Nurse Gets Legion of Merit

Miss Ann A. Bernatitus, the only U.S. Navy nurse to escape from Bataan, becomes the first member of the U.S. Navy to receive the Legion of Merit decoration. Miss Ann A. Bernatitus was one of the group of nurses known as “The Angels of Bataan” (or the “Angels of Bataan and Corregidor” and “The Battling Belles of Bataan”). Source: All Hands Magazine, November 1942.

Nurse Miss Ann A. Bernatitus, Legion of Merit WW2

Miss Ann A. Bernatitus.

Nurse Gets Legion of Merit

Ann Bernatitus, who escaped from Bataan and Corregidor, first to win award

The only Navy nurse to escape from Bataan and Corregidor has been accorded the distinction of being the first member of the United States naval service to receive the new Legion of Merit decoration.

She is Miss Ann Agnes Bernatitus, who holds the relative rank of lieutenant (jg) in the Navy Nurse Corps. She was on duty in Canacao when the Japanese attacked Manila, having arrived there in July 1940. With other United States forces, she withdrew into Bataan and later went to Corregidor, leaving that fortress in a submarine 2 days before its surrender. She arrived in the United States in July.

The Legion of Merit decoration, established by Public Law No. 671 on July 20, 1942, and made effective by Executive Order 9260 on October 29, was created for award in four degrees to, (a) the armed forces of the United States and of the Government of the Philippines and, (b) personnel of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations who, since September 8, 1939, shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service.

The New Medal is a five-pointed star in red and white, surrounded by a constellation of 13 stars on a blue field, backed by a laurel wreath. The Legion of Merit is the successor to the Badge for Military Merit, established by General George Washington in 1782.

On October 14, the President of the United States approved the award of the Legion of Merit, fourth degree, to Miss Bernatitus in recognition of her courageous and outstanding service during the Manila-Bataan campaign December 1941 to April 1942.

In notifying Miss Bernatitus of the award, Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs, Chief of Naval Personnel, advised her that “your excellent service in a time of stress and under such dangerous conditions is worthy of the distinction shown you in being the first person in the United States Naval Service to be so decorated.”

Further, the President on October 27 approved the award of the Legion of Merit in various degrees to the following for outstanding service: Capt. Marion Y. Cohen, USN; Capt. John B. Heffernan, USN; Capt. George W. Johnson, USN; Capt. Ralph W. Hungerford, USN; Capt. Edmund T. Wooldridge, USN; Capt. Paul R. Heineman, USN; Commander Albert C. Murdaugh, USN; Commander William L. Erdman, USN; Lt. Comdr. Mitchell D. Matthews, USN; Lt. Comdr. Roger V. Mullany, USNR; Hubert Allen Brewster, CWT (AA) USN; Anthony Paul Victor, WT1c, USNR; Leo Martin Savage, WT1c USN; and Lt. de Vaisseau A. Bergeret, Free French Navy.

The text of the President’s Executive Order 9260, October 29, 1942, is as follows:

By virtue of and pursuant to the authority vested in me by section 2 of the act of July 20, 1942 (Public Law 671–77th Congress), I hereby prescribe the following rules and regulations for the award of the decoration of the “Legion of Merit” created by said act:

1. The decoration of the Legion of Merit shall be awarded by the President of the United States or at his direction to members of the armed forces of the United States and of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, and members of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations, who, after the proclamation of an emergency by the President on September 8, 1939, shall have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.

2. Awards of the decoration of the Legion of Merit may be proposed to the President by the Secretary of War and by the Secretary of the Navy, each acting upon the recommendation of an officer of the armed forces of the United States who has personal knowledge of the services of the person recommended.

3. Recommendations for awards to members of the armed forces of friendly foreign nations shall be submitted to the President of the United States for his approval.

 

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