BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Elizabeth M. Norman, author of "We Band of Angels," who are you talking about?
Professor ELIZABETH M. NORMAN (Author, "We Band of Angels"): I'm talking about the Army and Navy nurses who were in the Philippines when World War II began, who surrendered to the Japanese and are the largest group of American women POWs in the history of our country.
LAMB: Where's this picture from?
Prof. NORMAN: That's the picture taken of the Army nurses when they were liberated from Santo Tomas internment camp in Manila. They're on their way out of camp.
LAMB: And where did you get the idea for this book?
Prof. NORMAN: It grew out of two sources. My mother served in the SPARs in World War II. And I was always very interested in her time in uniform. Everybody's dads served in World War II, but not too many mothers. So I had that interest. And I'm a nurse. I had done a book about nurses who'd served in the Vietnam War and was very interested in the contradiction, really, between nurses whose mission is to save lives being put in a world of war where the mission is to kill. The contradiction fascinated me.
LAMB: I notice your husband has something to do with all this.
Prof. NORMAN: He did. My husband served in the Marine Corps in 1968 in Vietnam, and, therefore, I was always very interested in war because of him.
LAMB: And where do you do nursing now, teaching?
Prof. NORMAN: I now teach--I run the doctoral program in nursing and teach in it at New York University.
LAMB: Eight years, it says in this book, that you wrote that it took to write this. Why did it take so long?
Prof. NORMAN: Again, there are two reasons for that. First, I had to work on it part time. I was working full time in higher education, raising children and doing this in my spare time. And the other reason, the material about these women is scattered all over the country and in garages and basements, and I knew it would take me a very long time to find it. And it did.
LAMB: I know you've done a lot of interviewing. Before we kind of get the whole picture here, pick one of the nurses and talk about her.
Prof. NORMAN: I would talk about Cassie or Helen Nestor, as she's known. Cassie lives in Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia, and she really embodies, to me, what these nurses are. She is bright. She's funny. She's the most humane person. And underneath what looks like such an ordinary woman just is a very, very brave and courageous woman.
LAMB: We have a picture from the book. When was this taken?
Prof. NORMAN: That was taken--I took that in the early 1990s when I first went to meet her. And she's sitting in her favorite rocking chair right by the farmhouse kitchen where she lives.
LAMB: Who is she?
Prof. NORMAN: She's a daughter of Italian immigrants, grew up in Massachusetts in a town called Bridgewater, wasn't a particularly scholarly child, a bit of a tomboy, as she called herself, but she decided to go to nursing school because she liked working with people. She graduated in 1938. And at that time nurses were able to join the Red Cross, and the Red Cross was almost used as a reserve force for the Army nurses. When things began to build up in the early 1940s, Cassie was sent into--she became a member of the Army Nurse Corps, reserve status. She went to work in Massachusetts at an Army base and really had an itch to be where there was action, wanted to get out of Massachusetts, wanted to see the world, and she volunteered for duty in the Philippines. And as she said to me, `I wanted to have an adventure. I had a little bit more than I bargained for.'
LAMB: What was her adventure?
Prof. NORMAN: Her adventure was she went over there in peacetime, spent a whole five weeks in the Philippines before the bombs started to fall, and wound up the first day of the war volunteering for duty in Clark Field in the Philippines, which was destroyed. And, again, in the blink of an eye, she went from sort of a fun-loving, very nice young woman into a nurse who was working in an operating room working with trauma and damage that she never thought she'd ever see.
LAMB: When did she arrive in the Philippines?
Prof. NORMAN: She arrived in the Philippines in the very late October of 1941, and, of course, the war started there December 8th, 1941. It's the same day as Pearl Harbor, but across the international date line.
LAMB: When did they first have a bomb drop on them in the Philippines?
Prof. NORMAN: The first bomb dropped in a place called Baguio, which is in northern Luzon, at a small Army camp. There was an Army nurse there named Ruby Bradley. And the first bombs fell in the Philippines about six hours after they first started to drop on Pearl Harbor, so it was almost immediate.
LAMB: What did they do?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, Ruby Bradley was up that morning getting ready for a routine surgical case. She said she was scrubbing in the operating room for a hysterectomy. And a soldier came to the door and said, `Stop. There's not going to be any surgery today.' She couldn't figure out what was going on. He said, `Go to the surgeon's office.' She went over to meet the surgeon whom she'd worked with, and he said, `Look, I've just been notified they've bombed Pearl Harbor. They may bomb us at any time.' She said at that moment, they heard the drone of the planes. They went to the window, 'cause they didn't know, looked out, and there was a whole squad of Japanese Zeros coming in on the base dropping bombs.
LAMB: What happened next?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, the first thing--and it's actually one of my favorite stories in the book. You know, the casualties were enormous, and she and the surgeon ran to the operating room. The first case to come in was a little boy. He'd been out walking with his mother that morning, just a normal Monday morning, and he was in very bad shape. He was in shock, he was blue. And they tried to revive him any way they could. They weren't having any success. So the surgeon turned to her and said, `Look, we've got too many people to deal with here. We've got to let him go.' Well, Ruby--and I understand this as a nurse and a mother--just couldn't do it. She said, `Please, one more try.' He said, `You do something.' So he handed her the needle, which they often will inject into the heart to get it going, and the needle is about six inches long. It's not like we'd usually get put in our arms. She couldn't do it. But she looked over across the operating room, and she saw a bottle of whiskey, which was sometimes used in the old days as a stimulant. And she put the stimulant--she's not on that page...
LAMB: That's all right. Go ahead.
Prof. NORMAN: She put the stimulant on a piece of gauze with some sugar, stuck it in the baby's mouth, he started sucking, and he was revived by the whiskey. They operated on him and saved his life. The next person to come into the operating room was his mother, and she's screaming and crying, `Where's my baby? Where's my baby?' And Ruby went up to her and said, `Do you hear him? He's just fine.'
LAMB: Who's this lady right here?
