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G.I. Nightingales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II
by Barbara Brooks Tomblin, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., 1996, $25.95.Though scarcely more than 57,000 nurses strong at the time of Japan’s surrender, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps performed in every theater of operations in World War II. This book contains a fount of information about how nurses were recruited and trained to serve in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC), their status within the armed forces and many of their individual experiences. Ample information is included on the formation and deployment of various Army hospitals and their areas of service.

Tomblin has chosen to present this history from the viewpoint of the women who served. As such, the nurses’ activities described in the various theaters of operations take on a character that is in sharp contrast to the accounts of life and war as told from the viewpoint of male combatants, but it is no less compelling. Tomblin has deftly woven a tapestry that shows the development and growth of the ANC but also clearly illuminates the contributions of individual nurses.

Written as it is from the vantage point of more than 50 years, Nightingales presents the reader with valuable, sometimes startling insights into how women were thought of and treated by society’s institutions in those long-ago days of the 1940s. These insights are as much a part of our national history as the war itself. This is especially true with respect to the African-American females of that time. The personal experiences related in this book serve as historical markers and reminders. The book itself serves to document and preserve the valuable work of the relatively small group of women who constituted the Army Nurse Corps in World War II, and their disproportionate contributions to the war effort.

John I. Witmer