Posted in Family, Genealogy

Elnora Boone Knight – May 1, 1917 – March 31, 2002

Today, May 1, is my mother’s birthday. Had she lived, she would have been 100 years old today. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful, intelligent, vibrant woman has been gone for fifteen years. I miss her still.

Elnora, a child of the depression, graduated from Erin High School in 1934. The next-to-youngest of nine children, who lost her father when she was only four years old, Elnora didn’t have much growing up. What she did have was imagination and a sense of adventure. In the late thirties when her older sister needed help, Elnora boarded a train in tiny Erin, Tennessee, and traveled to New York City alone. She made her way to her sister’s home in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn and while she was staying there she journeyed to Niagara Falls before returning home to Tennessee.

My parents married in 1938 and after a brief stay in Detroit, they returned to make their home in Tennessee. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Daddy enlisted and after training he was assigned to the Coastal Artillery near San Francisco. My always-eager-to-travel mother again boarded a train and traveled across country to join him in California. She described the trip as an adventure. When she recounted changing trains in Bakersfield, CA., she said she had to walk a long way carrying her own bags to catch her next train. Some nice soldiers helped her and even years later she expressed her gratitude for their kindness.

During the war my mother followed my father across the country getting jobs wherever they were stationed. She returned to Tennessee when he went through his medical training in Illinois, then joined him at his first hospital assignment in Asheville, North Carolina.  Later he was transferred to a hospital in Palm Beach, Florida, which turned out to be the converted Breakers Hotel. Before the end of the war, when Ream General Hospital (The Breakers Hotel) was closed, my father was sent to Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta, GA. That’s where my sister was born which necessitated my mother returning home to Tennessee to await my father’s discharge.

The love of travel never left my mother. As we grew up we didn’t have a lot of money so we’d go visit her many relatives who lived across the country. We visited her brother in Oak Ridge Tennessee and explored the Smoky Mountains. We drove to the coast of Georgia to stay with her older brother who lived right on the beach on St. Simon’s Island. Other times we went to south Alabama, the panhandle of Florida and Akron, Ohio, to visit her sisters. One of her sisters lived in Sitka, Alaska, and she always talked of going to visit her but sadly she never did. She did however, visit a cousin in Boulder, Colorado, with her mother and aunt.

As money became available we took family trips to New Orleans, Panama City, Washington D.C., New York City and Palm Beach to see the Breakers Hotel and where they had lived during the war.

When my father retired my mother had accumulated enough leave from her job at the local Post Office for them to take several long road trips. I was lucky to accompany them at least part of the way on one trip out west. We visited Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons. She had me take her picture at the top of Yellowstone Falls to prove she was brave enough to go out there. She had a fear of heights but she wouldn’t let it stop her from going to the edge of the falls or from a bubble-top helicopter ride over the Bad Lands of South Dakota. I had to fly home but they went on to visit my aunt in Oregon, up to Vancouver and then back down the California Coast to San Francisco. Then they came home through Salt Lake City and Denver. On another trip they drove through the northeast all the way to Nova Scotia, across Canada to Montreal and back home. And another year went across Texas and the southwest to the Grand Canyon and then dipped down into Mexico. How I would love to duplicate any one of those trips.

My mother didn’t learn to drive until the late 1950’s. After my father underwent major surgery she decided she could no longer depend on others to drive her around. She was never the best driver but that didn’t keep her home. While we were in high school, she would drive us to Nashville at least twice a year to shop for clothes. She could make her way downtown to Cain Sloan’s parking garage and after a long day of shopping we’d exit the garage, turn right on Broadway and head out of town on Highway 70. I don’t think she ever learned to drive anywhere else in Nashville except to the hospitals.

Elnora loved her grandchildren, her flowers in her beautiful yard and reading a good book or watching an old movie on TV. She used to say she watched all the old black & white movies because when she was growing up she didn’t get to see any of them. They didn’t have the money for movies.

Later in life she bought her own car and drove it where she wanted to go. This might have been taking her grandson to Walmart in nearby Dickson or driving to Dover to the UDC meetings. When my sister moved to Mobile, Alabama, and I moved to Florida she made her final road trip. Since my father’s health was poor, she drove by herself. This adventure took her to Chattanooga to my brother’s house, down through Georgia to our home in Florida for a short visit, and then across the panhandle of Florida to Mobile to stay with my sister. She was seventy-two years old when she made that trip. I always thought she was so brave for making that long drive alone.

