When the Japanese began their brutal occupation of the Philippines in early 1942, 76,000 ill and starving Filipinos and many Americans were left to defend Bataan, Manila, and surrounding islands. During the three violent years of occupation that followed, Allied sympathizers smuggled supplies and information to guerilla fighters and prisoner camps around the country. Theresa Kaminski's Angels of the Underground tells the story of two such members of this lesser-known resistance movement-American women known only as Miss U and High Pockets. Incredibly adept at skirting occupation authorities to support the Allied effort, the very nature of their clandestine wartime work meant that the truth behind their dangerous activities had to be obscured as long as the Japanese occupied the Philippines. Were their identities revealed, they would be arrested, tortured, and executed. Throughout the war, Miss U and High Pockets remained hidden behind a veil of deceit and subterfuge. Angels of the Underground offers the compelling tale of two ordinary American women propelled by extraordinary circumstances into acts of heroism.
Married to servicemen, Peggy Utinsky and Claire Phillips, the women behind Miss U and High Pockets, hoped that their clandestine efforts would reunite them with their husbands. Both men died at the hands of the Japanese, but Utinsky and Phillips stayed on through the occupation, working in hospitals, moving supplies, and building their networks. Utinsky narrowly survived a month of torture at Fort Santiago, then joined John Boone's guerilla band and became a brevet second lieutenant before returning to the Red Cross until the end of the war. Phillips barely escaped execution in 1943, and was sentenced to hard labor in a prison camp, where she remained until February 1945. Angels of the Underground illuminates the complex political dimensions of the occupied Philippines and its importance to the war effort in the Pacific. Kaminski's narrative sheds light on the Japanese-occupied city of Manila; the Bataan Death March and subsequent incarceration of American military prisoners in camps O'Donnell and Cabanatuan under horrific conditions; and the formation of guerrilla units in the mountains of Luzon.
Angels of the Underground makes a significant contribution to the work on women's wartime experiences. Through the lens of Utinksy and Phillips, who never wavered in their belief that it was their duty as patriotic American women to aid the Allied cause, Kaminksi highlights how women have always been active participants in war, whether or not they wear a military uniform. An impressive work of scholarship grounded in archival research and personal interviews, this is also a stunning story of courage and heroism in wartime.