Colonel Ruby Bradley (1907-2002) was the US Army’s most highly decorated nurse. She was born on a farm outside of Spencer, WV and taught four years in one-room schools in Roane County before she became an Army nurse in 1934. Bradley served in the Philippines in 1941 where she was captured by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, and was a POW until February 1945. While a prisoner of war she continued to work as a nurse in the prison camp assisting with 230 operations and 18 births.
“In spite of all the preventive measures, the number of dysentery cases increased to such an extent that a small cottage was obtained to house these patients. This cottage became the camp hospital. There were usually more patients than beds, so the less acutely ill were treated in the barrack, while the acutely ill and contagious cases were treated in the camp hospital.
“All bed linen and clothing used by patients was boiled and exposed to the sunshine for two hours after the drying period. When soap became practically nonexistent, a soap product was made from lye obtained from wood ashes and then mixed with fats or oils. This was an effective cleaning agent although it was very hard on the hands. The making of this soap product illustrates the use to which ‘home town talent’ was put.
“The question is – when an individual returns to a world of free people will he be able to forget everything that he has experienced, will he be embittered, broken and disillusioned, or will he have enough strength to find purpose and meaning in life again? Should he be expected to go counter to the laws of human behavior by truly forgetting his experience or should he concentrate upon whatever small good the experience provided, guard those small bits of good, using them as chinking to rebuild the wall of his life?”
As a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Ruby Bradley was the third woman in Army history to be promoted to the rank of Colonel. Her military record included 34 medals and citations of bravery, including two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze stars, two Presidential Emblems, the World War II Victory Medal and the U.N. Service Medal. She was also the recipient of the Florence Nightingale Medal, the Red Cross’ highest international honor.
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