Sunday, June 15, 2014

the Pure Grit of American WWII nurses

Pure Grit: How American World War II nurses survived battle and prison camp in the Pacific
by Mary Cronk Farrell
160 pages; ages 10 - 16
Abrams, 2014

In the late 1930s, young women enlisted for peacetime duty as US Army and Navy nurses. More than a hundred were stationed at several base hospitals in the Philippines, providing routine care to military families. Everything changed when, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and everything changed. As Japan invaded the Philippines, the nurses had to learn to treat battlefield wounds. When the Philippines finally fell to Japan, the nurses were captured as prisoners of war.

We might never have heard their stories if Mary Cronk Farrell hadn't gone back to read an email from her cousin. Her cousin had written a paper for nursing school about military nurses captured in WWII - enough to tickle Farrell's curiosity and she started researching.

But, back to the war. By Christmas eve it was clear that hospitals were in danger. So the nurses put what they could on a bus and "moved" their hospital into the jungle of Bataan - a deserted cluster of sheds with palm-thatch roofs at a former training camp. Without electricity they had to figure out how to sterilize medical instruments (they used Bunsen burners and pressure cookers).

Farrell focuses on the personal stories of the nurses, weaving in the war history. She shares their letters, diaries, and fills the pages with archival photos. There's a treasure of back matter: a glossary, timeline, endnotes and bibliography highlighting books suitable for young readers. If you've got a kid who needs a topic for a history paper, put this book in her hands. Check out interviews with the author here and here.

Check out what other bloggers are reviewing over at Nonfiction Monday. Today is also Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday round-up. Drop by to see what other bloggers are reviewing.
 ARC provided by publisher.


  1. Hi Sue,

    Thanks a bunch for featuring PURE GRIT for Nonfiction Monday!

  2. Oh! this book is right up my alley as a nurse myself! I am going to get this one out of our library! It seems so interesting and I want to know more about it. Thanks for introducing it to me. And the links were interesting as well. :)