Prof. NORMAN: That's Eleanor Garen. She's from Indiana. She was really the intellect in the group of nurses, very well read on foreign policy. Eleanor tended to keep her intellect quiet and her thoughts--she was the one who knew the Japanese were going to come, but said nothing. And the interesting thing about Eleanor is after surrender, she kept a diary, but not of her own thoughts and feelings; she copied poetry from the famous poets and from Aristotle, various thoughts that captured what she felt. So it's a fascinating diary.
LAMB: Is she alive?
Prof. NORMAN: No. Eleanor died about three years ago.
LAMB: Did you talk to her?
Prof. NORMAN: I did. A friend of mine spent a lot of time with her. I had difficulty getting out to Indiana for--there was a--for financial reasons. And a friend of mine went out and did all the interviews for her.
LAMB: And who is this right here?
Prof. NORMAN: Oh, that's Red Harrington, or Mrs. Mary Nelson. She lived nearby here in Virginia. She was a Navy nurse, and she was as beautiful as a movie star when she was a young woman. Mary, or Red as they called her, was a real spirited young woman, met her future husband when he was a prisoner of war in Los Banos internment camp. And they married and lived in Virginia for 57 years. Both of them just died within the last three months.
LAMB: Did you talk to her?
Prof. NORMAN: Yes, many times.
LAMB: And what was the reaction when you would sit and talk to somebody and talk about something that happened in 1941, '2, '3, '4?
Prof. NORMAN: I was so worried when I first started these interviews, and I'm thinking, `My God, I'm asking people to recall memories from 50 years ago.' I just didn't know if they'd be able to. Mary Nelson, Red, the person we just looked at, she was one of the first, and within 10 minutes of talking to her, my fears were completely put aside. This experience was so intense and just the turning point in their lives, they remembered everything about it. These women and other war veterans, I noticed, follow a pattern when you talk to them. They'll tell you very funny stories at first, and then they'll watch you carefully, and they'll listen to the questions that you ask. And if they see you're interested, you believe them and you've prepared a little bit, they'll start to open up. And that's what happened with every one of the women that I talked to.
LAMB: Total number of people that are in your book?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, there are 77 prisoner of war nurses, plus 20 who got out, a little more; 99 nurses were involved in this. I spoke to 20 of them directly.
LAMB: Go back to the story about Baguio in 1941. Where was Douglas MacArthur then?
Prof. NORMAN: Douglas MacArthur was in Manila the day the war broke out. He was in his suite in the Manila Hotel. And for whatever reason--and other historians have written books about it--there was a delay really in letting the troops know exactly how near the Japanese offensive might have been. So Clark Field was destroyed. Baguio was bombed. Everything happened. And MacArthur was in his headquarters at that time.
LAMB: When did he leave for Australia?
Prof. NORMAN: First, he left Manila for the island of Corregidor, which is in the mouth of Manila Bay. And he was there from December until March, when the president ordered him out of the Philippines to Australia. The controversy about that is that the troops--and the nurses were with the troops--they were fighting in the jungles of Bataan and on Corregidor, and MacArthur left, and he left his troops. So there's a lot of feeling about that. Some people think, `Well, he was just obeying orders, so you can't fault him for that.' But other people say, `Wait a minute. I mean, he left. He took people with him. He left 77 women behind to surrender to the Japanese.' And these were American nurses with absolutely no training. They didn't even have uniforms to go into the field, and he left them behind.
LAMB: How often did one of the nurses you talked to say something negative about General MacArthur?
Prof. NORMAN: I would say about half the time. There are some nurses who forgive him and just write it off to things that happen in war, but there are other nurses who felt that, as a result of his leadership or his lack of insight, that he really--what he--what happened to the Americans left in the Philippines is a real--was a disaster.
LAMB: Did I notice in your book a little twinge of irritation when you say he got the congressional Medal of Honor when he was in Australia?
Prof. NORMAN: Yes. Well, think about that. The American forces under General King and Wainwright surrendered in April and May. It was the largest...
LAMB: Of what year?
Prof. NORMAN: 1942. It was the largest surrender of American forces ever, I mean, if you exclude the Confederacy in the Civil War. And the troops were just being--they were on the death march. They were being annihilated by the Japanese. The American nurses were in great danger. No one knew what was going to happen to them, and here's General MacArthur in Australia being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership in that campaign. And General Wainwright, who took over from him after MacArthur left, someone had put him up--nominated him for a congressional Medal of Honor, and Douglas MacArthur wouldn't support it. And General Wainwright went in the prison camp.
LAMB: How did 77 women become prisoners of war?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, they were able--after Bataan fell in early April 1942, the nurses were sent off the Bataan Peninsula across two miles of water to this island fortress of Corregidor, which had long been an American stronghold. They were underground in this cavern of--labyrinth of tunnels that the Americans had built. It's the sense of people--and being war, there are papers that are lost--that they probably would have gotten all the American women out of the Philippines, but the Japanese blockade was too great. Our fleet was sitting at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. There just wasn't the time or the resources to get them out. Therefore, you had these nurses on Corregidor when the Japanese troops landed on the island, and General Wainwright knew that if he didn't surrender the forces, who were--they were horribly outnumbered, there was going to be a bloodbath.
LAMB: Give us an overview. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, and how many American troops were in the Philippines?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, the Americans and Filipinos were grouped together. It was all an American force. And there were 72,000 troops in the American and Filipino troops. The vast majority were Filipinos, but there were tens of thousands of American men and then this small group of women there.
LAMB: You can see the map on the screen showing the Philippines. I'm going to drop it down a little bit. Explain the--Manila on the right and the Bataan Peninsula--is that part of the Philippines?
Prof. NORMAN: Yes, it is. It's part of the largest island called Luzon, which is the northern Philippine island.
LAMB: And then the little island of Corregidor right below it there, how big is that?
Prof. NORMAN: It's very small. It's about three miles long, and it's shaped like a tadpole. I was on it in January and was just amazed at the small size of it. There were 12,000 troops on that island the day the surrender occurred.
LAMB: What was the Bataan death march?
Prof. NORMAN: After General King surrendered to the Japanese on Bataan, they--Japanese wanted to capture Corregidor, which, as you could see on that map, was at the tip. They were very--they turned their guns towards Corregidor. They wanted to get the American troops out as quickly as they could. Something, however, happened at that point that no one has really fully described. They took the troops from the point of the peninsula, the tip near Corregidor, and started to march them off the peninsula, which, in itself, you could say, `All right. That's a military strategy.'
