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Celebrating  Angel Maude Davison

by Alice Booher

Maude Davison was born in March 1885 in Cannington, Ontario, Canada. She became a U.S. citizen in 1920 and joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, serving as a nurse in Palo Alto, Ft. Leavenworth Letterman and Walter Reed Army Hospitals; in Coblenz, Ger.; got a BA in Home Economics at Columbia Univ.; returned to Beaumont General Hospital and was Chief Nurse at Letterman. She left for Corregidor in March 1939 and requested an extension rather than return home in June 1940.  She was Chief Nurse at Sternberg General Hospital when WWII began.

When Corregidor fell on 6 May 1943, at age 57+, Davison was taken prisoner  of war (POW).  She remained Chief Nurse at Santo Tomas Internment Camp from which she was liberated.  Ill, she returned to the U.S. on 13 February 1945 and was promoted one grade to Major.  In captivity, her body weight dropped from 145 to 80 pounds as a result of dysentery and beri-beri and after hospitalization at Hoff General Hospital, she retired for physical disability on 31 January 1946.

On 26 March 1946, COL Webb Cooper, USA MC, formerly Surgeon, US Forces in the Philippines, recommended MAJ Davison for the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM).  The original document cited regulations AR 600-45, dated 22 September 1943, and targeted the DSM for “exceptionally meritorious service in a position of great responsibility as Chief Nurse, Philippine Department, and Chief Nurse, U.S. Army Forces in the Philippines, December 8, 1941 to May 6, 1942.”

GEN Jonathan Wainwright, also a POW for the duration, on 24 April 1946, expressed his written opinion that in “the position of Chief Nurse, although very important, is not one of great responsibility within the meaning of the qualifications for the [DSM].  I recommend the award of the Legion of Merit (LOM)...”

On 19 June 1946, Lt. Col LeGrande A. Dillen, Aide de Camp to GEN MacArthur (later BG) further described in detail the activities of the nurses and MAJ Davison during the period in question and endorsed the DSM award.

Thereafter, the record shows that the Board of a variety of high and middle ranks exchanged a number of documents re: the award of the DSM, with some heavyweight support including that of MG H. J. Casey and BG C. Willoughby. A document dated 26 July 1946 signed by GEN Douglas MacArthur as General of the Army, USA, Commander-in-Chief, strongly provided the 3rd endorsement for the DSM award.

Nonetheless, after much discussion, [and a written opinion on 1 October 1946 by the Awards Board President MG H.R. Bull, USA, to the effect that making an exception pursuant to GEN MacArthur’s 3rd endorsement would set a bad precedent “for other combat team commanders in numerous battle situations”.], the Board concluded that the “Chief Nurse of a field command is not considered a position of great responsibility in the [DSM] sense.  The position normally is lacking in duty requiring the exercise of  independent initiative and responsibility”.  The Board endorsed the award of the LOM.  [Davison and the other nurses also contemporaneously received the Bronze Star and POW medals; some received Purple Hearts.]

In 1947, MAJ Davison married an old friend, Dr. Charles Jackson and moved to the Southwestern U.S.  She died at age 71 in 1956 at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, CA.  A year later, in March 1957, a female bachelor officer quarters at Brooke AMC (San Antonio, TX) was named Davison Hall in her memory.

In late 1999, BG Connie Slewitzke, USA NC, former Nurse Corps Chief, sought support for posthumous reconsideration and the award of the DSM. General Slewitzke obtained notarized written statements from many of the remaining US Army POW nurses and other male Pacific Theater POWs, and secured pivotal support from U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D/HI), a WWII combat injured hero with a 39 year Senate career dedicated to veterans and military.

On 3 May 2001, in Washington, D.C., the Acting Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff signed the certificate reflecting that the President of the United States had awarded the DSM to (then) MAJ Maude C. Davison.

In an extraordinary ceremony held at the site of the Women in Military Service to America (WIMSA) Memorial at Arlington, on 20 August 2001, LTG James B. Peake, USA MC, current Army Surgeon General, presented the DSM to Maude Davison’s brother’s daughter, her niece, 83 year old Velma Willis, and her two grown firemen sons.


Picture credits: Alice Booher.
1) Brig Gen. Wilma Vaught, USAF (Ret); LTG James Peake, USA, Surgeon General; Maj Gen Jeanne Holm, USAF (Ret)  in WIMSA Hall of Heroes.
2) Maj D. Cox, USA; LTG Peake; Maude Davison’s niece Velma Willis (looking at DSM certificate); BG Connie Slewitzke, USA (Ret)


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