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.

 

 

 

 

Mysterious?

While I don’t know that “mysterious” is an adjective I’d use to describe myself, many thanks to the lovely and talented Jean Lee for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award!
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“According to Okoto Enigma, ‘Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.’ ”

The rules 

  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog.

Again, my thanks to Jean Lee, whose adventures as a writing mom and information on her upcoming book (so exciting!!!) can be found at https://jeanleesworld.com/.

  • Tell your readers three things about yourself.

Hmm. What can I share that’s not in my bio….

1. I have terrible eyesight. I’ve had glasses since I was eight.

2. I love flowers and plants, but tend to get distracted after planting them, so only the hardiest survive. The cacti on my kitchen windowsill are doing very well.

3. After five years as a stay-at-home mom, I’m going to be stepping back into daily teaching this year (though still only part-time) and taking on 7th and 8th grade reading. I’m excited- I love planning and doing novel studies!- but apprehensive about finding balance between family, teaching, and writing.

  • Nominate bloggers you feel deserve the award.

This is a hard one. I don’t actually follow many bloggers, because I want to make certain that I can keep up with the ones I follow. If I’ve followed someone, it’s because something in their blog has really captured my attention.

But, since I can’t choose everyone, I would like to nominate:

JPC Allen, who shares stories of her writing journey along with interesting prompts and ideas.

Rick Long (aka cape cod curmudgeon :)) for his “Today in History” blog, which is always full of interesting historical tidbits.

Ari Meghlen for her helpful writing blog which covers a bit of everything, from craft to marketing.

  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice with one weird or funny one.

My questions for my nominees:

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. If there is one thing you’d like your readers to take away from your blog, what would it be?
  3. What is your biggest distraction from writing? (Whether a pleasant distraction, or an inconvenient one 🙂 )
  4. What is one book that has inspired or encouraged you?
  5. (Oh dear, I have to think of something weird or funny?) If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.

Will do.

  • Answer questions from the person who nominated you.

Here are the questions Jean Lee put to me.

1.Think back to the first story you ever wrote/drew. What was it about?

My cousin and I would come up with stories together. I’d illustrate, and she’d write. I still have some of them tucked away, riveting tales like Dog City,which was a detective story about a city full of dogs instead of people, and Rainbow Route, a tale of winged colorful horses living over the rainbow (probably more than a little influenced by My Little Pony!)

 

2. Does your creativity spread into other skills?

I enjoy painting, especially acrylic and watercolor, pencil and charcoal drawing, and all sorts of arts and crafts. I occasionally dive into stained glass – making it, I mean, not literally – and then I remember how fussy the measurements are and give it a break for a few years. I’ve managed to crochet one very crooked blanket. Sometimes my cooking gets creative, with mixed results.

skunk cupcakes
For instance, the skunk cupcakes were a little messy, but delicious.

3. If there’s one book you wish you could UN-read, which would it be?

The Lovely Bones. I bought it on a recommendation, not really knowing what it was about. Especially since becoming a parent, I just don’t do well with stories of children being hurt or abused.

4. Favorite tea or wine? (I’m always looking for recommendations)

Coffee.

Spicy, cinnamony tea is acceptable in a pinch, and for wine I’ll drink a Riesling from time to time, but when friends who know wine start talking in technical terms about it’s nose or elbows or whatever, I glaze over. If we buy wine it’s usually based on criterion like, “Oooh, it’s on sale, AND it has a sea otter on the label!”

5. If you could visit one location on this lovely earth to study it for a story’s setting, which would it be?

Oh dear – everywhere! I’ve read so much in the UK, I’d love to get over there and see the history I’ve been reading about. And then I could just pop over to Europe and see my ancestral countries…and then over to Egypt and see the pyramids…and visit Zambia, where my friend grew up…then Asia’s not that far… then there’s Alaska…

WHEW! I think that completes my assignment! Now that you probably know more about me than you ever wanted to, I’ll close saying many thanks for visiting, and have a wonderful weekend!

(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)

George Elliot’s MIDDLEMARCH, and Keeping Readers Engaged for the Long Haul

Eight hundred sixty-four pages.

When talented photographer and fellow blogger Arti announced that she would be hosting a “Middlemarch in May” Read-Along, I couldn’t resist.

I’d never read anything by George Elliot, but Middlemarch was ranked as the best English novel of all time. The full list of “best 100” included some of my favorites, and I was excited to read the book that had defeated them.

My excitement dimmed just a little when I saw it waiting for me on the library’s hold shelf- all 836 pages of it.

While I love to lose myself in the winding paths of a good story, the weight of the book made me wonder if I  might have signed on for as much work as pleasure.

Still, I reasoned, there must be something about this hefty tome that made it endure, something to make the story of people living in a provincial town in 1820s and 30s England resonate with readers today.

I dove in

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Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zhenina via. Unsplash.com

When I emerged three weeks later and had reacquainted myself with my family, I felt like, just maybe, I had found what that something is.

Yes, Middlemarch has some slow bits. Some of the obscure medical and historical references bogged me down- thank goodness my book had copious end notes! Also, while I’m sure the issues surrounding the 1832 Reform Act were important, I don’t have much (all right, any) background in 1800s British politics.*

But the characters…the characters kept me coming back.

Middlemarch Rosamond
“Of course she had to finish reading. I’m so pretty, who wouldn’t want to read about me? We should really be richer, though, don’t you think Tertius?”   “Sigh. Yes, dear Rosamond.”

It’s not necessarily that I found Elliot’s characters likeable. Some of them would be the sort of friends who, when their name showed up on your caller id, you might be tempted to ignore.

No, the people of Middlemarch felt too real to be entirely likeable. And because they felt so real, both in their failings and their triumphs, I couldn’t help but finish the journey with them. I had to see where they ended up, because in each of them I could see a little bit of myself.

If Middlemarch were  painting rather than a book, no flat, cartoonish portrayal of characters would do. With words rather than brushstrokes, Elliot shaded in her characters’ personalities: a stroke of light here to show their strengths and successes, offset by the deep shadows of flaws and failings.

With 836 pages to work with, I had ample time to get to know the young heiress, passionately spiritual, who only wanted to dedicate herself to something great, to serve in some profound way. Unfortunately, she was so set on doing this that she didn’t take enough time to consider if she were attaching herself to the right cause.

I watched with pity the ageing scholar, who hoped for happiness, hoped for success in his endeavors, but was warped and bent inward by worry, and caged by self-doubt.

I walked beside the talented young doctor, sure of himself and his abilities, unwilling to sacrifice his ambitions for anything. He was so self-assured, he failed to see that his hasty marriage might threaten it all.

Mary Garth and Fred
“Why doesn’t she talk about us, Mary?” “Well, there are an awful lot of characters, Fred.”

Elliot, the omniscient narrator, sketched her characters through description and observation, then shaded them in using the observations of her other characters, and finally breathed life into them by showing how they reacted to their world.

In the end, it was almost as if the people populating Middlemarch were the ones who took my hand and led me through their story. (Well, maybe sometimes they got behind and pushed me through the rough patches.)

All in all, Middlmarch was not only an excellent example of complex and realistic characters, but it was also an excellent encouragement to continue refining my own characters. After all, they need to be ready and equipped to lead readers on the journey through their world.

Have you read Middlemarch? What did you think of it? Can you think of other stories with striking, detailed characters?

Many thanks for visiting!

 

* If you want a summary of the book, here’s one that includes links for character descriptions etc.

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!

Writing the (Gulp!) Love Scene

wedding photoI do not come from an emotive people.

I’m a Midwesterner by birth. The joke goes that there are three standard responses in our conversations.

#1: “That’s not too bad.” This is suitable for any event from neutral to amazingly super awesome.

#2: “That’s not too good.” This choice works for anything from a minor inconvenience to tragedy.

If choices 1 and 2 just won’t do, the fall back is choice #3: “That’s different.”

Take that and apply it to romance…well, an old Ole and Lena joke comes to mind. (Best read in a thick Minnesota accent.)

Ole comes into the house to find Lena crying.

“Lena, what’s da matter?”

“Oh Ole,” she answers, wiping her eyes. “It’s just…”

“Yes?”

“Ole, you never tell me you love me.”

Ole walks over, and pats her on the shoulder. “Aw, Lena. I told you I loved you on our wedding day. If something had changed…I would’ve let you know.”

Ba doom, Ching!

It’s not that my husband and I are not affectionate, and it’s possible that we might be overheard using the “L” word, but we don’t generally gush poetry as we gaze longingly into each other’s eyes.

That much emotion, publicly expressed, is just not comfortable.

In the setting of a novel, I’ll admit it, a bit of romance is “not too bad.” Still, even getting a book out of the library with a cover that clearly indicates that it’s a love story makes me squirmy. Thank goodness for self-checkout…

Unfortunately, the catalyst that gets the murder and mayhem in my novel moving is (you guessed it) a romantic interest. If I wanted to write my book, I had to write convincing romantic-ish scenes. That other people would read.

Riiiiiiiiight.

I steeled myself. It couldn’t be that bad.

The first draft was…ok. I felt like some of it was heavy-handed, but I didn’t know how to make it better, and it sounded kind of like some things I’d read, so I went with it.

After substantial polishing, I entered the novel in a writing contest.

Guess what? I should have followed my instincts. They thought it was heavy-handed too. I got called out on the same bits that I hadn’t been entirely comfortable with in the first place.

Back to the drawing board.

With feedback from the contest and considerable editing, I found a few tricks that helped ease my discomfort, and (hopefully) improved the finished work.

Keep Dialogue Tight

First, I hacked and slashed unnecessary dialogue. Anything that didn’t sound like real life or made me squirm was deleted, and I discovered that the story didn’t lose any clarity for it. Allowing characters emotions etc. to be implied rather than stated strengthened those scenes and helped the story move along.

 

i love you more
“No, I love YOU more!”

 

Pick the Best POV

Second, I changed points of view. Rather than using the ‘love interests’ to narrate, I shifted POV to my antagonist whenever possible. He’s really my most interesting character, and his observations kept things from getting sugary while still letting the reader know the essentials.

spies David Sinclare

It’s All About the Characters

Third, I strengthened the characters. I knew the characters I was writing well enough to know exactly why they would end up together. Based on the contest feedback, I hadn’t conveyed those characteristics clearly.  I believe the phrase was something like “stock characters in main characters’ roles.” Ouch!

Since then, I’ve had a good time getting to know my characters better, developing them, giving them more personality and authentic emotion. It’s been work, but it’s rewarding to see not just the romance but all of the scenes getting stronger.

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So. Have I mastered the dreaded romantic scene?

Nope.

Plenty of authors handle that much better than I. BUT, I think I can safely say that I’ve come up with a story that fits my voice better than my first attempts, and something that I can hand off for others to read with greater confidence.

What do you like to see in a good love scene? Any tips, writers or readers?

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.

 

 

 

Purple Hedgehogs Can Be Villains Too

DSCN2448
Is THIS the face of a super villain?

Can Father’s Day be next weekend already? Last year I wrote this post to tell the story of the writing project my children and I always embark on for the holiday, and to share some thoughts on creativity. I thought I’d share it again, as we will be off on this same journey this week. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ve just completed my annual collaborative writing project.

For the past five years, my children and I have assembled a comic book to present to their daddy for Father’s Day. They are the stars, acting as themselves and their alter egos, “The Super Kids!”

It’s been a journey.

It all started with one little 3 year old, who improvised a superhero costume and stood where I told her to. I took photos of her and the baby, and used Publisher to add some speech bubbles.

This year’s production included pictures taken ‘on location’ at a local park, and all three heroes:  Gargantu-Baby, Skater Girl and Skunky. (Yes. Skunky.)

As my kids have grown, so have their opinions, and their desire to direct the production. I try to keep it moving in plausible directions- no, honey, we can’t actually have you fly- but they do most of the creative work.

And it certainly is creative…

I wouldn’t have thought of a small stuffed rabbit being a ninja in disguise who secretly tries to trap us.

I would NEVER have thought of a giant, purple, spike-shooting hedgehog as a villain.

Nor would I have named my son “Skunky” and given him the power of shooting skunks out of his hands.

skunky
“Skunky” attacks the dragon.

It’s a joy and adventure to see just what happens when imaginations run wild.

Creativity can be a scary thing as we leave childhood. It means taking risks. It may mean writing outside of our comfort zones. It’s all too easy to lose creativity when we get caught in thoughts like the following.

“This is what my genre demands!”

“This is what agents want!

“That article said that the way I started my story is all rubbish! It’s OVER!!!!”

I’m not suggesting that all writing advice be thrown out. Still, I’ve found that becoming too fixated on ‘the rules’ rather than on the joy of creating a story can be crippling.

Writing would be much more fun if I approached it like my kids do. Just tell a story. Think of a fun plot, and go for it, even if it’s unconventional. Try a crazy idea, even if it’s not currently popular.

The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work, I had some fun, and I can move on to something else. And, if all else fails, I can just ask the littles for help. They have PLENTY of ideas.

What roadblocks to creativity have you encountered? How do you get past them?

Many thanks for visiting!