Our American troops didn't have enough food or medicine during the four-month battle from January to April, so they were not in good physical shape to begin with. That's a very arduous walk along the coast, where it says Cabadbaran and Balanga. What happened, the Japanese were moving them so quickly, if they wouldn't--they didn't feed them. They didn't give them water. It was tropical weather. If a man fell by the wayside, he was most likely murdered. So why they didn't put them on the trucks, why they didn't slow the pace down, why they didn't feed or give them water, no one knows. But it was one of the great atrocities of World War II.
LAMB: Well, how many troops walked and what was the distance again?
Prof. NORMAN: The distance was 65 miles. And the numbers are a little--frankly, they're kind of fuzzy 'cause records have been lost, but there were about 62,000 troops on the death march.
LAMB: And how many made it?
Prof. NORMAN: Again, estimates are tough. They figure about 8,000 to 10,000 died on the march. The vast majority were Filipinos, but there were many, many hundreds of American men who died.
LAMB: Who are these three women in this picture here?
Prof. NORMAN: That picture was taken on Bataan during the Battle of Bataan, most likely taken in March. It's at one of the hospitals that the nurses set up, but it was a hospital literally under the jungle trees. The woman in the middle is Captain Maude Davison. She was the chief Army nurse in the Philippines, a rather formidable woman, as you can see from that photograph. She was a World War I veteran. She was 58 years old when that was taken. She'd come over from Corregidor to inspect the hospitals.
The woman to her right with the hat on is Josephine Nesbit. She was a 48-year-old second lieutenant who was the chief nurse of hospital number two, and that's where this was taken. There were 6,000 patients in that open-air hospital. And Josie Nesbit worked with her staff and they ran it quite well. She was beloved by the women. She was the type of leader that possessed this mixture of toughness and great humanity.
LAMB: Where was hospital number one?
Prof. NORMAN: Number one was originally on the seacoast of Bataan, but it was moved inland when the Japanese started bombing, and it was in a mountain region--a mountainous region. It was an ordnance--you can see that's an old ordnance shed, where they've put hospital beds up underneath. The Japanese actually bombed this hospital right around Easter in 1942, dropped bombs right on it, killed many patients, and two nurses were wounded with shrapnel.
LAMB: The tunnel.
Prof. NORMAN: Yes.
LAMB: What was it called?
Prof. NORMAN: It was called Malinta Tunnel, and it was built in the 1930s to store things. And once the Japanese started bombing, the forces moved underground. There were all sorts of laterals. It really was a catacomb. And what you're looking at here is a pre-war shot of the hospital lateral. It was deep underground. And I was--again, I was there in January, and it's smaller in person, and it's musty and it's dark. And the nurses said when the bombs would fall outside, the concussion would--you'd feel it very much down there.
LAMB: How big were the tunnels?
Prof. NORMAN: The tunnels--the main tunnel was so big, it was well over--it had a--it had a hosp--it had a tram going through it for a--a trolley. And it was well over in excess of 500 feet. It was--it's quite big. And then you had all these little laterals going off.
LAMB: What was it used for?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, there were--each different--the Navy had a section in it. There were men living in it. The hospital had 1,000 beds, to give you an idea of that lateral. So people lived and worked in it once the war started. Troops would go out during the day; they'd come in at night.
LAMB: When was it built?
Prof. NORMAN: It was built in--it was started in 1932--it was started in the late '20s, early '30s. And it took several years...
LAMB: Who built it?
Prof. NORMAN: The American engineers built it.
LAMB: And what was the reason for it?
Prof. NORMAN: There's an airfield--Corregidor looks like a tadpole, and the very tip of the tadpole there was an airfield. They were having trouble getting supplies to the airfield, so the original intent was to blast this tunnel through Malinta Hill, put the trolley on it so they could ferry supplies from the main base to the airfield. And then they just started to build other--you can see in the photo there--other laterals off the main lateral, where they stored supplies. And in the event of an emergency, they knew they'd be safe. It was a bomb shelter.
LAMB: There's the Malinta Tunnel right there in the middle of this. And if we pull back, we can see what the island of Corregidor looked like. Are the tunnels, by the way, open today for tourists?
Prof. NORMAN: The main tunnel is open. And what they have there, it's rather Disneylike. It's called a sound and light show. And some of the laterals have been restored about 50 feet off the main tunnel, and they tell you a little bit about what went on. After we lost the Philippines, the Japanese moved in and used Malinta Tunnel. So it was also the scene of horrific fighting when we retook it in 1945.
LAMB: By the way, when you go back, what's on Bataan? Are there places you can go and see what happened there?
Prof. NORMAN: There's very little on Bataan. The death march route--there used to be markers every kilometer, but now there's only four for the whole 65-mile hike. There are shrines to Filipinos and American forces. And, interestingly, there's Japanese shrines to their dead, too. On top of Mt. Samat, which was some of the worst fighting in the war, there's a huge cross and a memorial. But I wanted to find the hospitals, and they're unmarked. You'd never find them if you didn't know your history and you didn't have a good map and a good map reader with you because they have changed. The Japanese logged Bataan in the 1960s. This is hospital number two. This whole area now has been deforested, and it's a rice paddy.
LAMB: And when was this picture taken?
Prof. NORMAN: That was taken during the war. That's actually where the nurses lived. They were able to get some canvas shelter halves for some protection, but they hung their clothes from vines and they put their beds in tin cans so the ants wouldn't crawl up them. They were camping in the most rugged sense you can imagine.
LAMB: What was their life like on Bataan or Corregidor? And did they live outside at all in Corregidor?
Prof. NORMAN: No, they were inside the tunnel, so, therefore, they rarely saw night and day, so they had an underground molelike existence.
LAMB: What kind of diseases did they get?
