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We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan
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We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,389 Ratings  ·  344 Reviews
In the fall of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia-scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a distant rumor, life a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the stars. On December 8 all that changed, as Japanese bombs began raining down on American bases in Luzon, and this paradise became a fiery hell. Caught in the raging battle, th ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published April 20th 1999)
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Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Great Aunt, Captain Edith Shacklette "Shack" was one of the Angels. I can not be unbiased about this book as it holds a dear place in my heart and on my shelf. I have read everything I can get my hands on about this subject. Ms. Norman's book is the best of all of them I have read. Her research, interviews with then still living 'Angels', and her writing style, make this a absorbing and page turning treatise on an important part of World War II history.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
They were mostly daughters of farmers and blue collar workers. Not having much better options, the USA having just gone through the Great Depression, they decided to join the US military as nurses.

Assigned to the Philippines, they were having the time of their lives with very little work to do and lots of handsome military men (Americans, of course) who invite them to dinners, dancing and parties. The country was a tropical paradise then, especially to them, its then colonial masters.

Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, wwii
My father served at Fort Mills Hospital, Corregidor...military records don't show him assigned to the hospital, yet photos of him outside the hospital with the staff of the hospital in a staff photo. As I read this book I wondered how many of the Army Nurses in this book worked along side my father, how many he knew. He wouldn't have known them in a social way as he was a corpsman. Like many of the women in this book fate decides what you will encounter. My father was transferred back to statesi ...more
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this an interesting look at an untold story of World War II. This was a fairly short, quick read that tells the story of the roughly 100 American nurses stranded in the Philippines with outbreak of war in December 1941. The author makes good use of diaries and interviews to tell their story. In some ways she attributed the fact the she is a nurse herself, her ability to connect with the Nurses who where still surviving at the time this book was researched.

Ms. Normon not only looks at wh
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese gets 4 Stars and I am so thankful someone was able to capture these stories of women at war before it was too late. A group of Army and Navy nurses expect fun, romance, excitement in the exotic paradise of 1940’s Philippines. What they will get is war and prison camp when the Japanese attack and conquer the PI. These independent, adventurous women find themselves on the front line, caring for thousands of to ...more
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An amazing story about a group of amazing women.

If you saw "Pearl Harbor" with Ben Afleck, I want you to think of the scene in the hospital with a very few nurses caring for all the casualties that day.

Now picture in your mind 12000 American soldiers on a forced march on the island of Bataan. They were already near death from starvation, wounds, dehydration and torture. The purpose of the march was to have less prisoners to guard. When they reached the prison camp, many were dead, and the rest w
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
For so many reasons, finding “We Band of Angels” on our book club book list was a real gem for me. My father and I had an often repeated ritual which would take place anytime my mother would ask me to find my dad to tell him dinner was almost ready, or that he needed to start getting ready for some outing. He would be in the basement rummaging through his drawer of Navy photographs from his almost 8 years in the Pacific (1938-1945). He’d often show me an oversized photograph of a military parade ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-rule, wwii
Mention Bataan to anyone familiar with the WWII Pacific battleground and the reaction is likely to be one of pain. Unspeakable misery was inflicted in what became known as the Bataan Death March. The much lesser known story but no less compelling is the story of the Band of Angels: the 100 Army and Navy nurses stationed in the Phillipines when it was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Army. This is the story of the military nurses who were surrendered by their government and taken prisoner in Dec ...more
Sharon Huether
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-story, wwii
We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan By the Japanese..By Elizabeth M. Norman... True accounts from the Nurses that served in the Phillipines when the Japanese began their take over of Bataan. The nurses were evacuated to Corridore, leaving the sick and wounded in Batan was the hardest thing they ever did. At Corrigador there was a long underground tunnel that housed the hospital. They thought they were safe. Once again the nurses had to be evacuated. They left ...more
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a fellow nurse. It is about the first "military" nurses who were in the Philippines at the time that the Japanese invaded during WWII. The nurses were among those taken to internment camps on the main island, along with whoever was not Filipino and happened to not be military and unfortunate enough to be around when the bombing started.

This book is a documentary so kind of a slow read, but I liked it a lot. Not only do I have a connection with the nurses (kind
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The true story was very well written with amazing description. This books comes highly recommended.
Quirky Shauna
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've decided not to be so stingy giving stars. This was fascinating and I read it quickly. I learned more about nursing in combat and especially this amazing group of nurses and their experiences as POWs.

I did see similarities with civilian health care workers as well. The author asks, why do "those who have seen heavy combat mask their grim vitae with jokes and rhetorical slapstick? I think it is a way for them to introduce the idea of living with the absurd or of taking part in the unthinkable
This book was deeply interesting, but more difficult to read than I had expected, simply because of the horrible experiences these women went through: treating thousands of casualties under extreme conditions during the disastrous siege of Bataan—literally on the jungle floor, under enemy bombardment—and later three years of confinement and gradual starvation in an internment camp. They suffered the trauma of being forced to abandon their wounded patients to the enemy, and some bore the addition ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A valuable piece of American History that is little known. The basic story is this:

Approximately 100 Army and Navy nurses, looking for adventure, transferred from hospitals in the US to work in hospitals in what is now the area of Central Luzon, Philippines, including the Bataan Peninsula.

All was well, until the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and then the subsequent bombing raids in parts of the Philippines, including the area of Central Luzon. The nurses, as well as other military pe
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
The title is a take on Shakespeare's famous St. Crispen's Day speech from Henry V in which Henry claims that those who fight in battle are joined like no other and shall forever be remembered:
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;"

But those who survive in battle must be brought back to health in order to live and be remembered. Their pain needs easing. They needed stringent care.

