On December 7, 1941

It’s been 74 years since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into the Second World War.

Hawaii was not the only territory the United States held. It still controlled the Philippine Islands, where thousands of Americans had been living for decades. The Philippines are located about 1900 miles south of Japan, between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, and about 5400 miles west of Hawaii.

map 1944

American women living in the Philippines were shocked by the news of Pearl Harbor. Elizabeth Vaughan, wife of a civil engineer and the mother of two young children, wrote in her diary, “My world collapsed.”

Elizabeth Vaughan

Grace Nash, a violinist also married to an engineer and mother to two young sons, remembered, “My lips tightened over clenched teeth. I wasn’t numb, I was befuddled and angry. I knew war would come…and now it has come!”

Grace Nash

Fifteen-year-old Dorothy Dore, daughter of an American father and mestiza mother, was away at school when Pearl Harbor was bombed, but made her way home to the island of Mindanao. Dorothy’s father, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, took a civilian job with the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE), and Dorothy worked as a nurse’s aide at a military dispensary.


In Manila, Yay Panlilio had already signed on as an intelligence agent for USAFFE. The attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent attacks on the Philippine Islands made her work all the more critical.


For these American women, and so many others, Pearl Harbor was a turning point in their lives.