Prof. NORMAN: One of the problems with Corregidor, not surprisingly, is that they had a lot of respiratory ailments, breathing that air in the tunnel, and also they developed terrible blisters, again, from the heat and humidity. And, you know, you were not taking showers every day. So those were pretty unique to Corregidor. On Bataan now, that was one of the malaria--it was epidemic. And everybody had malaria pretty much on Bataan, and they started to suffer from dengue fever, all the tropical diseases you can imagine, the nurses and the troops had.
LAMB: What happens when you get dengue fever?
Prof. NORMAN: Dengue fever is called breakback fever. Your bones ache. The nurses who had it say it is probably like the worst case of the flu you could ever imagine. Your fever goes up to about 106. You often hallucinate. And the aching of your bones, they said, is almost indescribable.
LAMB: And what about malaria? What happens when you get that?
Prof. NORMAN: High fever, shivering, sweats, really an inability to--you don't want to eat. You can't sleep. It's just very serious. There's different types. The most serious affects your brain directly. And others, you know, your whole body. But because everybody had malaria on Bataan, because we didn't have enough quinine--we were not prepared for this battle--everybody just went to work. The nurses got up and they went to work. And one of them said, `I learned when I was in the operating room to take one hand that was really shaking from malaria and--and contaminate it and steady myself and use the other hand to help the surgeon.
LAMB: How much of this is original with the people you talked to?
Prof. NORMAN: Original in the...
LAMB: The stories. In other words, when you read this book, how much of it did you get from other books and how much of it did you get from people that told you their stories?
Prof. NORMAN: I would say 80 percent of this is very original. First of all, no one had talked to these nurses before.
Prof. NORMAN: Ever. The Army Nurse Corps had done some oral history in the early 1980s, and there was some good material in that. But I was able--'cause I didn't interview them just once. I would go back over the years and interview them again and again. So we'd really get into detail.
LAMB: Where's this picture from here?
Prof. NORMAN: That picture is the Army nurses on their way home. They've been liberated. It's 1945, probably early March. And if you look at them, you can see their uniforms are not fitting them particularly well. They were given those on their way home. And right in the middle, there's a woman with a hat on. She's a little slouched over. That's Maude Davison, the chief nurse.
LAMB: Where is she? Right--show me.
Prof. NORMAN: A little--right there. Your thumb's right on her.
Prof. NORMAN: She was 60 years old and in very bad shape from the starvation diet they were on.
LAMB: Let me digress a moment, though. She did get married or had a companion after this, as you have in the book.
Prof. NORMAN: She did. She went home and was discharged--medical discharge because of her health. And she met a man who had been widowed, a man she knew as a young woman. And they married. I did talk to his son, and he said that his father married Maude 'cause he wanted a companion in old age and he thought she would take care of him. And, unfortunately, Maude died--she was the first of the women to die of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was in her late 60s. So what he hoped never happened. But, apparently, they had some--a few happy years together.
LAMB: You did, though, describe that she said that she wasn't--she didn't have a lot of other friends.
Prof. NORMAN: No, Maude was not the way we look at our leaders today. Maude was not a touchy-feely kind of leader. She really embodied what went on in the early part of the century. She was tough. She didn't want to be your friend. She wanted to be your boss.
LAMB: Who is this in this picture?
Prof. NORMAN: That is--the Navy nurse that you pointed to is Peg Nash. The Navy nurses, there were 11 of them who were prisoners of war. That was taken at Oak Knoll Hospital in California, where they were sent after their liberation.
LAMB: Who's in the middle right here?
Prof. NORMAN: Jeannette MacDonald, the famous movie star and actress and singer. She was at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital visiting wounded sailors and Marines. When she heard the Navy nurses had just been brought in, she stopped down to see them. And I love that photo, because if you look at the faces of the Navy nurses, particular Peg Nash, who had tuberculosis at the time...
LAMB: Where is she in this?
Prof. NORMAN: Your finger was just pointed at her.
LAMB: Right here?
Prof. NORMAN: You can just--if you look at their eyes and their faces, they're very thin, they're not well, and here's this glamorous actress next to them.
LAMB: What did they think, though, of a glamorous actress coming into the picture after they'd lived through four years of you know what?
Prof. NORMAN: I asked them that. I said, `Weren't you envious, angry? How did you feel?' And Peg Nash told me this, she said, `We were so happy to be alive, so happy to be home, it was fine.' It never even occurred to them to be angry. At the same time, the hospital gave them things like bags of makeup, which struck me as being quite superficial, again, after the courage and what these women went through, and it didn't bother them. They were just happy to be alive and home. So what would have bothered you and I, they blew off.
LAMB: I starred something on Page 128 I want to read and just get your reaction to it. You wrote this. These are your words: `What is more, no one could have told the real story of Bataan. The government likely would not have allowed it--the story of the filth, the hunger, the bungling and the abandonment that took place in the Philippines. To tell the truth would have been to reveal the shameless circumstances that led to the loss of Bataan, Corregidor in the first place, to expose the inadequate supplies, the sloppy military planning and the rank political decisions that led to the Bataan death march and the capture of 72,000 Allied combat troops and 77 Army military women.' Go back and explain more about the shameless circumstances.
Prof. NORMAN: Well, we were just--we were unprepared. We were completely unprepared for the Japanese. The Americans had a sense that, you know, we were an omnipotent power. We'd won World War I. We'd gotten out of the Depression. No one would ever attack us. MacArthur and his strategists had a sense--they were watching the Japanese. Certainly, they'd been in China, Manchuria long before this, but they miscalculated. They thought the Japanese were going to attack perhaps in April or May of 1942, not December of 1941. They didn't have the resources there. They did not foresee the disaster at Pearl Harbor, which would just--temporarily just annihilate our fleet.
There was just lack of insight and planning. And as a result, there wasn't enough--the troops weren't trained properly. A lot of the Reservists, the men, like Cassie, arrived in the fall with barely enough time to get acclimated to it. They completely underestimated the Japanese offensive there.
