We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan Info

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In the fall of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia-scented
paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a
distant rumor, life a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the
stars. On December 8 all that changed, as Japanese bombs began raining
down on American bases in Luzon, and this paradise became a fiery hell.
Caught in the raging battle, the nurses set up field hospitals in the
jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor, where they tended to
the most devastating injuries of war, and suffered the terrors of shells
and shrapnel.
 
But the worst was yet to come. After
Bataan and Corregidor fell, the nurses were herded into internment camps
where they would endure three years of fear, brutality, and starvation.
Once liberated, they returned to an America that at first celebrated
them, but later refused to honor their leaders with the medals they
clearly deserved. Here, in letters, diaries, and riveting firsthand
accounts, is the story of what really happened during those dark days,
woven together in a deeply affecting saga of women in war.

 
Praise for We Band of Angels

 
“Gripping . . . a war story in which the main
characters never kill one of the enemy, or even shoot at him, but are
nevertheless heroes . . . Americans today should thank God we had such
women.”—Stephen E. Ambrose
 
“Remarkable
and uplifting.”—USA Today
 

“[Elizabeth M. Norman] brings a quiet, scholarly voice to this
narrative. . . . In just a little over six months these women had turned
from plucky young girls on a mild adventure to authentic heroes. . . .
Every page of this history is fascinating.”—Carolyn See,
The Washington Post
 
“Riveting . . . poignant
and powerful.”—The Dallas Morning News

 
Winner of the Lavinia Dock Award for historical
scholarship, the American Academy of Nursing National Media Award, and
the Agnes Dillon Randolph Award

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan:

4

Apr 04, 2020

A gripping and well researched story about a group of Nurses trapped on Bataan by the Japanese during Word War II. A story of survival in unimaginable conditions and how these woman stories were lost to history.

A remarkable story of 99 Army and Navy Nurses, the first unit of American women ever sent into the middle of a battle and became the only group of American women captured and imprisioned by the enemy. This is their story which begins in the Fall on 1941 in the Philippines, a paradise for A gripping and well researched story about a group of Nurses trapped on Bataan by the Japanese during Word War II. A story of survival in unimaginable conditions and how these woman stories were lost to history.

A remarkable story of 99 Army and Navy Nurses, the first unit of American women ever sent into the middle of a battle and became the only group of American women captured and imprisioned by the enemy. This is their story which begins in the Fall on 1941 in the Philippines, a paradise for the American Army and Navy Nurses who were stationed there. At this stage untouched by war or danger, life had an easy pace of routine shifts and newly formed friendships. On December 8th the Japanese bombs fell down on the American Bases and life because anything but normal. The Nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor to tend to the horrors of war. After the fall of Bataan and Corregidor the nurses were herded into interment camps where they faced years of horrific conditions.

I have read quite a lot of WWII books and I had never read or even heard about these remarkable ladies and I was amazed by their courage and spirit.
The book is well researched and written and gives a clear concise account from beginning to end. I also enjoyed learning about the nurses lives after the war.

I listened to this book on audible and while the narration is certainly not perfect it was clear and well paced but I would have preferred to have read a hard copy of this one as feel I may have gotten more from an actual book and kept wondering if there photos and maps which I may have missed out on.

A great read for those who enjoy WWII Stories or Non Fiction Books.
. ...more
5

May 14, 2019

A little known piece of American history, the men of Corregidor were not alone. There were along with them American nurses. This book is their story. This is their history. They were there, trapped and caring for those American soldiers whom we have heard so much.
These women also suffered starvation, disease and fear. Yet they stayed valiant. They had no medical supplies, nothing but what could be used to care for their charges. Yet we hear nothing of them.
They were present at Bataan. They fled A little known piece of American history, the men of Corregidor were not alone. There were along with them American nurses. This book is their story. This is their history. They were there, trapped and caring for those American soldiers whom we have heard so much.
These women also suffered starvation, disease and fear. Yet they stayed valiant. They had no medical supplies, nothing but what could be used to care for their charges. Yet we hear nothing of them.
They were present at Bataan. They fled to Corregidor. These are the stories told by the women who suffered torture, starvation and imprisonment alongside the men.

In Bataan they built makeshift hospitals, worked 24 hours a day and also suffered the malaria and other diseases of the jungle. None laid down. None have up.
They operated in open areas with little to no supplies.
This book is their testimony. Photographs included. They ministered to these men. Even if they could only offer help in talk. They fell in love and watched men die.
They stuck together and under these conditions, suffered but carried on.
They were imprisoned.
Many know nothing of these brave women. What better time to describe their dedication to duty than Nurse's week.
Women who never fired a shot, who stayed and did their duty.
The book consists of their stories.
A MUST READ.
Well written and fascinating. A tribute to nurses who have served in the armed forces. Doing and aiding where they could. ...more
5

Jan 20, 2014

My Great Aunt, Captain Edith Shacklette "Shack" was one of the Angels. I can not be unbiased about this book as it holds a dear place in my heart and on my shelf. I have read everything I can get my hands on about this subject. Ms. Norman's book is the best of all of them I have read. Her research, interviews with then still living 'Angels', and her writing style, make this a absorbing and page turning treatise on an important part of World War II history.
5

Dec 20, 2019

A fantastic book!

When I started this book I was told, I thought We Band of Angels was excellent. My friend read it first and loved (it). She gave it to her mother and she loved it. I read it and loved it and gave it to my mother, who loved it. Our mothers were from that generation and enjoyed reading about what happened to the women who served in World War II.

My reply? Marilyn, I ditto how you, your friend and your mothers felt. Very good, no, in fact excellent reading. It is clear and personal A fantastic book!

When I started this book I was told, “I thought We Band of Angels was excellent. My friend read it first and loved (it). She gave it to her mother and she loved it. I read it and loved it and gave it to my mother, who loved it. Our mothers were from that generation and enjoyed reading about what happened to the women who served in World War II.”

