Rock, Arkansas. April 24, 1944.
"Story of Dr. Wassell". Parks Johnson
interviews Commander Corydon Wassell
Corydon Wassell was awarded the Navy Cross during
World War Two for saving 12 wounded American service
man from likely capture by the Japanese at Java in
His navy cross citation reads:
especially meritorious conduct,
devotion to duty, and utter
disregard of personal safety,
while in imminent contact with
enemy forces and under attack
from enemy aircraft, in caring
for and evacuating the wounded
of the United States Navy under
his charge in Java, Netherlands
East Indies, about
- Corydon M Wassell was born on the
July 4 1884, at Little Rock, Arkansas.
- He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1909 and practiced
medicine in Tillar, Arkansas.
- He served in Wuchang China
- He served with the United States Navy Reserve in 1936.
- He died on the 12th May 1958 and is buried in Arlington National
- The Wassell family
came from Kidderminster, England.
Extract taken from the
book, 'The Story of Dr Wassell' by James Hilton
On February 4, 1942, the United States
cruisers Houston and Marblehead were in action off the
coast of Java. Badly battered by a heavy Japanese force,
they limped into port.
"Dr. Wassell," said the president in a
broadcast speech to the nation on the 28th April, 1942,
"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 could not be moved. Dr Wassell remained with these
men, knowing that he would by captured by the enemy. But
he decided to make a desperate attempt to get the twelve
men to the seacoast... The men were suffering severely
but Dr. Wassell kept them alive by his skill and inspired
them by his own courage. As the official report said, Dr.
Wassell was 'almost like a Christ-like shepherd devoted
to his flock'."
Taken from the 'The Story of Dr
Wassell' by James Hilton
Published by Macmillan & Co. Ltd of London 1944
Printed in Great Britain by
R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh.
Review taken from the
Variety Movie Guide, 1997
Variety Movie Guide 1997
1944, 136 Mins, Us Col
Dir Cecil B DeMille
Stars Gary Cooper
Because this is a factual story of Dr Wassell's heroic
evacuation of 12 men, plus himself, from Java in earlier
stages of the war, it packs more interest that otherwise
might have been the case.
The exploits of the by-now famed
naval commander are brought to the screen on a lavish
scale by Cecil B. DeMille, with an exceptionally fine
cast and good comedy relief. The entertainment value,
even had the scenario been fiction, is very strong.
There can be no quarrel with the cast. While gary Cooper
bears no particular resemblance to Commander Wassell
himself, who was 60 and a weather-beaten type, the star
imparts to the role much vigour, colour and sympathetic
interest. Its one of Cooper's best performances.
The story [by James Hilton] based
upon facts as related by Commander Wassell [and 15 of the
wounded sailors involved], thought various cutback, takes
cooper from his early horse-and-buggy country doctor days
in Arkansas through medical research in China before the
war and, finally, to Australia after he has successfully
transported wounded men to that point. Instead of
court-martialed there for having disobeyed orders to
leave stretcher cases behind in Java, Dr Wassell was
awarded the Navy Cross and his heroic deed made the
subject of a broadcast by President Roosevelt.
1944: Nomination: Best Special
Wikipedia entry relating to Corydon Wassell
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