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Dr. Paul Ashton

Subjects on this page:
About Dr. Ashton
Bronze/Gold Star
Purple Heart
A Word From Dr. Ashton

About Dr. Ashton
Dr. Paul Louis Ashton, M.D., of Santa Barbara, slipped quietly away on October 14th.

He was born in Mt. Jewett, Pennsylvania on October 18, 1911.  Shortly thereafter he moved with his mother to San Francisco, where he later matriculated at the University of California at Berkeley and UCSF Medical School.  He was the President of his class.  In 1936, he  married Yvonne Toolen.  After his Residency, he spent a year as contract surgeon at Letterman Hospital, under General Norman T. Kirk, who late became U.S. Surgeon General, but World War II interrupted his Neurosurgical career.

As Adjutant of the 12th Medical Regiment, Philippine Scouts, Captain Ashton served at Fort McKinley, before the War, and then was assigned to hospital Number One on Bataan.  As Chief of Surgery, he surrendered to the hospital to the Japanese, and was held captive in Bilibid Prison for over three years.  During that period he was sent on the Tayabas and Bataan Salvage Details.  He attained the rank of Major, and was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

Grateful to God and his fellowmen for his life and liberty, Dr. Ashton settled in Santa Barbara, California where he built a large private practice as a Family Doctor and General Surgeon.  He volunteered weekly at Santa Barbara General Hospital and became Chief of Surgery at St. Francis Hospital. Ashton was also an active member on the Board of Health and the local Medical Society.  Ultimately, he was responsible for founding the Tri-Counties Blood Bank in 1950, and served as its first President.

When he foresaw a crisis in medical malpractice insurance, he attempted to create an insurance company run for, and by doctors.  His speeches on this problem are recorded in the Congressional Record.

With a group of General Practice Physicians, Dr. Ashton established the Goleta valley Community Hospital and presided as its first administrator.  His special interest in Emergency Medicine led to construction of the Helipad.  Ashton is remembered as the Father of the Heart-Lung Institute at GVCH, which brought cutting-edge  technologies and world-renowned cardio-pulmonary specialists to the Goleta Valley.  In appreciation for his faithful guidance, the Education Center in the Goleta Valley Medical Building was dedicated to Dr. Ashton in 1989.

After retiring from medicine in 1990, Dr. Ashton published two books about his experiences in World War II, and was active in several P.O.W. groups.  

Dr. Ashton is survived by his wife, Yvonne and by two children Laird Paul Ashton and his wife, Alaine, and Yvonne Ashton.

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The bronze star The Bronze/Gold Star

Letter from the War Department:

The Adjutant General's Office
Washington 25, D.C.

9 September 1946

Dear Captain Ashton:

I have the honor to inform you that by direction of the President, under the provisions of the executive Order No. 94l9, 4 February 1944, the Bronze Star Medal was awarded to you by the War Department for heroism from 20 June to 28 July l942.

The Commanding General, Sixth Army, Presidio of San Francisco, California, has been directed to present the Bronze Star Medal to you with suitable ceremony. Your wishes relative to the date and presentation should be communicated to that officer.

Sincerely yours,

H.B. Lewis
Brigadier General

Acting The Adjutant General

The Citation:


Captain Paul T. Ashton displayed heroic conduct as a Prisoner of War of the Japanese from 20 June to 28 July 1942 in Tayabas Province, Luzon, Philippine Islands. When advised that three hundred Americans were undergoing most cruel treatment in a reprisal work camp he, as a medical officer, volunteered to be sent there in an attempt to alleviate their condition. When he returned with the survivors of the camp, his own health was so impaired as to require several months' hospitalization.

The Gold-Star Citation:


The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Gold Star in lieu of the Second Bronze Star Medal to


for service as set forth in the following


"For meritorious service while performing volunteer duty as Medical Officer with the American working party stationed at Little Bagulo on Bataan from April to July 1943. Arriving after a long period of illness, Major Ashton reported to the Japanese Camp Commander and stated that he had been assigned as Medical Officer to take charge of the health of American prisoners. Ordered to serve as a Private in the rear ranks and work as a ship-loader, Major Ashton firmly maintained his right to be treated as an American officer and doctor. During the heated argument which followed, he was overpowered by Japanese soldiers, beaten severely and bound to a tree with his hands tied behind his back. Although repeatedly subjected to the same brutal treatment and to threats of death, Major Ashton withstood these indignities with courage and fortitude and, upon learning that the Japanese Commander was suffering from a chronic disease, used his professional skill in rendering service to the enemy in return for many concessions beneficial to the prisoners. As a result of his influence over the Japanese Camp Commander, no more Americans were beaten and no more Filipinos killed by these barbaric captors. By his gallant leadership, determination and devotion to duty, Major Ashton upheld the highest traditions of the United States Armed Forces."

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The purple heart The Purple Heart

The General Orders


General Orders No. 8
19 March 1945

2. The award of the Order of the Purple Heart, is hereby conferred upon the following personnel. AUTH: Par 16, AR 600-45.

MAJ PAUL L. ASHTON, 0 397 788, MC unasgd,
Address: 1114 Vicintia Ave., Corona, California
Wounded in action at Bataan, Philippine Islands, 5 April 1942.

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A Word From Dr. Ashton

Now they are finished, these books I have written to commemorate the gradually dimming deeds and events relating to my long dead military companions as well as those in the fast diminishing ranks of survivors.

When I began to assemble these memories, while our war still sputtered and boiled, I was vaguely conscious of furtively stealing the wine of victory from those who rescued us. The taste was heady and at first it diluted, then drowned completely our defeat. The drunken spree lasted for years after the conflict and I allowed the feeling of our national invincibility to pervade me (to such an extent that our defeats in Bataan, Corregidor and Pearl Harbor became " just a fluke").

In recent years I have become aware of vague unsettled feelings, especially as I again perceive the national drift of public opinion toward pocketbook pacifism. This had gained much momentum before WWII until checked by the realism of Pearl Harbor. Then it always reappears after a period of peace.

Let me go back a few years and "fill you in" on some little known events that resulted from allowing our policy of preparedness to lapse.

Most military histories are like a necklace of separate incidents strung together, each event contributed by a single observer as though seen through a key hole. That is because all soldiers, be they general or private, are anchored in their particular unit like coral on a reef--except for me. It was my fortune as a trouble-shooting medical field officer to enjoy great mobility, constantly roving from one unit to another throughout Bataan. As adjutant of General Wainwright's Philippine Division Medical Regiment and assistant Bataan Force Surgeon, my job kept me constantly on the move to wherever there was action. Later in the campaign when we ran out of gasoline, I spent most of my time with Philippine Army medical battalions setting up field hospitals until the fall of Bataan. (Thus were the original MASH units established.) Following that I became Chief of Surgery at General Hospital #1.

During the three years that ensued I had many adventures in the prison camps and working parties as a physician. Not the least of these was the return of General MacArthur commanding the now powerful armed forces and the rescue of the few remaining survivors.

This magnificent military, naval and air operation was witnessed by the author only in memory of his comrades by then, for most were already dead of starvation and disease. While the doomed survivors continued an accelerated progress to their graves, even after their return home.

To this day there occurs a welling-up of grief in me whenever I recall those long dead friends and comrades. I can only blame it upon my deep anxiety over the state of unreadiness into which I have watched our nation again submerge. Unheeded historical lessons will surely be repeated because a decade or two without war seems to silence or remove all of those old enough to remember them.

Here again it may well come to pass that our next debacle like Pearl Harbor, Bataan, and Corregidor (with which we seem to start all wars), will not even serve to arouse the sleeping nation, steeped in love, as it fumbles to fight off another treacherous enemy whose predatory "High Command" strikes without warning. The next time there may not be enough determined men left, only those with flowers in their hair shouting, "Hell no, I won't go."

� 1999 Paul Ashton, M.D.
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