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Pure Grit    by Mary Cronk Farrell order for
Pure Grit
by Mary Cronk Farrell
Order:  USA  Can
Harry N. Abrams, 2014 (2014)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Pure Grit by Mary Cronk Farrell is the story of a group of Navy and Army nurses caught in the Battle of the Pacific during World War II.

In 1940, Army Nurse Ethel Thor arrived at her new post in the Philippines, wearing a crisp, clean uniform including heels, stockings and gloves. At war's end, she was barely well enough to make it home, let alone worry about stockings, heels or a uniform. Thor, with many other nurses, had been transferred to Manila. Thor had been scheduled to go home to be married.

Frances Nash, also an Army Nurse, was also transferred to Manila until being moved on to Bataan. As Japanese troops came closer, she and others were told to 'be prepared to be taken prisoner'. She destroyed paperwork to keep it from enemy hands and took enough morphine tablets to provide nurses with lethal doses if needed!!

Many stories of this kind are recounted in this long overdue tribute to the women who worked to keep soldiers alive those injured in battle as well as those who came down with diseases. They are truly the first women to serve in combat but, nevertheless, overlooked when pats on the back were handed out.

These nurses were captured when General Wainwright surrendered the Philippines to the Japanese in May of 1942. They lived three years in ghastly prison conditions. At war's end, one of the nurses weighed only 65 pounds!! Two nurses received Purple Hearts and the rest were left to recover on their own. PTSD wasn't recognized at that time. And, not surprisingly, the government money set aside to help these women until they could recover from their unspeakable ordeals had run out and many received nothing.

Pure Grit is the story of a group of courageous women whose government turned their back on them.

My mother's twin brother was a Marine stationed in Shanghai at the time of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. He was transferred to Corregidor with Wainwright, as a member of his staff. Our family has a photo of him at attention during the signing of the surrender. How painful would that have been. We know he was a Japanese prisoner, and had been transferred to a ship to be sent to a prison on the Japanese mainland. The ship was not marked as such and U.S planes sank it. He survived on a raft for quite a number of days before he succumbed.

This book meant a great deal to me personally. It should resonate with everyone to bring attention to how horrible war is. And senseless. It also should remind us to thank members of the armed forces who give their all.

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