Cover image for Angels of mercy : the Army nurses of World War II
Angels of mercy : the Army nurses of World War II
Kuhn, Betsy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [1999]

Physical Description:
114 pages : illustrations, maps ; 27 cm
Relates the experiences of World War II Army nurses, who brought medical skills, courage, and cheer to hospitals throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific.
Reading Level:
970 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 7.1 3.0 34737.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.3 6 Quiz: 20377 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D807.U6 K84 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"You Are Needed Now," the posters proclaimed. "Join the Army Nurse Corps." And so they did: Over 59,000 American women signed up to serve their country in the war effort. Some joined expecting to experience the romance and adventure of war in faraway places while working to save lives. Many more quickly learned war's harsh realities -- and that their own lives could also be in danger.
The Army nurses of World War II served in the United States and abroad, in dense jungles, war-torn villages, and on barren ice fields. Many encountered hardships: bombings, crude living conditions, inadequate food. They also experienced the frustration of receiving lesser pay and privileges than their male counterparts as they worked, sometimes around the clock, to treat the wounded while confronting air raids, the threat of invasion, and capture by the enemy.
Nonetheless, in additon to their devotion to saving lives, some of the most important things the nurses brought to their units were courage and cheer. From holiday parties in makeshift hospitals to fudge making and softball games amid the grueling conditions of war, these angels of mercy brought light -- and life -- to the American forces of World War II.

Author Notes

Betsy Kuhn, who wanted to write books for children since she was eleven years old, grew up in western Pennsylvania. She became interested in the nurses of World War II from listening to her aunt, June Bossler, and her friend, Alice Weinstein, describe their nursing experiences in England and the Pacific.

Since leaving Pennsylvania, Betsy has lived in England, New Mexico, and Connecticut. She now makes her home in Maryland with her husband and their twin sons. She also has written a children's novel, Not Exactly Nashville.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. Inspired by an aunt who served in England, and drawing on research and interviews, Kuhn has written a reverent but unsentimental look at the nurses of World War II. A time line and maps of Europe and the Pacific lead into the chronological narrative, which begins at Pearl Harbor. In a text made inviting and immediate through the use of first-person testimonies, she describes recruitment, hospital conditions, frontline conflicts, and more. Most effective are stories of the women held in a Japanese POW camp for nearly four years and others who survived two months hiding behind enemy lines. The stories are dramatic, but the tone is matter-of-fact. Throughout the book, Kuhn weaves in background on the major battles as she focuses on how the nurses supported and made the soldiers' efforts possible. This enjoyable, well-written account has a fresh perspective, and it will add much needed balance to male-only accounts of the war. Bibliography, source notes. --Randy Meyer

