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Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  292 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
In the early 1940s, young women enlisted for peacetime duty as U.S. Army nurses. But when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 blasted the United States into World War II, 101 American Army and Navy nurses serving in the Philippines were suddenly treating wounded and dying soldiers while bombs exploded all around them. The women served in jerry-rigged jungle hospita ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published March 1st 2014 by Abrams Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2014)
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The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankDiary of a Freedom Writer by Darrius GarrettChew on This by Eric SchlosserI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouPure Grit by Mary Cronk Farrell
YA Nonfiction Books
5th out of 165 books — 69 voters
Pure Grit by Mary Cronk FarrellThe Family Romanov by Candace FlemingWomen of Steel and Stone by Anna M. LewisFreedom Summer by Susan Goldman RubinFrozen in Time by Mark Kurlansky
New Middle Grade and YA Nonfiction 2014
1st out of 36 books — 18 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,536)
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Alex Baugh
Jan 13, 2014 Alex Baugh rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-2
We all know about the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy." But how many know that only 9 hours later, the Japanese launched an attack on American bases in the Philippines? The fact is that most of us don't really know as much about the Pacific front as we do the European front.

Likewise, most of us don't know that when American forces were forced to surrender and the troops who had not been killed were taken prisoner, among the POWs were approxi
Mar 02, 2016 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Most Americans know little about the Pacific Theater of WWII aside from three bombings: the one that began the US involvement and the two that ended the war. Little is also generally known about the role of U.S. women, outside of their working on the home front in munitions factories. Reading Pure Grit, which contains a plethora of archival photographs, has the potential of remedying this lack of information perfectly for both young people and adults.

The title is well-chosen; these women never s
Mar 22, 2016 Sesana rated it really liked it
There's no shortage of middle grade books about World War II, but they overwhelmingly about the American homefront of the European theater. The Pacific? Not so much. And there's precious little, at any Lexile, about the nurses who survived being captured by the Japanese largely through the refusal to do anything but. Their story is riveting in the way that stories about extreme adversity always is, and I can easily see the target age group being every bit as fascinated and inspired as I was.
Jan 04, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing
I have always loved books about Women in WWII. Ever since I read We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese in 2004, I have had a special interest in the nurses who served in the Philippines. I was thrilled last year to find A Pledge of Silence - a fictionalized version - and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Pure Grit - a non-fiction Young Adult version. I want to thank Mary Cronk Farrell and her publisher for providing me with an ARC.

Feb 23, 2014 Lynn rated it really liked it
An unforgettable story of courage and dedication - and long overdue in the telling! Wrenching stories and perhaps the most important is how the nurses were treated when they came home. So important for young people to hear and remember. A great addition to WWII books and great for CCSS activities. My only quibble is that it was a bit hard to keep track of the many individuals in the book.
Ms. Yingling
Jan 24, 2014 Ms. Yingling rated it it was amazing
There are so many facets of WWII that haven't been addressed as much in literature for children, and both the role of women and the Pacific theater are covered in this well formatted nonfiction title. Based on extensive research from first hand accounts, the lives of a group of Army nurses stationed in the Philippines is described in detail. From the country club atmosphere before the war to the extreme deprivations of being held captive by the Japanese, the struggles of daily life are depicted ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Angeline rated it it was amazing
The required disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads Giveaways.

I fell in love with the women featured in this book.
I fell in love with their strength, determination, and willpower.
I fell in love with their grit.
I fell in love with this book.

Following the experiences of military nurses stationed, during peacetime, in the Philippines, the book kicks off just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Nurses find themselves thrown into a combat situation as Japane
Sarah Rosenberger
Jun 17, 2014 Sarah Rosenberger rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, history
I often tend to think of books about military history as appealing mainly to male readers, but Pure Grit: How American World War II nurses survived battle and prison camp in the Pacific by Mary Cronk Farrell is a book that will have women hooked too. Full of photos and first hand-accounts, it tells the often harrowing story of the American nurses who were stationed in the Philippines during World War II.

