Sometimes a the most humble of objects can be used to great advantage. This proved true during WWII when kapok became unavailable to stuff the U.S. Navy’s life vests. Thinking outside the box led to using milkweed floss for this purpose.
Across the Midwest, counties launched campaigns for schools to compete for the most floss picked. I have met some of former students who vividly recall school letting out so they could scavenge the fields and ditches for this valuable white stuff.
A couple of years ago, with milkweed becoming scarce, I stopped along the road so our granddaughter could enjoy the feel of this fine, shiny floss.
Of course, we discussed the need for more milkweed for our monarchs, and the unique role its floss played during World War II. History lies right around us every day!
In August 1945, the world was lifting its head in hope, like this sunflower. We’ve been waiting all summer for the tightly closed blossom to open and shed its brightness on a corner of our property.
Over the past few days, the plant has shown signs of being the bright spot we expected. But in ’45, our nation had been at war four long years. Over 400,000 American GIs had sacrificed their lives, and at least 75,000,000 people had perished worldwide. Seventy-five MILLION!
It’s difficult to imagine the scope of the devastation, impossible to comprehend the gargantuan changes this war caused. But in August of 1945, the U.S. Navy was preparing to receive the formal Japanese surrender on board the USS Missouri. September second in Tokyo Bay–V-J Day.
The war truly had come to an end. What a riotous celebration occurred that day all around the world, profound loss mixed with tears of relief.
In a few days, our blossom will be fuller, more complete. But sometimes it’s good to think about preludes to a culmination. Last night I completed my latest novel, about a British citizen who emigrated to Texas Hill Country before World War II. Seeing the war through his eyes as his homeland suffered so much gave me fresh insights.
Always more to learn about this rich, intriguing era!
Throughout World War II, hundred of thousands of families awaited letters from their loved ones. Theirs was not a pandemic with social distancing…many of their sons, brothers, husbands, and dear friends were so much further removed.
This random sampling from a host of letters saved by a woman who eagerly kept watch on her mailbox gives an idea of the way an Iowa soldier moved around. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Olympia, Washington, and in 1945, the generic U.S. Army A.P.0. That postmark might have meant almost any location, but in ’45, possibly Japan, where fierce battles still raged.
And so, with no alternative loving hearts waited and prayed.
Letters play a significant role in my novels, not necessarily by plan or forethought. But as characters’ lives have developed, written correspondence with paper and ink were so much a part of life in those fretful days. Letters arrived and replies were sent. The process took weeks or even months, and many of the messages were censored. That’s just the way it was.
For those who have missed out on the joy of receiving a handwritten missal, the importance of letter-writing may be difficult to imagine. That’s a part of entering into the Greatest Generation’s daily lives, fears, hopes and joys.
Daisies offer cheer–their bright faces touch our hearts. These gorgeous specimens greet us when we look out a certain window or spend time in our back yard. But I had no idea of the significance of daisies during World War II until today.
When Nazi forces occupied her country, Her Royal Highness Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands found refuge in England. At the time the Nazis invaded, daisies were blooming in Holland. As a reminder of Holland’s resistance to the occupation, the Queen encouraged Dutch refugees to wear daisies (margriets in Dutch) on their lapels.
On January 19, 1943, when Queen Wilhelmina’s only child, Crown Princess Juliana, delivered her third child in Ottawa, Canada, she named the infant Princess Margriet. The Canadian Government passed a law declaring the Princess’s hospital room international territory, allowing the tiny princess, the first royal child ever born in North America, to inherit her mother’s full Dutch citizenship.
This new baby became a symbol of hope and inspiration for the Dutch people, many of whom faced starvation in the long months before their liberation, accomplished through the sacrifice of Canadian troops.
July brings so much beauty. We’ve been enjoying all the colors of the spectrum in our courtyard garden.
Hollyhocks’ velvety petals woo us to their side of the garden.
Tomatoes drip after a sudden shower.
And something we’d rather not see. Potato bugs, gnawing an incredible amount of leaves. We’ve picked them off, smashed them, and applied de-bugging powder. We’ve sprayed on some nasty stuff guaranteed to rid the poor potato plants of these varmints.
But underneath some leaves, there’s another color: orange. It’s potato bug eggs. ARGH!
Masses of them, and out of focus, but you get the idea. Will we ever win this war? This one is nothing at all compared to the war I research, fought back in the forties. Women working in the Women’s Land Army, though, may have battled insects like these.
At this point, I have my doubts we’ll win our little battle. But that’s July…not everything is roses. Still, the world is definitely full of color!
After my last post, Janet Estridge wrote to tell me that about ten year ago, she and her husband toured the USS Alabama. In the gift shop, they met Colonel Glenn Frazier, a soldier on the Bataan Death March back in 1942.
On the cover with his fellow soldiers, he’s the only man wearing black trousers. He told Janet that when they rousted them out of bed he grabbed the trousers closest to him–everybody else wore brown.
Janet wrote, “When I saw your article I just had to tell you what happened to me.” I’m really grateful she took the time–it’s great to learn another tidbit about the war.
Colonel Frazier died in 2017–what an honor to meet someone taken captive in Bataan in April of 1942. Survivors of the enemy camps were liberated in January of 1945, and came home to recuperate. Some lived “normal” lives, but surely their terrible ordeal never left their minds.
We owe them such a debt of gratitude. My father-in-law was eighteen during the liberation, and like most WWII veterans, he rarely spoke about his role in the Raid on Cabanatuan prison camp until later in life. I’m glad his story surfaced during the last years of his life, and that he was able to hear “Thank you for your service.”
If you know a World War II veteran, I hope you make the most of the opportunity to chat with them. My desire is that readers of All For the Cause will experience deepening respect and appreciation for all who sacrificed.
Seventy-seven years ago today, what occurred in the World War II timeline? April 9, 1942…am I referring to something in Europe or possibly North Africa?
No, this day marks the fall of Bataan to the Imperial Japanese forces in the South Pacific. In general, we seem to know far less about the surrender of the Philippines than about other dire situations in World War II history.
But my new novel ALL FOR THE CAUSE will hopefully increase understanding of this war theater. Why? Because the fall of Bataan–and of Corregidor about a month later–affected so many Americans.
Tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses stationed in the Philippines left worried families back home. And when the news of the Allied loss hit the airwaves, those families’ worst fears increased.
Had their loved ones survived the horrific bombing that led to this surrender? Would the troops now be taken to prison camps? What would become of them…and when could the families hope for word?
ALL FOR THE CAUSE introduces Private Stan Ford, a Wisconsin native who signed up with the National Guard and arrived in the Philippines before the Pearl Harbor attack that ignited the U.S. declaration of war on Japan. Because of the press surrounded that horrific attack, what occurred in the Philippines might be lost in the shadows.
But our troops stranded on the island of Corregidor endured intense deprivation and trauma. Those who survived the battle may or may not have lived through the terrible march up the mountains to a Japanese prison camp–the Bataan Death March.
At the encouragement of his Captain, Stan chose to flee to the mountains to join guerrillas fighting the enemy until General MacArthur returned to liberate the islands. But what he observed on the way–captured American prisoners on the impossible trek to a remote POW camp–imprinted in his mind forever.
Back in the States, Twila Brunner seeks to contribute to the war effort and discovers a possibility reported in the local newspaper. Who would ever have imagined a prisoner of war camp built in the middle of an Iowa cornfield to house Nazi captives? In accepting a position at the camp, Twila finds far more than she ever could have dreamed.
When Stan is forced to return to the States, his journey intersects with Twila’s. All he wants is to return to liberate his comrades on Bataan, and he puts every effort into making this happen. But sometimes, unexpected joys lie along the path of duty.
I’ve written about perspective before and probably will again, because this quality can make all the difference. Sometimes when you feel you’ve hit the bottom, you possess quite a unique vantage point. Observe:
My husband took this photo in Arizona this winter…don’t ask me how!
But what a perspective, eh? You’ve seen many of his birdie photos, but I simply have to share one more today–can’t ignore this perfect example of FOCUS.
What a great example of the phrase, “Keep your eyes peeled.” Observant…undistracted…watching, waiting. LOOKING INTENTLY, INTENTIONALLY–that’s what FOCUS means.
Now for this one: The tree’s closeness only heightens our interest in a distant object–the moon is what matters, but the tree frames it in a new way. (For a guy who never has taken a photography class, Lance is GOOD!) (:
His next one reveals the intriguing quality of the color grey.
You see the deer, of course. But at the same time, interesting tree bark, rocks, and surrounding earth blend shadow and substance in a pleasing way. At least I think so.
Ahh…what does this have to do with my writing? Well, perspective and focusplay a huge role in All for the Cause, my next release. And the color grey?
In the chaos of battle in the Philippines, Private Stan Ford can only hope for a neutral shade in the midst of rich jungle foliage. So much green, it hurts his eyes…so much suffering, too. After he escapes capture by the Japanese during the American surrender in 1942, Stan and his buddies come across GIs being taken to a POW camp in the mountains.
What they see infuriates them. Sickens them. Strikes terror into their souls–brutality, cruelty, complete disregard for international law.