Publisher's Weekly Review

A lively blend of narrative and first-hand reminiscences is underserved by its drab appearance. This compelling account of the army nurses of WWII breathes life into an often-overlooked corner of American history. Nearly 60,000 American women signed on to serve as nurses during WWII, and Kuhn (Not Exactly Nashville) interviewed dozens of them, relating their stories here with an eye to the sort of detail that children in particular will savor. She chronicles the grimmest aspects of wartime dutyÄair raids, deprivation and death, being taken prisonerÄbut she also includes some surprises. These nurses wash out undies in helmets, whip up a wedding dress out of a parachute and make fudge in a foxhole. The book's chronological framework covers the years between Pearl Harbor and the postwar occupation forces, interweaving episodes from the Pacific Theater to North Africa, the liberation of Dachau and beyond. Unfortunately, the layout is bland and institutional, with gray sidebars and grainy reproductions of period photos and recruiting posters; it doesn't lure an audience to the eminently readable text. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-Kuhn has done a remarkable job of illustrating the diversity of Army nurses' assignments and the breadth of their experiences. Among those profiled are nurses who walked 800 miles to freedom when their plane was shot down over German-occupied Albania, those who were prisoners of war in Manila, and those who helped liberate the concentration camp at Dachau. Sidebars provide information on African-American nurses and women who served on the home front as everything from postal carriers to airplane mechanics. The book also provides a brief overview of the causes of World War II and a short history of Army nurses in prior battles. Excellent reproductions, maps, and a time line accompany the clear, well-written text. Compelling comments from the dozens of women interviewed reveal their despair, fear, camaraderie, and hope, and give the accounts a sense of immediacy. Shaaron Cosner's War Nurses (Walker, 1988) briefly covers women nurses from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam, but is not as comprehensive or as engaging. Angels of Mercy provides a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about a relatively unknown segment of Americans who are often ignored in favor of the better-known soldiers and statesmen.-Leah J. Sparks, Bowie Public Library, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The first Army nurses to care for D day casualties were those of the 12th and 13th Hospital Train Units -- but they didn't reach Normandy by train. Sailing on two British hospital ships, they arrived off Omaha Beach on June 7 and Utah Beach on June 8, and began caring for the wounded before they were evacuated back to England. On June 10, long before things had settled down, the nurses of the 128th Evacuation Hospital arrived on Utah Beach. They'd left England the day before, dressed in fatigues. "We didn't take off those clothes for a long time!" Helen Reichert remembers with a laugh. At dawn, as her ship neared the Normandy shore, Reichert went up on deck to use the bathroom. "This glider [bomb] came down ... and it fell in between our ship and the ship that was next to us and exploded," she says. "It blew in part of our ship." The nurses sailed to shore on small landing boats, then waded through the water and ran across the beach to safety. The soldiers had laid down a metal track on the sand for tanks and other heavy vehicles, part of the elaborate D day preparations. Says Reichert, "I looked down and I said, well, this is nice. It was an improvement over our Arzew beach." Helen Dixon Johnson, a nurse from California, landed on Omaha Beach two weeks after D day. Even then, she remembers, "There was debris all over: tanks and trucks and parts of equipment, machine guns, everything. There were [barrage] balloons all over," large balloons that hovered over the water to help protect ships against air attacks. The ack-ack (antiaircraft fire) was so loud, she says, "you could hardly hear yourself think." On shore, signs such as one saying "Roads Cleared of Mines to the Hedge" directed them to safe paths. Before the invasion, the enemy had littered the coast with mines, explosive devices usually laid underwater or just below the ground that can kill or maim people and destroy ships, tanks, and other equipment when run over or stepped on. Johnson, a member of the 3rd Auxiliary Surgical Unit, was assigned to the 51st Field Hospital near the town of Saint-LÔ, close to the front lines. She worked at least twelve hours a day, usually more. Cows, abandoned by their owners, followed the nurses, hoping to be milked, bees swarmed the canned peaches in their K-rations, and enemy fire was never far away. One night the Germans bombed the hospital area, and the nurses jumped into slit trenches. "They were all full of this garbage," says Johnson, but "we didn't care." The Allies had hoped to move quickly inland after the invasion, but they were having a terrible time pushing past the Germans, who had taken cover behind Normandy's tall, thick hedgerows. Finally, in late July, the frustrated Allies launched a massive air attack near Saint-LÔ, and the German lines began to crumble. Text copyright © 1999 by Betsy Kuhn Excerpted from Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurses of World War II by Betsy Kuhn All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Time Linemap of Europe and North Africamap of the Pacific Theater 1941
""What in the World is Going On?""
Mildred Irene Clark
""It's Maneuvers""An Ordeal in the Philippines
The Japanese Attackchristmas/Hanukkah, 1941
The Army Nurse Corps in World War II 1942
Reporting for Duty the 95TH Evacuation Hospital
""You Are Needed Now""An Ordeal in the Philippines
Surrenderalice in the Pacific
Anthills Six Feet Tallthe 48TH Surgical Hospital
The 48Th Wades Ashorechristmas/Hanukkah, 1942 1943
Dangerous Waters