"This is a gripping book. Elizabeth Norman presents a war story in which the main characters never kill one of the enemy, or even shoot at him, but are nevertheless heroes. . . . First on Bataan, then moved to Corregidor, they were under almost constant shell fire, were always hungry, close to starvation, had horrendous diseases to deal with despite a shortage or even a complete lack of proper medicines, getting little or no sleep, nothing in the way of recreation--yet they were a true band of angels, inspiring all the men whom they were there to help. In a squalid prison camp, they remained giants, despite their small size. . . . They were the bravest of the brave, who endured unspeakable pain and torture. Americans today should thank God we had such women." --Stephen E. Ambrose
We Band of Angels is the story of women searching for adventure, caught up in the drama and danger of war.
On the same day the Japanese Imperial Navy launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, it also struck American bases in the Far East, chief among them the Philippines. That raid led to the first major land battle for America in World War II and, in the end, to the largest defeat and surrender of American forces. Caught up in all of this were ninety-nine Army and Navy nurses--the first unit of American women ever sent into the middle of a battle.
The "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor"--as the newspapers called them--became the only group of American women captured and imprisoned by an enemy. And the story of their trials on a bloody battlefield, their desperate flight to avoid capture and their ultimate surrender, imprisonment, liberation and homecoming is a story of endurance, professionalism and raw pluck.
Along the way, they helped build and staff hospitals in the middle of a malaria-infested jungle on the peninsula of Bataan. Then, short of supplies and medicine, they worked around the clock in the operating rooms and open-air wards, dealing with gaping wounds and gangrenous limbs, ministering to the wounded, the sick, the dying.
A few fell in love, only to lose their men to the enemy. Finally, on the tiny island of Corregidor in Manila Bay, the Japanese took them prisoner. For three long years in an internment camp--years marked by loneliness and starvation--they kept to their mission and stuck together. In the end, it was this loyalty, this sense of purpose, womanhood and honor, that both challenged and saved them.
Through interviews with survivors and through unpublished letters, diaries and journals, Elizabeth M. Norman vividly re-creates that time, telling the story in richly drawn portraits and in a dramatic narrative delivered in the voices of the women who were there.
NOTE: This edition does not include a photo insert.
About Elizabeth Norman
Elizabeth M. Norman, R.N., Ph.D., is a professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She is the author of Women at War: The Story of Fifty Military Nurses Who Served in Vietnam, and co-author with Michael Norman of Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, which made The New York Times list of top ten nonfiction books in 2009 and was named a 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist. Her awards include an official commendation for Military Nursing Research from the U.S. Department of the Army.From the Hardcover edition.
Advance praise for We Band of Angels
"From diaries, letters and interviews with aging survivors, Elizabeth Norman has filled in a vital but missing chapter in the history of World War II: the stunning heroism of women. Bombing raids. Malaria. Starvation. Capture. Survival. Here is the little-known story of the Army and Navy nurses caught in the brutal retreat of U.S. forces from Manila to Bataan to Corregidor, and eventually to three years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. It is as inspiring as it is horrific."
--Linda Bird Francke
"Elizabeth Norman brings a powerful new voice to the nonfiction literature of war, combining first-rate reportage with a lyrical narrative style to present an unforgettable story of courage and character. We Band of Angels is at once a terrific read and a classic study of human behavior under extreme duress, seen from the perspective of women nurses held captive under the harshest conditions imaginable in the jungles of the Philippines during World War II. These nurses were independent, professional and fearless long before American society encouraged such behavior in women. They saw the worst of war, and, thanks to Norman's masterpiece, their heroism can be forgotten no more."