LAMB: How filthy was it?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, imagine you're in a jungle that's as thick and as difficult as any in the world. There's no sanitation. There's not enough food. The Japanese have control of the air and the sea. They're flying over you at whim. And you have nowhere to go. The Bataan Peninsula is not that big a place. It's--it's perhaps 60 miles from tip to the end of it. And I thought of it like a jam jar. And the Japanese were at the top of the jam jar, forcing the Americans further and further down the peninsula. They couldn't run. They had to make do with what little food--they shot the cavalry horses and ate them. They ate the monkeys. I mean, they had to make do with whatever they could. And they didn't have clean laundry. That explains the filth. You know, if you can just imagine being thrown out in the jungle with nothing and said, `OK. Fight the enemy and survive.'
LAMB: How many doctors were on Bataan?
Prof. NORMAN: There were probably about 40 doctors on Bataan--Army physicians. And there was one Navy doctor who was there with one Navy nurse.
LAMB: And at the worst of the moments when they were being bombed and all and they're--how many patients were outside at Bataan under the hospitals?
Prof. NORMAN: They were all outside. I mean, they did have--we have that one shot of a sort of a garage that was a tin roof, but that was it. There were no buildings to put patients in. And one of the hospitals, Bataan number two--this was another thing that happened. When they planned--in the event of a retreat, they planned to take the troops to Bataan, but they underestimated the fact that there'd be civilian refugees with them and that there would be incredible casualties. This hospital wasn't planned until after the war started. There was no place to put it. They literally bulldozed land out of the jungle. And you can see the nurse standing where they put a chapel. They had open latrine pits until an engineer came and put some seats over them to deal with the flies and the dysentery. So there were no patients under anything.
LAMB: What did they do about anesthetics when somebody had, you know, the horrible injuries you described, the legs blown off, arms and stuff like that?
Prof. NORMAN: They did bring supplies with them, and they did have quite enough anesthetics at first. That's a shot of one of the patient wards, and you can see they're literally looking up at the sky. And what they would do with the anesthetics--towards the end, there were so many casualties, so many surgeries they ran out of the typical anesthetic and had to use ether, which goes right back to the Civil War. That's how old that is. And you drip ether over a gauze to put a person out. It's a very crude way to anesthetize somebody. And there wasn't time, and the nurses would say sometimes they had to get started prior to all the anesthetic taking place, and that was an awful thing to have to hear.
LAMB: How long were the nurses on Bataan?
Prof. NORMAN: They were on Bataan right from the beginning, from Christmas of 1941 until the night Bataan--they knew they were going to surrender, which was the night of April 8th; April 9th was the surrender.
LAMB: How were they told to leave?
Prof. NORMAN: It was traumatic. The chief nurses of the two hospitals were called in by their physicians who ran them and said, `You've got 10 minutes. Tell the nurses to grab whatever they can grab and be ready to leave.' And what was wrenching about this--and to this day, 55 years later, they'll cry about it--they had to leave their patients. And everybody knew what was going on. They literally just had to take off their operating room gloves, maybe grab a shirt off a clothesline and go. And it killed them 'cause there's nothing worse for a nurse than having to abandon their patient.
LAMB: What happened to the patients?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, the patients were basically left by the Japanese in the hospitals for a short time, but then the Filipino patients were made to get up and leave, and many of them joined the death march. These prisoners were shipped out of--off Bataan into Cabanatuan, which was an awful, awful military prison camp.
LAMB: Where was it?
Prof. NORMAN: It was north of Bataan--there was a town called Capas, and there were two camps there, O'Donnell and Cabanatuan, and tens of thousands of men died there. You can see from the map, they walked them off Bataan to the town of San Fernando. And from there, they were put on trains and sent up to Camp O'Donnell and later to Cabanatuan. I'm doing a book on the men now, 'cause I realized after I was writing about the nurses, it was only half the story. So I'm co-writing it with my husband, Michael Norman, and we're talking about that.
LAMB: What does he do, by the way?
Prof. NORMAN: He's a journalist and a writer, and he teaches journalism at New York University.
LAMB: And how long have you been at New York University?
Prof. NORMAN: A year and a half. I had been at another university and just went over there.
LAMB: Which one?
Prof. NORMAN: Rutgers University in New Jersey.
LAMB: When did you become a nurse?
Prof. NORMAN: I graduated from college with my degree in nursing in 1973.
LAMB: And where'd you go to college?
Prof. NORMAN: Rutgers in New Jersey, and have my bachelor's degree from there. I have my master's and PhD in nursing from NYU.
LAMB: How old are your children?
Prof. NORMAN: I have a 20-year-old. We're becoming a real NYU family. He's a junior there. He's going into his senior year. And I have a 12-year-old boy.
LAMB: How are you and your husband going about your next book?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, we're deep in the middle of it now. He's in the Philippines right now doing work. We're just dividing up the work in terms of the interviews. He's interviewing a lot of the men; I'm interviewing a lot of the widows and children of the men. I'll do a lot of the archival work, and he'll do a lot of the other work, other general library work.
LAMB: And what year is that coming out?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, we hope to have a first draft done a year from December.
LAMB: The title, "We Band of Angels"?
Prof. NORMAN: It came from Shakespeare. I spent a long time agonizing about that. It's from "Henry V." There's a speech that the king gives prior to a battle that they're going into where he talks about, `We band of brothers, we precious few.' And I thought it really captured this story, 'cause this is not the story of individual women. It's the story of a group of women. And I just thought it captured it well.
LAMB: How do the nurses in the Army and the Navy like being called angels?
Prof. NORMAN: The women, they like it, because it was a term they felt given to them by the men they served with, and they loved these men. Nurses in general, the term `angels' is a--it's a tough term, 'cause it's a term given to the profession by men, and it implies an unworldliness about the profession when, in fact, nurses are quite human, and they suffer and they do things just as well as--or as badly as anyone else. So angels kind of--it just makes people not quite human.
LAMB: Go back again and explain, you know, after the Japanese--after we surrendered to the Japanese in Bataan and Corregidor, the nurses originally were where?
Prof. NORMAN: The nurses were in Malinta Tunnel, which we just looked at.
LAMB: That's where they went to originally when they went to the Philippines?
Prof. NORMAN: After the surrender, they were in Malinta Tunnel.
LAMB: In Malinta Tunnel--but where'd they start out?
Prof. NORMAN: Oh, they started out--when they went to the Philippines, they served at many--there were several Army and Navy hospitals in the Philippines.
