Seventy-seven women of the United States Army & Navy Nurse Corps were among the tens of thousands of prisoners taken when the Philippines were surrendered in spring 1942. Not only were they were the first large group of American women to face combat conditions, but they were also the first to be taken prisoners of war. The interned nurses continued to tend to the sick and wounded within the Santo Tomas and Los Baños prison camps.
When the Japanese attacked the Philippines in December 1941, the nurses were stationed in hospitals in and around the capital city of Manila. Eleven Navy nurses were captured there in early January 1942, when Manila fell. The Army nurses, however, had relocated southward to Bataan to tend to wounded soldiers just behind the fields of battle. Conditions were deplorable; supplies were dwindling and the makeshift hospitals were outdoors, increasing the already rampant spread of diseases like dengue fever and malaria.