My reply? “Marilyn, I ditto how you, your friend and your mothers felt. Very good, no, in fact excellent reading. It is clear and personal and despite the difficult subject matter has many humorous lines. Women are strong.”

I add my wholehearted praise for this book. I can pretty much guarantee that if you read it, you will love it too.

I read first Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath written both by Elizabeth M. Norman and her husband Michael Norman. I gave that five stars, as I have this book written solely by Elizabeth. Clearly, the two have worked together. The books do not repeat each other. “Tears” focuses more on the Bataan Death March, while We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese focuses on the nurses. Their different titles make their respective content clear. I am glad to have read them in the order I did. This mirrors the order in which the two books were written, 1992 respectively 1999. The subject matter narrows and focuses more and more on the personal .

Here follows my review of “Tears”, because I think you should read that first: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Elizabeth’s writing is engaging. She adds details that make you care. The book is about a group of women. They came to be close to each other first at the Corregidor fort, underground in its tunnels, and then later at the Santo Thomas internment camp in Manila. Some were transferred to the Los Banos internment camp. During three years, their fates, their fears and the horrors of their shared experiences were tightly interwoven. They came to care for, not only their patients, but also each other.

They became a tight-knit group, and yet each one of them was unique and each a person of interest. Elizabeth’s extensive research and the manner in which she relays the information makes these women interesting. We learn not only of their experiences together but also their lives before and after the war. The last of the nurses died in 2013 at the age of ninety-nine. This information, concluding the book, must thus have been added after its first printing.

I repeat, this is a story about a group, but each of the women making up the group is interesting. What we are told feels personal. There are lots of quotes. The quotes are revealing. One woman quotes Rainer Maria Rilke with the sentiment--“We are alone.” The author was able to interview twenty of the women. Diary entries are also read. The research is extensive, and it is relayed to readers in an engaging manner.

The focus is on the nurses, but background historical information is clearly explained too. You get a good grip on how events unfolded.

The audiobook is narrated by Dina Pearlman. The narration is marvelous. Words are clear. The speed is perfect, and the tone she uses in drawing the horror of what these women experienced is measured, said with force but not overly dramatized. Five stars for both the narration and the book itself.

This could possibly end up being my favorite book of the year. Why? Because the factual information is clear and simple, while at the same time content is made to feel personal. This is exactly how I want history to be told. Also, there is humor. These women knew the importance of humor when life got VERY tough. These were strong women. Call them role-models, if you will. ...more
5

Dec 24, 2012

They were mostly daughters of farmers and blue collar workers. Not having much better options, the USA having just gone through the Great Depression, they decided to join the US military as nurses.

Assigned to the Philippines, they were having the time of their lives with very little work to do and lots of handsome military men (Americans, of course) who invite them to dinners, dancing and parties. The country was a tropical paradise then, especially to them, its then colonial masters.

Apparently, They were mostly daughters of farmers and blue collar workers. Not having much better options, the USA having just gone through the Great Depression, they decided to join the US military as nurses.

Assigned to the Philippines, they were having the time of their lives with very little work to do and lots of handsome military men (Americans, of course) who invite them to dinners, dancing and parties. The country was a tropical paradise then, especially to them, its then colonial masters.

Apparently, their military counterparts in the mainland, including those at Pearl Harbor, were having the same laid-back lives and fun nights. Most of them were still asleep when the Japanese planes and submarines blasted their parked planes and ships to smithereens. The US military was crippled.

Within hours, the Japanese promptly bombed key American military installations in the Philippines. Despite Pearl Harbor hours before, the partying Americans were still caught with their pants down. So they were also left without enough planes and ships to repulse a Japanese invasion they long knew was coming.


Suddenly, the American nurses, around a hundred of them, found themselves at war. Goodbye to the fancy dinner dates, the dancing and the romance. Here come the mangled, bleeding bodies of their dying and wounded soldiers. They started real work for the first time since their overseas assignment.

The original plan of their supreme commander General Douglas McArthur was to defend the country at various possible key points of a Japanese land invasion. But since they were caught napping, they couldn't do that anymore. Not without their planes and ships. So Gen. McArthur declared Manila, the country's capital, an open city and ordered a retreat of all the forces under his command (both Americans and Filipinos) to Bataan (a peninsula in Luzon) and the nearby island fortress of Corregidor. Much-needed provisions (food, medicines, etc.) were left during this hasty strategic retreat and consolidation.

In Bataan the nurses continued their work. They set up "field hospitals," mostly just beds where the sick and the injured laid, many right there on the ground, under the canopy of trees and forest vegetation. It didn't take long for them to feel the acute shortage of food and medicine.

The nurses and soldiers were in the field while their chief, Gen. McArthur stayed in his dogout. So they nicknamed him "Dugout Doug." He receives orders from the US President not to surrender. But when the situation was already critical, Dugout Doug decided to leave his dugout and flee to Australia, then he went home to America. That, after making a speech which the Filipinos and his gullible men held on to for three years: "I shall return."

Feeling orphaned, the American soldiers left behind in Bataan called themselves the "Battling Bastards of Bataan," with no mama and no papa, they said. With no reinforcements, no air cover, no ships, no submarines and fresh supplies they fought on with Filipino soldiers who greatly outnumbered them and who did most of the fighting in the frontlines. The Filipinos also of course outnumbered them in the number of dead and injured. Yet not one name of a Filipino soldier is mentioned in this book.

There were, of course, also many Filipino nurses working for the Americans at Bataan. When Bataan was about to surrender, a high-ranked American officer ordered the evacuation of AMERICAN nurses to the nearby Corregidor. American nurses ONLY. Luckily, the American head nurse, Josie Nesbit, had grown attached to her Filipino nurses who called her "Mama Josie" and she stood her ground, insisted that even the Filipino nurses should be given refuged at Corregidor or else she herself won't go. The officer relented. Not one of these Filipino nurses' names, however, was mentioned in this book too.


