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Col. Ruby Bradley to be celebrated at ‘History Alive’

Col. Ruby G. Bradley -- a Spencer native who survived two wars, Japanese prison camps and became one of the most decorated women in U.S. history -- will be celebrated during a program at Tamarack in Beckley on Saturday. Charleston resident Rebecca "Becky" Park will portray Bradley during the 1 p.m. program. Park is one of 15 people to portray historic figures, and discuss their impact on our society, in "History Alive" programs sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council. Other figures include author Edgar Allan Poe, baseball great Babe Ruth, former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, opera star Jenny Lind, Civil War nurse Clara Barton, Shawnee Chief Cornstalk and Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Bradley, who was born in Spencer in 1907, retired from the Army in 1963. She was 94 when she died in 2002. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- which took place 70 years ago on Dec. 7, 1941 -- Bradley was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. After her capture, Bradley continued to work as a nurse in prisoner of war camps until 1945. During the Korean War, Bradley served as chief nurse for the Eighth Army in Korea. In 1958, she was awarded the rank of colonel. Park said Bradley was one of two Army nurses captured in December 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She endured four years in Japanese prison camps and was near starvation. "She spent time in three prison camps. The first was Camp John Hay, where she worked for almost a year. Then in April 1942, the Japanese moved her to Camp Holmes. "On Sept. 5, 1943, Bradley accepted an option to transfer to Manila to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp with 65 other nurses," Park said. Bradley, a surgical nurse, faced big challenges at camps Hay and Holmes, where she set up clinics to treat diseases including dysentery, a tropical inflammatory intestinal disorder, which can cause death. "Bradley was freed after Feb. 3, 1945, when the first U.S. cavalry units came through the gates at Santo Tomas. "After the Bataan Death March," Park said, "many nurses were on the peninsula in the Philippines, working in jungle hospitals. In April 1942, they were evacuated to Corregidor Island, off the southern end of the Bataan peninsula at the mouth of Manila Bay."     "History Alive" presentations are not formal plays. Members of the audience are encouraged and expected to enter into discussions with the actresses and actors who portray the historical figures. Saturday's program will take place in the Gov. Hulett C. Smith Theater at Tamarack.

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