G.I. Nightingales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II.

Author:Ashcroft, Bruce
Position:Book review
 
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G.I. Nightingales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II. By Barbara Brooks Tomblin. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996. Notes. Map. Bibliography. Index. Pp. viii, 254. $26.95 Paperback ISBN: 0-8131-9071-1

The battle-scarred soldiers, seamen, and airmen of the "greatest generation" have been feted and honored and had their stories told large in recent years. This book tells the story of the nearly 60,000 nurses who comforted the wounded in their time of greatest need and fought valiantly to save their lives. The women of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) were surrogate sisters, mothers, and confessors to countless men; healers of broken bodies; and witnesses to indescribable horrors. During the war, sixteen nurses died as a direct result of enemy action. Barbara Brooks Tomblin describes the first, chaotic efforts to establish a trained cadre of nurses for the war; their deployment to all theaters of combat; and the rapid demobilization at war's end. By September 30, 1946, only 8,500 nurses remained on duty.

Tomblin used dozens of oral history interviews, personal papers, and firsthand accounts to explore in depth the nurses' experiences on the front lines and at home. A reader sees the war through the nurses' eyes and, ultimately, cannot help but get caught up in their narrative. Among the many tales, for example, Juanita Redmond recounted an incident at Corregidor, in the Philippines, in April 1942: "I wish I could forget those endless, harrowing hours. Hours of giving injections, anesthetizing, ripping off clothes, stitching gaping wounds, of amputations, sterilizing instruments, settling the treated patients in their beds, covering the wounded we could not save. I still had not grown accustomed to seeing people torn and bleeding and dying...

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