One-Minute Book Reviews

April 10, 2012

‘We Band of Angels’: The True Story of Nurses Who Became Prisoners of War

Filed under: History,Nonfiction,Women — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:18 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A portrait of the first American military women taken captive and imprisoned as a group by an enemy

We Band of Angels: The True Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese. By Elizabeth M. Norman. Atria Books, 327 pp., $16, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

This book can only lift the heart of any woman who regrets seeing her sex represented in print by Lindsay Lohan’s bail hearings and Kim Kardashian’s prenuptial agreement. Few people may remember that American female prisoners of war existed before U.S. Special Operations Forces rescued Jessica Lynch from captivity in Iraq. But women have been falling into enemy hands at least since the Civil War. And the unlucky group includes 77 U.S. Army and Navy nurses who were stationed in the Philippines when Japanese bombs began to fall on American military bases there on Dec. 8, 1941.

Nurses on the Bataan peninsula worked in an open-air field hospital with thousands of beds laid out in rows under a jungle canopy intended to hide it from enemy planes. They sharpened needles on rocks and tried to ease their hunger by frying weeds in cold cream. After Bataan fell, the nurses were evacuated to Corregidor, where they worked in bomb-proof tunnels. When the Allies surrendered, they became prisoners of the Japanese, who held them in internment camps until the end of the war. It should surprise no one that after an initial flurry of attention, Americans lost interest in the group known as the “Angels of Bataan.”

Elizabeth Norman tries not to overplay the heroism of these nurses, but their extraordinary stories speak for themselves. On the evidence of We Band of Angels, these women were not raped or, in the sense in which the word is used today, tortured. But for more than three years they lead torturous lives, enduring with courage and professionalism their fate as “the first group of American military women taken captive and imprisoned by an enemy.” The nurses deserve a secure place beside the men who inspired They Were Expendable, perhaps the best-known story of the battle for Bataan, and other enduring World War II narratives. Their stories also suggest that we need history of all female prisoners of war. Some of the captives might have a tart response to a recent US Weekly cover story on Kim Kardashian entitled “My Divorce Hell.”

Best line: “By all available accounts the presence of women on the battlefield boosted the morale of men.” This fact and much else in We Band of Angels contradict the cliché that women in combat “distract” men.

Worst line: Only 48 of the 77 nurses captured in 1942 and freed in 1945 were alive when Norman began her research for We Band of Angels, and some turned down her requests for an interview. Such realities may help to explain the stilted characterizations of certain nurses, such as Helen Cassiani: “At twenty-four she was pretty and bright, with dark, curly hair down to her neck, a round face and an inviting smile.”

Recommendation? Highly recommended to book clubs, especially those looking for good nonfiction about women or a neglected aspect of military history.

About the author: Norman is a nurse and historian who teaches at New York UniversityWe Band of Angels won the Lavinia L. Dock Award from the American Association for the History for Nursing and other prizes.

Read more about this book or buy a copy from an independent bookstore in the author’s area.

Furthermore: William Lindsay White tells the story of the retreat from the Philippines from the perspective of a torpedo boat squadron in the book They Were Expendable, made into a movie that starred John Wayne.

You can follow Jan on Twitter by clicking on the “Follow” button in the right sidebar on this page.

© 2012 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

July 5, 2008

The D-Day Messages Heard by American, British and Other Troops Going Ashore in Normandy – A Brief Excerpt From ‘The Longest Day’

Filed under: Classics,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:24 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I wanted to post this excerpt from The Longest Day on June 6 but couldn’t put my hands on the book in time. Cornelius Ryan’s great account of the Normandy invasion fits the spirit of the Fourth of July weekend, too:

This passage describes the day of the invasion and typifies the you-are-there narrative style that has helped to make this book a classic:

“Never had there been a dawn like this. In the murky, gray light, in majestic, fearful grandeur, the great Allied fleet lay off Normandy’s five invasion beaches. The sea teemed with ships. …

