Remembering Heroes Of The Second World War
4:02 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Army Nurse Mildred Manning: An 'Angel' POW With A Job To Do

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 8:23 pm

Sixteen million men and women served in uniform during World War II. Today, 1.2 million are still alive, but hundreds of those vets are dying every day. In honor of Memorial Day, NPR's All Things Considered is remembering some of the veterans who died this year.

There were no "typical" tours of duty in World War II, but U.S. Army nurse Mildred Dalton Manning's was particularly extraordinary. Manning, along with six dozen other nurses, was held captive by the Japanese for almost three years. The group became known as the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor."

Manning died in March in New Jersey. She was 98.

A native of Georgia, Manning was serving in the Philippines when war broke out. In 1942, after treating wounded soldiers in the jungles of Bataan and in an underground hospital on the island of Corregidor, she was taken captive during heavy bombing by the Japanese.

"She was very, very reluctant to talk about it most of my life," says her son, James Manning. "I would say the last five years of her life she started talking about it."

With the help of a granddaughter, Mildred Manning eventually videotaped memories of her Manila detention. She said conditions there were tolerable at first, but got worse later.

"The last year when we were in there, when the Japanese began to lose the war, they ... wouldn't let anybody go outside, and they wouldn't let anybody bring anything inside. So that was the year we starved to death," Manning said.

Some nurses got sick and lost their hair, or in Manning's case, her teeth.

In 1945, American tanks rammed through the gates of the facility where the women were being held and liberated the camp.

"I got out, and there [were] all these American soldiers," Manning recalled. "I thought I'd go nuts. Everybody was about to go nuts. I found me a soldier from Georgia and hugged him. That's the first thing I did!"

Manning never liked large crowds and dark places after the war. And her son says she always kept a stash of food at home. But otherwise, he says, she refused to let the experience prevent her from leading a full life when she returned from the war.

"She came out of it appreciating the little things in life, like a bar of soap or a hot bath. And she said she didn't really feel bitter," James Manning says of his mother. "She was a nurse and she had a job to do."

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Today, we're telling the stories of Second World War veterans who died this year.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, U.S. Army nurse Mildred Dalton Manning. She was held captive by the Japanese for almost three years. Manning died in March in Trenton, New Jersey. She was 98. Along with six dozen other nurses, she was one of the angels of Bataan and Corregidor.

BLOCK: A native of Georgia, she was serving in the Philippines when war broke out. After treating wounded soldiers in the jungles of Bataan and in an underground hospital on the island of Corregidor, during heavy bombing by the Japanese, she was taken captive.

JAMES MANNING: I've been told that she was the last female military prisoner of war from World War II.

BLOCK: James Manning is her son.

MANNING: She was very, very reluctant to talk about it most of my life. I would say the last five years of her life she started talking about it.

BLOCK: And her granddaughter taped Mildred Manning sharing memories of her war years. She talked about her detention in a converted Manila school. Conditions there, at first, were tolerable but late in the war, they got worse.

MILDRED DALTON MANNING: The last year when we were in there, when the Japanese began to lose the war, they cut off all outside - wouldn't let anybody go outside, and they wouldn't let anybody bring anything inside. So that was the year we starved to death.

SIEGEL: Some of her fellow nurses got sick, lost hair. Mildred Manning lost her teeth. In 1945, American tanks rammed through the gates of the facility where the women were being held and liberated the camp.

MANNING: I got out, and there was all these American soldiers in there. I thought I'd go nuts. Everybody was about to go nuts. I found me a soldier from Georgia and hugged him. That's the first thing I did.

SIEGEL: As a result of her wartime experience, Manning bore some mental scars. He son says she always avoided large crowds and dark places. His mother stashed emergency food at home. But otherwise, he says, she refused to let the experience prevent her from leading a full life when she returned from the war.

MANNING: She came out of it appreciating the little things in life, like a bar of soap or a hot bath. And she said she didn't really feel bitter. She was a nurse and she had a job to do.

BLOCK: Mildred Dalton Manning died in March. She was 98. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.