As a result, one desire enters Stan and will drive him to any length. He must do his part to rescue those men–they have become his family. But accomplishing this objective will take time…much more time than Stan wishes. Forces beyond his control seem bent on preventing the fulfillment of his desire.
But that longing never leaves…in fact, time only strengthens it. Will Stan be able to give his ALL FOR THE CAUSE? Soon, we’ll see. I know…I keep saying soon. But this book truly will soon release.
I’ve learned about something new. My Iowa friend Jill came over to help dig out my water pipe after we had 36 inches of snow, and pointed out the BLUE SNOW she saw everywhere. At first I couldn’t share her excitement, because I didn’t know where to look.
But then, viola! Between the crevasses and cracks, it’s everywhere. With all the melting going on, there’s not so much now, but this morning I took some photos. Can you see it here?
Or here, even though these are just cell phone photos?
For me, this is a new phenomenon, and of course, scientists have an explanation:
As with water, this color is caused by the absorption of both red and yellow light, which leaves light at the blue end of the visible spectrum. When this light travels into snow or ice, the ice grains scatter a large amount of light.
Cool! Even in the midst of a massive snowfall, we can find something intriguing and (for me, anyway) exciting. Having lived in snow country my whole life, I have to wonder why I never saw this before. Maybe it’s because of the altitude here?
Whatever the reason, there it is. And like my friend asked me the other day, CAN YOU SEE IT? becomes the big question.
This question figures in many of the novels we read. The reader sees something the characters don’t, or vice-versa. In a mystery, we seldom see the whole picture until the end.
In the process of publication, things sometimes change. I should let you know that the release date for All For The Cause, in which the heroine and hero navigate many World War II questions, has been changed. You can now expect it to surface into the big, wide world in late March or early April.
In the meantime, keep your eye out for blue snow and the like!
And since few of my blogs are complete without a photo from Lance, here you go…see the blue?
A special welcome to award-winning World War II author Sarah Sundin. Here’s her latest novel, and Sarah is offering a giveaway of one signed copy of The Sky Above Us to one fortunate commenter between now and Feb. 18. Thanks so much, Sarah.
Tell us about your new release, please.
Burdened by his past, Lt. Adler Paxton ships to England with the US 357th Fighter Group. Determined to become an ace pilot, Adler battles the German Luftwaffe as the Allies struggle for control of the air before D-day. Violet Lindstrom wants to be a missionary, but for now she serves in the American Red Cross, where she arranges entertainment and refreshments for the men of the 357th in the Aeroclub. Drawn to the mysterious Adler, she enlists his help with her programs for local children. Adler finds his defenses crumbling. But D-day draws near. And secrets can’t stay buried forever.
Why did you choose to write about these aspects of World War II?
With each novel and each series I like to focus on different aspects of the war to keep things fresh. A few years ago, I thought it would be interesting to write a series about D-day, with three brothers fighting from the sea, in the air, and on the ground. My first series focused on bomber pilots, and a lot of readers told me I should write about a fighter pilot. What if I had a fighter pilot flying over the beaches of Normandy on D-day? That’s how Lt. Adler Paxton came to be.
For the heroine, I decided to have Violet Lindstrom work for the American Red Cross. The ARC ran Aeroclubs at the US airfields in Britain, arranging refreshment and entertainment for the airmen. That sounded like a fun and adventurous way for a woman to serve her country.
What unique aspects about your research can you share with us?
Although this was my eleventh World War II novel, each story presents new research challenges. Adler’s story was surprisingly easy to research. I’d already tracked down a lot of information on the US Eighth Air Force while writing my Wings of Glory series.
And fighter pilots love to tell stories. I found countless memoirs, oral histories, home movies, and photos. These were valuable to help me understand the mindset of fighter pilots, how it felt to fly a P-51 Mustang in combat, and what everyday life was like on the air bases in England.
Violet’s story with the American Red Cross presented a greater challenge. In general, stories from personnel in any support capacity are scarcer. I found a treasure trove of primary documents about the Red Cross on Fold3.com (a division of Ancestry.com). These provided many of the big picture details I needed about ARC services overseas. On the personal side, I perused the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project on the University of North Carolina, Greensboro website. They’ve collected oral histories, photos, and documents from women veterans, including dozens of Red Cross workers. These helped me piece together the colorful bits about what life was like for these brave and resourceful women.
Sarah Sundin is a bestselling author of historical novels, including The Sky Above Us and 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 Awardand won the INSPY Award.A mother of three, Sarah lives in California and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.Please visit her at http://www.sarahsundin.com.
Sarah has also shared this trailer for The Sky Above Us: you may view it here: