Angels of the Undergroune

Title:  Angels of the Underground

Author:  Theresa Kaminski

The Japanese occupation of the Philippines began not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was one of the most brutal of World War Two.  Following General Douglas MacArthur’s withdrawal in March of 1942, the Filipinos and Americans left to face the Japanese onslaught could only delay the inevitable.  The peninsula of Bataan fell first, and the men who had defended it were forced on the infamous “death march” to prison camps sixty miles away.  Thousands perished.  Then, after fierce fighting, the troops on Corregidor Island–“the Rock” that guarded Manila Bay–surrendered unconditionally.  The Philippines was in Japanese hands.

During the three years of occupation that followed, some kept up the fight against the Japanese.  Theresa Kaminski’s Angels of the Underground tells the story of four American women, each a member of a loosely coordinated resistance movement.  Through the stories of Claire, Phillips, Peggy Doolin, Gladys Savary, and Yay Panlilio, Kaminski weaves a gripping tale of ordinary people propelled by extraordinary circumstances into acts of heroism.  Facing torture and death, they moved supplies and passed information, even serving in guerrilla bands stationed in the hills around Manila.  They also managed to get in food and medical supplies to the captured American soldiers in Camps O’Connell and Cabanatuan.  To those men, these women were indeed nothing less than angels.

They were also utterly human, living moment by moment, fumbling their way forward.  Kaminski’s book reveals the flaws and foibles of people trying to survive circumstances well beyond their control.  In the process it illuminates the complex political dimensions of the occupied Philippines and its crucial importance to the war effort in the Pacific.  In addition to detailing the military and political history of the islands prior and during the occupation, as well as the formation of guerrilla units in the mountains on Luzon, Kaminski sheds light on a key part of the war

Angels of the Underground represents a significant contribution to understanding women’s experience in wartime, whether in uniform or not, using Phillips, Doolin, Savary, and Panlilio to reveal how fully they participated.  At once an absorbing read and an impressive work of scholarship based on archival research and published memoirs, this book does full justice to an underappreciated aspect of World War Two and the women who fought in it.