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We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of…

We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan…

by Elizabeth M. Norman

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This is an amazing book about a group of amazing women It is the story of the military nurses stationed in the Philippines at the beginning of WWII. As the war progressed, these women went from nursing under horrible conditions to being prisoners of war. In the words of the author, “A group of woman [sic] had gone off to paradise, had been swept up in war, had struggled to survive. As a group they had been my models, my exemplars – self-possessed women in a world dominated by men, professional women who kept to their protocols and practice in a place of starvation and disease and inane savagery, women who were both ordinary and sui-generis, as tough as they were tender, as stalwart as they were sincere.” We Band of Angels is, indeed, a fitting tribute to these women. Elizabeth Norman did an outstanding job of telling their story. I have no idea how she was able to pull so many sources (interviews, letters, articles, legal documents, and many more) together into such a readable book. Over her years of research, she also became close friends of several of the nurses, and was able to incorporate her own personal knowledge of them into the book. It obviously is a work of love. Everyone who has an interest in WWII – or nursing – or just in America - should read this book. ( )
  peggy.s | Jan 29, 2014 |
I received this book from the Goodreads First Reads Program.

This is the account of Navy nurses deployed to the Philippines during World War II. It seemed like an assignment in paradise, until December 8, 1941 when the Japanese began dropping bombs. The nurses served in a field hospital they set up in the Jungle of Bataan to care for the wounded soldiers. The nurses were sent to the tunnels of Corregidor when it became inevitable that the Army would be overrun. When Corregidor fell, the nurses were sent to an internment camp for Prisoners of War, where they would be kept until 1944.

The nurses served in deplorable conditions. They had to deal with bombs, starvation, imprisonment, diseases, lack of resources, and so much more. What was impressive to me was that even while they were starving and ill, they would report for duty to care for the sick and wounded soldiers and prisoners. The author uses a combination of first hand accounts, letters, and diaries to explain what happened to these women. The stunning courage of these women leaves you speechless.

I highly recommend reading this book. It is a moving account of service under the worst possible conditions. The nurses went beyond their duty when caring for their charges at great personal cost. Read this book to be reminded how humanity can succeed even at the worst moments. Even those that do not typically read history will be engrossed by this book. ( )
  BittyCornwell | Nov 17, 2013 |
This is the story of American nurses who became prisoners of war during WWII. The author has tracked down the remaining members of this group of women, and along with written accounts has pieced together their story so that it will not be lost. This is the story of a group of nurses who stuck together and continued to get the job done through bombings, evacuations, starvation, imprisonment and death. It is also the story of women at the front of battle for the first time as well as a military that didn't know how to handle them or value their experiences. There is very little documentation about the role of women in the military during World War II and this was a really interest addition. ( )
  caittilynn | Sep 21, 2013 |
Women wanted to become army and navy nurses in the Philippines because they thought it would be an exciting and adventurous job. After a brief time of idle Japan declares war on the US and throws everything into capturing the Philippines. With the knowledge of the way Japanese soldiers terrorized citizens during the Rape of Nanking I can only imagine the dread these nurses must have felt to know they would be next. They survived months of war, overwork and starvation only to be captured and endure 3 more years of starvation. At the end of their ordeal they were honored - until the US government actually had to decide on conferring pensions and awards. It seems they were considered just expendable women after all. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Dec 4, 2012 |
On the same day the Japanese launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, it also struck American bases in the Philippines. Following the air strikes with a massive landing, the Japanese were poised to take control of these islands. In We Band of Angels author Elizabeth M Norman tells the story of the American Military nurses that were serving in the Philippines at that time. There was no escape, they worked at their hospitals as long as they could, they were then moved, some immediately to the island fortress of Corregidor, but many to the peninsula of Bataan.

On Bataan, they helped to carve out hospitals from the jungle and nursed the sick and wounded there, until the Japanese were threatening to overrun them. They were then moved to Corregidor and worked in the underground tunnels, again dispensing medical assistance to the sick and wounded. Long after General MacArthur left, these remarkable women soldiered on, under constant bombardment, until the American forces had to surrender in early May of 1942.

At this point the nurses were moved to the prison camp of Santo Tomas in Manila. There they put their nursing abilities to work until they were liberated in early February, 1944. Life in the prison camps was a life of misery, starvation and sickness.

Compiling her book from personal interviews, letter, diaries and journals, Elizabeth M. Norman writes an extremely comprehensive story. So much information is packed into these pages that at times, I felt overwhelmed by all the details. To read of what these women endured, told in their own words was both humbling and emotional. We Band of Angels is an inspiring story of women who helped, cared for and supported each other, yet remained professional, and never forgot to include a little humor as they lived through these horrific years of captivity. I highly recommend We Band of Angels both for it’s sheer readability and as a great source of information on the Pacific Theatre of World War II. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Nov 7, 2012 |
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In the fall of 1941, while the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy secretly stockpiled tons of material and readied regiments of troops to attack American and European bases in the Pacific, the officers of General Douglas MacArthur's Far East Command in the Philippines pampered themselves with the sweet pleasures of colonial life.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671787187, Paperback)

"Found worms in my oatmeal this morning. I shouldn't have objected because they had been sterilized in the cooking and I was getting fresh meat with my breakfast.... I'm still losing weight and so are most of us..."

Ruth Marie Straub, an Army nurse, wrote those words in her diary on March 15, 1942, just over three months after the Japanese first bombed the U.S. military base in Manila. She and her colleagues had evacuated the city and established, in the Philippine jungle, hospitals for the skyrocketing numbers of casualties. In the face of the advancing Japanese Army, the nurses and other military personnel continued to retreat, first to the Bataan Peninsula, and then to Corregidor, a rocky island in Manila Bay. Straub was one of the lucky ones; she was evacuated with a handful of other nurses in April 1942. Her remaining colleagues, meanwhile, surrendered with the rest of the U.S. forces in May and were taken to STIC--Santo Tomas Internment Camp, where they were to spend nearly three years in captivity.

We Band of Angels tells the stories of these courageous women, tagged by the American media as "The Angels of Bataan and Corregidor." Utilizing a wide range of sources, including diaries, letters, and personal interviews with surviving "Angels," Elizabeth M. Norman has compiled a harrowing narrative about the experiences of these women--from the country-club atmosphere of prewar Manila; to the jungle hospitals where patients slept on bamboo cots in the open air; to the Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor, where they choked on dust and worked while the bombs rained down above them; to the STIC, where per-person rations were cut to 900 calories a day and the women resorted to frying weeds in cold cream for food. The story Nelson tells is compelling but slightly flawed: like many biographers, Nelson has a deep affection and respect for her subjects, which causes her to soften rough edges. At the same time, however, Nelson argues that these women were not heroes--nor were they angels (in the acknowledgments, Nelson notes that she didn't want the word angels in the title, but the publishers had their way). Perhaps because Nelson is a nurse herself, she is trying to stress that her profession is noble and that these women were, in a sense, just fulfilling their duties.

Nursing is noble, of course, but it is clear that these women were something special. Amazingly, all of the Angels of Bataan, some 99 in number, survived their ordeal--and clearly helped hundreds of the other sufferers survive. We Band of Angels deserves a space on the bookshelves of anyone interested in World War II. --C.B. Delaney

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:32 -0400)

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Celebrates the heroism of the Army and Navy nurses imprisoned for three years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

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