We Band Of Angels. – Review

We Band Of Angels. – Review – book review

Linda M. Golobich

WE BAND OF ANGELS By Elizabeth M. Norman 1999, 318 pp $13.95 paperback

Women at war is not a new topic, but this compelling book about the angels of Bataan and Corregidor brings new life to a forgotten chapter of World War II history. The angels of Bataan and Corregidor were a group of American army and navy nurses who served in the idyllic Philippine Islands in 1941. By August 1942, they were prisoners in a Japanese internment camp and remained so for almost three years. United States Forces liberated them in February 1945, but not before the nurses endured severe malnutrition, malaria, amoebic dysentery, and psychologic trauma.

Compiled through personal interviews, letters, diaries, and government archives, the author clearly achieves her goal of preserving the legacy of the angels of Bataan and Corregidor. The book is compassionate and well-written without becoming saccharine. The author is a professor of nursing, but her writing style appeals to the health care professional and layperson alike. It was helpful to have a medical background to appreciate the dire physical conditions, injuries, and diseases mentioned, but not a necessity. The author uses nontechnical language and is clear and concise in her descriptions.

Events that occurred on Bataan and Corregidor during World War II are chronicled accurately, but the main focus of the book is the determination it took for these women to survive, not only for themselves, but also as a group. The author tells their story using many direct quotes and excerpts from diaries and letters. The women preferred to give their recollections in the collective voice of “we” instead of the singular voice of “I.” Although sick and starving, none of the nurses perished during their long captivity. Their inner resolve and dedication to each other allowed their survival. The author offers insight into how the nurses fared after their return to the United States. Many of the women continued to suffer the effects of malnutrition, disease, and the psychologic trauma of the ordeal.

The foreword and epilogue offer personal and poignant insights experienced by the author while compiling the book. Photographs allow the reader to connect faces with the names of the nurses and their surroundings. The clear visual references bring the subject to life. Two very helpful features are the appendix and the endnotes. The appendix presents a time line of pertinent dates and events. The extensive endnotes are especially useful as they offer interesting background information. The acknowledgements also are extensive and include an explanation of the book’s title. A map of the Philippine and Corregidor Islands and a diagram of the Malaita Tunnel on Corregidor help the reader visualize the location and layout of the areas described. The detailed bibliography offers the reader options for further research.

The overall purpose of this book is not to deify this group of women. Many of the nurses were young and ambitious, eager to escape traditional societal roles. They joined the military to find adventure in the Far East Command. Few expected the ravages of war, and none expected the deprivation of imprisonment. The legacy of this group is their sheer determination to survive. I highly recommend this unique work as a tribute to their exceptional courage and spirit.

The author will present a General Session on this book and topic on Tuesday, March 13, 2001, from 5:15 to 6:15 PM, at the 2001 Congress in Dallas.

This book is available from Random House, Inc, 201 E 50th St, New York, NY 10022.


COPYRIGHT 2001 Association of Operating Room Nurses, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group