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The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs

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The story of an unsung World War II hero who saved countless American lives in the Philippines. When Florence Finch died at the age of 101, few of her Ithaca, NY neighbors knew that this unassuming Filipina native was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, whose courage and sacrifice were unsurpassed in the Pacific War against Japan. Long accustomed to keeping her secre The story of an unsung World War II hero who saved countless American lives in the Philippines. When Florence Finch died at the age of 101, few of her Ithaca, NY neighbors knew that this unassuming Filipina native was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, whose courage and sacrifice were unsurpassed in the Pacific War against Japan. Long accustomed to keeping her secrets close in service of the Allies, she waited fifty years to reveal the story of those dramatic and harrowing days to her own children. Florence was an unlikely warrior. She relied on her own intelligence and fortitude to survive on her own from the age of seven, facing bigotry as a mixed-race mestiza with the dual heritage of her American serviceman father and Filipina mother. As the war drew ever closer to the Philippines, Florence fell in love with a dashing American naval intelligence agent, Charles "Bing" Smith. In the wake of Bing's sudden death in battle, Florence transformed from a mild-mannered young wife into a fervent resistance fighter. She conceived a bold plan to divert tons of precious fuel from the Japanese army, which was then sold on the black market to provide desperately needed medicine and food for hundreds of American POWs. In constant peril of arrest and execution, Florence fought to save others, even as the Japanese police closed in. With a wealth of original sources including taped interviews, personal journals, and unpublished memoirs, The Indomitable Florence Finch unfolds against the Bataan Death March, the fall of Corregidor, and the daily struggle to survive a brutal occupying force. Military historian and former Congressman Robert J. Mrazek brings to light this long-hidden American patriot.


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The story of an unsung World War II hero who saved countless American lives in the Philippines. When Florence Finch died at the age of 101, few of her Ithaca, NY neighbors knew that this unassuming Filipina native was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, whose courage and sacrifice were unsurpassed in the Pacific War against Japan. Long accustomed to keeping her secre The story of an unsung World War II hero who saved countless American lives in the Philippines. When Florence Finch died at the age of 101, few of her Ithaca, NY neighbors knew that this unassuming Filipina native was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, whose courage and sacrifice were unsurpassed in the Pacific War against Japan. Long accustomed to keeping her secrets close in service of the Allies, she waited fifty years to reveal the story of those dramatic and harrowing days to her own children. Florence was an unlikely warrior. She relied on her own intelligence and fortitude to survive on her own from the age of seven, facing bigotry as a mixed-race mestiza with the dual heritage of her American serviceman father and Filipina mother. As the war drew ever closer to the Philippines, Florence fell in love with a dashing American naval intelligence agent, Charles "Bing" Smith. In the wake of Bing's sudden death in battle, Florence transformed from a mild-mannered young wife into a fervent resistance fighter. She conceived a bold plan to divert tons of precious fuel from the Japanese army, which was then sold on the black market to provide desperately needed medicine and food for hundreds of American POWs. In constant peril of arrest and execution, Florence fought to save others, even as the Japanese police closed in. With a wealth of original sources including taped interviews, personal journals, and unpublished memoirs, The Indomitable Florence Finch unfolds against the Bataan Death March, the fall of Corregidor, and the daily struggle to survive a brutal occupying force. Military historian and former Congressman Robert J. Mrazek brings to light this long-hidden American patriot.

30 review for The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This is not a pleasant read. This is a brutal wartime story about how the Japanese mistreated the Filipino populace and the Americans during their occupation years. Florence Smith never had an easy life; her father was a scoundrel of a man in his private life and her childhood wasn't pleasant, especially after her parents' separation. From the beginning she showed herself a survivor. She needed every bit of that inner strength as she faced down the pitiless Japanese. The writing style doesn't shy This is not a pleasant read. This is a brutal wartime story about how the Japanese mistreated the Filipino populace and the Americans during their occupation years. Florence Smith never had an easy life; her father was a scoundrel of a man in his private life and her childhood wasn't pleasant, especially after her parents' separation. From the beginning she showed herself a survivor. She needed every bit of that inner strength as she faced down the pitiless Japanese. The writing style doesn't shy away from the tough facts, but I appreciated that it didn't delve into gratuitous descriptions. The violence was bad enough even confined to bare facts. I felt the deep desolation of the young girl being beaten for her mother's bad moods, all the way through to the end where she doesn't think much of what she has done and never seeks out honor for her accomplishments. Through it all she is a woman who deeply deserves to be honored. I listened to an audio version and enjoyed the narrator's skill in telling the story. His voice is pleasant and none of his pronunciations got on my nerves. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free reading copy. A favorable review was not required.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lilisa

    This was an absorbing listen to a World War II war heroine - a Filipino-American, who most people haven’t heard about and neither had I. Born Loring May Ebersole in the Philippines, her mother was Filipino and her father an American serviceman. She had a tough childhood and at the age of seven, her father sent her and her sister away to school, never to return home. A self-made woman, she worked for the U.S. Army for Lieutenant Colonel Engelhart in Manila and married an American sailor just befo This was an absorbing listen to a World War II war heroine - a Filipino-American, who most people haven’t heard about and neither had I. Born Loring May Ebersole in the Philippines, her mother was Filipino and her father an American serviceman. She had a tough childhood and at the age of seven, her father sent her and her sister away to school, never to return home. A self-made woman, she worked for the U.S. Army for Lieutenant Colonel Engelhart in Manila and married an American sailor just before the Japanese Army invaded and occupied the Philippines during World War II. Soon after her husband was killed in the line of duty and Florence was fighting to survive the Japanese occupation. Hiding the fact that she was half American, she got a job at the Japanese controlled fuel distribution company and began diverting fuel to the resistance and remained undetected for some time. She also regularly sent money to Engelhart who was captured and was a prisoner of war. But she was caught, tortured, and imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor until the Americans returned to free the Philippines from Japanese occupation, ending World War II in that part of the world, months after the war ceased on the European battlefields. The amazing Florence was tight lipped about her courageous work during the war and very few knew about the risks she took to save many lives. Following her war, she immigrated to New York State where her aunt lived and began her new life, including her stint with the U.S. Coast Guard, remarrying, and reconnecting with Engelhart who she stayed in touch with all her life. She received the Medal of Freedom and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon and in 1995, the Coast Guard named a building in Hawaii in her honor. The author did a great job - the book is well written, the pace just right. We get to really know Florence as a young child and follow her into adult life marveling at how grounded and steadfast a person she was, despite her extreme hardships and upbringing or lack thereof. She was an amazing woman - quiet, determined, and courageous. She truly was an unsung heroine and the author did a great job allowing us to see the person she was and what she was up against. Besides, the story of Florence during the Japanese occupation, the story alternates with the plight of Engelhart and his fellow prisoners of war. He most likely survived because of Florence’s underground help. All in all, a book extremely well done on a subject that deserved an author who could do justice to her contributions to the U.S. and humankind. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this audiobook.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I read this in January, and it was one of my favorite books that month--a good opening to the new year. The title belongs to Florence, and she ties everything together, but this is as much about the invasion of the Philippines by Imperial Japan as it is about Florence. Florence was working at the G-2 (Intelligence) Headquarters in Manila under the command of Lt. Colonel E.C. (Carl) Engelhart when she met and married Charles (Bing) Smith, USN. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bing reported to his I read this in January, and it was one of my favorite books that month--a good opening to the new year. The title belongs to Florence, and she ties everything together, but this is as much about the invasion of the Philippines by Imperial Japan as it is about Florence. Florence was working at the G-2 (Intelligence) Headquarters in Manila under the command of Lt. Colonel E.C. (Carl) Engelhart when she met and married Charles (Bing) Smith, USN. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bing reported to his PT boat and was involved in the defense of Corregidor where he died in action. They had been married for only six months. Engelhart was captured after the fall of Corregidor and sent to a POW camp in Cabanatuan, where he began keeping a record of his time in captivity and the help provided by Florence and others to the POWs. Disturbing to me was the failure of General MacArthur to act according to the strategic plan in place (a when, not if, the Japanese continued their encroachment in the Pacific). Had he done so, the outcome in the Philippines may have been different. Florence managed to obtain work with the Japanese-controlled Philippine Liquid Fuel Distributing Union, and working with the Philippine Underground, she was able to divert fuel supplies to the resistance. She also worked with others to smuggle in food and medicine to the POWs. The consequences of being caught meant torture and probable death. In 1944, the Japanese finally caught on. Florence was arrested and tortured. When finally rescued by American forces in 1945, she weighed only 80 pounds. I've only touched briefly on some of the events in the book, but it was well-written and fascinating. The documentation of the work is extensive, and in large part, from primary sources. Highly recommended! Read in January; blog review scheduled for June 1, 2020. NetGalley/Hatchette Books Biography/Memoir/WWII. June 16, 2020. Print length: 368 pages.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jorge

    The amazing story of an American hero that has gone unnoticed for a long time. Florence Finch was a woman of courage. Her work to help POWs in the Philippines during WWII got her to prison, tortured at the hand of the Japanese Kenpeitai, and to the brink of death. This is a story of survival and triumph. As an aside, this story has provided me a different light on the role of General MacArthur regarding the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese. I wondered more than once, why President Rooseve The amazing story of an American hero that has gone unnoticed for a long time. Florence Finch was a woman of courage. Her work to help POWs in the Philippines during WWII got her to prison, tortured at the hand of the Japanese Kenpeitai, and to the brink of death. This is a story of survival and triumph. As an aside, this story has provided me a different light on the role of General MacArthur regarding the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese. I wondered more than once, why President Roosevelt let him stay in command. But this is Florence Finch's story and of her heroism. Although difficult to get through at times due to the descriptions of the atrocities committed by the Japanese, this is a highly recommended book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    skketch

    ***NOVEL THOUGHTS*** The heroism of Florence Ebersole Smith Finch alone deserves 5 stars. What an amazing woman! Her bravery and clever sabotage efforts right under the nose of her Japanese boss as she worked at the Philippine Liquid Fuel Distribution Union the during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines was nothing short of genius. This enabled her and her resistance accomplices to be able to get supplies like food and medicines, to the POW camps in nearby towns, and this in turn helped sa ***NOVEL THOUGHTS*** The heroism of Florence Ebersole Smith Finch alone deserves 5 stars. What an amazing woman! Her bravery and clever sabotage efforts right under the nose of her Japanese boss as she worked at the Philippine Liquid Fuel Distribution Union the during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines was nothing short of genius. This enabled her and her resistance accomplices to be able to get supplies like food and medicines, to the POW camps in nearby towns, and this in turn helped save many men encamped there from starvation and diseases. Florence was the daughter of an American GI who was so enamored of the Philippines when he was stationed there during WWI, that he returned following the war and never left. He had relationships and children of which Florence was one, though she had been named Loring at birth. Later when she went to school, her name was changed to Florence. She was an intelligent, but shy and reserved girl. Eventually, Charles Edward Smith, known to his friends as Bing, captures her heart and they marry. But WWII is raging in Europe and on Dec 7th, Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese, and that moment changes Florence's life forever. Bing, who worked for the Office of Naval Intelligence in the Philippines, and many of his closest friends, saw the writing on the wall and prepared for the Japanese to eventually come to the shores of the Philippines. Carl Engelhart, deputy head of US Army Intelligence, was one of those friends who, along with so many 1000s of soldiers, tried to hold the Philippines from the Japanese but unfortunately, it fell and the captured officers and soldiers were imprisoned. Sadly, during one of the skirmishes with the Japanese, Bing is killed. It takes many months for Florence to learn of his death but because of his efforts to fight, she takes a job with the fuel distribution center and devises a plan to keep up the fight in Bing's memory. Florence's sacrifice is not without great risk to herself and others. As the Japanese are more impacted by the Allies, they are becoming more aware of the resistance efforts and seek to find all of those involved, rounding them up, torturing them within an inch of their lives or worse, killing them outright with almost medieval methods. That part was so hard to read and imagine. Also, as the Japanese are seeing that the war is not going in their favor, they begin to kill at random, yanking people from their homes and murdering them, women and children, slaughtered in the streets, rape and mutilations are widespread. It was so appalling to learn about. I am not sure and the book doesn't say, but were there any hearings or trials as they did with the Nuremburg Trials of the Nazis, to punish the Japanese for this outrageous behavior of innocent women and children? Hundreds were affected by this horrific behavior for no reason but they were Filipino. Florence had to move on after the war. She left the Philippines and moves to Buffalo, NY to be with family. She never told her family what she had gone through as a prisoner of the Japanese or what she did to become a prisoner. She never told her family about her first marriage. She never told anyone anything, she just tried to move on. But she is still unfulfilled wants to do more to fight so she joins the Coast Guard. Needing to fill out paperwork, "it was the first time Florence related in detail what she had done during the war.....she described the fuel diversions and the assistance to the American poisoners at Cabanatuan." pg. 290 Now a SPAR, she will become the first and only woman to earn the Asiatic-Pacific campaign ribbon authorized by President Truman. Her notoriety, something she never wanted, has an upside.....it reconnects her with Carl. It also introduces her to Bob Finch who she will eventually marry and have two children with. While Bob predeceases her, she will live to 101 years old. She will live to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom. This story is told in alternating chapters: Florence's and Carl's, while he is a POW. The research is obviously needed and for you history buffs, there's a lot, especially at the beginning of the book. But if you've always wanted to understand the war in the Pacific, here ya go! After a bit, it reads more like a novel though and it was that part that I truly enjoyed though at times, the reality turned my stomach. Speaking of stomachs, there is a mention in the book that was so profound and jarring. The USA was affected by the war in that there was rationing of everything from flour to gasoline, but living day to day in the war, was truly a monstrous feat of survival. Florence lived for months, even years without proper food, was weakened by starvation, disease and vermin. One day in Buffalo, she was at a party and listened to a neighbor complain about the food rationing system and how annoying it is and she watches the waste of food following lunches and dinners she is invited to and it must have made her roil with anger. Americans had NO idea of true endurance to survive.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lara Maynard

    Future Medal of Freedom recipient Florence Finch was born Loring May Ebersole in 1915 in Santiago, the Philippines to a Filipino mother and an American father and lived to the age of 101. Before the Japanese military invaded and occupied the Philippines during WWII, Florence worked at the G-2 (Intelligence) Headquarters of the US Army in Manila, where she met her first husband, Charles “Bing” Smith, a member of the US Navy. He was killed in action in the Philippines in 1942, after only about six Future Medal of Freedom recipient Florence Finch was born Loring May Ebersole in 1915 in Santiago, the Philippines to a Filipino mother and an American father and lived to the age of 101. Before the Japanese military invaded and occupied the Philippines during WWII, Florence worked at the G-2 (Intelligence) Headquarters of the US Army in Manila, where she met her first husband, Charles “Bing” Smith, a member of the US Navy. He was killed in action in the Philippines in 1942, after only about six months of marriage. And Florence’s former G-2 Headquarters boss Major Carl Engelhart was captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war. Florence hid her passport and American identity and got a job at the Philippine Liquid Fuel Distributing Union, which was controlled by Japanese forces. From there, she falsified documents and diverted fuel in aid of the Philippine resistance and sent money to help Carl Engelhart and others at the prisoner of war camp, where POWs were horrendously treated and suffered from malnutrition. Florence’s activities were discovered, and she was arrested by the Japanese occupiers, tortured, sexually assaulted and was sentenced to labour and detained until American troops liberated the Philippines in February of 1945. Mrazek’s crisp account of The Indomitable Florence Finch is heavy on context, with large chunks dedicated to Charles Smith, Carl Engelhart and the strategies of George MacArthur as the commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East during WWII. While WWII history buffs might appreciate all the context, and while it helps explain what might have been motivating Florence’s resistance activities and what was at stake, the focus on the title figure sometimes gets lost. The book would have benefitted from editing to tighten up those sections. The blurb about the book on the Hachette Books website includes this sentence: “With a wealth of original sources including taped interviews, personal journals, and unpublished memoirs, The Indomitable Florence Finch unfolds against the Bataan Death March, the fall of Corregidor, and the daily struggle to survive a brutal occupying force.” And there are passages in the book that suggest that the author had access to journals kept by Carl Engelhart. I would have liked to know more about Mrazek’s research for the book. Unless I missed it, the advance review copy of the unabridged audiobook from the publisher that I listened to did not include an author’s note to give the reader-listener a better idea of how the book was compiled. I would have appreciated a substantive note on Mrazek’s sources, and a bit on how much of the writing was based on primary sources and to what extent the author took license to fill in the blanks. I am curious to know if such an author’s note exists in the print version or in the final published version of the audiobook. If you read/listen to them, please let me know! Dan Woren’s audiobook narration matches the crispness of Mrazek’s account, from which the reader does not emerge feeling like they know Florence Finch particularly well, but will admire her greatly, and agree that each of her awards and honours is soundly deserved. I recommended this book to readers interested in heroines, war heroes, resistors, POWs or WWII history. I listened to an advance review copy of the unabridged audiobook courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. My review is unpaid and voluntary, and I believe it is fair.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Mrazek's work is well-written, engaging, and unlike many bios, keeps the reader interested from start to finish. I have read numerous texts about the female resistance fighters of WWII but never one as compelling told about a woman resisting on the Pacific front. Finch's tale of courage and determination alongside the brutality of the (not gratuitously told) Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Mrazek doesn't sugar coat Finch's life from the start, and he does not change that position when disc Mrazek's work is well-written, engaging, and unlike many bios, keeps the reader interested from start to finish. I have read numerous texts about the female resistance fighters of WWII but never one as compelling told about a woman resisting on the Pacific front. Finch's tale of courage and determination alongside the brutality of the (not gratuitously told) Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Mrazek doesn't sugar coat Finch's life from the start, and he does not change that position when discussing the battles, hardships, and all-out war those in the Philippines experienced during WWII. He sticks to his thesis and successfully carries it through to the end. My only complaint is that Florence's story takes a backseat during much of the middle of the book, but I can understand this one thing as necessary for setting and historical context that readers may need to truly understand just how formidable and "indomitable" Florence Finch was during the war. This book makes it clear why Ms. Finch won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I would recommend this book to history buffs, readers looking for strong female inspiration, and those simply wanting to know more about the human condition. Thank you NetGalley and Hachette Books for the DARC of this work in exchange for my honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This was extremely well written and extraordinarily interesting which all of Mr. Mrazeks books that I have read have been. What was highly unique about this book was the back and forth between Florence, her husband and Carl in the prisons. The treatment all around by the Japanese, while disgusting and unbelievably brutal, it wasn’t anything I didn’t know about from previous books I’ve read, but still I find it contemptuous and vile and horrifying as one should. What a disgusting people the japs This was extremely well written and extraordinarily interesting which all of Mr. Mrazeks books that I have read have been. What was highly unique about this book was the back and forth between Florence, her husband and Carl in the prisons. The treatment all around by the Japanese, while disgusting and unbelievably brutal, it wasn’t anything I didn’t know about from previous books I’ve read, but still I find it contemptuous and vile and horrifying as one should. What a disgusting people the japs are. Anyway, all the stories interweaved in this book go together so perfectly and yet, are individually captivating. This book is a masterpiece. I feel as though I should thank this author for bringing this story to light and in fact, keeping history alive.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs Robert J Mrazek What a wonderful recounting of yet another brave and selfless hero of WWII who the world just lost three years ago. The author starts from her beginnings and leaves out no detail of this amazing woman’s personal happiness’s and tragedies. Nor does he leave out the brutalities brought on to not only her but also the horrors to the thousands of POWs, and Philippine ci The Indomitable Florence Finch: The Untold Story of a War Widow Turned Resistance Fighter and Savior of American POWs Robert J Mrazek What a wonderful recounting of yet another brave and selfless hero of WWII who the world just lost three years ago. The author starts from her beginnings and leaves out no detail of this amazing woman’s personal happiness’s and tragedies. Nor does he leave out the brutalities brought on to not only her but also the horrors to the thousands of POWs, and Philippine citizens during the occupation by the Japanese captors. Readers will learn about her first marriage to Charles (Bing) Smith and his courageous death saving a life at the beginning of the war. About her sacrifices to help the POWs during the occupation and her eventual capture and torture and the fact that she weighed less than 80lbs when she was finally and miraculously rescued by American troops in 1945. The audience will also learn about her move the to states, her second marriage, the birth of her daughter and son and the fact that when in 1995 the Coast Guard announced that they were naming a building in Hawaii in her honor her children knew nothing about her heroics during the war. This is the life story about the importance of never forgetting these heroes from the war the world must never forget about either. If you’re a history buff especially a lover of WWII non-fiction this is definite must read for you. And if you love to read about the heroism and the indomitable spirits of women put this high on your must read list and it will be a fixture on your keeper shelf. Narration: The narration by Dan Woren is wonderful his clear resonant voice punctuates all the highs and lows of this incredible woman’s life, her sacrifices and her successes. Born in 1915 to an American father and Pilipino mother little did Florence Ebersole know that she’d play a major role in saving lives and in aiding the war effort in the Philippines during WWII, yet this indomitable fierce spirited woman did just that. She not only worked behind the scenes for US military intelligence before the start of war, but aided the POWs and Philippine civilians during the Japanese occupation until eventually getting arrested that led to her own torture. She lived to be 101 and died peacefully in 2017, she was twice widowed and survived by two children and grandchildren.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    Florence Finch was an amazing woman and quite brave. I'm glad she's being given the recognition she deserves. Florence Finch was an amazing woman and quite brave. I'm glad she's being given the recognition she deserves.

  11. 5 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    I showed the cover of this book to my older daughter."Who does that look like?" "Nanay," she instantly answered. We have a photo of Nanay,(Mommy), my much beloved, ever missed mother-in-law on the wall in our house at about the same age as Florence, and in a very similar pose. Nanay was Filipina, not mestiza(as my daughters are, and by the way, Mrazek uses the male mestizo, meaning "mixed" throughout), but she was a young woman in the Philippines during WWII. (In Marikina, which is mentioned in th I showed the cover of this book to my older daughter."Who does that look like?" "Nanay," she instantly answered. We have a photo of Nanay,(Mommy), my much beloved, ever missed mother-in-law on the wall in our house at about the same age as Florence, and in a very similar pose. Nanay was Filipina, not mestiza(as my daughters are, and by the way, Mrazek uses the male mestizo, meaning "mixed" throughout), but she was a young woman in the Philippines during WWII. (In Marikina, which is mentioned in this book as the location of a golf course!) And Tatay (Daddy) my father-in-law, was a member of the Filipino Army forces, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and carried the horrific memories of what he had been through for the rest of his long life. So the material here has a lot of relevance to me. Mrazek tells Florence's story, but he also tells the story of a friend of hers, who also survived the Death March and the camps, and it's strong stuff. Downright horrific, even if you, like me, knew something about it before. Mrazek also explains the military history of the period, and the horrors for civilians in Manila and the soldiers of the American and Filipino armies contrast to the sheltered life of General MacArthur and the brass. And for the most part Mrazek blends the different threads together well and has good storytelling skills. Florence survived horrific torture, came to America, joined the Coast Guard (a Coast Guard building is now named in her honor) and had a very long and mostly happy life in America. She was a remarkable person and her story is worth reading.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Caupp

