Bridge honors sisters who served in WWII
A bridge on Henrytown Road has been renamed to honor a pair of sisters who volunteered as nurses in World War II, with one of them among the American personnel taken prisoner during the fall of Bataan.
Sevier County officials honored Lieutenants Geneva and Ressa Jenkins with the renaming of a bridge over Yellow Breeches Creek on Henrytown Road, not far from New Salem Baptist Church.
“I am honored to recognize these sisters from Jones Cove who volunteered to help our nation in a time of war,” Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said. “Their dedication and sacrifice make me proud to be a Sevier Countian. Their story is truly remarkable.”
The sisters grew up in Jones Cove before going to a nursing school at Knox General Hospital.
They volunteered to serve as Army nurses during the war and were eventually assigned to Corregidor, which fell to Japanese forces in 1942.
A book, In the Shadow of the Sun,” offers a fictionalized account of their story along with some real press clippings and is available at Sevier County libraries.
Ressa was among those who were evacuated, but Geneva was among 78 nurses who were captured.
The group are remembered as the “Angels of Bataan” — the first large group of American women in combat and the largest group of American women ever captured and imprisoned by enemy forces.
They were held at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp under harsh conditions for more than a year. As a group, they lost an average of 30% of their body weight as their captors reduced rations to them.
They were liberated in February of 1945.
Geneva was awarded a Bronze Star and Presidential Unit Citation after returning home.
The documents captured in In the Shadow of the Sun reflect on how painfully slow word could arrive from overseas during the war.
They include a Western Union telegram saying “am pleased to tell you that official report just received states your daughter second lieutenant Geneva Jenkins last reported to have been rescued by our forces is now enjoying a brief rest and will be returned to the United States by first available air transportation.”
“Further details will be forwarded promptly when received.”
A headline from an East Tennessee newspaper said “Sevier County nurse saw no atrocities, but heard of plenty in 2½ years in Santo Tomas.
With the dedication of the bridge, their names will be remembered for years to come in Sevier County.
Source: The Mountain Press (Sevierville, TN) – April 26, 2022