Names of a few Filipino women were mentioned, but only those who were married to Americans, the author carefully pointing out their married names and those of their respective husbands.

From the safety of their offices in the US, Gen. McArthur and the US President sent to the Philippines a lot of .... words. Help is coming, they kept on saying (none came). Even Gen. McArthur's promise to return took three years to fulfill because unknown to the Filipinos and Americans in the Philippines the US Government had decided to concentrate first in liberating Europe where the British and the French were. Asia was less important.

When both Bataan and Corregidor had fallen the American nurses were interred at the compound of my Alma Mater, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, older than Harvard, thereafter called as the Santo Tomas Internment Camp (STIC). That was where the non-combatants enemy citizens were kept by the Japanese: professionals, businessmen, women and children. Food was short and a good number died of malnutrition, starvation and sickness, but it was no Nazi concentration camp or a Russian gulag. They at the STIC went hungry, but not as hungry as the Filipinos in the rest of the country. They had their deaths, but not as frequent and not as many elsewhere. Not one of these American nurses died, whether in Bataan, Corregidor or at the STIC.

Manila was the second most devastated city (next to Warsaw, Poland) during world war two. And to think that no fighting was done here during the Japanese invasion (unlike in Warsaw). Why? Because to save on American lives, the American liberators just bombed the city to the rubbles. Many Filipino civilians died of these friendly bombs during the liberation of the city.

But of course not the STIC where the Americans were. No bomb fell on it, even if it was a key Japanese garrison. A more expensive, carefully-planned commando-type of operation was done here. Very little firefight happened to free the camp. The surprised Japanese soldiers guarding it was allowed to join the rest of their forces only after a brief standoff.

I took my undergraduate course at UST and for four years I spent long hours at its old, Hispanic-era main building where the main library was housed. I already knew then that the campus, especially this building, was occupied by the Japanese during the war yet didn't know that the reason it was spared from destruction was not because of the prayers of the Dominican priests there but the presence of the American prisoners during the liberation of the city.

Despite my complaints, however, I feel the need to rate this properly. This is a well-written ( despite the spelling errors of many Filipino words), interesting and thoroughly enjoyable book of history. The pictures are also worth looking at: the UST main buiding, the same as it is today; the UST athletic ground, where I used to play baseball, with the American soldiers firing mortars; the beautiful American nurses, Mary Rose Harrington and Cassie Cassiani, in their old age; the others, in their 70s and 80s, visiting the tombstones of those other nurses who had died ahead of them. ...more
4

Apr 21, 2017

My father served at Fort Mills Hospital, Corregidor...military records don't show him assigned to the hospital, yet photos of him outside the hospital with the staff of the hospital in a staff photo. As I read this book I wondered how many of the Army Nurses in this book worked along side my father, how many he knew. He wouldn't have known them in a social way as he was a corpsman. Like many of the women in this book fate decides what you will encounter. My father was transferred back to My father served at Fort Mills Hospital, Corregidor...military records don't show him assigned to the hospital, yet photos of him outside the hospital with the staff of the hospital in a staff photo. As I read this book I wondered how many of the Army Nurses in this book worked along side my father, how many he knew. He wouldn't have known them in a social way as he was a corpsman. Like many of the women in this book fate decides what you will encounter. My father was transferred back to stateside at the end of October 1941 just as some of these nurses were arriving. He got home late November 1941 two weeks before Pearl Harbor, one month before Japanese bombs rained down on the staffs of the Military Hospitals. He would return to this theater of war as a Bomber co-pilot. He would meet some of the liberated POWs as they arrived at different bases to recuperate from their ordeal.
This is the story of the Army and Navy Nurses who were serving in the Philippines at the outbreak of war. They dealt with some of the most grievous battle injuries as the military struggled to defend Bataan and Corregidor, operating under jungle canopies with little to no supplies with wounded soldiers in the thousands were given their ever attention, because they had little else to give.
Elizabeth M. Norman brings us a true picture of what the medical staff and this small cadre of nurses endured during the battles that finally led to the surrender of the Philippines and the three and a half year incarceration at Santos Thomas.
It is a story of survival, and how discipline, commitment to work and esprit de corps give them the strength to survive. It is a story of how ordinary women with dedication managed to do extraordinary things while under fire and debilitating treatment during their long internment. It follows them home and follows the lives they tried to rebuild. Like all service personnel who have seen war and all of its horrors it also deals with how they coped with the nightmares and health problems they suffered because of their starvation diets.
The War Department used them for propaganda, painted them as heroes extraordinaire, yet denied them both honors and promotions and ongoing medical care. Their stories are amazing stories of women who pulled themselves together and kept giving their all to serve those n their care. It is a story that everyone should know...a few would go on to serve just a few years later in the MASH units of Korea and forward medical facilities.
Both of my sons, twin boys, served in the Army Reserve Medical Corps. so I am perhaps inclined to understand the ethos of being in the military with the charge of taking care of others whether under fire or not. There is not one soldier in battle that hasn't been awed by the sacrifices Corpsman have made under fire, or the care they received in a forward medical unit if they were wounded in battle to be stabilized for transport. I was very moved by these women which was documented without flourish or exaggeration. Like they all said the real heroes are not those who survived like them. but those who gave their all in our name: a thing we too often forget.
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4

Nov 11, 2013

I found this an interesting look at an untold story of World War II. This was a fairly short, quick read that tells the story of the roughly 100 American nurses stranded in the Philippines with outbreak of war in December 1941. The author makes good use of diaries and interviews to tell their story. In some ways she attributed the fact the she is a nurse herself, her ability to connect with the Nurses who where still surviving at the time this book was researched.

Ms. Normon not only looks at I found this an interesting look at an untold story of World War II. This was a fairly short, quick read that tells the story of the roughly 100 American nurses stranded in the Philippines with outbreak of war in December 1941. The author makes good use of diaries and interviews to tell their story. In some ways she attributed the fact the she is a nurse herself, her ability to connect with the Nurses who where still surviving at the time this book was researched.

Ms. Normon not only looks at what happened after the attack, she also tells the story of why many of the nurses were there in the first place. She looks at their motivations for joining the military, requesting duty in the Philippines and their relationship with each other and the higher authorities. She even takes on the Interservice rivalry that occurred between Navy and Army nurses.

With the Japanese invasion and the withdrawal of troops to Bataan, most of the Nurses went with the troops. As with the soldiers, they suffered shortages of everything, but continued to do their jobs. They suffered shelling and on more than one occasion the Japanese bombing of the 2 hospitals. When the end came, over their objections they were evacuated to Corregidor. Many of them said that leaving their patients was the hardest thing they ever did.

The author tells of the attempts to get some of the nurses out. 20 went out via PBY’s, but only 10 were successfully evacuated. The other 10 were captured in Mindanao when the PBY had mechanical problems and a few more went out by submarine. One of the myths surrounding those who went out was that the names were pulled out of a hat, but as Ms. Normon looked at those who were evacuated, they all had some reason to be going – age, cracking under pressure, severe illness etc, people the chief nurse thought would have trouble surviving captivity.

With their evacuation to Corregidor, the nurse missed the Death March and upon capture were placed in St. Tomos Internment Camp (STIC) in Manila with the interned Allied Civilians. The story of the efforts of their senior leadership to keep them together and functioning as a military unit is one of the highlights of the story for me. For the Record the STIC was not the hell hole that the POW camps elsewhere in the Philippines were, but life was not easy for them either. They were malnourished with all the illnesses that brings. Interservice rivalry did not stop even in STIC. The Navy nurses volunteered to move to the Los Banos Internment Camp to get out of the Army’s control

The author does not stop her narrative with the liberating of the internment camps in January 1945. While those scenes are poignant, she continues to follow them through to the end of the war and beyond. As they returned home, they were treated as conquering heroes. Most of them felt that it was not deserved.

In her epilogue, the author tells what happened too many of them. Some married and had children. Others stayed in the military and served in other wars. Some when leaving the military stayed in nursing and others left the profession. All it seems didn't discuss their experience in Phillipines much.

The one draw back I had with the book is that is some places the writing does not flow particularly well. Even then the story far out weighs any problems I had with the writing.

All in all a good look at these remarkable women - 4+ stars
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4

Nov 10, 2013

We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese gets 4 Stars and I am so thankful someone was able to capture these stories of women at war before it was too late. A group of Army and Navy nurses expect fun, romance, excitement in the exotic paradise of 1940s Philippines. What they will get is war and prison camp when the Japanese attack and conquer the PI. These independent, adventurous women find themselves on the front line, caring for thousands of We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese gets 4 Stars and I am so thankful someone was able to capture these stories of women at war before it was too late. A group of Army and Navy nurses expect fun, romance, excitement in the exotic paradise of 1940’s Philippines. What they will get is war and prison camp when the Japanese attack and conquer the PI. These independent, adventurous women find themselves on the front line, caring for thousands of torn and mangled soldiers on the Bataan Peninsula. They survive bombing, artillery strikes and strafing attacks. They are ordered to evacuate to Corregidor when it becomes clear the forces on the Bataan Peninsula will have to surrender. After the island fortress of Corregidor falls, the nurses are transported to Santo Tomas detention facility. They slowly recover their strength and help care for the other detained people in the facility.

…And as their collective sense of humor returned, so did their collective sense of mischief. The Japanese had ordered the internees to bow to the guards, and when the nurses entered Santo Tomas they were given lessons in the proper obeisance. Now the women decided to have some fun.

“Usually when a group of internees passed a guard, they all bowed together and he bowed once in response,” said Eunice Young. “Well, we hit on the idea of having thirty nurses pass the guard at spaced intervals. Just as the guard finished one bow, another nurse would come along and bow; two dozen bows in as many minutes and the guard usually took a walk. After that when the guards saw the nurses coming, they’d turn their backs so they didn’t have to bow to us.”

I have read plenty of war stories about men in war. These nurses can stand beside them with pride. They weren’t trained or prepared for combat duty. But they were tough survivors of the depression and had the bonds of nursing, hardship and the military. The book tells us how they met the challenges and saved many. After their rescue, they return home to be used by the administration to prop up the flagging morale of a nation in the fourth year of war. Once that purpose was met, they aren’t needed all that much. The author spends time on the post-war years. Many suffer from what we would now call PTSD but also go on to successful lives and/or careers. It was a different era and it is interesting to see how they were viewed vs. how women are looked at today.

Highly recommended!
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4

Jan 15, 2013

A harrowing and very graphic account of the nurses who were taken prisoner by the Japanese on Bataan during WW II. Very detailed almost to a fault. Not an easy read but an inspiring one. These women were just amazing in their resilience and their dedication to their love of nursing, their love of country and their determination to survive.
5

Jun 08, 2013

An amazing story about a group of amazing women.

If you saw "Pearl Harbor" with Ben Afleck, I want you to think of the scene in the hospital with a very few nurses caring for all the casualties that day.

Now picture in your mind 12000 American soldiers on a forced march on the island of Bataan. They were already near death from starvation, wounds, dehydration and torture. The purpose of the march was to have less prisoners to guard. When they reached the prison camp, many were dead, and the rest An amazing story about a group of amazing women.

If you saw "Pearl Harbor" with Ben Afleck, I want you to think of the scene in the hospital with a very few nurses caring for all the casualties that day.