Only a few years later, Alzheimer’s had taken its toll. She came to Florida to stay near me. Her strong constitution and vibrant spirit remained almost to the end — just a month short of her eighty-fifth birthday.  This post is dedicated to her loving memory.

Posted in WWII

Photos of WWII in the South Pacific from Chipsofftheoldblock

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of my father’s passing, and also, of far less significance, the 6th anniversary of this blog. I started it with him in mind, knowing how much family history meant to him. It’s a shame he has not been here to help me fill in pieces I can’t quite pull together […]

via The Greatest Generation — Dad’s photos with ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines — Pacific Theater — Chips Off the Old Block

Posted in History, WWII

Eleanor Roosevelt and a WWII Moment

Women’s History Month could not pass without honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady and so much more. There is little I can add to the volumes that have been written about her life, her contributions to the career of her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, and her later contributions to the United Nations. Instead I will tell you about some of what I admire about her.

Although her family was wealthy, she was a shy child from an unhappy home. Her mother died when she was young and her father was an alcoholic so Eleanor was raised by her grandmother. As she grew to adulthood she overcame her shyness and ventured out into society. When she married her handsome, distant cousin, Franklin, she would have been content to be a wife and mother, but her husband’s political ambitions threw her into the public arena. This public role would not have been her choice but she rose to the challenge. Even as First Lady she went beyond the expected role of managing social events and became her husband’s eyes, ears and legs. She traveled the country making speeches, listening to people in all walks of life and reporting back to the White House. It took a lot of inner strength to overcome her early life and become a force in Washington.

The quiet little girl became a savvy political figure who promoted women’s causes whenever she could. She encouraged her husband to appoint women to various positions in his administration. In a time when women reporters were not allowed in the White House news conferences, Eleanor began holding her own news conferences for women only. After Franklin’s death, President Truman appointed Eleanor as delegate to the newly formed United Nations. There she led the fight for resettlement of refugees and she is considered largely responsible for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is still protecting human rights around the globe.

Another thing that garners my admiration is that Eleanor was a writer. Beginning during her tenure in the White House, she wrote a daily newspaper column “My Day” that was syndicated in newspapers across the country. This would have been the equivalent of writing a daily blog today. She also wrote regular columns for several magazines and had a weekly radio broadcast. After leaving Washington Eleanor wrote four autobiographies and several other books. These books are still available. I treasure my copy of the combined autobiographies.

The money she earned from this column and from her books she donated to charity. That brings me to another thing I admire about Eleanor Roosevelt. Her charity and compassion for the people. She gave her money and she gave of herself to better the lives of others.

Something that many people don’t know about Eleanor is that at the beginning of World War II when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Eleanor spoke to the American people about the attack before her husband’s famous speech to Congress. It was Sunday, December 7, 1941, and her weekly radio broadcast was scheduled to go on the air that evening. While Franklin consulted with the country’s leaders, Eleanor went on the air and talked to the people in her kind and compassionate style. She could relate to the feelings of fear families had because she too was a mother who had four sons of the age for military service.  Two of her sons were already in the military. She knew what was coming and she knew the people needed to hear a message of hope and courage so that is what she gave them.  Listen to her words in the attached You Tube recording.  How could you not admire a woman like that.

 

 

Posted in History, Research, WWII

The War Comes to the U.S. East Coast

When Hitler declared war on the United States, U-boat captains delighted in the opportunity to hunt along the east coast of America. They had roamed the coast of Europe, stalked the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic and guarded the entrance to the Mediterranean. After the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan and Germany declared war on the U.S. Before these momentous events there had been tension and confrontations between German U-boats and American ships as they assisted the English and Canadians in escorting ships transporting goods across the North Atlantic. When war was declared, the U-boats headed for the east coast of the U.S. where they found easy pickings in unarmed and unescorted American merchant ships. The Germans called it “Operation Drumbeat.”u48-uboat-wwii

Shipping along the east coast from Maine to Florida, as well as along the Gulf coast, became targets. Along the eastern seaboard  One hundred and twenty-one (121) merchant ships were either sunk or damaged during 1942 alone. Why were they such easy targets?

The merchant marine vessels had no protection. They were unarmed and they had no military escorts. Although the war in Europe had been raging since 1939 and the German U-boats had been attacking ships in the Atlantic headed for England, the United States was woefully unprepared to protect vital shipping along her coast line. Also early in the war the United States did not have strict black-out rules. It took a while for many areas to realize that light from the shore endangered ships at sea. German U-boats could target ships at night by tracking the vessel’s silhouette against the light from the shore.photo80mnus-torpedtankerlc

Imagine standing on the shore and watching a ship burning after it had been hit by torpedoes. That’s what happened along the shores of Florida in early 1942. Read an interesting interview with German U-boat Captain Hardegan where he tells of sinking a tanker off the coast of Jacksonville in April 1942. He saw the ship against the lights from the beach and after it was hit he said he could see the people on shore watching it burn.

