, our hospital e.O. said, 'Girls, pack your white duty uniforms in a duffel bag because we're going to Bataan tomorrow: Most of us had never even heard of Bataan. So, on the morning ofChristmas Eve, we loaded into buses and open trucks, dressed in our white duty uniforms, a World War I helmet on our heads, and a gas mask at our sides, and headed for the Bataan Peninsula."l 30 All This Hell Not all the military nurses left for Bataan, and not all those who did, traveled the same way or took the same route. Several army nurses were left in Manila to help equip a ship that would carry wounded patients to Australia. Before the ship, the Mactan, departed Manila, they were issued identification cards stating that they were detailed to help with the Red Cross ship. The ship was an old minesweeper with an engine that showed its age. The Army Medical Department had radioed Tokyo and aske.d permission for a merchant ship loaded with wounded to sail to Australia around the end of the month. Though the request was not answered, they decided to undertake the trip anyway. Col. PerceyJ. Carroll, M.D., supervised the acquisition and loading of the Mactan. He requested that Lt. Florence MacDonald furnish him with an army nurse who was skilled at improvising. She would be the only army nurse on board if and when the Mactan sailed for Darwin. While other nurses set off for Bataan on the morning of 24 December, Lt. Frances L. Nash, a tall, dark-haired, thirty-year-old army nurse from Wilkes County, Georgia, was called by her commanding officer, Col. J.W. Duckworth, and given special instructions . "It was Christmas Eve when I was told to prepare myself to be taken prisoner. Five years before, I would have laughed at the thought ofever receiving such an order, and answering merely, 'Yes, Sir: My commanding officer ... told me I was to remain until all staff members and supplies had been evacuated. 'In case you are cut off, you must prepare to be taken prisoner; he said."2 All day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Lieutenant Nash worked in surgery and in her spare time destroyed any papers that might prove useful to the Japanese. On Christmas night, the enemy was drawing closer to Manila and the number of wounded increasing, but Nash and the rest of the staff were ordered to leave Manila and join Hospital No.2 on Bataan. They climbed aboard a small inner-island steamer at 2300 and began their zigzagging trip across Manila Bay. The red and yellow glow from burning buildings on shore and flaming ships in the bay added to the light cast Descent into Hell 31 on the water by a brightly shining moon. Nash had vivid memories of that trip. What sleep I got that night, I caught stretched out on the top deck, clad in mechanic's overalls, helmet and gas mask, my pockets full of medicine, stimulants, narcotics and a tourniquet in case of an accident during the crossing . For a moment, as I lay there looking up at the stars, I couldn't visualize the fact that everything wasn't peaceful; yet all I had to do was turn my head to the side to know it was not. During the night we passed Corregidor and saw fires...


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