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The working title of the film was Hands of Mercy. The title So Proudly We Hail! was taken from a line in "The Star Spangled Banner," "...And so proudly we hail..." (lyrics by Francis Scott Key; music arranged by Thomas Carr). Mark Sandrich's credit reads "Produced and directed by...". The following appears onscreen in the opening credits: "We are grateful for the cooperation of The War Department, The Army Nurse Corps, The American Red Cross; And our special thanks to Colonel Thomas W. Doyle, U.S.A. Commanding Officer, Combat Team 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, on Bataan; and First Lieutenant Eunice Hatchitt, Army Nurse Corps of Bataan and Corregidor." The film opens with the following written prologue: "Out of the black sorrow and tragedy of Bataan and Corregidor came a light-the light of a miracle! Eight American girls-Army nurses-had been delivered from that holocaust. The story that follows is inspired by their courage, devotion and sacrifice, and is based on the records of the U.S. Army Nursing Corps. We dedicate this picture to them and their comrades still somewhere in the Philippines, and to nurses everywhere."
The United States lost control of Bataan to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, and approximately 75,000 soldiers and Filipinos were taken prisoner. (For more information on the fall of Bataan, see the above entry for Bataan.) The United States' forces were then ensconced in the Malinta Tunnels on Corregidor, which were dug by the U.S. Army. Following a severe bombardment on April 29, 1942, the Navy evacuated approximately 50 people, mostly female nurses. On May 3, 1942, a submarine evacuated twenty-five more personnel, including thirteen women. The troops at Corregidor were forced to surrender to the Japanese on May 6, 1942. Over 800 troops died in battle, and over one-third of the men who were captured died during their imprisonment.
Information in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information: The film was originally intended to open with footage from a July 1, 1942 Paramount News newsreel, in which the surviving Corregidor nurses were cited for heroism at a Washington, D.C. ceremony, followed by a salutory speech by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Included in the footage was a series of closeups of the nurses and their names: Dorothea Daley, Harriet G. Lee, Mary G. Lohr, Florence McDonald, Juanita Redmond and Eunice Hatchitt. Lieutenant Hatchitt, who served over two years in the Philippines, was to begin the film proper with a short narrative recalling her release. This sequence was apparently abandoned, as was a trailer featuring Lieut. Hatchitt, which was shot on April 14, 1943, according to information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library and the Records of the War Department at NARS. The trailer featured Hatchitt urging American women between the ages of 18 and 50 to join the Red Cross as a Volunteer Nurses' Aide or to train as a civilian nurse to assist returning wounded soldiers. She then closed the trailer with the following statement: "They say, and this I know to be true, 'The wounded don't cry,'-and this I also know, 'The wounded cannot wait,'-so, please, everyone, enlist now and help to bring this war to a quicker end."
A May 22, 1943 letter from Paramount to the War Department Pictorial Branch of the Bureau of Public Relations notes that the trailer of Lieut. Hatchitt was removed because the filmmakers felt that "the picture itself is the greatest appeal for nurses possible, and that the sequences made on Lt. Hatchitt are anti-climactic." However, Paramount did plan to release the trailer nationwide through its Paramount News newsreels. Hatchitt served as a technical advisor on the picture and was credited in production files for story contribution. In addition, Hatchitt was hired by Paramount to help promote the film upon its release in August 1943. A Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Paramount received the cooperation of Colonel Mason Wright, U.S. Army, Stuart Brown of the American Red Cross, and Lowell Mellett, head of the Film Co-ordination Group, during production.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, after Richard Crane replaced Elliott Reid in the role of "Georgie Larson," Reid was assigned the part of an aviator. Reid's appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, however. According to an article in Life, Paramount used photographs of Corregidor taken by Life correspondent Melville Jacoby to verify the authenticity of various details of army life depicted in the film. Some scenes were shot on location at the Salton Sea and Sherwood Forest, CA, and at Sherman Studios. This was the first picture in which Veronica Lake, renowned for her "peek-a-boo" hairstyle, wore her hair up to conform with her role as an Army nurse. While Life commented on the film's "authenticity and grim realism," and Daily Variety hailed it as "the first complete, deeply-etched drama of women on active fronts of the present war", The Nation reviewer wryly noted that, "This is probably the most deadly accurate picture that will ever be made of what war looks like through the lenses of a housewives' magazine romance."
This film was selected by Film Daily as one of the ten best pictures of 1943 and was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Supporting Actress, Paulette Goddard; Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Allan Scott; Best Cinematography (Black & White), Charles Lang; and Best Special Effects, Farciot Edouart, Gordon Jennings and George Dutton. Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake and Sonny Tufts recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story broadcast on November 1, 1942.