(07/03/2002)
By Bob Weaver

I met Col. Ruby Bradley in Spencer sometime in the 60's on a porch with one of her relatives, Jim Bradley, mostly unaware of her illustrious military career. She was the most decorated woman in military history.

That day in the 60's she and some of her friends talked about green beans and tomatoes, simple foods she loved as a Roane County country girl.

A few years went by, and stories began to appear about the heroic Bradley, and I met her again when she returned to the county for funerals. Spencer had a day in her honor a few years ago.

Yesterday, just before the Fourth of July, she was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. The 94-year-old woman, who grew up in the Roane County countryside, was a survivor of two wars, nearly starving to death in a Japanese prison camp.

A firing party of seven sounded three volleys in her honor at the historic cemetery, with a few members of her family attending. The flag covered coffin was escorted to the grave site by six white horses. The symbolic rider-less horse followed, with the Army Band playing hymns.

First entering the Army in 1934 as a surgical nurse, she was 34 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Serving in the Philippines, she was captured and placed in a Manila interment camp.

For months she used her nursing skills to help prisoners and starving children, during which time she assisted with 230 operations and delivered 13 children. She and other nurses in the camp were known as "Angels in Fatigues."

In 1945 American troops liberated her, ending three years in captivity. She had shrunk to 80 pounds, returning to Roane County to wait for the next war in Korea.

With an ambulance exploding behind her, surrounded by 100,000 Chinese soldiers, the front-line Bradley loaded sick and wounded on an evacuation plane, she told NBC Nightly News.

She retired in 1963, ending a 30 year military career, undoubtedly the most decorated military woman with 34 medals and citations for bravery.

She received two Legion of Merit medals, two Bronze stars, two Presidential Emblems, the World War II Victory Medal and the US Service Medal.

She was also given the Red Cross' highest honor, the Florence Nightingale Medal.


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