Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army and Air Force Veteran Rosemary Hogan Luciano, a nurse who was a prisoner of war during World War II.
Hailing from Ahpeatone, Oklahoma, Rosemary Hogan Luciano graduated valedictorian from her high school class. After graduation, a doctor in her community sponsored a scholarship for her to train as a nurse. Once she completed training, Luciano joined the Army Nurse Corps and commissioned as a second lieutenant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1936. Luciano remained there until transferring to Fort Stotsenburg in Angeles City, the Philippines.
Luciano arrived in the Philippines days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Following the attacks in Hawaii, the Japanese began bombarding targets in the Philippines like Fort Stotsenburg and Clark Air Field. In mid-December, Luciano led a group of Filipino and American nurses to Limay on the Bataan peninsula west of Manila to establish a military hospital to care for the wounded. The hospital later moved closer to the front lines at Little Baguio. Luciano served as assistant chief of nurses until the spring of 1942, when she a bombing in the operating room injured her. After the surrender at Bataan in April, Luciano and her comrades prepared for evacuation to Australia. But when the nurses’ aircraft landed at Mindanao to refuel, damage prevented the aircraft from continuing to Australia. The Japanese captured Luciano and several other nurses, imprisoning them at Santo Tomas University in Manila.
Despite her status as a prisoner of war (POW), Luciano continued to serve as a nurse in the camp and worked to resist the Japanese. According to her 2019 page on the Oklahoma Nurses Association site, she and other nurses smuggled money, clothes, shoes, food and medical supplies to the American soldiers in the POW camp at Cabanatuan through a Japanese doctor who visited both sites. The nurses also tended to patients in the camp, many of whom were American or British civilians. While Luciano and the nurses were in the camp, service members called them “The Angels of Bataan.” They remained imprisoned at Santo Tomas until February 1945, when American forces liberated them.
After recovering and returning to the U.S., Luciano transferred to the Air Force Nurse Corps and promoted to colonel in 1958. She was one of the first four women in the Air Force to promote to the rank. Luciano served as chief of nursing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. She married Arnold Luciano in 1962 and then retired from the military as a colonel. During her service, Luciano received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a Prisoner of War Medal.
Luciano died in June 1964 at age 52 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame posthumously inducted her in 1997. She also is one of the three women inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.
We honor her service.
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Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Editors: Wilson Sainvil and Annabelle Colton
Fact checker: Giacomo Ferrari
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley