AT the Consolidated Press office in New York they had been wondering anxiously for two months: "Where is Jack Crane?"
Since the fall of Singapore only two cables had come through over Crane's signature. The first had described his escape from Singapore with Helen Evans, a Red Cross nurse from Chicago.
The second had ended with the words, "Evans now nursing at Army hospital, Corregidor. I am with American and Filipino forces on Bataan."
That had been the last word direct from Jack Crane. Later, another correspondent had reported that Crane was wounded. The Army was trying to evacuate him to Australia.
Crane himself never did write the story of how he escaped from the Philippines. He was too sick for that, lying in the Royal Australian Hospital, Melbourne, delirious with blackwater fever and still temporarily blinded as a result of a gun-powder flash.
The story was written by Helen Evans without whom (as Crane later found out) he could never have made his escape. With no training as a reporter, she wrote it almost as one would write a letter home. She signed it "Evans, pinch-hitting for Crane."
It is well known in the newspaper business that the most interesting dispatches are not always written by professional reporters. Often the great news stories come in the simple words of a returning fighter pilot, or the unedited statements of a sailor who has fought in a naval battle.
So it was with Helen Evans. She had never written for a newspaper in her life. Yet the story she wrote for Jack Crane made the front pages all over America.
"Those were the worst days on Bataan," she wrote. "At the time Crane landed, food, medicines and even water had run short. Two out of every three of our men were sick. Even the ammunition was rationed.
"The Japs gave us no rest. They kept on attacking the woefully small American and Filipino forces until our men dropped in their tracks, too exhausted to keep on shooting.
"Jack Crane caught fever two days after he landed on Bataan. It was the same as everyone had. Crane kept right on working. He said that most of the soldiers were sicker than he ...
"I think Crane knew that there, with our outnumbered forces, he was in the middle of the greatest American war story since the defense of the Alamo.
"He never left the front lines. He wanted to see everything and write about everything. He wanted America to know what our men were going through."
BLINDED BY AN EXPLOSION
"Crane was wounded in this way: He was in a foxhole in the western sector of our front, watching some Filipino troops firing Jap shells back at the Nips from a captured mountain gun.
"One of the lap shells was defective. It exploded in the breech of the gun and killed two Filipinos. Crane was temporarily blinded by the powder flash.
"They rowed him across to the hospital on Corregidor that night. I found him at midnight in the 'critical' ward where I was on duty.
"When the list of casualties to be evacuated with the nurses came out, Crane's name was on it because he was still blinded ..."
Part of her story was cut out here by the censor. The details of how escapes were made from Corregidor were still too secret to allow them to be put into print.
She could only hint at the run by night in a PT boat to a secret rendezvous with American freighters. Then the slow voyage to a remote island, where an American airport was still in operation: the long wait for an Australia-bound plane. And always the fear of being spotted and bombed by Jap planes.
Jack Crane, although his eyes had begun to improve, was delirious with fever through all this. Helen Evans did not say so in her story, but without her constant care he could never have made the escape.
HOW A NURSE FEELS
Afterwards, when he was getting better in Australia, Jack Crane was told for the first time how Helen Evans had helped to bring him to safety. He called and thanked her.
"It was the least I could do," she said. "You saved me from the Japs, the night that Singapore fell."
"Thanks for getting my story out, too," he said. Then: "What made you do it?"
"I knew how much you wanted it written, Crane. Even when the doctors were sure you'd die, you kept whispering 'Cable New York. Tell America about Corregidor and Bataan'."
"There was something we had to tell," Jack Crane said. "We had the bravest men in the world in the Philippines. And yet they were beaten by the Japs.
"Bravery by itself isn't enough. Our forces must have good weapons too, and plenty of food and medicine. That was the lesson of the Philippines."
Afterwards, when the story she had written for Jack Crane had become famous in America, people often asked Helen Evans:
"Why don't you become a war correspondent yourself?"
"Not for me," she answered them. "There is only one job for a nurse in a battle zone. That's to relieve the suffering of men under fire."
NEXT WEEK: JACK CRANE IS WITH THE MARINES WHO LAND IN THE SOLOMONS.