LAMB: Then when did they go to Bataan?
Prof. NORMAN: The war starts. All of the outsiding--outlying bases are destroyed by the Japanese. Everybody comes into Manila. They then realize they can't hold Manila. They're gonna send people to Bataan and Corregidor. So then they begin to evacuate them from Manila either to the peninsula of Bataan or to the island of Corregidor. But a small footnote here is they left the Navy nurses and Navy physicians behind in Manila, almost as an afterthought, and they surrendered in Manila in January. So they did not go to Bataan.
LAMB: So after Bataan, they went to Corregidor?
Prof. NORMAN: They went to Corregidor. There was concern about these women on Bataan. They knew they were going to surrender. And remember, the rape of Nanking had happened just a few years earlier. They did not want to have these women face the Japanese, so they put them on the island of Corregidor. Of course, within a month we couldn't hold out, and they surrendered on Corregidor.
LAMB: The rape of Nanking, 1937, was what?
Prof. NORMAN: That was when the Japanese troops entered the city of Nanking and, again, just like the death march, this crazy evil took over, and they spent systematically murdering and raping hundred--almost 100,000 women. It was another one of the great atrocities of World War II.
LAMB: Were any American nurses ever raped by the Japanese?
Prof. NORMAN: They were not. There was an attempted rape on Corregidor by a Japanese soldier after the surrender. One of the things the nurses--and they had no guideline to go by, nothing to follow, so they said, `Look, we're gonna stay together as a group.' They figured there'd be safety in numbers. And they all slept in this one lateral, one tunnel. But one of the nurses decided she was gonna sleep someplace else, and one night a Japanese soldier climbed over the--the wall and tried to rape her. She escaped. But that was as nearest as any sexual assault happened with the nurses.
LAMB: Do you know the name of that nurse?
Prof. NORMAN: Yes. It was Mary Brown Menzie.
LAMB: Is she still alive?
Prof. NORMAN: She's alive, but she doesn't keep in touch with any of the other nurses, so I did not interview her.
LAMB: All right. The nurses left Bataan, went to Corregidor. How long were they in the tunnel?
Prof. NORMAN: They were in the tunnel till it surrendered on May 3rd. And then the Japanese, when they saw these nurses, they were shocked. They did not know what to make of them. At first, they thought they might have been camp followers, 'cause there were no Japanese women in the military at all. So what they did is they said, `Look, you stay in the hospital tunnel with the physicians and you take care of the patients.' So they left them there. They did move all of the men but for the physician and enlisted men helping in the hospital out and eventually moved them off into prison camps. But they kept the nurses underground for about five weeks, and the nurses said that was a very hard time. They were only allowed out for fresh air one hour a day. They couldn't speak to anyone unless they were spoken to. They had to bow. It was really the beginning of what they saw as the humiliation of being a prisoner of war.
LAMB: And then eventually where did they move them to?
Prof. NORMAN: They got them off Corregidor. They moved them to Manila, and they put them in a university, you can see in the photo, called Santo Tomas University in Manila, which the Japanese turned into a civilian internment camp for enemy aliens in the city--English, Dutch, French, Canadians and American--who were there on business living in the city. They were rounded up and put there. They chose to put the American nurses in that camp and, in a sense, the Japanese saved their lives. Conditions were very bad in Santo Tomas, but they never approached the depravity of the military camps like Cabanatuan and Bilibid.
LAMB: What are we looking at in this photo? You see the--looks like Japanese in front of the wall--is that a wall?
Prof. NORMAN: It's a wall that completely surrounded--Santo Tomas University was almost uniquely set up to be a prison camp. It was completely surrounded by wall and iron gates, and it was a 60-acre site, so they could easily wall the prisoners off. But they put 6,000 people in that camp, and there wasn't enough room. It was terribly overcrowded. What the Japanese allowed them to do is build the shanties, and those were the shacks you saw right by the wall, where people could at least go in during daylight hours to have some free time.
LAMB: What's this photo right here? It says `Arriving at Santo Tomas.'
Prof. NORMAN: Tomas. Well, the Japanese would--were rounding people up in Manila and the other Philippine islands, the enemy aliens, and they would deliver them to this campus. And what's going on here is people standing around waiting to be processed, going into camp. You can see they're dressed for Sunday outing with hats and luggage and, you know, again having--no one could believe that they would actually spend three years in that prison camp.
LAMB: What I was a little confused about is the--you kept referring to the--or some of the nurses kept referring to the fact that they were civilians once they got inside Santo Tomas and not in the military?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, the--Santo Tomas was a civilian camp. There were not supposed to be military personnel in there. But these Army and Navy nurses always thought of themselves as military. If you notice, they would wear the same khaki uniforms when they would go to work. By the way, they had to make those uniforms. The lack of preparedness...
LAMB: These right here?
Prof. NORMAN: They didn't even have uniforms, so they had some bolts of khaki cloth or Navy denim cloth, and they made their own uniforms. So they were taking care of civilians. They were no longer taking care of Marines and soldiers.
LAMB: Where is this photo?
Prof. NORMAN: That was taken--they set up a camp hospital. That was Peg Nash, the nurse we saw standing next to Jeannette MacDonald. About five days a Japanese soldier was following her, and she was very nervous. She didn't know what he wanted. Well, all he wanted was to take her picture, and that's the picture. It was published in a Japanese newspaper. Navy intelligence picked up on it, identified her, and notified her mother and said, `Look, your daughter's alive.'
LAMB: Now as you go through the book and you get to Santo Tomas and they were three years in that prison as prisoners of war, I noticed that the number of calories a day that they were able to get kept going down. And in one case, it was down as low as 500 calories a day. Explain that.
Prof. NORMAN: The first two years--1942, 1943--they had civilian Japanese running the camps. They allowed these people to barter with the Filipinos, Filipinos to bring goods in. So if you had money, you could supplement your diet and be OK. 1944, the military took over running these camps. It was a change in policy out of Tokyo. They cut off all contact with the outside world. Food was running short, and they just started offering less and less food to these people to live on. And by 1944, they were down to less than 1,000 calories a day. People were dying of starvation. The nurses themselves were very sick with beriberi and pellagra.
