Army nurses set out to Hawaii to provide medical support in December 1941, but the attack on Pearl Harbor leaves them no other choice but to help out in the Philippines. Their time in Bataan changes the nurses. They have to learn how to cope with constant Japanese bombardment and the daily loss of life around them. When their part of the jungle is overrun by Japanese, the nurses must flee to the island of Corregidor. Romance tempts many of the men and women who struggle together. Though they try to keep up with each other, communication isn’t always possible.
The movie starts with the realization that not everyone was able to leave the island. These army nurses found out they were the only female survivors from Corregidor. As the movie progresses, we find out why the strength of their leader, Lt. Janet ‘Davy’ Davidson, waned.
Claudette Colbert as Lt. Davidson showed compassion and strength to her nurses. Her romance with Lt. Summers, played by George Reeves, gave a picture of how difficult it was for nurses to keep their hearts protected. Damage from the realities of war was demonstrated on the face of Lt. D’Arcy, played by Veronica Lake. Paulette Goddard as Lt. O’Doul gave us the example of nurses who gave every effort to keeping up morale even if it meant wearing a nightgown as an evening gown for a party.
The film received four Oscar nominations: Best Actress in a Supporting Role/Paulette Goddard, Best Cinematography in a Black and White, Best Special Effects, and Best Writing of an original Screenplay.
This was the first time this important story was told on film. The war wasn’t even over so they couldn’t end the movie with the Japanese surrender. Instead, this film gave a window into the lives of humble army nurses who didn’t like being called heroines.