Now picture in your mind 12000 American soldiers on a forced march on the island of Bataan. They were already near death from starvation, wounds, dehydration and torture. The purpose of the march was to have less prisoners to guard. When they reached the prison camp, many were dead, and the rest were very close to dying. Now picture less than a dozen nurses, with no supplies, no medicine, no beds and no water, treating the survivors and responsible for saving most of the survivors. These were some of the women who are written about in this book.

Have you heard of the island of Corregidor? Think of American nurses in tunnels with little air or light, or supplies, operating on soldiers, hiding from the enemy, and treating men with horrific wounds all day, every day for months until they were discovered and imprisoned.

These are the stories of unsung heroes of World War II in the South Pacific.

As the daughter of a woman who joined the Navy and became a WAVE shortly after the legislation was signed establishing the WAVES, I was very touched by this book.

As a resident of West Virginia at the time I read it, I was surprised that one of these woman was a native of Spencer, West Virginia - known to history as Col. Ruby Bradley, US Army. At her death just a few years ago, Col. Bradley had received 34 medals, had seen action in World War II, been a prisoner of war, and tended the wounded in Korea. She was the most highly decorated female veteran, and she was a small example of the caliber of women who survived the hell that was Santa Tomas Prison Camp.

Every young girl needs to read this inspirational story of just what is possible. ...more
5

Apr 22, 2018

Subtitle: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese

Norman details the personal stories of the nurses and civilians as well as the historical events that led to their interment. These women had signed on for an exotic duty station in the tropics. When they applied for transfers to the Philippines they expected and got - clean, spacious housing units, interesting work in military hospitals, and a lively social life of dances, sports events, concerts, etc, They were Subtitle: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese

Norman details the personal stories of the nurses and civilians as well as the historical events that led to their interment. These women had signed on for an “exotic” duty station in the tropics. When they applied for transfers to the Philippines they expected – and got - clean, spacious housing units, interesting work in military hospitals, and a lively social life of dances, sports events, concerts, etc, They were treating some wounds – mostly incurred in vehicular or training accidents – but mostly handled the sorts of things that civilian hospitals manage – hernias, appendicitis, infections, as well as maternity and pediatric issues of the military members’ dependents.

Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the American military bases in the Philippines and suddenly the medical staffs were consumed with combat wounds. They were cut off from regular supply channels and had to move to increasingly primitive “hospitals.” At one point the wards of wounded were nothing more than hundreds of bamboo beds and pallets arrayed in the open jungle. And the medical staff added tropical diseases and malnutrition to the problems they addressed (and that they, themselves, suffered).

When the US surrendered Bataan and then Corregidor to the Japanese, the women were interred in a camp at the former Santo Tomas University campus in Manila. They spent three years there until finally rescued by the American forces.

But their ordeal was far from over. Brought back to the US as heroes, they were nevertheless slighted when it came to military decorations and honors. And they all suffered continued health problems throughout their lives as a result of their experiences. History all but forgot all about them.

Norman did extensive research and was able to interview a number of the surviving nurses as well as the families of others who had passed on. Their story is gripping and inspiring. Brava!
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4

Oct 11, 2013

We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan By the Japanese..By Elizabeth M. Norman... True accounts from the Nurses that served in the Phillipines when the Japanese began their take over of Bataan. The nurses were evacuated to Corridore, leaving the sick and wounded in Batan was the hardest thing they ever did. At Corrigador there was a long underground tunnel that housed the hospital. They thought they were safe. Once again the nurses had to be evacuated. They left We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan By the Japanese..By Elizabeth M. Norman... True accounts from the Nurses that served in the Phillipines when the Japanese began their take over of Bataan. The nurses were evacuated to Corridore, leaving the sick and wounded in Batan was the hardest thing they ever did. At Corrigador there was a long underground tunnel that housed the hospital. They thought they were safe. Once again the nurses had to be evacuated. They left by submarine. Stateside movies were made to show all that these nurses went through. (So Proudly We Hail, Since you went away, Cry Havoc) The nurses hated these movies, because it made all their work seem trivial. The older nurses encouraged the younger ones. The present was so terrible, that they would talk of the past. Starvation and malnutrition was the instrument of death. They lost 17-50 pounds. The nurses were as sick as their patients. On Jan 9, 1945 Gereral McArthur broke through the Jap lines and freed the Americans. The nurses gave the best of themselves. When they arrived at their US homes they were greeted like hero's. ...more
4

Jan 15, 2009

For so many reasons, finding We Band of Angels on our book club book list was a real gem for me. My father and I had an often repeated ritual which would take place anytime my mother would ask me to find my dad to tell him dinner was almost ready, or that he needed to start getting ready for some outing. He would be in the basement rummaging through his drawer of Navy photographs from his almost 8 years in the Pacific (1938-1945). Hed often show me an oversized photograph of a military parade. For so many reasons, finding “We Band of Angels” on our book club book list was a real gem for me. My father and I had an often repeated ritual which would take place anytime my mother would ask me to find my dad to tell him dinner was almost ready, or that he needed to start getting ready for some outing. He would be in the basement rummaging through his drawer of Navy photographs from his almost 8 years in the Pacific (1938-1945). He’d often show me an oversized photograph of a military parade. “Poor Bastards,” he’d say. “They got left and probably all died in the Bataan Death March”. Then he’d go on to tell me how he was there until November of 1941 and even though his ship the USS Phoenix was under attack that December 7 morning in 1941 at Pearl Harbor, he always said he was the lucky one.
“Did I tell you that MacArthur returned to the Philippines aboard my ship? “ Then he would go on to say how everyone thought MacArthur was this BIG HERO, because he kept his word and came back. “BIG DEAL”, he’d say,” he never should have left in the first place!”
So thank you Elizabeth Norman for rescuing this true story of these remarkable individuals , and thus giving us all a better understanding of Bataan, the role of women in the military, and moreover the real cost of war.
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5

Jul 07, 2017

Mention Bataan to anyone familiar with the WWII Pacific battleground and the reaction is likely to be one of pain. Unspeakable misery was inflicted in what became known as the Bataan Death March. The much lesser known story but no less compelling is the story of the Band of Angels: the 100 Army and Navy nurses stationed in the Phillipines when it was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Army. This is the story of the military nurses who were surrendered by their government and taken prisoner in Mention Bataan to anyone familiar with the WWII Pacific battleground and the reaction is likely to be one of pain. Unspeakable misery was inflicted in what became known as the Bataan Death March. The much lesser known story but no less compelling is the story of the Band of Angels: the 100 Army and Navy nurses stationed in the Phillipines when it was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Army. This is the story of the military nurses who were surrendered by their government and taken prisoner in December 1941 until the Phillipines were liberated in 1945.

