March 20, 2014

Pure Grit by Mary Cronk Farrell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:34 am by suebe2

Pure Grit
by Mary Cronk Farrell
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Technically, the women in the Army and Navy nursing corps weren’t military.  These civilians weren’t allowed into combat.


When these nurses shipped out to the Phillipines, they weren’t in a combat zone.  Yes, they treated soldiers but they also treated the wives and children of officers.  They assisted in labor and delivery and tonsillectomies, but that was before the Japanese advanced into the Phillipines.  That was before the officers’ families shipped out.

Their role as noncombatants became a technicality when the first wounded soldiers arrived.  War had come to the Phillipines.  Over worked doctors could only do so many surgeries.  They didn’t have any time at all for medications.  Nurses dispensed medications and took over some procedures normally done only by doctors.  None of them were trained in war-time medicine, but they learned on the job.  And they were still there when Manilla fell.

Like Louie Zamperini, known since the publication of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, these women became Japanese prisoners.  Their families received no word on whether they were still alive and they remained invisible to the outside world for several years.  Yet, in spite of the fact that they were prisoners, they continued to treat those in need, providing what medical care they could to not only some soldiers but also the civilian prisoners, women and children, who lived in the camps.

When author Mary Cronk Farrell learned about these amazing women, she knew their story had to be told.   Unlike Hillenbrand’s Unbroken which focuses on the plight of Louie Zamperini to illustrate the fate of POWs in general, Farrell pulls back to tell the story of this group.  Why?  Because they survived as well as they did by sticking together.

That said, Farrell does tell the stories of individual nurses as much as she is able, but initially the nurses had to promise not to discuss what had happened to them.  It wasn’t until the 1980s that the Department of Defense recorded oral histories of the nurses who  had survived until that time.  Unfortunately, not all of the women lived this long.

Pure Grit is suitable for tween and teens (ages 10 and up).  This is a story of war and there are a few somewhat gory details (they were doing triage, after all).  But there are no stories of rape, because unlike the women of Nanking, none of the military nurses were raped.  That said, even many of their own families did not believe them when they said nothing like this had happened.

This is a truly inspirational story of a group of typical American women who did great things when put to the test.


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