Astounding stories of women who served in World War II
Women Heroes of World War II: The Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival
By Kathryn J. Atwood
Chicago Review Press
Following her first volume about women in World War II, author Kathryn J. Atwood reveals even more stories of women on the harrowing Pacific front.
by Brianna Westervelt
In this latest addition to Chicago Review Press’ YA historical “Women of Action” series, Kathryn J. Atwood focuses on the Pacific theater of World War II. (Previously I reviewed Courageous Women of the Civil War from this same series.) Indeed, women were very active in the Pacific theater, working as reporters, missionaries, special agents, nurses, photographers, and more.
The book opens with a brief background chapter about the Pacific front that includes Japan’s relationship with China—which was a huge deal, but is usually omitted from American kids’ history books. The chapters are divided up by region: China; the U.S. and the Philippines; Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies; and Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Each chapter ends with additional resources about the women profiled. However, I did not like how nearly every chapter ended abruptly with the specific woman’s death, especially as a number of these women later wrote about their war experiences.
A particularly poignant moment comes in the section about Helen Colijn, a Dutch teenager. While she suffered in a Dutch East Indies prison camp with her two sisters and numerous other women, a vocal orchestra concert was planned and performed. The concert provided a rare moment of normalcy for the women, who, for an hour or two, didn’t feel like they were in a prison camp. One performer later said, “When I sang that vocal orchestra music, I forgot I was in the camp. I felt free.”