Ila’s War is the true story of the first 30 years of Ila Armsbury’s life.
Hers is the story of an ordinary Kansan—an “every woman”—who aspired for more than the traditional roles of wife and mother. The book is set in the 1920s through the 1940s. Some of Ila’s stories are frightening while others are humorous or heart-breaking. But they’re all true and inspirational because they show a young woman determined to take control of her own life to achieve her goals: education, service, travel, and a family.
Ila’s stories include a confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan in Lincoln, Kansas; the arrest of her father on a charge of white slavery in Russell County; the havoc of dust storms during the Dirty 30s; and the crippling of five Lincoln men, part of a group of 50,000 Americans who drank adulterated Jamaica Ginger. Another story about working as an obstetrics nurse in the Kansas City, Kansas, slums in the late 1930s demonstrates some of the changes in medical practice over the last several decades.
In addition to detailed and colorful stories of Kansas history, Ila’s War tells of her experiences as a US Army nurse with the 155th Station Hospital at Camp Cable, Australia; the hardships endured by the men of the 32nd Infantry Division during the battles on New Guinea; how Camp Cable was overwhelmed when more than 2,000 US Marines—all sick with malaria—were evacuated from Guadalcanal just before Christmas 1942; about Ila’s successful fight with an Army Board of Disposition to stay in the Army Nurse Corps; and about Ila’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder after the war.
While some readers may see Ila’s War as a coming-of-age tale, its real power lies in her triumph over the adversities of poverty, prejudice, betrayal, and war. Ila represents strong Kansas women, and she will serve as a role model for all of us living through difficult times.