WE BAND OF ANGELS by Elizabeth M. Norman


The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese
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A gripping history of “the Angels of Bataan,” nurses who provided selfless care under conditions of extreme hardship on one of WWII’s grimmest fronts. Before the Japanese attack on December 8, 1941, the US military base in Manila was regarded by those assigned there as a lush, exotic tropical paradise. Norman (Nursing/New York Univ.) captures a country-club atmosphere of pristine beaches, officer’s clubs, sports facilities, and dances, all facilitated by Filipino servants, that vanished in the space of five hours” assault. US forces retreated to Bataan, a wild, unsettled, untamed, disease-ridden jungle/mountain preserve, a land of monkeys, snakes, wild pigs, exotic birds, and huge rats. The 14,000 US and 73,000 Filipino troops, along with 99 nurses and about 200 doctors, faced health threats that included malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, roundworms, and skin fungi—not to mention 250,000 Japanese soldiers on the attack. US medical personnel set up jungle hospitals that were mercilessly bombed by the enemy despite Red Cross signs. Casualties from war and disease mounted. The army sought refuge in the offshore rock fortress of Corregidor, bombed and shelled daily until the starved garrison, short of food and supplies, with many sick and wounded, was forced to surrender. Norman spends much of the book describing the prisoners” sufferings in the overcrowded prison camps of Santo Tomas and Los Banos. As food rations were cut, people slowly starved. The nurses endured beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy while serving the sick and dying in the prison hospital. Relief finally came with the heroic rescue by US armored units and paratroopers in 1945. Final chapters briefly cover the postwar lives of surviving nurses, many of whom suffered later from ailments that could be traced to their ordeal in the Philippines. Norman’s touching and stirring narrative makes a fitting tribute to these remarkable women’s courage and dedication. (photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-50245-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999


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