Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, nurse Rosemary Hogan was transferred to the Philippines. When the war finally ended, this small-town Oklahoma girl would be one of the most honored and decorated nurses of the war, awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Presidential Unit Citation.
Rosemary Hogan was born in March 1912, in the tiny farming community of Ahpeatone. Too small even for a school, she completed her studies in Chattanooga, near Lawton, where she graduated as valedictorian. A local doctor sponsored a nursing scholarship for Hogan to attend Scott-White Hospital in Temple, Texas. As one of 10 children, this helped her pursue a military career. Hogan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps at Fort Sill in 1936, serving there until she transferred to the Philippines.
On Christmas Eve 1941, nurse-in-charge Hogan took 50 American and Filipino nurses to Bataan Peninsula to establish a thousand-bed hospital in Limay. In January 1942, the hospital was ordered to move closer to the fighting, to a place called Little Baguio.
She served as assistant Chief of Nurses until she was wounded in April 1942. While she and another nurse were assisting a surgeon in an operation, a bomb destroyed the makeshift hospital. Hogan suffered leg wounds and shrapnel in her arm, nose, and face. She learned later that her left eardrum was also ruptured. The surviving nurses and patients took refuge in foxholes until they could safely move to Corregidor to recover.
As they were being evacuated, their plane was forced to refuel on Mindanao Island and was damaged. While the pilots repaired the plane, the evacuees found shelter nearby. After the plane was repaired, the pilots couldn’t find their passengers, and had to leave them behind. They were eventually captured by the Japanese.
Held in Manila’s Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Hogan and her fellow nurses, many sick and injured themselves, cared for 4,000 patients of all backgrounds and ethnicities. Life in a Japanese internment camp was not easy for the half-starved nurses who remained prisoners of war for 999 days until American liberation forces arrived in February 1945.
The “Angels of Bataan” returned to America with mixed feelings. The Army refused to decorate their leaders or recognize them as a group. Hogan’s Bronze Star citation “for meritorious achievement” seemed gender-based rather than “heroic” listed on other Bronze Star citations. She also was awarded the Purple Heart, only one of two women to receive that honor.
After the war, Hogan transferred to the Air Force and was promoted to full colonel in 1958, while serving as chief of nursing at Langley Air Force Base. The nurses’ experiences at Santo Tomas prison were recounted in a 1940s movie “So Proudly We Hail!,” starring Paulette Goddard.
In 1962, Hogan married USAF Major Arnold Luciano and retired in San Antonio. She died in June 1964 at age 52 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. She was posthumously inducted into the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame (1997) and became only one of three women to be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame (2019).
Dr. Edwyna Synar has been writing and speaking about Women's History for over 20 years. Her stories in this series can be found at http://rememberladies.weebly.com.