'Heroine of Bataan' feted in Sumter during World War II

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The "Heroine of Bataan," a heroic World War II nurse, Juanita Redmond was connected to Sumter through her brother Robert, who lived here and worked as manager of Edens Super Market. The story of Redmond's exploits and her escape from the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula and at Corregidor was published in The Sumter Daily Item. A portion of the text is reprinted below with a degree of editing because of its length.

Juanita Redmond was born in Swansea, where she grew up a red-haired young girl who idolized her older brother Robert. Nurse Redmond left South Carolina after training at the S.C. State Hospital, taking a secretarial course, and working for a couple of years as a stenographer before returning to her career in nursing. She reentered the service in 1936 and served in Hot Springs, Arkansas, before she was assigned to the Philippines to work in two different hospitals.

First Lt. Redmond "was on the peninsula of Bataan from the beginning of its bloody defense against the invading Japanese and was on Corregidor when the U.S. military surrendered. It was there that she was decorated by the surgeon general of the U.S. Army in Washington."

She told the story of one of the worst battles in history - "of thousands of wounded and dying men being cared for by a handful of American and Philippine nurses, of vital medicinal supplies giving out far too soon, of Japanese bombardiers whose aim was better than expected." She escaped her captors, along with eight other nurses, just before the surrender of the Philippines. She was returned home, and the Army granted her a 30-day leave before returning her to duty.

It was during this time that Redmond visited the Sumter community and helped sell war bonds. The stay also provided her the opportunity to visit with her older brother. While in Sumter she participated in the "American Heroes Day" celebration and was invited to speak to the young pilots stationed at Shaw Field. The modest young heroine who had recently escaped from the Philippines was accorded an impressive reception at the Army's Basic Flying School.

"Dressed in the uniform of an officer of the Army Nurse Corps and with her mother and brother at her side, Lt. Redmond was escorted to post headquarters by the Shaw Field band and a special guard of honor.

"While the guard stood at attention, Maj. George E. Sargent, post special-services officer, presented Lt. Redmond to Col. Burton M. Hovey Jr., post commanding officer; Lt. Col. Daniel A. Cooper, executive officer; and Capt. William A. Thompson, post adjutant. The official party, accompanied by members of Lt. Redmond's family, inspected the field and the flight line where the official cars drove among the training planes parked on the runways. As she looked at the scores of planes, Lt. Redmond remarked, 'If we had only had some of those at Bataan. ' She later spoke of her of harrowing experiences at Bataan and Corregidor, sharing with the men at Shaw the actual impact of the war in which they were now engaged. She praised the gallantry of the men in the Philippines and urged her listeners to avenge the conquest of these allied soldiers and American possessions in the Pacific."

"Lt. Redmond denounced the apathy of the American public and warned that we must learn, and learn quickly, that we are engaged in a long, hard war against opponents of great shrewdness and military strength. Those who had the idea that the Japanese were poor fighters soon learned that they were sadly mistaken. Their bombing of objectives at Bataan and Corregidor was accurate and unrelenting, and their conquest of the Philippines was the result of careful strategy."

The scheduled bond sale, highlighting Lt. Redmond at Edens grocery, proved very successful and doubled their projected goal of $100,000 by raising more than $200,000 in a short span of time.

It was reported in The New York Times, March 1, 1979, that Lt. Col. Juanita Redmond Hipps, "former army nurse who served on Bataan and Corregidor died at age 66. She was the author of a bestseller in 1943, 'I Served On Bataan,' which served as the background for the war movie 'So Proudly We Hail,' the story of Army nurses." According to the New York Times, "She was among the first nurses to earn her golden flight wings and helped establish the flight nurse program in the Air Corps. She retired from the Army in 1976. She was survived by her husband, Gen. William Hipps, a son, William G. Hipps, and two grandchildren."

Reach Item Archivist Sammy Way at waysammy@yahoo.com or (803) 774-1294.