We Band of Angels
The Untold Story of
American Nurses Trapped by the Japanese.
Elizabeth M. Norman.
Random House, 1999.
To understand the author is to understand the
style of this book. Elizabeth Norman is an
Associate Professor of Nursing who has a special
interest in ‘nursing history.’ Her “Reader’s
Digest” narrative style draws liberally from
anecdotal materials she acquired while
interviewing living ‘survivors’ of the infamous
POW camps of the Philippines. It speaks volumes
about how even women nurses were left to fend
for themselves in the face of an ill-fated,
sexist, and arrogant war campaign initiated in
Corregidor and Bataan.
Overall, the book fails to rise above the
superficial narrative of basic POW internment
stories. Whereas one would have wanted to
understand better how the women coped with the
ethics of imprisonment and war, it glosses past
such understanding by shrouding most profiles as
women “doing their jobs” in the face of
Herculean adversity. The only unique revelation
was her unveiling of how these nurses became
ripe fodder for media iconoclasts intent on
capitalizing their heroics for movies, war bonds
and wartime propaganda. Once exploited, their
presence was allowed to fade into obscurity.
The value of this book is precisely in how it
resuscitates this special group of ‘survivors’
from historical oblivion. It presents one facet
of a war campaign that has been already
overburdened with male testosterone and
Rambo-charged exploitatives. I recommend it for
those who are seeking special interest
perspectives on WWII. It is general enough that
it will be of interest to teenage and adult