LAMB: What's beriberi?
Prof. NORMAN: That's a deficiency where your--a protein deficiency where--there's two types. There's a wet beriberi where your limbs swell up enormously and you can't move. It's almost like an elephantitis. Dry beriberi, you don't swell up, but it--you almost can't walk. Your nerve endings are so tender, it's difficult to do anything.
LAMB: How did they stay in touch inside that prison with the outside world?
Prof. NORMAN: There was a very active underground that certain Filipinos were involved in and the priests. For a long time, the priests--and it's a Catholic country, so there were a lot of them--could travel between the military and civilian camps, and they carried medicines hidden in things, money 'cause money bought things in prison camps, so it was very valuable. The nurses hollowed out fruit and put medicines in there. It was very ingenious what they did.
LAMB: On the back, you have this photograph. Do you recognize any of those?
Prof. NORMAN: Yes, that's Eleanor Garen, the elderly woman. She's in the back on the left-hand side very clearly holding hands. This was a group going over together. On the lower right is Jeannie Kennedy. She's holding a little doll. She was a woman that I spent time with. And all of these women were captured and prisoners of war. And you can see, they went to the Philippines like they were going to paradise, dressed in their little sunsuits.
LAMB: Anybody in this research project for you refuse to talk to you?
Prof. NORMAN: There were three women who would not talk to me, including the woman I just mentioned who--there was an attempted rape on Corregidor. She hasn't talked to anybody. Two of the women were very nice when I called them up, and they said, `It's just too painful. We just don't want to talk about it. Use whatever you have of mine, any photos, anything you can find, but I can't talk about it.'
LAMB: When did the liberation come? And what is this picture right here?
Prof. NORMAN: The liberation came in February 1945. It was very dramatic. MacArthur--they were very worried about these prisoners. They were afraid the Japanese were gonna have a mass execution. There was the 1st Cavalry spearheaded through enemy territory into this camp. One night, they just crashed down the gates. The next morning, the prisoners found this American flag--were given it, and they hung it and they played "God Bless America."
LAMB: Well, at that moment--I wanted to ask you, because there's a point where you get there where somebody breaks out and then from somewhere in the back of the throng and circling the tanks, a lone voice started to sing "God Bless America."'
Prof. NORMAN: Well...
LAMB: How did you find that out?
Prof. NORMAN: The women told me that story. They clearly remembered it. They remembered--their rooms in the prison camp faced the main gate where the American tanks came through. And there was nothing in their lives anymore, so they used to like to watch the sunsets for a little bit of beauty. Well, that night they were ordered inside, and they heard this terrible crash and they smelled something strange, which turned out to be gasoline. The tanks crashed down the iron gate, pulled right up in front of their dormitory. People were afraid to come out. And then a soldier jumps out and says, `Hello, folks.' At that point, they swarm out of their rooms, surround the troops and then somebody starts to sing "God Bless America." They were moved by the American flags on the tanks. They'd been so isolated and so alone for so many years, it was just wonderful to see.
LAMB: What was the story of Carl Mydans from Life magazine?
Prof. NORMAN: Carl Mydans had been in the Philippines when the war began. He had been on Bataan and Corregidor. He was able to get out. However, he wanted to go back. He had many friends in that camp, and he went in with the troops and took some of those wonderful photographs. He said in the captions of the photographs that that liberation was probably the most moving thing he'd ever seen as a war correspondent. The people were living skeletons, and they were just so glad that they survived.
LAMB: What was the toughest moment for you as you were interviewing these women?
Prof. NORMAN: The toughest moment for me would be watching the women cry. I didn't think you could cry over memories that were 50 to 55 years old. And that was very difficult for me to watch, because their sense of loss--and they lost a lot in the war. They lost their youth, many, many friends, their physical health, in some cases their emotional health, and they would cry about it. And that--just as a human being, that was hard to watch.
LAMB: How many of them are still alive?
Prof. NORMAN: At this point--and they're, unfortunately, dying quite quickly now. The average age is about 85. There are a little more than a dozen alive in all different states of health.
LAMB: Now who are the two women in this picture?
Prof. NORMAN: The woman with the hat is Red Harrington. We saw an earlier picture of her.
LAMB: And she's dead.
Prof. NORMAN: She died last June. She died just a month ago. And the husband whom she met in camp died in late April. This was taken at Arlington National Cemetery. They had a reunion in 1992. And the women went there to pay tribute to the women who had died and are buried there. Ruby Bradley, the other woman, was the woman in Baguio who stuck the whiskey in the baby's mouth. She served in Korea, was the chief nurse for the 8th Army. And when she retired in the early 1960s, she was and is the most decorated woman in the history of our country.
LAMB: What's the story of the medals and the Distinguished Service Medal and all that?
Prof. NORMAN: These women just forged paths that nobody even ever imagined women could forge--nurses. When they were liberated, they all received a Bronze Star and the appropriate medals for the Pacific theater campaign. The two head nurses, Maude Davison and Laura Cobb, who led the Navy nurses, the men they served with put them up for higher medals. They felt that their leadership, through the battles of Bataan and Corregidor, and then in the prison camps was exemplary.
Every nurse survived the prison camp, and these are in camps where hundreds of people died. So they did something right. They put them up for the medals, but both women were denied. And in Maude Davison's case, there was a particularly pointed memo from someone on the decorations board that basically said, `Look, you were a nurse. I'm sure you did a good job, but you were never in a position of leadership, so you don't deserve the Distinguished Service Medal.' They did give her the Legion of Merit, which is a much --which is a lesser laurel.
LAMB: How often did you find them bitter?
Prof. NORMAN: You know, they're not bitter. I expected to find that from day one--angry at the Japanese--if there's any bitterness, it was towards our unpreparedness for the offensive. They don't regret what they went through. They feel that they learned a lot as human beings. They're not a bitter group, which is surprising.
LAMB: And go back to when they were in Santo Tomas. You say 6,000 people lived in this prison?
Prof. NORMAN: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Who is Mrs. Menzie?
Prof. NORMAN: That was Mary Brown Menzie, the woman who had the attempted rape on Corregidor.
LAMB: Well, but the story about--who was the woman then--maybe I've got the wrong name--that used to come in the limousine?
Prof. NORMAN: Oh, that was Ida--I'm gonna say her--I'm gonna pronounce her name incorrectly--it's such a--Haentsche. She was a German national...
LAMB: Oh, yeah.
Prof. NORMAN: ...who was a member of the Army Nurse Corps in the turn of the century. At that time, you didn't have to be an American citizen to be a member of the nurse corps. She served in the Philippines, married a very wealthy businessman and left the service. But she was friends with the older nurses who were in the nurse corps. Because she was a German national, she was not thrown into the camp, and she had a lot of money. When she realized her friends are in there, she started to send them money, clothes and food. She was their fairy godmother. She would come once a week in a limousine with a parasol, and she'd have her servants bring the nurses things, very much a lifesaver. But the younger nurses would laugh at her 'cause she had a big picture hat and a parasol, and here they are in a prison camp, and Ida was every much a lady.
G-2 investigated Ida after the war. They wanted to know--they thought she might have been a collaborator, but they were never able to prove anything. And she wanted to get to the States. They wouldn't let her, and she died in Manila, one of the many, many unsung heroines of the war.
LAMB: How many other books have you written?
Prof. NORMAN: I wrote one book prior to this called "Women at War," the story of 50 military nurses who served in Vietnam.
LAMB: Same kind of book?
Prof. NORMAN: A different kind of book in that it focused on all the services in the entire war, so it had a much broader scope. And this book just focused on the one band of women, one group of nurses.
LAMB: Which book was harder on you?
Prof. NORMAN: They were just different. I can't say one was harder than the other. The Vietnam book was harder because I was thinking--I'm that generation, and I was thinking about my husband, Michael, and all the people I knew who served there. So that had a real personal level for me. "We Band of Angels" was difficult because I was fighting the clock. These women were old and dying, and I wanted to get to them. And there was the stress of, `Could I maintain or achieve the rapport you need to achieve?' which, fortunately, I did. They were both hard.
LAMB: You write up movies in here in the way people thought and the nurses thought about the movie "So Proudly We..."
Prof. NORMAN: Hail.
LAMB: "...Hail!" Before I ask you about that movie, is there a movie out of your book?
Prof. NORMAN: Well, there's a company in Hollywood that has optioned the book and they're working on it now. It's--remains to be seen. Just don't know yet.
LAMB: What did the women who served over there in the prisons, American women, think of the movies of the time?
Prof. NORMAN: They did not like "So Proudly We Hail!," which many critics and scholars feel is one of the best movies about women to come out of World War II. The problem with it is--and Hollywood is fiction, it's not documentary, and these movies tend to focus on the women and their romances and their love lives. And, sure, these women had boyfriends and husbands, but they were a strong group in themselves, and that tends to be minimized. In "So Proudly We Hail!," there was one scene, Veronica Lake drops a grenade down her bra and blows herself up and a bunch of Japanese, and the nurses particularly dislike that scene.
LAMB: Is this the woman that cooperated with the movie right here?
Prof. NORMAN: Yes, that's Eunice Hatchitt Tyler. She was one of the lucky women to be evacuated off Corregidor before surrender, so she came home, and the Army sent her to Hollywood to help the scriptwriters put that together. She was very unhappy with the film because she knew that it had fictionalized and, in a sense, trivialized what the nurses had done. But the nurses themselves blamed Eunice, and she suffered for a long time for that, when, in fact, she had nothing.
LAMB: Where is this picture?
Prof. NORMAN: That was taken at Arlington National Cemetery. There is a nurses cemetery there, and that statue is called the Spirit of Nursing. It was dedicated originally for the nurses who served in the Spanish American War. I took that photo, and after their reunion in 1992, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of their surrender, we went out there. And the nurses walked up the hill. They played "Taps" and then just spontaneously saluted. That's Cassie, Helen Nestor, whom I spoke about earlier. She's standing at the grave of Rosemary Hogan, who died in the 1960s, or Red, they called her. Rosemary was a dear friend of Helen's. They roomed together on Bataan and in prison camp. And Cassie never saw her after the war. So she was paying tribute at her gravesite.
LAMB: What do you want people to take from this book?
Prof. NORMAN: The main thing I want people to take from this book is that what these women have showed us is that they were there, they didn't ask to go to war. The war came to them. And they served well. They stayed at their post, and they did their jobs as well as any man. That photo was taken in the first reunion. It took 40 years to get them together as a group, and that was taken in 1983 at a VA reunion. These women showed us that the idea of courage and bravery is certainly genderless, and they tell us that women alone can survive in the worst of worst circumstances.
LAMB: What's different for women today in the military who are in the nurse corps than it was back in World War II?
Prof. NORMAN: There's so much that's changed. The reliance on the reserve corps now to carry a lot of the mission in wartime, and also at that time the nurses were all female. And at this point, the military nurse corps are about a quarter male nurses, and that certainly changes things.
LAMB: Did you ever serve in the military?
Prof. NORMAN: I did not, and that's a question everybody asks me. But I didn't. It's just through my parents, through my husband, Michael, I just have an abiding interest in it.
LAMB: And what do you think the military can learn from reading this?
Prof. NORMAN: I think the military could--there are great lessons here about preparedness. There are great lessons here about the ability of troops to survive and fight with very little. And also, one of the things is when these people come out of these experiences--and we are better now than we used to be--to help these people readjust to civilian life and to freedom.
LAMB: Has anything like this ever been done?
Prof. NORMAN: No. This is the first time. There's been--snippets of the nurses' story has been told in the movies and in articles, but no one's told the whole story and no one's ever told the story about what happened to them after the war.
LAMB: Our guest has been Elizabeth Norman. This is the book. It's called "We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese." And that photo again on the cover was taken where?
Prof. NORMAN: At Santo Tomas University in Manila. The nurses have been liberated from three years in prison camp, and they're on trucks getting ready to go home.
LAMB: Thank you very much.
Prof. NORMAN: Thank you.
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