These women came to military nursing service from all walks of life and all parts of the country. As professionals they each embodied a passion for nurturing and protecting others. For some, the military afforded them the opportunity for a good education, worthy occupational training, and to experience life outside the confines of their humble daily existence. Life working in a tropical military hospital had its advantages. Exotic location, regular hours, and a congenial social life. Combat duty was the farthest thing from their minds. In an instant, everything changed once the bombs started flying. War is hell, and these women were suddenly tossed in the middle of it. They were there to heal, not to fight. But in order to survive while attending to the rapidly mounting casualties they had to do both.

They organized themselves into a team across the normal boundaries of Military unit command. They improvised as resources became strained. They tended to the weakest, the maimed, the injured, the suffering. They built, organized, and managed hospital units spread out on the jungle floor. They slept on bamboo cots, worked nonstop shifts, and lived by their wits. And then they were captured by (arguably surrendered by their own government to) the Japanese and sent off to prison camps. Everything gets worse!!

Eventually they are liberated and not a moment too soon. By this time the nurses are somehow still upright but just barely. They carried on their nursing duties while being imprisoned, and were subjected to the same inhumane treatment as other prisoners. At the time of their liberation they were suffering from dysentery, dengue fever, and all the other gruesome physical and mental effects of starvation and isolation. They were quickly flung back into life in the US and paraded around and, being women, objectified as fragile heroes. But when the military honors and medals were passed out, despite their remarkable resiliency and heroism and service to their country, their government could barely see fit to bestow a form of military honor below what their rank or service deserved.

We follow these women, who became known as The Band of Angels, through their reintegration into post-war life in the States right up until their last breath.

It is a remarkable story expertly told at the hands of a careful, thoughtful, and empathetic writer. It is a story that will break your heart a few dozen times and leave you in awe of what these women accomplished, and what humans are capable of doing, good and bad. After reading this I will never ever forget the story of these amazing women, thrown together by chance to endure one of the most horrific experiences in history.


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5

Feb 10, 2010

This book was recommended to me by a fellow nurse. It is about the first "military" nurses who were in the Philippines at the time that the Japanese invaded during WWII. The nurses were among those taken to internment camps on the main island, along with whoever was not Filipino and happened to not be military and unfortunate enough to be around when the bombing started.

This book is a documentary so kind of a slow read, but I liked it a lot. Not only do I have a connection with the nurses (kind This book was recommended to me by a fellow nurse. It is about the first "military" nurses who were in the Philippines at the time that the Japanese invaded during WWII. The nurses were among those taken to internment camps on the main island, along with whoever was not Filipino and happened to not be military and unfortunate enough to be around when the bombing started.

This book is a documentary so kind of a slow read, but I liked it a lot. Not only do I have a connection with the nurses (kind of like the kids you went to school with I guess), but I am excited about the chance to perhaps visit Santo Tomas when we go to the Philippines. These nurses cared for the soldiers who got so sick from the jungle after retreating to Bataan. Then they cared to the sick in the tunnels of an island (imagine the smell there!). Finally they survived the internment camp for 3 years where they almost died of starvation.

I found it especially interesting to note what I found as a common theme for survival. It seems that the nurses did better than a lot of other internees, as a group, surviving, and I tried to be aware of what the difference was. I think some of the keys are to have a tight commradare (?), and a purpose for surviving, and having work to do, something to keep you busy. I have thought on this for myself and realized it applies to our lives as well. We have to have these things to make it also, even though we have food, and shelter, and plenty of other unessential stuff.

This was a good thinking book. I really enjoyed the heroic efforts of the nurses, and how they represented how we can all contribute, and work together to survive.
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5

Dec 28, 2013

Im thankful that my Goodreads friend, Ingrid, recommended We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese. If I could have read this powerful and enthralling book in one swoop without need of sleep or tending household duties I would have. Truly, its that gripping. These brave female nurses from all walks of life and corners of our nation should be held in highest honor and regard, equivalent to any uniformed service member who has experienced theaters of I’m thankful that my Goodreads friend, Ingrid, recommended “We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese.” If I could have read this powerful and enthralling book in one swoop without need of sleep or tending household duties I would have. Truly, it’s that gripping. These brave female nurses from all walks of life and corners of our nation should be held in highest honor and regard, equivalent to any uniformed service member who has experienced theaters of war and survived horrific conditions as prisoners of war.

“In obvious ways the work of war is easy, ‘kill or be killed.’ Survival, however, is another matter, much more difficult, for it requires an endurance, a cunning and a strength of will that fighting does not.”

