So Proudly we Hail (1943) 




Director:     Mark Sandrich. 

Starring:     Claudette Colbert (Lt. Janet 'Davy' Davidson), Paulette Goddard (Lt. Joan O'Doul), Veronica Lake (Lt. Olivia D'Arcy), George Reeves (Lt. John Summers), Barbara Britton (Lt. Rosemary Larson), Walter Abel (Chaplain), Sonny Tufts (Kansas), Mary Servoss (Capt. 'Ma' McGregor), Ted Hecht (Dr. Jose Bardia), John Litel (Dr. Harrison), Dr. Hugh Ho Chang (Ling Chee), Mary Treen (Lt. Sadie Schwartz), Kitty Kelly (Lt. Ethel Armstrong), Helen Lynd (Lt. Elsie Bollenbacher), Lorna Gray (Lt. Tony Dacolli).

US army nurses headed to Hawaii diverted by Pearl Harbor attack to Bataan and Corregidor


Spoiler Warning:   below is a summary of the entire movie.

"Out of the black sorrow and tragedy of Bataan and Corregidor came a light --  the light of a miracle.  Eight American girls -- army nurses -- had been delivered from that holocaust."  May 5, 1942 a plane lands at Melbourne delivering some of the nurses from Corregidor.  The eight women are greeted by Colonel Mason, Major Arthur and Captain Lawrence.  They are the first of a group of twenty nurses ordered off Corregidor.  The others have not arrived as of yet.  The officer in charge is Lt. Janet "Davy" Davidson, but she is sick --  in some sort of trance-like state. 

A doctor examined Davy and was disturbed at what he found.  She gets worse, the closer to home she gets.  He has a letter for her, but he wants to know something about her background before he reads it to her.  He asks her fellow nurses to tell him everything they remember about what happened to her. 

Flashback.  They were ordered to embark from San Francisco, California.  Among the nurses were the flirtatious Lt. Joan O'Doul and the quiet Rosemary Larson.  And, of course, Davy was in charge of the embarkation.  The date was December 7, 1941.  They are headed to Honolulu.  Their ship joins a convoy somewhere in the Pacific.  Joan meets a big shy fellow nicknamed "Weeping Walachek", but she calls him "Kansas".  The officers know the man because he was a famous college football player. 

Sirens go off.  There are Japanese submarines in the area.  One of the American ships is blown up.  The wounded and burned survivors are brought aboard the nurses' ship and the nurses take care of them.  A new nurse, from another ship, arrives.  And she is definitely not friendly.  Many of the nurses don't want to bunk with the sour-puss, so Davy asks the outgoing Joan to bunk with her.  She asks Davy why she is being punished, but agrees to bunk with the unfriendly nurse. 

Lt. John Summers refuses to let the nurses bathe him, so Davy has to go speak to him.  He tells her that he was a professor in civilian life.  Davy persists against his resistance and gives him the bath.  John starts to like being bathed by the nurse.  Later John sends Davy a gift to thank her. 

Joan wants to go to a dance on board ship.  She asks another nurse to get her some jewelry to adorn her neck.  The nurse by mistake opens a bag belonging to Olivia.  She retrieves a locket and starts to put it around Joan's neck.  Joan just does manage to say that the locket is not hers when Olivia enters.  She is righteously indignant and even goes so far as to slap both nurses.  This infuriates Joan and she forces Olivia down on one of tone of the beds.  Davy comes in and breaks up the fracas, scolding both women.  Olivia tells Davy:  "Leave me alone, can't you?"  It is obvious that Olivia is upset and nervous. 

At the dance the Chaplain wishes a Merry Christmas to everyone.  Joan kisses Kansas, while John dances with Davy.  Later that night Joan asks Davy if she can sleep in her bunk because she can't stand Olivia's dark moods.  So Davy agrees to bunk with Olivia.  She asks Olivia what is the matter, but the rather nasty Olivia answers that it is none of her business:  "I can do it by myself."  Davy gets exasperated with her and says:  "You're just a troublemaker."  This makes Olivia mad and she starts telling off Davy and the other two nurses by telling her story.  She says she wants to kill Japs.  This day would have been her wedding day, but the Japanese killed her sweetheart at Pear Harbor.  He was struck with sixty bullets, obliterating his face.  She adds:  "He was all I had." 