In the years before the war, being an Army nurse in the Philippines meant wearing ballgowns
Annie Oosterwyk
Mar 25, 2014 Annie Oosterwyk rated it really liked it
An interesting and easy to read nonfiction book that should be available to any student (middle, high) learning about WW2 and unsung heroes.
Living on the east coast, my educational experience focused on Europe and the holocaust during WW2. The only thing I knew about in the Pacific was Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.
Last week President Obama gave medals (and also some posthumous awards)to several surviving WW2 veterans/heroes who were discriminated against because of their skin color. The final ch
Ridgewood Public Library Youth Services
My rating 5 out of 5 stars:

This was an AMAZING non-fiction book. You can't help but get sucked in by the amazing survival stories of these army and navy nurses. I read it in less than a day, taking a break only to eat lunch. I couldn't put it down!
-Brenna (RPL)
Aug 12, 2014 Lauren rated it really liked it
Intriguing, well illustrated, exciting as well as being informative. The book was so fascinating because, as a high school student, information like this has been filed as interesting but irrelevant to the tests I had to pass to get my diploma. Now I get to read whatever I want and find out about interesting things that happened that aren't necessarily important in the scale of the whole of 20th century history. Hallelujah. Great book. A great story and a high caliber of information. There were ...more
Doug Dams
Jan 20, 2014 Doug Dams rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a history of the Army and Navy nurses that were in the Phillipines when WWII broke out. The nurses went from learning how to handle wartime casualties, to retreating to field hospitals, and then being captured and held in POW camps. The history shows how the nurses changed and how the military viewed them. Before the war, nurses held no rank, then were given officer's rank. But it also shows how women POWs were told to be quiet about their imprisonment and denied compensation after the w ...more
NYC Reads 365
"Nursing was one of the few professions that was “acceptable” for young women during the first half of the 20th century. But the 101 women who worked as nurses for the US Army during peacetime soon found war interrupted their work and their lives. While the Japanese bombed the Philippine Islands, these women worked under harsh conditions and saved lives, even when they became prisoners themselves. This is an inspiring story of solidarity and heroism among everyday women who rose to the challenge ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-schooling
I received this book as a giveaway from Goodreads. Okay, now that, that is out of the way, here's what I thought.
I gave this to my 13 year old son to read for a home schooling assignment. If you have boys, you will know how hard it is to get them to read, much less something educational and about women, no less! His review would be glowing! He read this in 3 days and really enjoyed it. So much so, that he commented on it to a buddy of his.
I am assigning a book report on this book, because si
Apr 05, 2014 Tracie rated it it was amazing
A little known story of Army and Navy nurses who were caught up in the Japanese capture of American bases in the Phillipines during World War II. Woefully unprepared for combat nursing, the women endured harrowing conditions as POWs and were often the only care for hundreds of soldiers throughout their years in captivity. I especially appreciated the look at their lives in the aftermath. Excellent.
Mar 31, 2014 Kristen rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen, nonfiction
This is another one of those amazing, mind-boggling and true WWII stories that haunt you after you finish. This will probably be enjoyed by the same people who liked Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, and maybe by people who liked the novel Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.
Really excellent nonfictional account of American army and navy nurses' ordeal in the Philippines in WW2. Detailed without being prurient, making it suitable for upper middle graders, and thoughtful on the shabby treatment these women received after the war. My only quibble is that the women all seem a little too angelic throughout - maybe that's me being cynical but I found that a little hard to believe.
Penny Peck
Apr 28, 2014 Penny Peck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-ya
In this enthralling recounting of a relatively unknown part of WWII history, the Army and Navy nurses who were in the Philippines and were captured as POWs get to tell their stories. Both interviews from their later years, and contemporary letters, diaries, and newspaper stories combine to describe their ordeal. There is also a wealth of b&w photos, maps, source notes, index, glossary, and list of sources to add to the book's complexity. This is a fascinating look at WWII history and women's ...more
Dianna Winget
Mar 24, 2014 Dianna Winget rated it really liked it
I seldom read nonfiction having to do with war. But Pure Grit in an impressive, extremely well researched account of the incredible pressures brought to bear on military nurses during World War II. It's a little known, but important part of history, and the author does an excellent job transporting the reader and allowing them to experience the trauma and hardship of these nurses.
