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Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific Hardcover – February 25, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up—This well-researched volume tells the story of the army and navy nurses who were stationed in the Philippines during World War II. The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began bombing the Philippines. The 79 nurses serving there came from different backgrounds: some longed for an escape from farm life, while others sought adventure. All wanted to find meaningful work caring for others. During the bombardment, their subsequent retreat and, finally, their imprisonment by the Japanese, the nurses never stopped taking care of those around them. After months of near starvation, they were finally liberated by American forces in 1945. Yet even when the nurses arrived home, their troubles were not over. Many had difficulty readjusting to life at home; their experiences just didn't fit the paradigm of women's lives in the mid-20th century. As part of her research, Farrell interviewed the last surviving nurse, plus the children of many of the others, and the text is full of primary source documentation. This adds rich detail to make the circumstances all the more real, whether they are the injuries the nurses treated or the horrific conditions in the prison camps. In addition to photographs and helpful maps, the page layouts include facsimiles of the nurses' letters and diaries. Young readers who enjoyed Tanya Lee Stone's Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream will also appreciate this story of courageous women whose story was nearly forgotten.—Jackie Partch, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Farrell chronicles the harrowing story of U.S. Army and Navy nurses based in the Philippines during WWII. After working under enemy fire, they became prisoners of war in two Japanese prison camps, where they continued to nurse soldiers and other captives. As time went on, severe malnutrition and lack of medicine left all the prisoners vulnerable to serious diseases. Still, the women bonded, supporting each other during the years before their release in 1945. The nurses’ return to civilian life was hampered by an unsupportive military and what we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder. The first official recognition of their service came in 1983, after many had died. Farrell offers a thoroughly researched account encompassing the experiences of 67 American nurses held as POWs in the Philippines. Well-chosen quotes from interviews, personal accounts, and articles bring their voices into the story, while the many period photos offer intriguing glimpses of the war, the camps, and the women’s later lives. At times the narrative is nearly overwhelmed by the sheer number of experiences recorded and women profiled. But in the end, the details of many nurses’ individual trials combine to form a memorable portrayal of their shared experience, one that will emotionally impact readers. Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (February 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419710281
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419710285
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

PURE GRIT: A STORY OF RESILIENCE & SURVIVAL
American forces on Corregidor Island surrendered under a hot sun at noon, May 4, 1942. After five months of brutal combat nursing, 68 American women became Japanese prisoners of war.

The women had arrived in the Philippines unprepared for war and expecting a tropical play land. Rising to the occasion, they were driven to the limits of endurance nursing wounded and dying American soldiers. Now the woman faced the horrors of prison camp--disease, starvation, and humiliation by their guards.

With ingenuity and dedication to duty, the U.S. Army and Navy women set up a hospital for other prisoners, nursing as long as they had the strength to rise from their pallets. For three years behind barbed wire the women would turn suffering into humor, hope and the will to survive. Their pure grit testifies to the resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.

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 these stories shows me time again 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 history based on thorough research. Most include an author's note, bibliography and further resources, but they are not dry, scholarly tomes! Confronting grief, adversity and failure in my own life, enables me to write stories with an authentic emotional core.

My books have been named Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West, Bank Street College List of Best Children's Books, and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. My journalistic work has received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations.

For more information about my school and conference presentations visit my website MaryCronkFarrell.com. Say "Hi" while you're there.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JyEsky on March 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was riveting--horrifying, heartbreaking, and somehow inspirational. And all the more so because it is a true story. I'm embarrassed to say that I knew very little about this subject--US military nurses who were taken prisoner in the Philippines during WWII. What these women went through is incredible and how they managed to still do their jobs during their captivity is even more amazing.

Like the very best non-fiction books, this one makes me want to learn more.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chris Koppelman on February 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished PURE GRIT, and it blew me away. Beautifully written, documented and depicted in words and photographs, I couldn't put it down. I was so overwhelmed by the courage and character of these women. I am floored that I have never heard of this group of heroes; they are truly an important part of our greatest generation. I have two teen-age daughters, and this book is going to be REQUIRED READING for them. I have ordered it for my grandmother, who played her own role in the war, and I will recommend it to all. HUGE kudos to Mary Cronk Farrell who finally told this story. Thank you for giving us these amazing role models found in PURE GRIT.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Laurie Thompson on April 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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 telling of it. Written for middle-grade readers, this is a book that can easily be enjoyed by teens and adults as well. Highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book - very well researched and presents the circumstances of these prisons accurately. I knew some of these nurses, before they left us, when writing my book, NO TIME FOR FEAR, VOICES OF AMERICAN MILITARY NURSES IN WORLD WAR II. They would be so proud to have their stories told in this way. Soon it will be 70 years since these brave women were rescued from the Philippine prison camps, and like the patients they cared for under horrible circumstances, they should never be forgotten.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Julie - Remember Bataan and Corregidor on December 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Is this the same author who has won numerous book awards? Did she fire her editors?

This book bears signs of inadequate proof-reading, editing, and fact-checking. The use of the nebulous “they” is rampant, as is the use of un-defined military and civilian terms and slang. Poorly constructed sentences, missing, mis-spelled, or incorrect words, and the use of modern, global definitions make this book a poor choice for accurate historical reading, especially by young persons.

There are many historical inaccuracies that a knowledgeable person would not have made: Manila Bay is NOT in the “South Pacific” (page 6), there were no “great battleships” in Manila Bay in 1940 (page 10), photo caption mis-identifies the ranks of Army Transportation Service officers (pages 10-11), the U.S. Pacific fleet was NOT “destroyed” at Pearl Harbor but badly damaged (page 19), the airstrip at Clark Field was grass, not “tarmac” (page 20), Japs landed on Corregidor the night of 5-6 May 1942, not 4 May (page 26), Jap troops were “pulled back” because they too were ill, hungry, demoralized, and tired, just like the American and Filipino troops who fought them to a stand-still (page 48), MacArthur departed Corregidor the evening of 12 March 1942 – the nurses could not have heard about his departure the “morning of March 12” (page 48), “offshoots” should be “laterals” (page 58), “general store” should be “post exchange” (page 59), “pontoon planes” should be “seaplanes” or “flying boats” or “float planes” (both “seaplanes” and “pontoon planes” used later) (page 63), HUGE ERROR!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn Atwood on December 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Most people know little about either the Pacific Theater of WWII or women's roles in the conflict. Reading this book has the potential of remedying both situations perfectly for young people and adults.

The title is excellently-chosen; these women never seemed to flinch or loose their professionalism through some grueling difficulties created by the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines. As things went from bad to worse, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering when they were going to break down. A few were able to leave before things got really bad but most of them soldiered on, not cracking until much later when some of them fell victim to post traumatic stress during their twilight years.

Cronk Farrell has complemented her excellent narrative with a plethora of archival photographs and I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karrie Zylstra-Myton on December 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Farrell does an excellent job of weaving these Army and Navy nurses' stories together. I learned so much about the war in the Philippines that I had never known before. In the end, I longed for the women who worked so hard to remain professional in combat and as POW's to find peace for themselves. I won't soon forget this story or the images.
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