- Paperback: 234 pages
- Publisher: Elmore Publishing Company; 2nd edition (June 1, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0962555509
- ISBN-13: 978-0962555503
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bedpan Commando: The Story of a Combat Nurse During World War II 2nd Edition
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Like a couple of other reviewers, the terrific History Channel series "WWII in HD", which featured parts of June Wandrey's story (Amy Smart narrating), was what alerted me to the existence of this book. The episode in Sicily where the young soldier asks June how he's doing just before he dies (she kisses his forehead and tells him that he's doing just fine), the part where she asks "God where are you?" in the midst of the horror of Dachau, these are only a few of the unforgettable moments from this book that made it into the History Channel series.
The book has only a few details about June Wandrey's work as a surgical nurse in what would now be termed a forward surgical team, working close to the battlefield. Entire periods of what must have been non-stop surgery on fresh combat casualties are passed over with only brief comments. She mentions doctors and surgeons only a few times (this is the flip side of stories like "MASH", told from the point of view of the surgeons and ignoring the nurses) and there are virtually no descriptions of any of the surgeries. To a weary surgical nurse, they must have all blurred together after a while.
Many things stand out in this book besides the included episodes. It was a dangerous job, being so close to the battlefield - German planes and artillery would occasionally attack their camps. The carefree sense of death-defying adventure with June hitchhiking rides across Europe, bouncing along in open top jeeps on bad roads (no seatbelts, high potential for rollovers), flying on rickety planes that sometimes barely landed in one piece, yes, when you are that age, it seems like nothing can kill you.
There was the steady dose of what we would instantly recognize today as sexual harassment (June mentions kicking more than one officer in the shins). The malnutrition and daily monotony of C-rations.
Wandrey loudly voices her Republican politics, frequently slamming FDR (describing him as a "warmonger"), only politely commenting on FDR's death, and foreshadowing the Cold War with her comments about the Soviets being allowed to enter Berlin. And yet, in spite of her clear distaste for the war, she chose to serve, and served with distinction, being given a Bronze medal for refusing to abandon her patient during an operation, when the Germans began shelling their position. June Wandrey endured malaria, hepatitis, a tooth abscess, and physical injuries to take on a job that she did not have to do.
It's too bad the book is out of print. It's great that the History Channel "WWII in HD" has brought her memories back to life for everyone. The book goes into so much more detail however. Her story, and that of other veterans, is one that should be taught in our high schools. American society has changed so much, it seems like a different world now from the time of June Wandrey. I hope we never forget.
My first review said that the book was out of print. I have since been informed that this is not correct.
Two other excellent books I would recommend that add to the picture of American women's experiences during WWII are "Dearest Ones" and "No Time for Fear".