Laurie Thompson
Apr 04, 2014 Laurie Thompson rated it it was amazing
This is a riveting account of true heroism from the Army and Navy nurses captured by the Japanese as WWII POWs, with a major theme being that we all have it in us to be strong in the face of adversity. Pictures and other archival research bring the history to life and allow us to see what it was like for these brave women and the soldiers (and civilians) who were in their care while they were interned. I had never heard about this particular piece of history before, and I was fascinating by the ...more
Apr 06, 2014 Stacey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic
fascinating. and i cried a lot. i am the sort that cries when she reads about actual bravery. so i misted up a lot throughout, but absolutely blubbered my way through the rescue chapter. and it hurt to read about how the nurses were treated after they came back.
Rebecca Honeycutt
Interesting, unusual subject matter, and good layout (photos in every spread). I don't know that I'd give it to a teen for pleasure reading, but it's highly browse-able and useful for research.
Nov 29, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Throw away the boring textbooks! This is how kids should learn history~ fantastic use of primary sources to tell history. The nurses really wrote this book.
Feb 28, 2014 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Remarkable and poignant story of the nurses in the Philippines during WWII and their years as prisoners of war. A gripping story.
Dec 23, 2015 Renata rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, ya, history
This was an engaging, well-researched look at a little-known part of history. These ladies were tough! I think the post-war chapter about how little care these women received is especially heartbreaking and might be especially resonant to read now, when stories about mental health services for veterans are in the news pretty often (although the US definitely still has a lot of work to do on that front, at least we've moved forward from a doctor telling a nurse who has spent 3 years in a POW camp ...more
Jul 14, 2015 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, reviewed
If you are watching the current Masterpiece program, The Crimson Field, about nurses serving the British Army during World War I, then this book about real US Army and Navy nurses serving in the Philippines during World War II is a don't miss. Having enlisted in the 1930's and shipped to the Islands, these women had no idea that they would find themselves attacked by the Japanese immediately after the Naval Fleet was sunk at Pearl, stranded when no ships were available to rescue them and MacArth ...more
Sunday Cummins
Feb 24, 2015 Sunday Cummins rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this down and read it nearly straight through. Farrell keeps a tight focus on the nurses, leaving the reader wondering why they were interned for so long, if the allies would save them from starvation, if they'd survive. Farrell's choice to not narrate what was happening in the world beyond the internment camps helps to create a sense of the desperation and courage these women exhibited and also a sense of suspense. Details are vivid, creating a picture of their lives before the w ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Shersta rated it it was amazing
It is rare, I think, to stumble across a history book that is somehow also as gripping as a novel thriller. And Pure Grit is just such a book. What Farrell has accomplished here is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which include her deft weaving of multiple narratives that combine historical information and lived experience into a fast-paced, cohesive work of excellence. The story of World War II nurses has been virtually erased from our history books, and for this particular story, ...more
Patricia Powell
May 27, 2014 Patricia Powell rated it it was amazing
In July 1940 the U.S. and Great Britain were the only democratic powers left in the world. In contrast, U.S. army nurses “enjoyed a casual resort-like atmosphere” in the tropical paradise and fascinating culture of the Philippines. So begins “Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific” (Abrams 2014) by Mary Cronk Farrell.
Everything changed on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and then the Philippines. Untrained in combat medi
May 08, 2014 Shelley rated it really liked it
Fascinating stories of the Army nurses serving in the Philippines in 1941 and their experiences in the prison camps. I liked the women and their stories, but it felt compressed. I was most impacted by the end - the medical advances while they were captive (penicillin, for example) and their adjustments to civilian life. And, of course, the problems they had being recognized for their service for the rest of their lives.

"After four grim years of war, Americans wanted heroines to raise their spir
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I'm an award-winning author of Children's/YA books and former journalist with a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Writing such stories has shown me that in our darkest moments we have the opportunity to discover our true identity and follow an inner compass toward the greater good.

Both my fiction and non-fiction titles feature little-known true stories of histor
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