The Japanese jam the ship's radio.  Manila, the Philippines  is declared an open city.  The nurses are to be sent to Bataan.  Gen. Douglas MacArthur is the commanding officer for the forces in the Philipines. 

John tells Davy that he is in love with her.  She responds by saying:  "I won't permit myself to love you."  She says she has too many big responsibilities to fall in love.  Not discouraged, John works on Davy until she admits:  "Yes, I love you."

Their ship lands at the Mariveles, a snug harbor on the Bataan  Peninsula.   The Chinese Lt. Ling Chee is to be their liaison officer.  John goes with the 4th Medical Unit to the front lines.  The nurses are headed to Limay, their number one base hospital.  The new location is just a dusty little village.  Davy meets the nurse in charge. Captain "Ma" McGregor, who tells Davy that she and her nurses are needed right away.  Olivia asks Ma to assign her to the Japanese wounded and this is granted.  The nurses walk to their assigned hospital wards.  Rosemary is assigned to work in surgery with Dr. Jose Bardia.  She helps him deliver a baby whose mother has died from wounds received two days earlier.  Joan is assigned to the children's ward and starts to tell stories to the children.  When Davy learns that Olivia is working in the ward with the Japanese wounded, she becomes very frightened and rushes to the ward.  Olivia tells her:  "It's all right.  I couldn't do it."

The wounded keep pouring into the wards.  Medical supplies start running low.  Olivia thanks Davy for helping  her.  Davy learns that John has arrived and is in the mess hall.  The two take a long walk to talk.  Ma wants Davy right away, but she can't be found.  The Japanese launch an air raid on the hospital and John and Davy jump into a trench.  They talk and kiss.  The next morning in the trench Davy wakes up alone.  John left her a note telling her that he had to go back to the front.  When Davy sees Ma, she scolds Davy and warns her not to repeat her disappearing act. 

The order is given to hospital personnel that they are to evacuate.  The hospital will be blown up in about eight hours.  They are headed for the base at Little Baguio.  The Japanese are approaching.  The enemy soldiers shoot the nurses' armed escorts.  One of the nurses is very scared because she saw the atrocities committed by the Japanese on the people of Nanking, China.  Davy volunteers to get their truck started.  She throws a grenade away from the nurses to divert Japanese fire.  She has go crawl under the truck to get the keys off the dead driver.  Olivia tells the group that it is one or all of them.  She takes a grenade and slowly walks over to the Japanese soldiers.  As she gets closer to them she removes the pin on the grenade.  As they grab her she releases the hand grenade killing herself and many of the enemy.  In the confusion the nurses are able to get away. 

A jungle hospital literally is set up in the jungle.  There are nineteen wards with from 200 to 300 patients per ward.  The group of Americans and Filipinos refer to themselves as the "battling orphans of Bataan".  There are many cases of malaria and dysentery among the troops.  Davy is now in charge of all the nurses.  John sent a monkey to her and now the monkey has become the pet of the entire company.  Kansas brings mail to the nurses and others.  Rosemary gets a hat from home, even though everyone was hoping for a cake.  Ma's only son is brought in.  He has been badly wounded.  John arrives.  They have to amputate the legs of Ma's son.  Ma arrives to see her son.  She is there when he realizes that his legs have been amputated.  Of course, he is very upset.  In a short while he dies.  Ma tells Davy that her son has a three month old child.  Ma is sent to Corregidor.  Davy and her nurses are sent to Little Baguio. 

Davy is told the bad news.  MacArthur left, ordered off the islands to Australia. 

At Little Baguio they are high in the Mariveles Mountains.  Joan is working too hard and she faints.  She tells Davy that it is hard for her to sleep because she keeps dreaming about Olivia. 

