Mrs. Manning, formerly of south Cobb, was a heroic Army nurse who survived three years of hellish treatment by the Japanese during World War II, and who shortly after her release was a high-profile visitor at the Bell bomber plant in Marietta.
The Barrow County native (she was head nurse at Grady Hospital in Atlanta before enlisting) was one of 77 military nurses taken prisoner after starving U.S. troops surrendered at Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines in early 1942. She was the last survivor of the women, who were collectively known as “The Angels of Corregidor.”
She treated U.S. and Philippine wounded at an outdoor hospital amid the jungle on Bataan, and then was evacuated across Manila Bay to the island of Corregidor with the other nurses just before Bataan was surrendered. The hundreds of wounded they had to leave behind were bayoneted to death by Japanese soldiers when they overran the hospital.
Able-bodied soldiers who surrendered were led on what became known as “The Bataan Death March,” being forced to walk for five days through the tropical heat without food or water to a prison camp. Those who couldn’t keep up were killed.
Manning, then known as Lt. Millie Dalton, and her fellow nurses met a fate less brutal but almost as debilitating. After the surrender of Corregidor they were imprisoned with 4,000 American and European civilians in Manila for the rest of the war. She (and most of the other nurses) suffered from starvation, beriberi, dengue fever, malnutrition and, as a result in later years of that privation, the loss of all her teeth. Living on two bowls of watery rice a day, she and the other nurses, though ailing too, maintained military order among themselves, continued to wear their uniforms (the only clothes they had) and treated the other internees and their children as best they could.
(In one of the strange twists of history, another inmate in the prison camp was shipping company executive Frank Buckles, who lived to be 110 and at his death in February 2011 was the final surviving U.S. veteran of World War I.)
The prison was liberated by the U.S. Army on Feb. 3, 1945. Dalton and the other nurses were given a month or so of rest before being sent around the U.S. on a tour to promote war-bond sales.
The tour brought her to the Bell plant (today operated by Lockheed Martin), where 668 B-29 Superfortress bombers were assembled during the war, and where she was photographed in the plant’s infirmary (see above). I had never heard of her when I began researching my book about the plant, but found her story fascinating.
She toured the plant with press in tow, including a young reporter from the Atlanta Constitution, Bruce Manning, who was from Marietta. She and he hit it off — hit it off so well, in fact, that they soon married, and stayed married until his death in 1994. They are survived by two children: James Manning of New Jersey and March Price of Atlanta.
Lt. Dalton, the final “Angel,” is now where she belongs — with the angels.
Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and author of “The Bell Bomber Plant” and “The Lockheed Plant.”