And for this they depended on a "band of angels"
This is the story of the American nurses serving in the Philippines during World War II, and how they survived the hazards of war and the jungle, capture by the Japanese, and then several years in internment camps. Norman does a great job of describing what happened to these women, both in the broader sense and on an individual level. I think it's really interesting how she says in the beginning of the book that she had a really hard time getting the women involved to speak about themselves, as ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing inspirational story of the first women to serve in combat and taken as POWs during WW11 on the Philippine island of Bataan. These "Angel nurses" endured horrors unimaginable, yet never waivered in their commitment to their patients, their country, and each other. This book made me question how the human race could be so depraved, while at the same time, marveling at the strength and courage of the human spirit and the life-changing power of community. Read this book in one day; couldn't ...more
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non-fiction
The nurses survived internment because they held together as a group and found purpose in their lives. They are nurses.
Jul 21, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, library
Didn't have time to read this and had to return to the library. I will pick this back up at some other time...fascinating read.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of a group of Army nurses in Bataan and Corrigedor during WWII. I did not know of these women and was so impressed with their courage, duty and sacrifice during the absolute worst of conditions. First, they worked while being bombed regularly for a year, then as POWs they still cared for patients all while going through starvation and maltreatment. It is an incredible and inspiring true story.
Emily Crow
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I was completely captivated by the story of several dozen Army and Navy nurses--called "The Angels of Bataan" by the press at the time--who were serving in the Philippines during World War II, retreating with the soldiers to the jungles of Bataan, and eventually captured by the Japanese and taken to an internment camp. Their courage and solidarity is inspiring, and Norman has a snappy writing style that will appeal even to those who find history boring.

When they signed up with the military, non
I’m thankful that my Goodreads friend, Ingrid, recommended “We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese.” If I could have read this powerful and enthralling book in one swoop without need of sleep or tending household duties I would have. Truly, it’s that gripping. These brave female nurses from all walks of life and corners of our nation should be held in highest honor and regard, equivalent to any uniformed service member who has experienced theater ...more
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received this book from the Goodreads First Reads Program.

This is the account of Navy nurses deployed to the Philippines during World War II. It seemed like an assignment in paradise, until December 8, 1941 when the Japanese began dropping bombs. The nurses served in a field hospital they set up in the Jungle of Bataan to care for the wounded soldiers. The nurses were sent to the tunnels of Corregidor when it became inevitable that the Army would be overrun. When Corregidor fell, the nurses we
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway and I am happy to review it because I think it is a meaningful history that really illustrates the heroics of the Army and Navy nurses who served and suffered in Bataan and Corregidor. Although I had heard about the Bataan Death March I had really never understood that Army and Navy nurses were stuck there when the Japanese attacked and that they had been prisoners for three years. One of the blurbs on the back of the book, from The Dallas Morning New ...more
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book about a group of amazing women It is the story of the military nurses stationed in the Philippines at the beginning of WWII. As the war progressed, these women went from nursing under horrible conditions to being prisoners of war. In the words of the author, “A group of woman[sic] had gone off to paradise, had been swept up in war, had struggled to survive. As a group they had been my models, my exemplars – self-possessed women in a world dominated by men, professional w ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can rate this book while still reading because this will be the second time I've read it. If you're a nurse or have served in the military this is a must read. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines during WWII ninety-nine American army and navy nurses without any combat training found themselves suddenly behind enemy lines. They spent months working under appalling conditions in hidden field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan, moving frequently to stay ahead of Japanese. Eventually an evac ...more
Jan 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading We band of Angels. Often the fear in reading true stories about less than pleasant events is that the book will focus on the negative. Dr. Norman did an excellent job of discussing the difficulties these women (and men) faced during the fall of Manilla, Bataan, and Corregidor and their subsequent internment, without dwelling too much on the horrible things that befell them. I think the attitude in her writing came from the women she interviewed for the story. These remar ...more
This was a great read!
Elizabeth Norman tells a story lost (for the most part) to history. She follows the journey of Army and Navy nurses who were taken prisoner, along with soldiers and civilians, on Bataan by the Japanese.
The Pacific theater is often overlooked, and the women's perspective (and heroism) is nearly always ignored. The nurses kept their spirits, dignity and love of country all throughout their horrific ordeal and their story is amazing. More than keeping their own dignity, thro
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, favorites
Fabulous read on nurses stranded on Bataan and how they cared for the soldiers. Amazing.

Edited 9/27/17: Upon finishing this book for the second time I remain in awe of this group of nurses and the soldiers they cared for. As a nurse currently, I can safely stroll through daily life caring for others because of the sacrifice and efforts of those nurses that stood alongside the men. Hopefully we can read and learn from the past. My heart will always be heavy with the Angel's memories told of how t
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. It is heartwarming and at the same time heartbreaking. Told in a style that puts the reader directly into the lives of these valiant nurses - it takes you on a journey through the horrors of World War Two in the Pacific - as if you were there. The author draws you into the Malinta Tunnel underground hospital on Corregidor and describes the almost superhuman endurance of the military nurses working there to save their patients - and she does it wi ...more
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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 nonficti ...more
More about Elizabeth M. Norman...
“Teaching and office work held little appeal—the former meant taking care of someone else’s children, the latter someone else’s man—so they entered the only other profession open to them, nursing. After” 2 likes
“On Thursday, March 26, as the assault continued and as his troops wasted away, General MacArthur, safely in Australia, received the Congressional Medal of Honor from the U.S. minister there. General Wainwright, learning of the news, radioed his congratulations from Corregidor, even as the bombs were falling on top of him. He also reported on the desperate state of his supplies.” 2 likes
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