We don’t often think about the number of ships and the number of lives lost by the Merchant Marines. Their task was vital and their losses were higher than other military branches. But they weren’t technically military despite their critical role in transporting all kinds of materials.enroll-merchant-marine

Something had to be done to stop the loss of life and vital cargoes. Initially the focus had been on protecting the west coast, but it didn’t take long to recognize the threat of the German U-boats along the eastern seaboard. The Navy and the Coast Guard increased patrols searching for the U-boats by sea. The Army Air Corps flew patrols along the coast and the Civil Air Patrol was established to fly additional patrols searching for the enemy.

Meanwhile, shippers had to find a way to safely transport vital cargo including shipments of oil. They turned to transport through the intracoastal waterway. This protected route utilized existing rivers, waterways and canals to ship a variety of cargo in barges. Improvements to depth and width of this waterway enabled larger vessels to pass through this route.

The Navy organized escorted convoys of merchant ships traveling along the east coast. That, combined with increased Air Corp bomber activity, reduced the number of ships sunk. By 1943 fewer merchant vessels went down and numerous U-boats were sunk off the eastern coast of the United States.

The remains of sunken merchant ships and German U-boats can be found all along the east coast. See this article and photographs about ship wrecks off the coast of North Carolina.

In my novel, Kitty’s War, the hero floats toward shore in a raft after his merchant ship was sunk off the east coast. Stories of this little known part of the war inspired the opening of my novel where the hero and heroine meet for the first time. You can purchase Kitty’s War on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, iTunes, Kobo and The Wild Rose Press.

 

Posted in My Novels, WWII

Release of My Debut Novel “Kitty’s War”

My debut novel, “Kitty’s War,” has just been released by The Wild Rose Press, Inc. The historical romance is set during the turmoil of World War II.  See the story description below.

Please spread the word about my novel to everyone you know  – your spouse, daughters, mother, significant other, friends, co-workers, neighbors or any readers you think would enjoy a story filled with the danger, excitement, heartache, friendships and love in this fascinating time period.

“Kitty’s War” is available in either print format or e-book format online from my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, and from Amazon.  The e-book is also available on  iTunes , Kobo , and Books-a-million .

Link to Amazon Kindle version

Link to Amazon Print version

To receive emails from me periodically with updates on my novels, my research, and whatever other interesting information that I might come across, please send me an email using the “Contact” form on this website. I will add you to my newsletter mailing list. I plan to send emails only three or four times a year so I won’t overwhelm you.  If you are not interested, that’s okay. If you ever change your mind, you can always contact me via this website.

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Kitty’s War

Seeking adventure, shy Kitty Greenlee joins the Women’s Army Corps. In 1944 England, as secretarial support to the 8th Air Force, she encounters her dream man, a handsome lieutenant who only has eyes for her blonde friend. Uncomfortable around men, Kitty doesn’t think the handsome officer could want someone like her.

Recovering from wounds, Ted Kruger wants to forget about losing his closest friends and have fun before returning to danger as a bomber navigator. When Ted recognizes Kitty as the girl who rescued him two years before, he must choose between dating the sexy blonde or pursuing quiet, serious-minded Kitty even though he knows he’s not nearly good enough for her.

As the war gears up with the D-Day invasion, will Kitty and Ted risk their hearts as well as their lives?

 

Posted in History, WWII

Contrails in the Sky

When I  see contrails crisscrossing the sky, I wonder what the skies over Europe looked like during World War II. So many military aircraft were flying back then, heavy bombers, medium bombers and fighters. Without today’s on-board radar, clear skies provided ideal flying weather for the bombers and a clear, blue sky is a perfect backdrop for snowy-white contrails.b17-dropping-bombs-fb-cover

The U.S. Eighth Air Force flew daytime missions over Europe beginning in 1942. While the British flew at night, the Americans tackled the more dangerous daylight hours. Even during the Luftwaffe’s infamous blitz in 1940, the Germans dropped their bombs at night. They knew their bombers were much more vulnerable in the daytime. But the Americans believed that their heavily armed B-17 “Flying Fortress” and the comparably armed Consolidated B-24 could withstand German fighter attacks without the protection of their own fighters. It would be late in 1943 before long-range fighters would accompany the bombers all the way to the target and back. The Americans also believed that by flying in the daytime their bombardiers could be more accurate. The top-secret Norden bomb sight enabled the bombardier to hit the selected target with less damage to nearby non-military structures. At least that was what they believed at the time. Later they found that although the U.S. bombings had less collateral damage than the British “carpet” bombing, their accuracy left much to be desired. Also, the American losses due to anti-aircraft fire or “flack” were horrendous.

