US NAVY NURSE CORPS
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

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The Base Facilities Report, Southwest Pacific Area compiled by Commander Seventh Fleet of 15 September 1944 shows that there were 52 nurses attached to the US Naval Base Brisbane at US Fleet Hospital No, 109 at Camp Hill. It does not differentiate as to whether they were male or female nurses.

 


Photo:- Guinea Gold (PNG) Tuesday 1 February 1944

L to R:- Lieutenant Helen C. Gavin, Ensign H.M. Ryzek,
 and Ensign Dorothy Godspeed who were attached
 to US Navy Mobile Hospital Mob 9 at Camp Hill

 

The first US Navy Nurse to escape Corregidor and arrive in Australia was Ensign Ann Bernatitus who was one of a group of thirteen American women and other high ranking Navy and Army Officers and two stowaways who escaped in US Navy submarine USS Spearfish on Sunday 3 May 1942, approximately 48 hours before Corregidor fell to the Japanese. They arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on 20 May 1942. Ensign Bernatitus was the only US Navy Nurse to escape to Bataan with Navy doctor Lieutenant Commander Carey M. Smith, a surgeon who she frequently worked with in the operating theatre.

The other women were eleven US Army Nurses and Mrs. Margaret Janson, wife of a Naval officer. The nurses lived in a lateral tunnel off the main tunnel on Corregidor. They slept in three-decker beds welded together and had to leave the tunnel to get fresh air or to have a cigarette. The Army nurses included:-

2nd Lt. Hortense McKay
2nd Lt. Mollie Petersen
2nd Lt. Mary L. Moultrie
2nd Lt. Ruth M. Straub
2nd Lt. Beth A. Veley
2nd Lt. Helen L. Summers
2nd Lt. Grace D. Hallman
2nd Lt. Leona Gastinger
2nd Lt. Mabel Stevens
2nd Lt. Nancy Gillahan
2nd Lt. Lucy Wilson

When US Navy Nurse Ann Bernatitus arrived in Fremantle, she only had slacks, a shirt and a pullover. The Naval Officers who escaped with Ann Bernatitus were:-

Commander E. L. Sackett
Commander R. G. Deewall
Commander J. D Wilson
Lieutenant Commander T. C. Parker
Lieutenant Commander D. Knoll
Lieutenant Commander T. W. Davison

Commander Sackett was the commander of USS Canopus, a submarine tender and repair ship. Cdr. Deewal was senior ADC to Captain Hoeffel, Navy Commander in the Philippines. Cdr. Wilson was in command of the Navy's Civil Engineering Corps. Lt. Cmdr. Knoll was a meteorological officer with the Asiatic Fleet.

The US Army Officers to escape with US Navy Nurse Ann Bernatitus were:-

Col. Charles Savage, AC, USA
Col. Thomas Doyle, Inf., USA
Col. Constant L. Irwin, GSC, USA
Col. Milton A, Hill, IGD, USA
Col. Royal Jenks, FD, USA
Col. Mott Ramsey, VC, USA

The two stowaways were Chester Judah  and RM1c Bill Scott, USN. Chester Judah was formerly a Lieutenant in USNR who had been demobilised in Manila by verbal orders just prior to the evacuation of the city. He escaped to Corregidor and served with the US Army Transportation Service.

 

 Ensign Ann Agnes Bernatitus

 

In October 1942, Nurse Lieutenant (jg) Ann Agnes Bernatitus became the first American recipient of the newly created Legion of Merit for her heroic work during the siege of Bataan and Coregidor between December 1940 and May 1942.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Save our Souls - Rescues made by U.S. Submarines during World War II" by Douglas E. Campbell

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Karen Nunan and Peter Nunan for their assistance with this web page.

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 26 May 2019

This page last updated 27 May 2019