Then too, considering these nurses under the command of the Army and Navy had never been to boot camp and had zero combat, weapons, or survival training whatsoever, yet performed their duties with grace, fortitude, compassion, long-suffering, and honor is extraordinarily amazing. Band of Angels: unsung heroes who selflessly saved the lives of thousands of servicemen - may they be forever remembered. Memorial monument atop Mount Samat on Bataan erected by the men of the Death March: “In honor of the valiant American military women who gave so much of themselves in the early days of World War II . . . They lived on a starvation diet, shared the bombing, strafing, sniping, sickness and disease while working endless hours of heartbreaking duty . . . They truly earned the name “The Angels of Bataan and Corregidor.”” ...more
5

May 27, 2019

Wonderful! I finished this book appropriately on Memorial Day! These women make me even more proud to be an American and a woman. May their Memories Of courage and perseverance under the worst circumstances be forever remembered throughout the history of WWII in the Pacific Theater!
3

Dec 04, 2014

This book was deeply interesting, but more difficult to read than I had expected, simply because of the horrible experiences these women went through: treating thousands of casualties under extreme conditions during the disastrous siege of Bataanliterally on the jungle floor, under enemy bombardmentand later three years of confinement and gradual starvation in an internment camp. They suffered the trauma of being forced to abandon their wounded patients to the enemy, and some bore the additional This book was deeply interesting, but more difficult to read than I had expected, simply because of the horrible experiences these women went through: treating thousands of casualties under extreme conditions during the disastrous siege of Bataan—literally on the jungle floor, under enemy bombardment—and later three years of confinement and gradual starvation in an internment camp. They suffered the trauma of being forced to abandon their wounded patients to the enemy, and some bore the additional grief of losing husbands and fiancés in battle. All of this is well-researched, vividly portrayed; a tremendously emotional story; but it's not one for the squeamish or faint of heart. Nothing is spared in describing the casualties the nurses treated or the disease and death the internees struggled with.

I came to this story by way of William L. White's They Were Expendable and its film adaptation, and was a bit surprised to find it barely a footnote in We Band of Angels. While nurse Peggy Greenwalt is mentioned briefly, she is not identified as the nurse who appears in White's book, and no mention is made of her lawsuit against MGM. And where several pages are spent on the inaccuracies of the movie So Proudly We Hail (which, if the descriptions of it are correct, probably deserves it), the film version of They Were Expendable gets only one small and rather slighting reference, which surprised me, owing to its low-key, positive depiction of the Corregidor nurses.

The one other element that detracted from the book for me was the slight strain of feminism that surfaced now and then, which I suppose is only to be expected in a book about women written in the modern era. It lies more in the author's assessment of events rather than in the events themselves, and, as always, is inconsistent. In one chapter Norman describes the nurses' finding a spot in their jungle hospital where they could have a little space and privacy and simply "be women"—and then later disparages the American press for portraying the nurses "as women." The male officers' desire to evacuate the nurses in order to protect them from possible mistreatment by the Japanese is attributed to a "notion of honor...driven by ego"—it couldn't possibly be a genuine desire to shield them from harm! (Never mind that the nurses subsequently lived in a real and rigid state of fear during their first days in enemy hands.) The most blatant example of bias comes in the foreword, where Norman applies a blanket characterization to all the nurses as women who had rejected "an early marriage, a house full of babies and a life over a cast-iron stove." Yet in the final chapter she admits that "there was no pattern to their [post-war] lives"—some continued in nursing, whether in the military or out of it; others married and raised families; some did both. With absolutely no disrespect or criticism of these women who chose nursing and courageously survived the horrors of Bataan, that kind of authorial disdain toward housewives has long gotten old for me. ...more
3

Apr 30, 2018

This is an interesting story tracing the history of the nurses who were in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded during World War II. It covers their internment and liberation based on the author's interviews years after the facts with the surviving nurses. The one drawback is the author's tendency to fall in the academic's habit of trying to showcase their vocabulary. While I have two bachelor's degrees and read roughly 400 books per year, I still had to read with a dictionary at hand This is an interesting story tracing the history of the nurses who were in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded during World War II. It covers their internment and liberation based on the author's interviews years after the facts with the surviving nurses. The one drawback is the author's tendency to fall in the academic's habit of trying to showcase their vocabulary. While I have two bachelor's degrees and read roughly 400 books per year, I still had to read with a dictionary at hand otherwise I would have rated the book higher. ...more
5

Oct 04, 2014

The true story was very well written with amazing description. This books comes highly recommended.
5

Jan 04, 2019

Loved this book! Detailed & moving.

Sections I want to remember:

From a military leader: You may talk all you want of the pioneer women who went across the plains of early America and helped found our great nation. But never forget the American girls who fought on Bataan and later on Corregidor. Theirs had been a life of conveniences and even luxury. But their hearts were the same hearts as those of the women of early America. Their names must always be hallowed when we speak of American Loved this book! Detailed & moving.

Sections I want to remember:

From a military leader: “You may talk all you want of the pioneer women who went across the plains of early America and helped found our great nation.… But never forget the American girls who fought on Bataan and later on Corregidor.… Theirs had been a life of conveniences and even luxury. But their hearts were the same hearts as those of the women of early America. Their names must always be hallowed when we speak of American heroes. The memory of their coming ashore on Corregidor that early morning of April 9, dirty, disheveled, some of them wounded from the hospital bombings—and every last one of them with her chin up in the air—is a memory that can never be erased.”

From a surgeon: “One of the most remarkable things coming out of our experience in Bataan was the presence and performance of the army nurses. In retrospect I believe that they were the greatest morale boost present in that unhappy little area of jungle called Bataan. I was continually amazed that anyone living and working under such primitive conditions could remain as calm, pleasant, efficient and impeccably neat and clean as those remarkable nurses.”

From Dorothea Mae Daley’s JOURNAL: “And on February 19, I, Dorothea Mae Daley, took Emanuel Engel Jr., to be my wedded husband, for better, for worse, in sickness or in health, till death do us part. Everybody in the wedding party, including the bride, was in khaki . . . There was no ring, no license, no bouquet, no veil, no Mass . . . Sounds of bombs were in the distance, and my feet, encased in huge army boots, felt awkward as I stood in an army hospital . . . But there was a solemnity and a sacredness about the ceremony, performed in the midst of so much tragedy, that made us both feel that ours was no ordinary marriage.”

