Happy Memorial Day, United States! Today is a day where we honor those who’ve served and fallen for our country. Today is a day where I think of all those within my family who’ve served in the Navy, the Marines, the Army, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard; those of my relatives who survived war, those who didn’t, and those who, though never saw battle, were prepared to fight.
Each country has their own day of remembrance, and on this day, I believe sharing a book review from one of the largest wars in Earth’s history is appropriate. And If I Perish: Frontline Army Nurses in World War II is a novel that highlights a too often ignored part of United States history: the thousands of women who volunteered to stand by soldiers on the frontline during the years’ long World War II, and to be captured and to die alongside those soldiers.
Though none of my relatives were nurses during WWII, my great-grandmother was a Rosie the Riveter. Reading And If I Perish, I was astounded to discover that such a vital piece of World War II history wasn’t taught in schools – wasn’t even acknowledged – and how after the war, military nurses weren’t treated as heroes or veterans; instead their military records were lost and these women were forgotten.
And If I Perish is one of those novels that make you realize how inadequate and subjective history is. The authors, Monahan and Neidel-Greenlee, highlight a significant part of history that has largely been, not forgotten, but completely ignored: the history of nurses serving in the army during World War II.
Without these thousands of brave women working on the front lines, many more lives would have been lost. These women were bombed, taken prisoner, and killed, just like the male soldiers. However, army nurses were only given “relative rank,” which means that they received no benefits, weren’t recognized as veterans, weren’t saluted like male officers of the same rank were, were discouraged to use the GI Bill to go to college and had very little access to military hospitals after the war…in fact, when the war ended, these brave and self-sacrificing women were told that it was time for them to be ladies again.
These women weren’t drafted. Every single one of them volunteered to march into some of the bloodiest battles in human history, to stand beside men on the front lines, to risk life and limb. The army and other military nurses deserve to be recognized for their phenomenal achievements. They deserve to be known.
Do you have any relatives who served as nurses during WWII?