Dr Corydon Wassell

Dr Corydon Wassell
Little Rock, Arkansas. April 24, 1944.
“Story of Dr. Wassell”. Parks Johnson
interviews Commander Corydon Wassell

His Award

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 Indonesia.

His navy cross citation reads:

“For 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, aboutMarch 1, 1942.”

Genealogical Information

  • 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 in 1913.
  • He served with the United States Navy Reserve in 1936.
  • He died on the 12th May 1958 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetary.
  • The Wassell family came from Kidderminster, England.

Extract taken from the book, ‘The Story of Dr Wassell’ by James Hilton

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

Cecil B DeMilles The Story of Dr Wassell with Gary Cooper

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 Effects.

External Links

Wikipedia entry relating to Corydon Wassell

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