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

Norman, E. (1999, 2013).

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New York, NY: Random House. 324 pages.


When people write and talk about "The Greatest Generation," they are usually referring to men. Thanks to author Elizabeth Norman for reminding us that women are also members of the Greatest Generation and played an important but largely forgotten role in World War II. We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan tells the story of Army and Navy nurses stationed at several posts in the Philippines in 1941. Life was pleasant in this tropical paradise, complete with servants and well-stocked officers' clubs. That is, until the bombing of Pearl Harbor changed everything. The nurses barely had time to wonder if the war would reach the Philippines before bombs started dropping. General Douglass MacArthur and his troops were caught off guard. In an instant, the tranquil paradise was littered with the dead and injured, and the Japanese were launching a ground offensive. In 1942, 11 Navy nurses and 66 Army nurses were captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war. Incredibly, they all survived, although they were close to starvation by the time they were liberated in 1945. The author was able to interview 20 of the nurses for this book. In addition, she used diaries, letters, and military records for this well-researched volume. These were ordinary women; none dreamed of being a hero. Yet they faced the horrors of war head-on and did what they had to do to survive. They continued to nurse the sick and wounded at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila until their release. Although this book was written some time ago, I have found that many nurses have never heard about it. It was recently released in paperback. I urge you to get it. You won't be able to put it down, and you'll be proud to be a nurse.


-Contributed by Maureen Anthony,PhD, RN


The author declares no conflicts of interest.




The Hospital at the End of the World

Niemczura, J. (2009, 2013).

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Austin, TX: Plain View Press. 257 pages.


Originally published in 2009, this delightful book is now available in paperback and as an e-book. Joe Niemczura, a registered nurse and storyteller, moved from Maine to Hawaii. One summer he took the opportunity to travel to Tansen, Nepal, as a visiting professor of nursing at a remote mission hospital. The author relates his experiences in this wonderful memoir. It is especially impressive that he did not arrive at the hospital as a sage from the West. Rather, he studied the language of Nepal before he left Hawaii, embraced the culture, and immersed himself in the community. The portrait he paints is honest, humorous at times, sad at others. An affable fellow, he befriends nurses, students, medical volunteers from around the world, shopkeepers, and family members. He has a way of describing everyday events in such a way that you feel you were there. Despite a scarcity of resources and the human misery that results from poverty, he teaches the nursing students to provide the best care possible. He cares for patients with everything from paralyzing snakebites to tetanus and cholera. He uses his skill to get the hospital's sole ventilator functioning and is able to teach the nurses to use it for a snakebite victim, who would have certainly died otherwise. The photos in the book are excellent and help the reader visualize this far-off place. This was clearly a spiritual and professional journey for the author, and thankfully one for which he takes the reader along. I recommend this for any nurse, but certainly for any nurse contemplating a mission trip. You will not be disappointed.


-Contributed by Maureen Anthony, PhD, RN


The author declares no conflicts of interest.