PGI woman served as Army nurse in Philippines during WWII

Second Lt. J.J. Jones, center and her two friends, 2nd Lt. Louis Longacre Kelly, left, and 2nd Lt. Martha Hooper Zajic enjoy themselves in a New York City nightclub before going overseas during the Second World War. Photo provided

Former 2nd Lt. J.J. Jones of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla. was an Army nurse who served in the Philippines during World War II.

The year after she graduated from nurse’s training at Eastern Hospital in Philadelphia, Jones volunteered for the Army. She was sent to Fort Benning, Ga. for basic training. Like the men, the nurses marched, field-stripped their M-1 rifles and went on bivouac military encampments at night.

When they weren’t soldering, they were part of the 307th General Hospital at Benning.

Jones prepared to go to Europe. “We were almost ready to get aboard ship. and V-E Day (Victory in Europe) happened.” the 85 year old former nurse recalled. “Because the war ended in Europe, they sent us back to Benning.

“On the way back, we passed the bier of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His casket was in view at the end of the train. All along the route, people were standing along the railroad tracks to honor our deceased president.” she said.

It wasn’t long before someone in the War Department decided her group was needed in the Pacific Theatre.

They went aboard the hospital ship USS Comfort and sailed out of Los Angels for the Philippines.

“There were 550 people aboard ship, mostly doctors and nurses,” Jones said. “Edgar Bergen and Charley McCarthy entertained us on the dock before we left.

“We set sail at 4:30 p.m.. After supper, I went topside and gave it the to the ocean,” she said. “I was sick as a dog until morning.”

Three days later, while still headed east across the Pacific, Jones and her contingent received word that the Japanese had unconditionally surrendered. The war was over.

“We did as much partying as we could aboard ship. They gave us a turkey dinner to celebrate the war’s end which was nice. We suggested they turn the ship around and head back to Los Angeles. It didn’t happen because our orders said we were headed for the Philippines.

Twenty days later, they reached dockside in Manila. It was Sept. 7, 1945 and World War II officially had been over for five days. They were part of the 84th Station Hospital over there.

Howard Owens, her boyfriend in Philly before the war was serving in the U.S. Army in the Philippines. She had written to him for three years as he fought his way across the Pacific.

“I got on the phone in Manila and tried to contact Howard. Four hours later I had him on the phone with the help of a male operator. Howard’s commanding officer gave him a three-day pass to come see me,” she said.

“He bunked in a tent outside our building. We took walks around the area, and one night we watched a movie and took part in a singalong together.

This is what was left of the Philippine Legislative building when the American forces fought their way into Manila at the close of World War II. Almost all of the important buildings in the city were badly damaged. Photo provided

Manila was in shambles. What the Japanese Army hadn’t wrecked on its way out, American forces wrecked on the way in. Almost every major building in the capital city was in ruins. Churches and schools all over town were in similar condition.

The Japanese occupation forces had horribly mistreated the Filipino people during the occupation. The Filipinos were just starting the beginning of the long road toward recovery.

“The Filipino people were pleasant and spoke English,” Jones said. “They did our laundry for money.”

Transportation was by hitchhiking; most days at 1 p.m. you could buy a cold Coke if you stood in line long enough. Once a month, nurses had their choice of a carton of cigarettes or a case of beer.

After six months in the Philippines, Jones’ unit was sent home without doing much nursing overseas. The war was over, and they weren’t needed over there.

Just before the nurses boarded a ship for home, a couple of them had written Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, about the lack of mail since they had been in the Philippines.

“A few days later, I got 110 letters and 20 packages. I used my two boxes of Whitman Sampler chocolates as lunch on the ship home.”

Just before Jones left she was given the opportunity to sign up for an additional six months and become part of the occupation force in Japan.

“My man was already out of the service at home, so I went home. Yes, I married him,” she said.

Jones sailed home aboard the USS West Point along with 7,600 others. It took them 23 days to reach the U.S. from the Philippines. The ship sailed through the Panama Canal and arrived in New York Harbor.

“We were so happy to see the Statue of Liberty,” she said. “We were given a delicious dinner and discharged at Fort Dix, N.J.”

J.J. Jones of Punta Gorda Isles looks at a photo album of her World War II service as an Army nurse. Sun photo by Don Moore

Jones spent the next three decades working as a registered nurse in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. She and Howard moved to Florida’s east coast in the 1960s. He died in 1969.

She married Frank Jones some years later and they moved to Punta Gorda Isles. J.J.’s second husband died a decade ago. She continues to live in a condo in PGI.

Jones’ File

Name: Regina T. Gallagher Jones
D.O.B: 21 Nov 1921
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: 1 Dec. 1944
Discharged: 18 March 1946
Rank: 2nd Lt.
Unit: 84th Station Hospital, Philippines
Commendations: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, World War II Victory Medal

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday, October 7, 2007 and is republished with permission.

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