“On the transports men jammed the rails, waiting their turn to climb down slippery ladders or scramble-nets into the heaving, spray-washed beaching craft. And through it all, over the ships’ public-address systems came a steady flow of messages and exhortations: ‘Fight to get your troops ashore, fight to save your ships, and if you’ve got any strength left, fight to save yourselves.’ … ‘Get in there, Fourth Division, and give ’em hell!’ … ‘Don’t forget, the Big Red One is leading the way.’ … ‘U.S. Rangers, man your stations’ … ‘Remember Dunkirk! Remember Coventry! God bless you all’ …’Nous mourrons sur le sable de notre France chérie, mais nous ne retournerons pas [We shall die on the sands of our dear France but we shall not turn back].’ … ‘This is it, men, pick it up and put it on, you’ve only got a one-way ticket and this is the end of the line. Twenty-nine, let’s go!’ And the two messages that most men still remember: ‘Away all boats,’ and ‘Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name …'”

From The Longest Day: June 6, 1944 (Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1994), first published in 1959. The ellipses at the end of the first paragraph show where I omitted some text from the book. The ellipses in the second paragraph do not represented omitted text – they appear in the book. You can read a longer excerpt from another section of the book here www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?tab=25&pid=404556&agid=2.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

November 12, 2007

A Children’s Book That Honors Veterans — A Quick Reminder

Looking for a picture book that honors that honors the men and women of the military, both veterans and those now serving in the armed forces? Check out Chris L. Demarest’s Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Military Alphabet (McElderry, $16.96) www.simonsayskids.com. This vibrant picture book introduces children ages 4 and up to the International Communications Alphabet (ICA) used in the U.S. military and in civil aviation worldwide. It also gives an excellent overview of the many kinds of jobs performed by men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. To read the full review of the book that appeared on this site on August 10, 2007, click on this link www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/. Alpha Bravo Charlie would be a terrific holiday gift for a young child or grandchild of a veteran or current member of the military.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

August 10, 2007

A Children’s Book That Honors the Men and Women of the U.S. Military

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:07 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An explanation of the military alphabet in a Golf Oscar Oscar Delta, Bravo Oscar Oscar Kilo

Alpha Bravo Charlie: The Military Alphabet. By Chris L. Demarest. Margaret K. McElderry, 32 pp., $16.95. Ages 4 and up.

By Janice Harayda

The buzz this week might be about Lone Survivor (Little, Brown, $24.99), Marcus Luttrell’s book for adults about the dangerous work of Navy SEALs in Afghanistan. But you can also find good children’s books about servicemen and -women, including picture books that honor both veterans of past wars and those who are serving in Iraq.

One of the best is Chris Demarest’s Alpha Bravo Charlie. This vibrant picture book introduces children to the International Communications Alphabet (ICA) used in the U.S. military and in civil aviation worldwide. It also gives an excellent overview of the many kinds of jobs performed by U.S. servicemen and -women.

Each page or spread in Alpha Bravo Charlie shows a letter of the English alphabet and its military counterpart and signal flag. Then a picture and line of text illustrate the use of the letter. The page for M (MIKE in the ICA) shows a man and woman in scrubs dashing toward an arriving helicopter emblazoned with a Red Cross: “Medical personnel work to save lives at mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) units.”

Alpha Bravo Charlie is intended for children old enough to enjoy words or phrases like “flak jacket” (F or FOXTROT) and “Nuclear Class submarine” (N or NOVEMBER). But it could also make a great baby gift for the child or grandchild of a proud U.S. veteran. It depicts the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and even those of us who soldier at computers. The page for J (JULIET) reads: “Journalists travel in jeeps to report news from the front lines.”

Best line or picture: The page for W (WHISKEY), which shows ugly but ferocious-looking U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts (“Warthogs”). You’ll understand how those planes got their nickname after seeing this one.

Worst line or picture: A line in an author’s note at the end, which explains how the military and later the airline industry adopted the ICA. “When service people transfer information verbally, confusion between certain letters, such as the similar-sounding B and D, could bring disastrous results.” Good information. But “orally” would have been better than “verbally,” which means “with words” and can apply to spoken or written words.

Recommendation? This is the rare alphabet book that could appeal to children who have long since learned their ABC’s.

Published: June 2005 www.simonsayskids.com

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

A new review of a book or books for teenagers appears every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. The site does not accept advertising or free books from publishers, and all reviews offer an independent evaluation by an award-winning critic. Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing these reviews and, if you work for a school or library, consider adding the site to your Ready Reference links.

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 371 other followers

%d bloggers like this: