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
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
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)