Review: Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival

War can teach you so much about evil, and so much about good.
~ Zainab Salbi

Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival*

From the publisher:

Glamorous American singer Claire Phillips opened a nightclub in manila, using the earnings to secretly feed starving American POWs. She also began working as a spy, chatting up Japanese military men and passing their secrets along to local guerrilla resistance fighters. Australian Army nurse Vivian Bullwinkel, stationed in Singapore, then shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies, became the sole survivor of a horrible massacre by Japanese soliders. She hid for days, tending to a seriously wounded British soldier while wounded herself. Humanitarian Elizabeth Choy lived the rest of her life hating war, though not her tormentors, after enduring six months of starvation and torture by the Japanese military police.

In these pages, readers will meet these and other courageous women and girls who risked their lives through their involvement in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Fifteen suspense-filled stories unfold across China, Japan, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines, providing an inspiring reminder of womens’ and girls’ refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history.

These women—whose stories span 1932 to 1945, the last year of the war—served in dangerous roles as spies, medics, journalists, resisters, and saboteurs. Seven of them were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, enduring brutal conditions. Author Kathryn J. Atwood provides appropriate context and framing for teens 14 and up to grapple with these harsh realities of war. Discussion questions and a guide for further study assist readers and educators in learning about this important and often neglected period of history.

womenheroeswwiipacThis is the third Women Heroes book by Kathryn Atwood and part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press.

To say I liked this book the best isn’t accurate. I enjoyed the first two immensely. I read a lot of World War I and World War II nonfiction. I majored in Russian in college, and along with that came a lot of Russian literature and history. So I was already familiar with a lot of the women presented in the first two books.

Ah, but this one? I’m a bit chagrined to admit it. This was fairly new territory for me. I haven’t done nearly as much reading about the Pacific theater as I have the European one. That’s about to change.

As with the other books, this one starts off with a chapter about how the war with Japan begun and provides a short, but excellent, historical overview. The volume ends with a wrap up that explains how the war ended and the consequences that followed (the Cold War).

In between? Fifteen riveting stories about women in the Pacific theater, from Australian nurses to Navy flight nurses to war photographers and citizens fighting for their countries. Each chapter highlights a woman hero and invites us to understand her struggle. Each chapter ends with a bibliography for further reading.

All the stories in this book are incredible, but I was struck in particular by the courage of the Philippine resistance.

This book along with the two others in the series make excellent resources for not only students, but teachers, writers, or anyone who wants to know more about the world wars but doesn’t know where to start.

Heroism is endurance for one moment more.
~ George F. Kennan

* I received a review copy of this book from Chicago Review Press.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, YA

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