Pure Grit: How American World War II
Nurses Survived Battle and
Prison Camp in the Pacific
by Mary Cronk Farrell
Middle School, High School Abrams 160 pp.
2/14 978-1-4197-1028-5 $24.95
There are many books written about young people enlisting in the military, being unprepared for the horrors of battle or tortures of capture, serving bravely, and coming home. But women? In direct fire? In POW camps? During World War II? Not so many, a void Farrell admirably fills with this account of the more than one hundred army and navy nurses who served in the Philippines during the bombing and evacuation of Manila, the Battle of Bataan, and the evacuation and surrender of Corregidor. During every battle and every retreat, and even within the walls of the POW camps (where many were incarcerated from 1942 to 1945), these nurses cared for the injured under the most primitive of conditions. Using information taken mainly from historical interviews and modern correspondence with the subjects’ relatives, Farrell directly confronts the horrors of war and the years of inhumane treatment in the POW camps. These women — malnourished, ill with diseases such as malaria, dysentery, and beriberi — established multiple hospital sites and often shouldered doctors’ medical duties. Many returned home with disabilities and lifelong medical problems; though many suffered from PTSD, no mental health services were available to them. The book design is double-columned utilitarianism; archival photographs vary in effectiveness: many are posed group shots while others are (understandably) grainy, offering context over clarity. The account concludes with a timeline, glossary, list of nurses, documentation, bibliography, suggested websites, and an index.
From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine