Board Games, the POW’s Secret Weapon

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Photo courtesy of Christine Roy via Unsplash

My family loves games. We’ve spent many happy hours around the table, trying to discover if it was Miss Scarlett or Colonel Mustard whodunit, trying to outbid each other in Rummy Royale, or seeing who can construct the most elaborate Scrabble word.

Personally, though, I’ve never cared for Monopoly. I don’t mind loosing a game, (in spite of rumors to the contrary- some friends just are jealous of my amazing Parcheesi skills 😉 ) but if I’m going down, I’d rather it’s in a blaze of glory having gone “all in,” rather than being slowly bled to death by the bank.

However, I gained a new respect for Monopoly when I learned that it had an exciting role in World War 2- helping save POW’s, no less.

Christopher Clayton Hutton of M19 (British Intelligence) worked on devising ways to smuggle escape aids to POWs. He found an ingenious one when he partnered with the printing and packaging company John Waddington Ltd.

Waddington’s had two things essential for Hutton’s newest plan: they produced Monopoly games, and also had the technology to print on fabric. Specifically, they would be able to print maps on silk- maps that would be thin enough to conceal, and would be silent when unfolded.

A select group of people labored over Monopoly boards, cutting compartments into which were slipped metal files, a compass, and a map of the area to which the game would be shipped. The compartments were hidden under the game’s normal decals. Real money was concealed in the stacks of play money, and the boards were marked so that the POWs could recognize them when they came in.

Of course, smuggling the boards into POW camps was a challenge. Using usual channels such as the Red Cross or care packages from family members would be too much of a risk. If the Germans intercepted contraband in these packages, they might refuse to allow them in anymore. Instead, M19 devised false charities under whose names they could ship the board games.

Just how many prisoners were aided by these special board games is unknown, but they have the distinction of being one of the few means of smuggling in aid that was never discovered by the prison guards.

Since this information was declassified in the 80’s, Hutton has published a memoir about his experiences- I haven’t read it, but it sounds like it might be worth a look!

If you’d like more information on this and a few of Hutton’s other tricks, I particularly enjoyed reading through this article.

I will be without my computer (gasp!) for a bit, but fellow bloggers have kindly offered to keep The Naptime Author home fires burning- stop by for some excellent guest posts in the next week or so!

I hope you enjoy their insights, and look forward to reconnecting with you soon.

Many thanks for visiting!

 

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D-Day in Fiction: THE SEA BEFORE US vs. A PURPOSE TRUE

 

D Day
© IWM (A 23894) British troops and US sailors manning 20mm gun positions on board USS LST-25 watch LCI(L) landing craft head towards the beaches of Gold assault area, 6 June 1944.

It’s not surprising that a monumental event like the Allied landings in Normandy would bring up over 30,000 hits on Amazon’s book listings. After all, those landings took a common military term like “D-Day,” which just meant the first day of an operation, and set it apart as a remembrance of the sacrifices on the beaches of France.

However, I was (pleasantly) surprised to suddenly own two of those books within a week of each other.

Fellow bloggers Rachel Scott McDaniel and Gail Johnson each hosted book giveaways, Rachel for Sarah Sundin’s The Sea Before Us, and Gail for Gail Kittleson’s A Purpose True, and I wound up with some new WW2 fiction. (Wohoo!)

Receiving both books so close together, I was curious. Here I held two separate novels, each set in the days before and during D-Day.

Both were by Christian authors.

Both had a blurb that indicated a romantic element.

Both had lovely 40’s ladies on the covers.

I couldn’t help wondering just how similar these two stories would be.

I’m pleased to report that in reading them, I found that in spite of sharing a time frame and similar themes, the authors’ use of setting, of story, and of their characters’ inner journeys made for two uniquely enjoyable books.

The Setting

Following a brief (but essential) prologue in the U.S., The Sea Before Us journeys to Great Britain, and the Allied Navy’s preparations for the Normandy landings. Sundin’s male protagonist, Lt. Wyatt Paxton, serves in the U.S. Navy, and serves as the eyes through which readers are present for a number of real historical events, including the ill-fated Operation Tiger. The female protagonist, Second Officer Dorothy Fairfax, is a “Wren,” serving in the women’s branch of the Royal Navy, and assisting in mapping the Normandy coast. I knew little about either of these specific jobs, but Sundin’s excellent research shone through her writing, bringing these parts of the D-Day preparations to life.

A Purpose True takes an entirely different perspective, with the majority of the scenes taking place in southern France as Kathryn Isaacs, an American serving as an SOE radio operator, scrambles to find safe locations to transmit essential information to London. Domingo Ibarra guides her through the hills, but also serves the resistance, trying to incapacitate German movements so that they will be unable to respond effectively to the Normandy landings. Kittleson’s beautiful descriptions of the countryside draw the reader in to walk alongside the people who fight for it, in spite of intensifying reprisals against their scattered villages. (There’s also a portion of the narrative set many years later in the U.S., but that comes up in the next part. 🙂 )

The Story

When choosing books, I don’t generally search under Romance. It’s not only because all of that emotion isn’t really my Minnesotan cup of tea (or rather black, unadorned coffee, brewed in the church basement.) When the overall big story question is “Will they get together?” I have a hard time sustaining interest, since I generally know the answer. The exception, of course, is when the author has woven that question into an engrossing story.

In my opinion, Sarah Sundin did an admirable job with this tricky task. Opening with an accidental death and a panicked robbery, she threw enough twists and turns into The Sea Before Us to keep me guessing. From family and romantic troubles, embezzlement, lies, and betrayal, to oh yes, D-Day, the novel didn’t lack for interesting topics, and throughout all was a nice love story with likeable characters that I could root for.

Gail Kittleson avoided this difficulty all together, by formatting her story in a different way.*  A Purpose True opens many years after the war, as Kathryn falls from the church balcony in a terrible accident…which may not be an accident at all. The narrative alternates between this story line and the story of her life as an SOE agent in France, with visits to Domingo’s point of view as well. Kittleson introduces Kathryn as an elderly woman, and with the tidbits she shares along the way, the question isn’t so much “Will they get together?” as how their past is affecting, and possibly endangering, their future.

*I should note, this is the third book in a series, and I have not read the others.

The Inner Journey

Both Dorothy and Wyatt in The Sea Before Us have an internal, spiritual struggle that they needed to work through as part of their story arc. Wyatt, burdened under guilt and shame, is unable to forgive himself, or to allow others to forgive him until he has somehow repaid an unpayable debt. Dorothy, afraid of becoming her mother, is also afraid of being her un-loveable self. Sundin made both of them sympathetic, and wove values like honesty and forgiveness into the narrative without distracting from the story.

Kathryn and Domingo’s struggles in A Purpose True were, perhaps a bit less specific, but no less poignant. As they and their friends and allies scrambled across the French countryside, trying to support an invasion that they weren’t entirely confident was coming, they faced the struggle people of faith have always faced during difficult times. How can you reconcile who you are and what you believe with what you must do to defend your home and your family? How can faith, trusting in things unseen, balance the tangible need to lie, steal, and even kill, in a fight against ruthless enemies? Kittleson allowed her characters to struggle with these real questions without loosing themselves and their hope in Christ.

Now I just need to get my hands on the other 2 books for each series….

Have you found any fictional accounts of the events surrounding D-Day that you’d recommend?

Many thanks for visiting!

 

 

If you’d like to learn more about these two authors, see below

AGailn Iowa farm girl, Gail Kittleson is a late bloomer at writing fiction, having published a memoir previously, and taught college expository writing. When she’s not researching, drafting scenes or editing, she’s probably enjoying a walk, her husband and grandchildren, or in winter, Arizona’s Mogollon Rim Country. Gail loves connecting with readers who embrace her WWII characters. She can be found at https://www.gailkittleson.com/

 

SarSarah Sundin green 1 (1)ah Sundin is the best-selling author of ten historical novels, including The Sea Before Us. Her novels When Tides Turn and Through Waters Deep were named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award and won the INSPY Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. Please visit her at www.sarahsundin.com.

 

 

 

 

(Perfect for 4th of July Week) Facial Hair Friday: Uncle Sam, the Bearded Man — Pieces of History

Portrait

Today’s post comes from Paige Weaver and Danielle Sklarew, summer interns in the National Archives History Office. One hundred years after the production of this poster, everyone’s favorite uncle, Uncle Sam, turned 242 years old this July 4. Sporting an outfit adorned with stars and stripes, he runs toward battle, undeterred by the red, white,


via Facial Hair Friday: Uncle Sam, the Bearded Man — Pieces of History

 

Today’s Post Is Somewhere Else

Blogger, speculative fiction author, and long-time friend of mine, Jon Mast, invited me to do a guest post on his new writing site. At “Wanted: One New Earth,” Jon takes an unusual perspective to discuss the writers’ life.

I enjoyed the chance to write something a bit outside of my norm- I hope you can stop by and check it out at One Earth: Slightly Used!

Anzio soldiers
© IWM (NA 15298)

BATAAN: A SURVIVOR’S STORY

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Going to the library used to be a restful outing.

I loved meandering through the shelves, surrounded by the smell of books. Familiar titles called out like old friends, while the unfamiliar ones promised new stories and adventures.

After having kids, going to the library is a bit different.

They love stories too, and browsing the children’s section with them is great fun. But if I want to find something to read, well, let’s just say I’ve learned to move fast.

Last week I dared the history aisle with them. I knew I had about five minutes before someone got restless and wandered off, started fighting with a sibling, or started idly pulling books off the shelf.

Luckily, Lt. Gene Boyt’s slender volume Bataan: A Survivor’s Story caught my eye at once. I had been reading and writing about the WW2 tragedies of Bataan, and I’ve written before about how I love survivor stories.  I grabbed it and ran, and I’m so glad that I did.

Boyt learned early how to do without. He was born on March 29, 1917 in Houston, Missouri. His father, whose unpredictable work had just kept them financially afloat, abandoned the family when Gene was in high school. Gene’s mother scraped by with the help of friends, but the Great Depression left them wondering how they’d manage.

Gene found the answer in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a part of FDR’s “New Deal.” He worked building roads, and was able to save up enough for college. He earned his mechanical engineering degree at the Missouri School of Mines.

Since Mines was a federal land-grant college, Boyt was required to take basic ROTC. He enjoyed it, decided to take advanced courses, and ended up a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

In July of 1941, he received his first assignment. He was headed to the Philippines.

Boyt’s accounts make his early days in the Philippines sound idyllic. He met kind people, lived in comfortable surroundings, and he was given charge of engineering projects on Clark Field.

The Philippines is on the other side of the International Date Line from Hawaii, so Boyt heard about the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 8th.

While he was shaken by the news of the attack, the threat seemed far away. He and his housemates sat down to lunch as usual, laughing as a radio broadcaster announced that Clark Field, right outside, was under attack by the Japanese.

Just to be sure, his friend looked out the back door, scanning the sky. They asked him if he saw any Japanese planes.

“No.” He laughed, as if the idea seemed ridiculous.

We were behaving nonchalantly with no sense of the severity of the situation. The adjutant lieutenant returned to the table, and dessert, a tasty pie, was served. I took two bites of my piece before the house blew up.” (Boyt 56)

So begins Boyt’s account of the failed defense of the Philippines. He takes his readers on the retreat down the Bataan Peninsula, through his eventual surrender, and then back up the peninsula as a member of the Bataan Death March.

Bataan American POWs burial detail

Boyt’s survival story could be pretty bleak reading, but his tale, though dark, has moments of light.

He writes of their captors forcing men to march without food or drink, then making them stand by sources of clean water without being allowed any. He also tells of the one Japanese soldier, who as he was relieved of guard duty murmured, in perfect English, “I’m sorry.”

He writes of comrades succumbing to cruelty in the darkness of their captivity, but also of Filipino people who risked their lives to leave sugarcane and water along the road to help the troops survive.

He writes of the horrors and deprivations of the five (yes five) prison camps he was interned in during the war, but also of he people who helped him survive it.

“I want to make one thing clear about my wartime service. I am not a hero. I saw real heroes in action, however – men such as Tom Griffin, who saved my life during the Death March; Dr. Van Peenen, the physician who did so much with so little at Zentsuji; and Major Orr, who risked his life in support of prisoners’ rights in Japan. These fine men, and countless others like them, deserve our adoration for their bravery and self-sacrifice.” (Boyt 219)

I’m thankful for writers like Boyt, who preserve memories of the courage and sacrifice and suffering of those who’ve come before us. If a copy of Bataan: A Survivor’s Story crosses your path, it’s well worth reading, and taking the time to remember them.

Many thanks for visiting!

The Fall of Singapore and the Bataan Peninsula, 1941-42

Welcome to another installment of my little history of World War 2!

As these accounts move into the early 40’s, keeping a straightforward, easy-to-follow time line becomes difficult. Europe was overrun, the Atlantic under constant U-boat assault, Britain besieged, Hitler’s forces engaged on the enormous Eastern Front, Rommel still vying for North Africa, and the U.S. and Japanese had just begun their struggles in the Pacific.

SO, today we’ll just focus on the Pacific, following British forces as they were pushed back towards their “impregnable” fortress at Singapore, and U.S. and Filipino forces as they struggled to hold the island of Luzon.

Bataan American POWs burial detail
U.S. troops on burial detail, Luzon

While in the U.S. we tend to remember December 7, 1941 as the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, that attack was part of a much larger plan.

Map with Singapore
Map courtesy of https://history.army.mil/brochures/pi/PI.htm

Attacks on Guam, Wake and Midway Island, and on the British and Indian divisions on the Malay peninsula, left the Allied forces reeling. And these were only the beginning.

Del Shay, of the U.S. 192nd Tank Battalion Medical Staff, was stationed near Clark Field on the Philippine Island of Luzon. He recalls his first realizations that his country was at war in Frontlines World War II: Persoanal Accounts of Wisconsin Veterans by John Maino.

“It was at reveille, 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning, when we got the news about Pearl Harbor. Later on that morning, at about 10:30 a.m. they told us that Baguio, the summer capital in Northern Luzon had been bombed; now we were nervous. All morning our P-40’s were flying around up above us. We had B-17 bombers out on patrol, but at noon they all came back in for lunch.”

“I had just gotten back to my tent and was lying down for a little siesta when I looked up and saw this beautiful formation of planes- just perfect formation. I thought, ‘What a wonderful sight!’ About 30 seconds later the first bombs hit; I never even considered they might be Japanese planes.” (Maino 51-51)

Why General Douglas MacArthur, in charge of the U.S. defense of the Philippines, allowed the planes to be caught on the ground is, I suppose, a moot point. The unprepared United States forces lost 86 of their aircraft at Clark Field, compared to only 7 Japanese Zeroes.

MacArthur
General MacArthur, sans his corn-cob pipe

Shay further describes the chaos.

“Nobody knew where to go. Guys were running across the field…running all over the place…but where could you go? We didn’t have any bomb shelters or foxholes or anything like that.” (Maino 52)

Things weren’t going much better for the British and Indian Divisions on the Malay Peninsula.

The Japanese onslaught found them out-mastered in the air. Their naval support, already stretched thin, was stretched even thinner with the sinking of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales.

In spite of their best efforts, the Allied troops were pushed back, slowly, defensive line by defensive line.

Still, behind them was hope. The island fortress of Singapore offered safety, or at least a place to make a stand…or so the Allied leadership thought.

Unfortunately, Singapore wasn’t nearly ready for what was coming.

Back in the Philippines, Japanese forces landed on Luzon.

map with Luzon
Image courtesy of https://history.army.mil/brochures/pi/PI.htm

Perhaps seeing where things were headed, General MacArthur moved his headquarters to the fortified island of Corregidor. The U.S. and Filipino forces retired toward the Bataan peninsula from the north and south. Men from the Air force, Navy, and Marines were reorganized to serve as infantry.

By January 5th, the underprepared defenders’ rations were halved.

In the words of Shey:

“Orders came down to pack up again, this time south into Bataan. We started marching with everything we had, which wasn’t a lot. The most pitiful sight you’ve ever seen was these Filipino women and old people sitting in the ditches crying, just wailing. It was a real sad sight. They must have known what was coming. We didn’t.” (Maino 52-53)

Back in Singapore, General Wavell, (who we last met in North Africa) visited personally in mid-January. The reports he sent home to Churchill were not encouraging.

Singapore was receiving reinforcements, but they lacked training. The Indian Divisions and Australian units were inflicting losses on the enemy and holding them up, but could not stop their advance.

Worst of all, Wavell doubted that Singapore could hold out long under siege.

Singapore had been meant to be an impregnable fortress. The island certainly did have good defenses, unfortunately, they were all planned for an attack from the sea.

The landward side, the side the Japanese were advancing on, was virtually undefended.

“It was with feelings of painful surprise that I read this message… So there were no permanent fortifications covering the landward side of the naval base and of the city! More astounding, no measure worth speaking of had been taken by any of the commanders since the war began…I do not write this in any way to excuse myself. I ought to have known….The reason I had not asked about this matter…was that the possibility of Singapore having no landward defenses no more entered into my mind than that of a battleship being launched without a bottom.” (Churchill 48-49)

On January 24th, as British, Australian, Canadian, Indian, and Malayan forces retreated to the ‘bottomless battleship,’ blew the causeway, and prepared to defend it, the U.S. and Filipino forces moved to their final defensive positions on the Bataan peninsula.

On February 15th, with food, ammunition and water supplies nearly exhausted, the troops at Singapore surrendered. The Japanese took 70,000 Allied prisoners.

Surrender of Singapore by General Percival
“Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival and his party carry the Union Jack on their way to surrender Singapore to the Japanese, 15 February 1942” © IWM (HU 2781) Source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195090

Meanwhile, in spite of poor rations, antiquated weaponry, and tropical disease, the U.S. and Filipino troops still held onto the Bataan peninsula. Their tenacity was admirable, but with no reinforcements coming the eventual outcome was clear.

On February 20th, the Philippine President evacuated. On March 11th, General MacArthur and his family left Corregidor Island, headed to Australia. Though the General promised “I shall return!” the fulfillment of that promise would be long coming.

General Wainwright was left in command, and the battles dragged on. In the beginning of April, the Japanese launched their last big offensive.

On April 8th, about 2,000 troops were evacuated to Corregidor Island. The exhausted remaining 78,000 defenders of Luzon surrendered.

The Japanese were not prepared to provide for so many POWs. The hungry, tired troops were forced to march about 60 miles north, where they were stuffed into boxcars and taken to imprisonment at Camp O’Donnell. On this, the infamous Bataan Death March, thousands of prisoners were beaten and killed. Thousands more died in Camp O’Donnell, in other POW camps, and in unmarked boats as they were shipped away for forced labor.

By May 6th, Wainwright’s forces on Corregidor couldn’t hold out any longer. They also surrendered, and were taken prisoner.

The beginnings of 1942 were dark for the Allies. However, soon names like “Midway” and “El Alamein” would hit the headlines. The conflict was far from over, but soon, the tide would begin to turn.

Many thanks for visiting!

 

Sources:

Maino, John. Frontlines WWII: Personal Accounts of Wisconsin Veterans. Appleton, WI. JPGraphics Inc, 2006. Print.

Buell, Hal (editor). World War II Album: The Complete Chronicle. New York. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2002. Print.

Churchill, Winston S. The Hinge of Fate. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950. Print.

Hyslop, Stephen G. and Neil Kagan. Eyewitness to World War II. Washington, D.C. National Geographic.

 

 

 

The D-Day Dodgers

 

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Photo courtesy of Yoal Desurmont via unsplash.com.

“Timing is everything” – clichĂ©, but true.

Timing can mean the difference between success and failure, between ‘famous’ and ‘forgotten.’

Yesterday was the anniversary of “D-Day.” (I missed out on posting something for the day- thanks to those who shared stories and pictures!)

Did you know about the anniversary that took place a couple of days before?

Seventy-three years ago, on June 4, 1944, a military campaign that had dragged on for over a year and a half reached a historic milestone. The Allied forces liberated their first Axis capital: Rome.

Months of slogging up mountains while under fire, of crossing river after bridgeless river, of mud, cold, and disappointment, had finally borne fruit.

This momentous event held the headlines for one day.

Timing, after all, is everything. On June 6th the Allies began their long-awaited landings on the beaches of Normandy.

Of course, the D-Day invasions were extremely important. Years had gone into their planning and preparation. It was thrilling to have a foothold in France for the first time after being ousted in ’39. However, the Italian campaign, considered controversial from the start, was now definitely relegated to a secondary position.

Soldiers who’d spent years and lost friends fighting through North Africa, Sicily, and up the foot of Italy, saw commanders, troops, and materiel sent away to support the efforts in France. Loved ones sent them letters telling them what a relief it was that they were “safe” in Italy.

Perhaps Lady Astor, member of the British Parliament, wins the prize for the worst insult to the Italian effort. She named the troops the “D-Day Dodgers”- shirkers of the fighting in France.*

The response of the troops was so memorable that I’ve been caught singing it around the house. (This version- the clean one 😉 )

When I began my study of the theaters of World War 2 to pick a specific setting for my novel, I stumbled across this story and this song, and I stayed.

A few of the places of interest mentioned in the song:

“Salerno”- The first major assault on the European mainland: 4,870 Americans killed, wounded or missing. (This does not include casualties from the British 10th Corps.)

“Cassino”- The ‘Gustav Line’ of German defenses passed through the mountains by the town of Cassino. It took four Allied assaults over many months to break the line, the last being a huge effort of camouflage, false trails, and infantry assaults.

“Anzio”- This beachhead was established north of Monte Cassino. The attack stagnated, and the Allies were trapped on the beachhead for months. The American hospital area was hit so often that it was nicknamed “Hell’s Half-Acre” and stories circulate of soldiers pretending they weren’t wounded to avoid being sent there for care. The Allied forces at Anzio suffered 29,200 combat casualties, (killed, wounded, prisoners or missing,) and 37,000 non-combat casualties.

Statistics from http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/salerno/sal-fm.htm and http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/anzio/72-19.htm

* Some sources indicate that Lady Astor’s statement was due to a misunderstanding: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/10841035/Monte-Cassino-veterans-anger-at-D-Day-dodger-label.html

Thanks and God’s blessings to all who serve and have served, in the well-known theaters and in the ones we rarely hear of.

Many thanks for visiting!

Facial Hair Friday Returns! — Pieces of History

Greetings, fans of history and of amazing mustaches!

Now I know, this particular post from the United States’ National Archives’ blog isn’t in my usual era, focusing on photos from the late 1800s, rather than the 1930’s or 40’s.

But, “Facial Hair Friday?” How could I not share it? I can’t be the only one who has viewed historic facial hair choices with wonder and amazement, can I?

I’m excited to see what they come up with next time…

Whether it be beards, mustaches, burnsides, goatees, sideburns, or the good ol’ mutton chops, every first Friday of the month we’ll bring you the finest facial hair from the holdings of National Archives. Why are we bringing back Facial Hair Friday? It is fate—two recent posts had photos of John Alexander Logan, and while looking at


via Facial Hair Friday Returns! — Pieces of History

 

Memorial Day and Adam Makos’ VOICES OF THE PACIFIC

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Pons on unsplash.com

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day the U.S. sets aside to remember those who’ve given their lives in service to their country.

Growing up, I spent a portion of each Memorial Day bumping slowly along winding cemetery roads.

If we were visiting Minnesota’s north woods, we’d also visit Great-Grandpa’s graveside, tidying around his and Great-Grandma’s headstone, making certain that the little memorial marking his service in WW1 was in place. If we were closer to home, we’d visit my mother’s father’s graveside, pulling out any unruly grass around the star commemorating his service in WW2.

My adult Memorial Days leave me with a nagging feeling that there’s something I ought to be doing, or somewhere I ought to be. Living so far from my roots, I can’t visit the old sites in person.

Of course, with or without a walk through the grass-covered plots, Memorial Day isn’t really about cemetery maintenance. It’s about taking a moment to remember those who’ve served, who’ve suffered, and who’ve sacrificed.

I treasure books that help me in this remembrance, that highlight the cost of the freedoms I cherish. One such is Voices of the Pacific, written by Adam Makos with Marcus Brotherton.

Voices of the Pacific

“On Monday morning, December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, I was at work at the shoe factory in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. I was twenty years old. I shut down my machine. The boss said, “What the h*** are you doing?” and I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m leaving to join up.” It was then that I heard other machines being shut down and guys saying, “We’re going too.” (Interview with Jim Young, Voices of the Pacific pg 3)

The December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on targets including Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, inflamed the American people.

As the United States prepared to declare its entrance into the Second World War, individual citizens declared their resolution to fight. Enlistment offices flooded.

Voices of the Pacific opens in these tumultuous times. It is a collection of memories of fifteen Marines who served in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO).

The book was printed in 2013- none too soon. As time goes on, the voices that carry these stories are fading away. The author sums up his goal in these words:

“What follows is not a sanitized version of the war. It’s the last survivors talking to you, digging deep and pulling out painful memories, gut-busting humor, and rousing accounts of American bravery, sacrifice, and old-fashioned goodness. Here they give us one last tale, one last time.” (Voices of the Pacific, Introduction page xiii)

The authors actually narrate little of the story. Rather, each chapter is set up with title, location, and a brief introduction. Then, the Marines speak.

They share their stories, and we follow them through Guadalcanal, Australia, New Britain, Pavuvu, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

I found the book’s organization very effective. The first chapter, “We’re In It Now: Pearl Harbor,” shares the memories of Marines Sid Phillips, Jim Young and Roy Gerlach, all of whom joined just after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Makos and Brotherton organized the men’s memories in short segments, so that they flow in roughly chronological order.

It’s almost like getting to sit in the room with these Marines while they’re reminiscing.

The subsequent chapters follow the pattern. New voices join the conversation as the narration moves to new locations, and old voices bow out as they pass the end of their service.

Of course, keeping track of who was who could have been confusing for someone like myself who has difficulty remembering names of people I’ve just met. However, the authors included captioned photos at the beginning of the book, listing the interviewees in order of appearance.

Voices 2

Like some of the troops’ service, the book does not end with the official end of the war. The book also shares stories of their (sometimes eventful) journeys back home, and how they went about rebuilding their lives.

As the authors’ quote that I shared suggests, this book doesn’t only deal with pleasant events, always use nice language, or gloss over the horrors of war that these men experienced (it’s not one for the kids!) However, as a glimpse of real experiences during an awful time, and as a remembrance of what these men suffered in service to their country, Voices of the Pacific is worth reading.

The final chapter, “The Last Words,” gave these 15 Marines a chance to leave a message for the generations of today. On this weekend of remembrance, I think that the last, a message from Marine Clarence Rea, is a great note to end on.

“I’ll be ninety-two soon, and I’ve got everything to be thankful for. A great family, a great wife, a bunch of great friends. I thank God that I’m still here…

My message to anyone is care about your country. America is a great country, and it’s worth taking care of.

That’s my story.”(pg. 378.)

Many thanks for visiting!

 

 

 

 

 

Musical Interlude: Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood”

Greetings all!

With end-of-the-school-year grades to figure, field trips to drive for, and kids’ plays to attend, (on top of the normal tasks involved in LIFE,) about the only thing I’m “In the Mood” for is a nap!

However, I wanted to share a little musical interlude with you, something peppy enough that maybe it’ll help us all keep going!

“In The Mood,” recorded by big band leader Glenn Miller, topped the 1940 charts, and was used in the 1941 film, Sun Valley Serenade.

Glenn Miller earns a mention in the history of the Second World War. Too old for the draft, he felt compelled to be involved. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1942, though this meant stepping away from his lucrative civilian career. He organized an Army Air Force marching band and a dance band, and performed live and on the radio.

In June of 1944 he and the band went to Britain to perform for the troops. He planned to take his music over to Paris, to play for the soldiers on the Continent.

In order to make necessary preparations, he flew over before the rest. Sadly, his plane was lost over the English Channel.

I hope you enjoy this fantastic piece of music. Many thanks for visiting!