Of the 350,000 American women in uniform during World War II, none instilled more hope in American GIs than Frances Slanger. In Army fatigues and helmet she splashed ashore with the first nurses to hit the Normandy beach in June 1944. Later, from a storm-whipped tent amid the thud of artillery shells, she wrote a letter to Stars and Stripes newspaper that would stir the souls of thousands of weary soldiers. Hundreds wrote heartfelt responses, praising Slanger and her fellow nurses and honoring her humility and patriotism. But Frances Slanger never got to read such praise. She was dead, killed the very next day when German troops shelled her field hospital, the first American nurse to die in Europe after the landing at Normandy.
Frances Slanger was a Jewish fruit-peddler's daughter who survived a chilling childhood in World War I-torn Poland and immigrated to America at age seven. Inspired by memories of her bitter past and a Nazi-threatened future, she defied her parents' wishes by becoming a nurse and joining the military. A woman of great integrity and courage, she was also a passionate writer and keeper of chapbooks. This is the story of her too brief life.
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"Through indefatigable research and a nearly obsessive quest to inhabit a great moment in time, Bob Welch achieves something rare among works of military history: He brings one person, a single extraordinary person, to vivid life upon the page. Read American Nightingale, and you'll never think of D-Day in the same way again." --Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Americana
"Bob Welch's compelling biography of Lieutenant Frances Slanger illuminates the extraordinary courage and patriotism so emblematic of the valorous Army nurses who served in World War II. His intriguing volume serves as a celebration of these unsung heroines. It represents a valuable contribution to the literature of nursing, women in combat, and military history." --Mary T. Sarnecky, author of A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps
"We have forgotten what they endured, and how much they hoped and fought and sacrificed, the young hearts who came to this country, and gave it their all. This book brings it back. I can't read Frances Slanger's letter to the Stars and Stripes--written just before she became a casualty herself--without seeing my own mother's face before me. That letter needs to be reread regularly, especially in these times, and reprinted every Fourth of July. So we'll be reminded and reheartened." --Paul Greenberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
"Bob Welch's book may well start a sea change in public consciousness. No one who reads American Nightingale will ever again assume that every military hero killed in action was, is or will be male." --Judith Bellafaire, chief historian of the Women In Military Service for America Memorial Foundation
"Reading American Nightingale is an intensely moving and unforgettable experience." --Evelyn Benson, author, As We See Ourselves: Jewish Women in NursingAbout the Author:
Bob Welch, an award-winning columnist for The Register-Guard newspaper, is the author of seven books. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest and Los Angeles Times Magazine, among other publications. He is an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where he lives.
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