A "strategic withdrawal" is ordered.  The whole front line collapsed.  As the staff prepares to leave, the Japanese bomb the hospital despite the fact of the huge display of the Red Cross on the hospital grounds.  John is wounded in the raid.  The Chaplain tells Davy about John and then he is wounded himself.  Rosemary and the surgeon continue to operate on their patient, but a Japanese bullet kills the patient.  Rosemary is mortally wounded and she falls to the ground.  A bomb hits the surgery house and is demolished.  Davy rushes in to try to save Rosemary.  She tries to move some of the fallen and burning timbers in her way, but soon discovers that Rosemary is dead.  Davy's hands are badly burned and she has to have them wrapped up. 

The hospital unit is headed to the fortress Corregidor.  It is called the Gibraltar of the Pacific.  Malinta is the main tunnel in the complex.  It is 1,000 feet long with 40 lateral tunnels coming off of it.  There are about 88 American and Filipino nurses there. Occasionally the staff can get out of the tunnels and into the open air, which they greatly enjoy.  Corregidor becomes like a prison after awhile.  There is no quinine left.  And it looks like there is little hope.  Now they are just a "delaying action".  The chaplain says that it is their present to America:  the gift of time which they desperately need. 

John visits with Davy for a short while.  He tells her that he is going on a mission to Mindanao to try to get hold of some quinine.  Davy is very upset.  She decides that she and John will get married right away.  The chaplain marries them.   Ma gives them a bottle of wine and some peanut butter as wedding gifts.  They honeymoon by a coastal artillery piece.  At five in the morning Davy awakens John:  "It's time to get up."  She says good-bye to John and Ling Chee as they leave with some other soldiers.

There is another air raid.  The worse raid one yet.  The financial people start burning massive amounts of American money.  Colonel Clark tells Davy and her small group of nurses that they will be among the first to be evacuated to Australia.  General Wainwright is in charge.  The nurses are to tell no one, but the secret gets out quickly as many people see the nurses packing.  Joan pays a visit to the wounded men before she leaves.  She goes to tell Kansas to tell him that they have been ordered off, but Kansas tells her that the news of their evacuation is already common knowledge.  They kiss good-bye.  Joan tells him:  "Don't get killed."  When it is time to go Davy refuses to leave.  Ma orders her to leave.  When Davy objects, Ma tells her that John won't be back.  Davy replies:  "I know he's still alive."  A bomb lands in the water near the nurses and Davy is stunned by the blast.  The nurses get her onto the boat. 

Back to the present.   The nurses tell the doctor that since the blast hit Davy she has not spoken.  Doc thanks the nurses for the information.  He has a letter from John from Nindanao.  Doc reads the letter to Davy and the nurses.  The letter speaks of the valuable services of the nurses and especially their role as morale boosters for the men.  John writes about something good in the war despite its horrors.  The people are coming together to fight against evil.  It is ". . . our war, our peace".  He sends her the deed to a little farm in the USA.  Davy finally rouses from her trance-like state.  John's alive. She raises her head and calls out:  "John!"


Good movie.  The movie itself is a morale booster.  The movie was made while the events in the Philippines were virtually unfolding.  It was designed to be a morale booster.  The wounds were very fresh for the Americans and the Japanese (rightly at the time) were portrayed as virtual beasts.  (Japan never signed the Geneva accords that regulated warfare in the rest of the world.  Even the monstrous Hitler never treated its enemy soldiers the way the Japanese treated the Allied soldiers, and especially, the Allied prisoners of war.)  The movie portrays the great sacrifices and services of the American nurses (and mentions the services of the Philippine nurses.)  Their lives were almost as much in danger of being taken as the soldiers on the front lines.  They were bombed many times and even at times came virtually face to face with Japanese soldiers.  There is also a lot of history covered in the movie, which make it even more interesting to watch.  The three main female stars were all very good.  And George Reeves (Superman) wasn't bad either. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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