20161129_172923But let’s get back to those contrails that marked the path of bombers across the sky. Contrails are a phenomenon of atmospheric conditions. When the heat from airplane engines interacts with the moist atmosphere at high altitudes and when the temperature and humidity are within certain ranges, a contrail (essentially a cloud) is formed. Engine emissions facilitate the cloud or contrail formation by providing tiny particles for the moisture to gather around.   Depending on conditions at altitude the clouds or contrails may quickly disappear, may hang in the sky as long thin lines or may spread out into what eventually appear to be natural bands of billowy clouds. Today’s contrails are produced by jet engines, but during World War II airplanes were powered by internal combustion engines. These engines produced enough heat to create the contrail phenomena.

20161129_172606When squadrons of bombers stacked into box-like formations sped across the sky, their contrails must have been a sight to see. Instead of one solitary streak across the sky, groups of pencil-thin clouds would have marked the squadron’s progress. When the humidity and temperature were right, these bombers could not hide from the enemy.  Germans on the ground could easily track their direction and note when the group changed course. It was no wonder that the anti-aircraft fire was so deadly accurate.20161129_172750

Conversely, the streaks across the sky must have comforted those in occupied countries as the American bombers flew over France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg.  In the dark years of 1942 and 1943, when the Germans dominated Europe and the Allied forces were far away in North Africa and Sicily, these contrails provided hope to the people of Europe. Their message written across the sky said that Europe had not been forgotten.

Learn more about the Eighth Air Force and their war over Europe by visiting the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum just outside Savannah, Georgia. It is a fascinating place to visit.

And read about the men in those bombers in my novel, Kitty’s War, which will be released on Friday, December 16, 2016, published by The Wild Rose Press and available at Amazon and other online stores.

 

Posted in 276th AFA, History, WWII

Morris Irving Grayson, 276th Armored Field Artillery

I always love to hear the stories passed down in families about how their parents or grandparents met, fell in love and started a life together during World War II. These stories reflect the realities of the time. The country was at war. Men, from age 18 to 45, either volunteered to serve in the military or they were drafted. Young men and many young women left home either to go into the military or to go to work at a defense plant or to go into some type training, such as nursing. All across the country single men and women met and dated. Couples were separated and those already married struggled to maintain a marriage through separation. Often the wife followed her husband to wherever he was stationed. It was a time of great turmoil in our country. And I find it fascinating.

A member of the extended family of the 276th Armored Field Artillery Battalion shared one of those stories with me. Morris Irving Grayson served in Battery B of the 276th while my father-in-law served in Battery A. Irving’s daughter, Teresa Williams, agreed to let me share her parents’ story on my website as a way to keep the memories of the war alive and to let younger people know what soldiers and their families went through.

In 1941, Irving Grayson and Doris Smiley graduated from Childress High School in Childress, Texas. Although they went to the same school in the same town, they didn’t get to know each other until the next year when Doris noticed Irving at the local open air skating rink. Irving was a skilled skater and loved to show off. The two started dating.

Irving and Doris (on left) on double date
Irving and Doris (on left) on double date

Irving planned to enter the military in 1942 but he had appendicitis. His illness delayed his enlistment until April 27, 1943, when he signed up in Lubbock, Texas.  He went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for basic training. Before completion of the course he volunteered to become a paratrooper and was transferred to Camp Tocca, Georgia. At that time it was more prestigious to be a paratrooper and they were paid more than regular soldiers.

While in paratrooper training in Georgia, Irving complained of the extreme heat, the humidity and the miles of daily marches carrying full packs. One night his sergeant came into the barracks and said, “If you don’t want to be here, we don’t want you here, there will be a bus out front tonight. Be on it.”  Irving made sure he was on that bus even though he had no idea where the bus would take him.

The bus took Irving to a train station and the train took him to Camp Phillips, Kansas, where he was assigned to the 276th Armored Field Artillery. The 276th was originally a typical field artillery battalion with tow-behind artillery pieces. Irving began training for the field artillery.

