Many of the arguments against women in combat contain the cry that women should not be prisoners of war - well get real folks - civilian and military women have already been prisoners of war!

During the Civil War Dr. Mary Walker was held for four months in a Confederate prison camp, accused of being a spy for the Union Army. Doctor Walker is the only woman to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. walker

Major Pauline Cushman was arrested and imprisoned by the Confederacy and sentenced to hang for being a spy. The arrival of Union troops saved her from the gallows.

Belle Boyd spied for the Confederacy by carrying important letters and papers across enemy lines. She was imprisoned in a Union prison for her espionage activities. belle

Nancy Hart served as a Confederate scout, guide and spy, carrying messages between the Southern Armies. Nancy was twenty years old when she was captured by the Yankees and jailed. Nancy gained the trust of one of her guards, got his weapon from him, shot him and escaped.

Andersonville Prison

Florena Budwin, wife of a Pennsylvania soldier of the Civil War disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Union Army to be near her husband. They were captured and imprisoned at the infamous Andersonville Prison where her husband died. She was then transferred to Florence, S.C., where her identity was revealed. She remained at the prison to care for Union soldiers, finally dying of illness in 1865. She was buried at Florence National Cemetery and is believed to be the first woman buried in a National Cemetery.

Rose O'Neal Greenhow was a leader in Washington society and one of the most renowned spies in the Civil War. She is credited with helping General Pierre G.T. Beauregard win the battle of Bull Run. She spied so well for the Confederacy that Jefferson Davis credited her with winning the battle of Manassas. Rose O'Neal Greenhow was imprisoned for her efforts first on "house arrest" in her own home and then in Washington, D.C.s Old Capital Prison for five months. After her second prison term, she was exiled to the Confederate states where she received a heroines welcome by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. rose

During World War One both Edith Cavell and Mata Hari were prisoners of war and were executed for being spies.


Often ignored by history is the story of the women prisoners of war taken captive during World War Two. Sixty seven Army nurses and sixteen Navy nurses spent three years as prisoners of the Japanese. Many were captured when Corregidor fell in 1942 and were subsequently transported to the Santo Tomas Internment camp in Manila, in the Philippines. Santo Tomas was not liberated until February of 1945. Five Navy nurses were captured on Guam and interned in a military prison in Japan.

Here is a rare WWII poster featuring the Nurses on Corregidor in a Japanese POW camp. One seriously doubts that they would be in whites with red and blue capes while prisoners but the point was being made to appeal to defense workers.
nurse pow poster

Two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 5 Navy nurses on Guam were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Lieutenants (jg) Leona Jackson, Lorraine Christiansen, Virginia Fogerty and Doris Yetter, under the command of Chief Nurse Marion Olds. Later in 1942 their captors transported them to Japan. They were held for three months in Zentsuji Prison on Shikoku Island and were then moved to Eastern Lodge in Kobe. They were repatriated in August of 1942.

Clara Gordon Main, a stewardess on the SS President Harrison, captured by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, while rescuing U.S. Marines from China, was among the first American Prisoners of War.
For more about women in the U.S. Maritime Service please visit: http://www.usmm.org/women.html

In May of 1943 Navy Lieutenants (jg) Mary Chapman, Bertha Evans, Helen Gorzelanski, Mary Harrington, Margaret Nash, Goldie O'Haver, Eldene Paige, Susie Pitcher, Dorothy Still and C. Edwina Todd, under the command of Chief Nurse Laura Cobb, were sent to the prison camp at Los Banos. They established an infirmary although they had virtually no medicine or supplies and continued to nurse the sick until Los Banos was liberated in February of 1945.

The new book featured below is quite high on my recommended reading list. It is heartwarming and at the same time heartbreaking. Told in a style that puts the reader directly into the lives of these valiant nurses - it takes you on a journey through the horrors of World War Two in the Pacific - as if you were there. The author draws you into the Malinta Tunnel underground hospital on Corregidor and describes the almost superhuman endurance of the military nurses working there to save their patients - and she does it with balanced style. She reveals their triumphs and their humor, along with the dreary and miserable conditions under which they worked. When the Japanese capture the nurses and send them to Santo Tomas internment camp you journey with them through their three years as prisoners and their ultimate liberation.
The author, Dr Elizabeth Norman, has done a remarkable job - using interviews, diaries, letters, and a wealth of research - in telling this story that has been hidden by history.
nurses We Band of Angels Elizabeth Norman.The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese. The only group of American military women captured and imprisoned by an enemy. For excerpts, reviews, photos and a timeline for this particular book: (Note - this will open a new browser window, to return simply close it.) Book Info

For more of the story of one of the former prisoners -1st Lt. Frankie T. Lewey, USANC - please visit Lt. Lewey

In Europe Lt Reba Whittle, (later Tobiason), Army Nurse Corps, was flying on an air evac mission when the plane was shot down by the Germans in September 1944. . She and her crew were captured and imprisoned. Lt Whittle was wounded yet performed nursing duties for the prisoners in the camp. They were repatriated to Switzerland. Lt Whittle was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart. At the time of her capture she had flown over forty missions. Her injuries subsequently disqualified her from flying and her status as a POW was not revealed until much later.

In Europe U.S.-born Mildred Harnack-Fish, a German Resistance fighter was captured, interned, and executed in Berlin's Plotzense Prison in 1943.

Agnes Newton Keith was imprisoned in several Japanese camps from 1941 until the end of the war. Her story was told in the movie "Three Came Home" starring Claudette Colbert.

The true story of the women who were the wives and daughters of British, Dutch and Australian colonialists and who formed a vocal orchestra while prisoners of the Japanese in Sumatra was portrayed in the film "Paradise Road" with Glenn Close.


During the Vietnam War Monika Schwinn, a German nurse, was held captive for three and a half years - at one time the only woman prisoner at the "Hanoi Hilton".

The following missionaries were POWs:
Evelyn Anderson, captured and later burned to death in Kengkok, Laos, 1972. Remains recovered and returned to U.S.

Beatrice Kosin was captured and burned to death in Kengkok, Laos, 1972. Remains recovered and returned to U.S.

Betty Ann Olsen was captured during a raid on the leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet 1968. She died in 1968 and was buried somewhere along Ho Chi Minh Trail by fellow POW, Michael Benge.

Eleanor Ardel Vietti was captured at the leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot, May 30, 1962. She is still listed as POW.


Operation Desert Storm saw the capture and imprisonment of an Army Flight Surgeon, Major Rhonda Cornum and an Army Transportation Specialist-Sp4 Melissa Rathbun-Nealy. Sp4 Nealy
Major CornumThe real story of Major Cornum's experiences as a prisoner is told in her own words in this excellent book "She Went to War". It is a remarkable narrative by a courageous military officer - who happens to be a woman, wife and mother as well as a physician, pilot and soldier.

To be sure there are many more women who have been prisoners of war. Military women and civilian women from nations around the world, from wars long forgotten, and from covert operations never revealed. They have been denied recognition, denied awards and decorations, and denied their rightful place in history. The American military refuses to acknowledge their combat status. The American public thinks it never happened. The righteous radicals leave it out in their rhetoric against women in the military.

Although not prisoners per se three of the crewmembers on the EP-3E Aries II Surveillance Plane who were detained in China are military women.
They are:
Lt. j.g. Regina Kauffman, USN,
Warminster, Pennsylvania
Lieutenant Marcia Sonon, USN,
Lenharstville, Pennsylvania
Aviation Machinist Wendy Westbrook, USN,
Rock Creek, Ohio

Operation Iraqui Freedom

PFC Jessica Lynch, 19, a supply clerk from Palestine, W. Va., was taken prisoner in Iraq after her unit was ambushed. Ten days later, she was freed in a daring raid by U.S. marines.

Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson, 30, of Fort Bliss, Texas was a U.S. prisoner in Iraq before she and six of her fellow soldiers were rescued on April 13, 2003.

Let history remember -
Women, while serving their country, have been wounded, have been imprisoned, and have given their lives!

And not just U.S. women - for a splendid site featuring the stories of Australian women who were held prisoner during WWII in the Pacific please visit: Brave Women of Oceania

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