by Bob Collins
I bought this envelope (cover) at a stamp show recently. I was very excited when I found it. The story behind it is the one I got when I bought the cover but have not had time to research it to confirm it.
For around 50 years, I have collected such items from the Korean War. My collection consisted of letters only from soldiers in Korea during the War years, 1950-1953. I even had examples from every country involved in the war on both sides. I got to the point I could not find much of anything that I could use, so I started looking for another collecting area. I thought I would try U.S. women in WWII: WAVES, WAC, WAFs, Women Marines, etc.
The enclosed copy of the cover was sent by Lieutenant Bertha Evans of Portland, Oregon. She was a Navy nurse stationed at Canacao, Philippines. As you can see, the postmark is from Canacao, P.I. Naval Hospital on May 22, 1941.
When WWII started not long after this letter was mailed, the hospital was bombed and destroyed by the Japanese. The two nurses stationed at the hospital at Canacao were then transferred to Corregidor, where they remained with nine other nurses until they were captured by the Japanese (though one escaped via submarine).
The nurses were held at Bilibid POW camp near Manila. They were finally freed by Army Rangers in February 1945. The 11 Navy nurses were the only USN nurses captured during WWII. The attached photo shows the 11 nurses with Bertha Evans standing in back, second from the right.
Along with this information was a small, printed piece that must have been the caption for the photograph. It indicates it was taken in March 1945, at the Aiea Naval Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii. It names all the nurses as well as the nurse who took the photo.