002-2-irving-and-doris-grayson-when-marriedWhile at Camp Phillips, Doris joined Irving bringing along their new baby. Irving and Doris were married in Salina, Kansas, December 2, 1943. Housing was scarce around these new Army training camps. Irving and Doris rented a tiny apartment in what must have been an older apartment building or converted house. Doris later told her family that she found a rat in the baby’s crib one night and after that the baby slept in the bed with her.

At Camp Phillips Irving served as assistant to the supply sergeant. The sergeant left unexpectedly, probably reassigned, so Irving took over his duties. Although doing the sergeant’s job, Irving was not promoted as he thought he should have been. In early 1944 the 276th moved east to Tennessee for extensive maneuvers intended to simulate combat conditions. During these maneuvers, the Army decided to convert the 276th from a field artillery battalion to an “armored” field artillery battalion. They were pulled out of the maneuvers and sent to Camp Campbell, Kentucky, where they trained on the M-7 self-propelled, track-mounted 105 mm howitzer cannon.  These track-mounted guns had proved to be more maneuverable in North Africa and the Army believed they would be able to keep up with the tanks after the Allies invaded Europe.

When Irving went to Tennessee, Doris and the baby went back to Childress. The couple began corresponding by letter. Doris sent him pictures of their son with notes about his progress. Irving came home on leave before he went overseas. Later Doris wrote to tell him she was expecting another child. Their second son was born while Irving was in Europe fighting the Germans. I can only imagine how difficult it was for Doris, with one baby and another on the way and her husband overseas in danger of being killed. She probably wrote cheerful letters with pictures of the babies to keep his spirits up.doris-grayson-with-son-during-war

Adding to the difficulty for this young mother was an especially disturbing letter she received from Irving. It had been intended for an English girl he met during his brief stay in England but the letter got switched with his letter to Doris. When Doris received the wrong letter, she of course assumed the worst, that he was cheating on her, and she did not write him for some time. Irving insisted the he and the English girl were just friends and eventually the trouble was resolved.

While in England, Irving became a jeep driver responsible for carrying messages between the battalion and headquarters. He also scouted for locations to set up the battery headquarters and drove damaged half-tracks and M7’s to the maintenance platoon for repairs. The 276th fought their way across France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany from September, 1944, until the German surrender on May 8, 1945.

On June 10, 1945, Corporal Irving Grayson was presented the bronze star for heroism by Brig. General John C. Lenz. In one of the ironies of war, Irving thought he received the medal for one action when in fact he received it for something different. He told his family this story —

As he lay in the street of a small German town, a heavy artillery shell went went over his head hitting a building in front of him and skidded along the side of the building but did not explode. Then another shell went over his head hitting the same building and again skidded along the without exploding.  Irving realized you could tell where the gun firing on them might be located by the angle the shells were hitting and skidding. He crawled on his stomach a couple of blocks back to Battery B headquarters and told his commander what he had observed. The commander told a sergeant of the heavy artillery to follow Irving back to where he had seen the shells hitting the building. They crawled back and located the German gun.  They crawled back to the heavy artillery and the sergeant directed his men where to fire.  The German gun was hit and American lives were saved.  All his commanders were congratulating Irving on what he had done, so he thought he received the bronze star for this. See the newspaper article for the account from the Bronze Star citation.grayson-newspaper-article

The 276th AFA returned to the states in July, 1945, as part of the experienced combat troops who were redeployed for the invasion of Japan. The men received leave to visit their families before reporting for additional training for the invasion. During this leave another child was conceived and that child, Teresa, was born in 1946. The war ended in August, 1945, after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.

Irving returned to his old job in a packing plant in Childress, Texas, and a fourth child arrived in 1947. He later trained to be a machinist, probably using the GI Bill, and in 1951 the family moved to Dallas. In 1953 the couple’s fifth child made her appearance making three boys and two girls.

Irving and Doris raised their five children and, after twenty-one years of marriage, they divorced. Both remarried and they remained close to their children.

You might say that Irving and Doris didn’t have the “typical” WWII romance. But their experiences were typical for the time. A hasty marriage with the strains of separation, fear and anxiety. Doris didn’t know if Irving would return to her, didn’t know how long he would be gone. And Irving longed for his wife and babies. He missed the birth of his second son and the experience of seeing both sons early life. He could only write censored letters and hope his parents and hers were helping his young wife and children through this difficult time. Their love, loyalty and determination brought them through the war and the years of adjustment afterwards, like so many other couples of that time.

If you want to share a family story about World War II, please send it to me along with any pictures you have. I would love to hear your stories and share them here on my website.