    An informative about not just Florence Finches extraordinary life, but I also learned more about what life was like for people in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation during WWII. Florence felt compelled to resist the Japanese, and so she ended up using her position working at the office overseeing fuel distribution to divert fuel and use the funds from selling it on the black market to buy food and medicine for both POWs and interned civilians. She helped others at risk to herself, bu An informative about not just Florence Finches extraordinary life, but I also learned more about what life was like for people in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation during WWII. Florence felt compelled to resist the Japanese, and so she ended up using her position working at the office overseeing fuel distribution to divert fuel and use the funds from selling it on the black market to buy food and medicine for both POWs and interned civilians. She helped others at risk to herself, but never claimed to be especially brave. She just felt she was doing what she could with great caution. Even after her children and friends found out 50 years later, she didn't want to be seen differently. A very interesting read for those who read WWII nonfiction. Particularly if you want to learn about contributions made by women and and brave Philippine civilians during the war.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan R

    What an incredible history! And so typical of Our Greatest Generation. When Mrs. Finch received a letter from the Commandant of the US Coast Guard in 1995 that their new Pacific HQ in Hawaii would be named after her? Her grown adult children had no idea why. She had never told them of her wartime experiences.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    What a story! This woman was amazing, and I'm so glad someone told her story for today's readers. This is a great book that will please WWII readers, women's biography fans, and anyone who loves this-is-so-crazy-it-has-to-be-true tales. What a story! This woman was amazing, and I'm so glad someone told her story for today's readers. This is a great book that will please WWII readers, women's biography fans, and anyone who loves this-is-so-crazy-it-has-to-be-true tales.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laurie B

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this real-life hero who helped the resistance movement in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s. Though the writing was a bit flat at times, the depth of the story made up for any shortcomings in the writing style.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dayle (the literary llama)

    The Indomitable Florence Finch is brilliant on audio, so let’s start there, and mark that down as a definite recommendation. On the whole, this is a brutal and factual book. It doesn’t shy away from the realities and violence but it’s also not embellished or needlessly gory or cruel. And because of this, the book was exactly what it should be... real. Amazingly researched, and much of this was because of Finch’s recorded recollections, but also the author’s clear exploration of military movements The Indomitable Florence Finch is brilliant on audio, so let’s start there, and mark that down as a definite recommendation. On the whole, this is a brutal and factual book. It doesn’t shy away from the realities and violence but it’s also not embellished or needlessly gory or cruel. And because of this, the book was exactly what it should be... real. Amazingly researched, and much of this was because of Finch’s recorded recollections, but also the author’s clear exploration of military movements and records to fill in all the gaps. It was a complete picture from beginning to end. It should also be noted that this book felt like half Florence’s story and half Carl’s. It was all aweful and awe-inspiring and there were many other people who fought and deserve their recognition and our remembrance, but Carl absolutely deserves to have at least a mention in the synopsis, if not the title. The way the story is bookended though, clearly makes this Florence’s book, however, and it’s worth the read. To make it from beginning to end, to learn so much about the Philippine occupation, and about such an incredible woman, you’re left with a sense of wonder and love. Which is an amazing feeling to have at the end of a hard, though wonderfully written, WWII novel. 4.5 Stars and I absolutely recommend it. *I received a free audio copy from the publisher via netgalley.

  17. 5 out of 5

    DubaiReader

    Not for me. It's very rare that I abandon a book but I found this just too dense with facts and figures, names and places. I have given the audiobook 10% and it hasn't grabbed my attention at all so I'm reluctantly moving on. Normally I enjoy biographies but this felt more like a history lesson. Although Dan Woren does a good clear job with the narration, it was a bit monotone and comes over more like a news report... Not for me. It's very rare that I abandon a book but I found this just too dense with facts and figures, names and places. I have given the audiobook 10% and it hasn't grabbed my attention at all so I'm reluctantly moving on. Normally I enjoy biographies but this felt more like a history lesson. Although Dan Woren does a good clear job with the narration, it was a bit monotone and comes over more like a news report...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aryn

    I can’t speak for anyone else’s K-12 education, but my education about the Pacific Theater in World War II was limited almost exclusively to the endpoints: Pearl Harbor, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Obviously, the endpoints are crucial to history, but there is more to the story. In The Indomitable Florence Finch, the reader follows the experiences of Florence Finch and E. Carl Engelhart. The titular Florence Finch was a Filipina woman with an American father, married to an American soldier. Using I can’t speak for anyone else’s K-12 education, but my education about the Pacific Theater in World War II was limited almost exclusively to the endpoints: Pearl Harbor, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Obviously, the endpoints are crucial to history, but there is more to the story. In The Indomitable Florence Finch, the reader follows the experiences of Florence Finch and E. Carl Engelhart. The titular Florence Finch was a Filipina woman with an American father, married to an American soldier. Using her position within the Japanese-controlled Phillipine Liquid Fuel Distribution Union, Florence diverted thousands of gallons of fuel either for sale or for direct use by resistance forces. Proceeds from the sales were then used to purchase essential supplies for prisoners of war held by the Japanese. One of those prisoners was Engelhart, her former supervisor in US Army Intelligence. He was one of only a few survivors of the battles of Baatan and Corregidor to live through the subsequent transports and prison camps to see the end of the war, with his own memoirs and notes about his time in captivity. Florence Finch was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, and the only woman in the US Coast Guard awarded the Asiatic-Pacific campaign ribbon. She raised two children, was active in her community and her church, and lived a completely separate life after moving to the United States. In 1995, the Coast Guard named their Pacific Headquarters building in Hawaii after Finch, and her children finally learned about their mother’s wartime experience. A few years later, her son videotaped eighteen hours of his mother’s stories, and those tapes were foundational to writing this book. Don’t expect heart pounding action on every page, and know that the first portion of the book details Florence’s early life before diving into the World War II experience. I definitely recommend this book for World War II enthusiasts, and think it is an excellent partner for Hampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review via NetGalley.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anita Ojeda

