The Story of Dr. Wassell


In 1942, President Roosevelt addressed the nation and talked about my great-grandfather after giving him the Navy Cross. This radio address is located on the web. There was also a movie called The Story of Dr. Wassell that stared Gary Cooper as Dr. Corydon M. Wassell that was based on the book written by James Hilton. For information on the U.S.S. Marblehead go to U.S.S. Marblehead Information Center.

Here is a Narrative from the Office of Naval History that was from a patient of Dr. Wassell's that was with him on Java and on the ship to Australia.


APRIL 28, 1942 AT 10:00 P.M., E.W.T.

There is, for (instance) example, Dr. Corydon M. Wassell. He was a missionary, well known for his good works in China. He is a simple, modest, retiring man, nearly sixty years old, but he entered the service of his country and was commissioned a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. Dr. Wassell was assigned to duty in Java caring for wounded officers and men of the cruisers HOUSTON and MARBLEHEAD which had been in heavy action in the Java seas. When the Japanese advanced across the island, it was decided to evacuate as many as possible of the wounded to Australia. But about twelve of the men were so badly wounded that they couldn't (not) be moved. Dr. Wassell remained with them, (these men) knowing that he would be captured by the enemy. But he decided to make a last desperate attempt to get the men out of Java. He asked each of them if he wished to take the chance, and every one agreed.

He first had to get the twelve men to the seacoast -- fifty miles away. To do this, he had to improvise stretchers for the hazardous journey. The men were suffering severely, but Dr. Wassell kept them alive by his skill, and inspired them by his own courage. And as the official report said, Dr. Wassell was "almost like a Christ-like shepherd devoted to his flock." On the seacoast, he embarked the men on a little Dutch ship. They were bombed, (and) they were machine-gunned by waves of Japanese planes. Dr. Wassell took virtual command of the ship, and by great skill avoided destruction, hiding in (small) little bays and little inlets.

A few days later, Dr. Wassell and his (little) small flock of wounded men reached Australia safely.

And today Dr. Wassell (now) wears the Navy Cross.

An article was published in May of 2006 in WWII History magazine. The article is shown below as PDF files.

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