Their uniforms were too large and they were tired and nervous (“ every girl wore a tremulous, red-lipped smile” was how the Associated Press described their demeanor) but they were glad to be home—oh, how they were glad to be home! And as they emerged into the bright California sun, a band played Sousa marches, and the crowd of 1,500 that had gathered to watch them started to applaud and cheer. In this group awaiting the nurses were Generals, Colonels, high-ranking civilians, including Mayor Lapham of San Francisco. Not one dry eye could be seen. Tears were streaming down cheeks of even the toughest old Army men.

THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON TO MEMBERS OF THE ARMY NURSE CORPS BEING REPATRIATED FROM THE PHILIPPINES ON 23 FEBRUARY 1945: It gives me special pleasure to welcome you back to your native shores, and to express, on behalf of the people of the United States, the joy we feel at your deliverance from the hands of the enemy. It is a source of profound satisfaction that our efforts to accomplish your return have been successful. You have served valiantly in foreign lands and have suffered greatly. As your Commander in Chief, I take pride in your past accomplishments and express the thanks of a grateful Nation for your services in combat and your steadfastness while a prisoner of war. May God grant each of you happiness and an early return to health. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Still, the Times seemed much closer to the mark than most when it also said: No one has suggested that the sixty-eight … were unique among members of the Army Nurse Corps. It was the tragic experience, bringing out high qualities of heroism and unselfishness, that was exceptional. The recognition they have received is more than a recognition of them as individuals. It is a tribute to the spirit of their Corps, to feminine tenderness joined with skill and courage.
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5

Jan 11, 2019


Once again, the women of the US Armed Forces are slighted.
We all know about the men who MacArthur abandoned in the Philippines and Corregidor. We know of the thousands who perished during the Bataan Death March and their confinement conditions. We know of the thousands who were sent to Burma to work on the railroad and how many of them succumbed to their captors. But what of the women who were serving and captured? What of their work ethic and sacrifice? There isnt a good accounting until now.
Once again, the women of the US Armed Forces are slighted.
We all know about the men who MacArthur abandoned in the Philippines and Corregidor. We know of the thousands who perished during the Bataan Death March and their confinement conditions. We know of the thousands who were sent to Burma to work on the railroad and how many of them succumbed to their captors. But what of the women who were serving and captured? What of their work ethic and sacrifice? There isn’t a good accounting until now.
Elizabeth Norman does an excellent job in bringing to light the trials, tribulations the devotion to duty the Army and Navy female nurses performed when the bombs started falling and during captivity. They never gave up and were always concerned with one driving force, the welfare of their patients, no matter their nationality. They were trained healers and loved what they did.
What is amazing is what long lives theses women lived after all the depravity and illnesses they endured, along with their male counterparts: malaria, beriberi, wet and dry, dysentery, starvation, jungle rot and who knows what else.
How many more of our men would have died if not for their selfless deeds and devotion to duty?
This is an astounding work and a must read for all students of World War Two.


Five Stars

P.S. Two years ago, after watching, “We Were Soldiers,” I came up with an idea, a book of Poetry dedicated to the women who have served in the Armed Forces or who had spouses, boyfriends that were serving. It was the scene where Colonel Moore’s wife was delivering the dreaded Wester Union Telegrams that began the formulation. The book, “Women of War” was released in November of 2018.
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4

Feb 28, 2019

There are books like this one that in my opinion educators should recommend as part of the study of our history. We cannot fix the past, however we can learn all we can so that we can move forward in our treatment of those who gave their all to their country. There have been great strides made in recognizing and treating what we now call PTSD, but what at the time was called battle fatigue. These nurses suffered with PTSD, along with all the diseases, starvation and in some cases wounds from There are books like this one that in my opinion educators should recommend as part of the study of our history. We cannot fix the past, however we can learn all we can so that we can move forward in our treatment of those who gave their all to their country. There have been great strides made in recognizing and treating what we now call PTSD, but what at the time was called battle fatigue. These nurses suffered with PTSD, along with all the diseases, starvation and in some cases wounds from shrapnel that the men who fought the battles suffered. They continued to perform their duties under extreme duress and starvation and when they came home were initially recognized for their sacrifices. There were many atrocities that they witnessed and experienced yet when it came time for upper echelon of the military to provide them with the same recognition, pensions, rank, jobs, etc., as the men their cause was dismissed. Many of these women felt guilty that they did not do enough, however upon reading this book they did all that was asked of them and more. Women have continued to make great strides in the military, however I think it is important that those who have served in the past should receive as much recognition as possible. Their families deserve to see that what these nurses suffered was as important to this country's success during WWII as the brave men who fought and risked their lives protecting this country. ...more
3

Oct 14, 2019

On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Japanese also bombed Manila and other targets in the Philippine Islands. Among those caught up in this invasion were 99 Army and Navy Nurses. This is the story of those women.

I must say, for the time period, this was one bad-ass group of women. While caught up in extreme conditions they worked tirelessly to nurse the wounded. When evacuation of Manila was ordered they were ferried to a small Island, Corregidor. Here they continued their care . On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Japanese also bombed Manila and other targets in the Philippine Islands. Among those caught up in this invasion were 99 Army and Navy Nurses. This is the story of those women.

I must say, for the time period, this was one bad-ass group of women. While caught up in extreme conditions they worked tirelessly to nurse the wounded. When evacuation of Manila was ordered they were ferried to a small Island, Corregidor. Here they continued their care . Aiding the Doctors, they built an outdoor hospital in the jungle, working and living there. After the surrender of Manila they were taken prisoner and were interred at Santo Tomas Internment Camp (which previously had been a University). They spent four long years, facing starvation and disease.

I was happy to have found this book, and it was a good read on subject I knew nothing about. Yet, I can only give 3 stars. It was just one of those books-I liked it, the story held my attention in small doses. ...more
4

Apr 12, 2020

A few grammatical errors, but an interesting and important story to tell.

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