    Children grow up learning about war heroes—the men who fought and died for freedom. Unfortunately, school children rarely learn the just as thrilling stories of the women who made the men’s victories possible. This book shows how it takes both men and women to fight for freedom. Florence, a mestiza (her father was American and her mother a Filipina), left home at age seven and soon learned to rely on her intelligence and intuition to make her way in life. After finishing high school, she found a Children grow up learning about war heroes—the men who fought and died for freedom. Unfortunately, school children rarely learn the just as thrilling stories of the women who made the men’s victories possible. This book shows how it takes both men and women to fight for freedom. Florence, a mestiza (her father was American and her mother a Filipina), left home at age seven and soon learned to rely on her intelligence and intuition to make her way in life. After finishing high school, she found a position working as a secretary for Carl Engelbart, the deputy chief of intelligence for the Americans in the Philippines. Florence met her husband while working in the intelligence office, and they married shortly before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This book chronicles Florence’s acts of heroism during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Her acts of bravery saved American lives not only in the prisoner of war camps (where her former employer, Carl Engelbart was imprisoned) but those citizens living in imprisonment in Manila. Readers young and old will enjoy the story of heroism and bravery by an ordinary woman who saw an opportunity to do her part to fight for freedom and never backed down.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim Fox

    The Indomitable Florence Finch by Robert J. Mrazek. The research that went into this book was amazing and I loved that the family was a huge part of the research! Florence without a doubt, is a hero in every sense of the word. Florence who lives in Manila in WWII, was married. Her husband died in battle and she faced having to care for herself, her niece and ultimately other family. Once she heard about Americans being held captive she found ways to get them the medicine and money they needed to The Indomitable Florence Finch by Robert J. Mrazek. The research that went into this book was amazing and I loved that the family was a huge part of the research! Florence without a doubt, is a hero in every sense of the word. Florence who lives in Manila in WWII, was married. Her husband died in battle and she faced having to care for herself, her niece and ultimately other family. Once she heard about Americans being held captive she found ways to get them the medicine and money they needed to survive. But that wasn't enough for Florence. She found other ingenious ways to help the Americans and hurt the Japanese cause at the same time. She suffered greatly for her bravery, and ultimately she survived and thrived. I have read books about the battle in the Philippines, the Bataan Death March, and numerous other WWII books, but this one read like a fiction novel and at times I had to remind myself that this was Florence's story. I caught myself many times dropping my jaw, getting angry and by the time the book was over I had tears streaming down my face. This book will be published tomorrow... Please go out and buy a copy and read for yourself what a hero truly is. 5⭐ ⭐ Thank you Netgalley, Hachette Books and Robert J. Mrazek for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    What an incredible biography. I was engrossed from the moment I began. Florence's childhood was complicated by her father's relationships. She was well educated and married, then WWII began. She lost her first husband, was a revel afaomst the Japanese, survived a prison cap for two years, then moved to the US and found a new life. Florence's determination, grit, and tenacity is truly inspiring. Like many who lived through the war her children knew nothing about her former life. I'm glad Florence What an incredible biography. I was engrossed from the moment I began. Florence's childhood was complicated by her father's relationships. She was well educated and married, then WWII began. She lost her first husband, was a revel afaomst the Japanese, survived a prison cap for two years, then moved to the US and found a new life. Florence's determination, grit, and tenacity is truly inspiring. Like many who lived through the war her children knew nothing about her former life. I'm glad Florence was able to share her story and readers get to celebrate this extraordinary woman. Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Allison Berkowitz

    This book felt like a trick to me. The title makes one think it is about this incredible woman who had a hand in intelligence work. But from my reading it felt like 80% or more about military stuff that I had no interest in at all and not nearly enough about the woman the book was supposed to be about. Maybe I wasn’t patient enough but I gave up about a quarter of the way in.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lucy-Bookworm

    I enjoy memoirs, particularly stories of ordinary people and/or places & events that I didn’t know about. History is often said to be written by the winners, and predominantly by the men – the story of the women is often overlooked because they weren’t on the front line. The story of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines during WW2 is something I don’t know too much about (though I know it is more widely reported in the USA). Before this book, I had not heard of Florence Finch but the tagli I enjoy memoirs, particularly stories of ordinary people and/or places & events that I didn’t know about. History is often said to be written by the winners, and predominantly by the men – the story of the women is often overlooked because they weren’t on the front line. The story of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines during WW2 is something I don’t know too much about (though I know it is more widely reported in the USA). Before this book, I had not heard of Florence Finch but the tagline appealed: “a war widow turned resistance fighter and saviour of American POWs”. After listening to the audiobook, I will not forget her. At the start of the book I was getting very confused about who was who & what relevance the complicated family was going to have, but I guess it was necessary to establish Florence’s background as half American, half Philippino, and to explain the fact that she speaks fluent English and is trusted by both locals and Americans. Once Florence’s story started properly, this book had a great mix of personal stories, background information & facts about what was happening in various places simultaneously. We see Florence as a young woman working for the US Intelligence Headquarters, where she fell in love with an American Naval chap called “Bing” Smith. When the Philippines were invaded by the Japanese, and after learning that Bing had been killed in action, she had to draw on her inner strength to look after herself, her family & friends, and ultimately hundreds of other people. She was careful to keep her American background secret, relying on her birth certificate stating that she was born in the Philippines. She managed to get a job at the Philippine Liquid Fuel Distributing Union, which was controlled by the occupying Japanese forces. Over a 2 year period, Florence conceived and was a key link in a plan to divert huge amounts of fuel from the Japanese army, to be sold on the black market to provide desperately needed medicine and food for hundreds of American POWs. When her involvement was finally discovered, she was arrested, tortured and sentenced to three years of imprisonment before being rescued by the American troops liberating the Philippines. Ultimately emigrating to the USA, Florence never spoke of her early life though she did feel a desire to keep serving & joined the US Coast Guard for a number of years. This is a true story, built from the stories that the elderly Florence told her children in the years before her death. Stories and secrets that she’d kept for over fifty years, which nobody knew the full extent of. Ultimately, this is an amazing story of survival under Japanese occupation in the Philippines and a story that needs to be heard. The author has done a great job combining the elements, but I can’t help wishing that the book had been narrated, at least in part, by a woman who might have brought even more to Florence’s story. Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook free from the publisher via NetGalley. Whilst thanks go to the publisher & author for the opportunity to listen to it, all opinions are my own. #FlorenceFinchAudio #NetGalley

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cecille

    This book is special to me as a Filipino. Almost 80 years have passed since the war came to the Philippines, when the Japanese bombed military installations in the country after they bombed Pearl Harbor. Our history books only give an outline of events and highlight prominent individuals, and we forget that there are “ordinary” people who struggled and fought and survived the Second World War. I feel that after the war, we as a nation chose to focus on rebuilding and forgot the past, intentional This book is special to me as a Filipino. Almost 80 years have passed since the war came to the Philippines, when the Japanese bombed military installations in the country after they bombed Pearl Harbor. Our history books only give an outline of events and highlight prominent individuals, and we forget that there are “ordinary” people who struggled and fought and survived the Second World War. I feel that after the war, we as a nation chose to focus on rebuilding and forgot the past, intentionally or not, because of the loss and pain it brought us. Florence Smith Finch was a Filipino mestiza who worked in US Army Intelligence in Manila before WW2. After her first husband “Bing” Smith was killed in action while saving a fellow navy sailor in Bataan, she started to work with the underground resistance to get supplies to military prisoners in Cabanatuan and to internees in Santo Tomas Internment Camp. Near the end of the war, she was captured by the Kempeitai and tortured and raped. After the liberation of Manila, she moved to New York to live with her aunt, and enlisted in the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve to continue to help with war efforts. She received the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon, the first woman to be so honored, and the Medal of Freedom, and lived to 101 years old. I think the best heroes are those who let their actions speak for themselves. Florence’s children did not know about their mother’s war work until 50 years later, when they received an invitation from the Coast Guard in 1995 to attend the dedication of a building named after Florence. I experienced Florence’s story as an audiobook, and it was like hearing old war clips. The narrator’s voice was clear and easy on the ears. Thank you, NetGalley and Hachette Audio!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    This brand new volume, published in 2020, tells a story from WWII previously overlooked in the pages of US History books. The story of Florence Finch takes place in the Philippines leading up to, and throughout WWII. Having an American father, Florence went underground to assist US troops who were being brutally savaged by their Japanese overseers during the war. She risked her life to steal fuel resources and get badly needed supplies to those suffering in Japanese prison of war camps. Her stor This brand new volume, published in 2020, tells a story from WWII previously overlooked in the pages of US History books. The story of Florence Finch takes place in the Philippines leading up to, and throughout WWII. Having an American father, Florence went underground to assist US troops who were being brutally savaged by their Japanese overseers during the war. She risked her life to steal fuel resources and get badly needed supplies to those suffering in Japanese prison of war camps. Her story, from her birth through her death at 101 years of age is wonderfully told by Mrazek. Most everyone knows of Japanese savagery and ill treatment of prisoners. What this books also shares is how the much venerated General MacArthur had actually disregarded standing orders given prior to the start of the war on how to respond against Japan should they initiate hostilities. Upon the attack on Pearl Harbor, those responsible for US air operations repeatedly petitioned MacArthur to give the order so that bombing raids could begin immediately to capture the Japanese air forces on the ground. MacArthur never gave the required order for 24 hours. In that period of time, those Japanese forces knocked out all US air resources in the Philippines. One has to wonder how differently the war effort could have gone, and how many lives could have been spared, had MacArthur followed orders. This is a fact I had never read before in US history books. I really enjoyed learning this part of our nation's history, as well as the names and people of those who sacrificed so much to defend and support US troops and the citizens of the Philippines.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    The Indomitable Florence Finch by Robert Mrazek Florence Finch was already a remarkable young woman when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. You’ll soon come to find out how much more outstanding she becomes. Florence was willing and able to do any job available to her. Widowed after a short marriage, she saw a chance with her job to help the Philippine resistance and very capably formed a scheme to divert Japanese diesel and other fuels to help the rebel cause. She also garnered local aid to se The Indomitable Florence Finch by Robert Mrazek Florence Finch was already a remarkable young woman when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. You’ll soon come to find out how much more outstanding she becomes. Florence was willing and able to do any job available to her. Widowed after a short marriage, she saw a chance with her job to help the Philippine resistance and very capably formed a scheme to divert Japanese diesel and other fuels to help the rebel cause. She also garnered local aid to send clothing, medicine, money and supplies to military prisoners being treated cruelly by the Japanese. I enjoyed the first part of this story about Florence, her family and her life in Manila. The leap to military strategies,battles, POW camps and the cruelties of war were not what I expected in the second half, though it filled in any gaps I may have had in my knowledge of WWII in Asia. Many chapters are devoted to the barbaric treatment of Filipino and American POWs with graphic details of beatings,starvation and cruelty. Charged with war crimes, though she admitted nothing, Florence herself ends up in a prisoner of war camp and is equally punished as a man for her deeds against the Japanese. Near death, she awaits liberation by the Americans. After her rescue, Florence moves to the United States to continue being of service to special causes, and eventually receives the Medal of Freedom in 1947 on behalf of President Truman. Thanks to #HatchetteBooks and #NetGalley for an ARC for my review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    I confess that I knew very little about WWII in the Asiatic-Pacific theater before listening to this excellent audiobook about a remarkable woman named Florence Finch. In 1915, she was born to an American father and Filipino mother in Santiago, Philippines. After excelling in school, she was excited to begin a career in a U.S. intelligence office. But when the Japanese occupation started in 1942, Finch chose to represent herself as Filipina so that she could aid her countrymen. As the war intens I confess that I knew very little about WWII in the Asiatic-Pacific theater before listening to this excellent audiobook about a remarkable woman named Florence Finch. In 1915, she was born to an American father and Filipino mother in Santiago, Philippines. After excelling in school, she was excited to begin a career in a U.S. intelligence office. But when the Japanese occupation started in 1942, Finch chose to represent herself as Filipina so that she could aid her countrymen. As the war intensified, she found a job with a Japanese fuel company. Knowing the incredible danger, she collaborated with the resistance movement by helping them obtain fuel and divert supplies meant for the Japanese. She also smuggled food and supplies to POWs including her former employer at the intelligence office. The occupation was terrible, the Japanese military was merciless, and Finch was eventually caught. After spending time in a hard labor camp and finally gaining her freedom, she felt compelled to return. She enlisted in the Coast Guard with hopes of defeating the Japanese. Ultimately she won a Presidential Medal of Freedom. I won’t reveal too much, but if you enjoyed Unbroken (the story of Louis Zamperini), you will enjoy this, too. I sped through it in just a few days and was mesmerized by her courage and bravery. She was a true heroine. The fast pace of Mrazek’s writing was thrilling and kept me on the edge of my seat. The narrator’s rich voice was pleasing to listen to and he moved the story along well. Highly recommend!

  28. 5 out of 5

    K

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Mrazek made this book about difficult but heroic acts easy to read by focusing on the story of one individual per chapter. This way I was able to just skim the chapters focusing on MacArthur and his extra-ness. I understand the chapters on Carl provided context on what Florence did, how small things like her care packages smuggled into POW camps can lead to bigger effects, but MacArthur has had enough coverage by historians and we didn't need to read about his ego crashing Florence's story. (My Mrazek made this book about difficult but heroic acts easy to read by focusing on the story of one individual per chapter. This way I was able to just skim the chapters focusing on MacArthur and his extra-ness. I understand the chapters on Carl provided context on what Florence did, how small things like her care packages smuggled into POW camps can lead to bigger effects, but MacArthur has had enough coverage by historians and we didn't need to read about his ego crashing Florence's story. (My grandfather survived the Bataan Death March and I carry his grudges.) The book starts with details about how Florence's father came to even be in the Philippines, taking on wives knowing that such a thing would have been frowned upon back home but was something he could get away with while the Philippines was an American commonwealth (typical colonist dick move). Focusing on how mestizas/hapa children were discriminated against was also a great storytelling element. If it weren't for early events in the book, or Florence's correspondence with her aunt Mabelle, Florence could very well have ended up as another broken promise lefr behind by the United States like the Filipino WWII vererans of the US Army. Florence and by association Carl's stories were riveting, and I'm glad more people can learn about it now. (I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Lynne

    A compelling history of the loss and retaking of the Philippines during WWII, and one truly indomitable woman’s role in undermining the Japanese occupation and lending aid to American POW’s. However, it’s a bit of a stretch to call this “the untold story of a war widow…” as for nearly a third of the book’s chapters, Florence is mentioned only in passing or not at all. During the second and third quarters of the book, she becomes a minor player, as the author recounts in horrific detail the battle A compelling history of the loss and retaking of the Philippines during WWII, and one truly indomitable woman’s role in undermining the Japanese occupation and lending aid to American POW’s. However, it’s a bit of a stretch to call this “the untold story of a war widow…” as for nearly a third of the book’s chapters, Florence is mentioned only in passing or not at all. During the second and third quarters of the book, she becomes a minor player, as the author recounts in horrific detail the battle of Corregidor, the atrocities of Bataan, and McArthur’s monumental ego clashes with just about everyone. By contrast, Florence’s experiences, trapped in Manila under Japanese occupation, are recounted in short poignant snapshots. Florence takes center stage again once she begins working for the Philippines Liquid Fuel Distribution Union and begins a bold diversion plot – forging fuel rationing coupons, sending the fuel to the Philippine resistance and the proceeds to her KIA husband’s brother-in-arms, American POW Carl Englehart, trapped in the hell-hole of Cabanatuan prison camp. Suspected, interrogated, tortured, imprisoned, broken, near starvation herself, Florence knows the Philippines will be liberated, but doubts she will survive to see it. Carl faces his own dark night, as he is loaded onto a Japanese prison ship not once, but twice, for forced labor on the home islands, only to have both ships sunk by Americans unaware of the transports’ human cargo. Neither Carl nor Florence have much reason for hope, and yet. Yet they endure. A moving conclusion of justice and recognition long denied.

  30. 5 out of 5

    David A

    The Indomitable Florence Finch by Robert J. Mrazek To quote the first sentence of Chapter One in this book, “She was born Loring May Ebersole....”. A child born in 1915 to an American father and Philippine common law wife. Then commonly referred to as a Mestiza, treated as a less-valued member of the local culture and growing to the point of hating the mention of her given birth name Her young life marked with human sorrow, emotional turmoil and much family friction; it would chart her course for The Indomitable Florence Finch by Robert J. Mrazek To quote the first sentence of Chapter One in this book, “She was born Loring May Ebersole....”. A child born in 1915 to an American father and Philippine common law wife. Then commonly referred to as a Mestiza, treated as a less-valued member of the local culture and growing to the point of hating the mention of her given birth name Her young life marked with human sorrow, emotional turmoil and much family friction; it would chart her course for the surviving the dangers and the brutal realities that lay ahead of her. This is the true life story of Florence Finch; a brave young woman that was swept up into the Battle of the Philippines during WWII. Through her dangerous and courageous acts; this young mother saved the lives of numerous American POWs held by the invading Japanese forces. The research and the historical fact confirmation that has been poured into this book is astounding. I am a history enthusiast - I thoroughly enjoy discovering little known or hidden facets of WWII. This book was both shocking in the revelations and vividly detailed in its descriptions of the events that occurred in the Philippines during WWII. If you are a detailed history person, like I am; I highly recommend adding “The Indomitable Florence Finch” into your library!!! Five solid stars!!!

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