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Preface This book had its origins early in 1988, when, at the beginning ofan interview, a former prisoner of war (POW) nurse asked, "Do you really want to hear this?" The answer was a firm, "Absolutely!" This exchange began more than a decade ofresearch into the history and experiences ofeighty-four military nurses who were prisoners ofthe Japanese during World War II. From this first interview, we knew that we were in a race with time. Many of these women spoke of friends and comrades who had died in recent years and ofthe dwindling number ofChristmas cards that arrived each season. They also expressed fear that after they too were gone, no one would care about their service to their country. All in one way or another asked, "Who will remember?" Thoughtful deliberation ofthat inquiry led to truths that were hard to accept and difficult to understand. At the top ofthe list was that former POW army nurses were discouraged from talking about their combat and POW experiences even to their families. At redistribution centers and in reorientation programs, the POW experience was presented to these women as a stigma and theywere told that it was time for them to become "ladies" again. This admonition joined with their natural reluctance to tell their stories to form a psychological alloy stronger than steel. In addition, military history and the history of war have traditionally been treated as a male domain, which is another reason these women's x Preface deeds did not make it into many history books. After their individual hometowns welcomed many of these nurses on their return, their accomplishments as members ofthe Army and Navy Nurse Corps faded rapidly from the American memory. As we continued our research, we were delighted to discover that we owed a large debt ofgratitude to a small group of people who acted in late 1982 and early 1983 to bring recognition to these women and preserve some of their experiences. Sam Moody, founder of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and a member of the Veterans Administration Advisory Committee for Former Prisoners of War, pointed out that some former POWswere military nurses. Dorothy Starbuck, a Women's Army Corps veteran who served in the European theater during World War II, was at that time chief benefits director of the Veterans Administration (VA). She acted on Moody's information immediately and wrote to some of the former POW military nurses in late December 1982. Before the end of January 1983, the women responded and provided addresses and married names for other former POW nurses. Through Starbuck's instigation and with the sponsorship and financial support ofmany, including veterans' service organizations and VA employee groups, the former POWs were brought to Washington, D.C., in April 1983 for three days of activities and recognition. The women were received and addressed by President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, and each was interviewed for the Army Nurse Corps Oral History program. In addition, the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense cooperated in producing a twenty-eight-minute documentary video, We All Came Home, which includes portions ofpersonal interviews with several of thesewomen and archival footage ofprison camp liberation in 1945. Unfortunately, few people have seen the video and even fewer know about what these women did for their country. In a time when heroes are often defined by the number of"runs batted in" or "yards gained rushing," these heroic women stand in timeless contrast to society's shiftingvalues. The standards reached Preface Xl and surpassed by each ofthese former POWs have always been the bedrock from which and on which freedom's national heroes are born and endure. Each of these women transcended what is expected ofany soldier and reached what might be hoped for from the bravest. All of the former POW military women conducted themselves in the finest traditions of the armed forces and their chosen profession, and they became living examples of what our country may expect and hope for from its military women. In short, they earned the title of national heroes. And what can we learn from these heroes? They teach byexample that freedom is not free and that Americans, male and female, have always been willing to risk everything for the right to be free. As the twentieth century draws to a close, historical accuracy and justice demand that what these nurses endured and the spirit in which they bore their burdens should be recognized by...


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