Posted in My Novels

On Veterans Day Read Kitty’s War

Veterans Day is the perfect time to read about the men and women who fought for our country during WWII, so…read my novel, Kitty’s War. If you’ve already read it, then write a review so that others will have the opportunity to read it, too. Find it on Amazon or on Barnes & Noble  or on Books-a-million or on iTunes/ibooks or on Kobo or on The Wild Rose Press where you can purchase it in ebook format or in print. You can also post a review on Goodreads. Thanks for your support.

 

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Posted in Family, Friends

Nostalgia

Our lives are divided up into phases and seasons, so it is only fitting in this fall season that I should wax nostalgic. So many memories of times past swirl through my head. Memories of both good times and bad, times of contentment and times of upheaval.

These memories brought to mind a poem that I came across years ago and committed to memory. The words can apply to so many times and places in my life. They seem to fit my mood today.

Into my heart an air that kills
  From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
  What spires, what farms are those?
 
That is the land of lost content,
  I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
  And cannot come again.

By A. E. Housman, "A Shropshire Lad"


Posted in 276th AFA, 30th Infantry Division, History, WWII

ETO in Early October 1944

What was going on in the European Theater of Operations during the first part of October, 1944? Sometimes it’s interesting to look at what was happening in different places at the same time. In early October the European front stretched from the Netherlands/Belgian/German border in the north to the French/German border near Metz further south.

On October 2 the 30th Infantry Division launched a full-scale attack on the Siegfried Line east of Maastricht, The Netherlands. The Germans had retreated from France, Belgium and the southern part of the Netherlands to make a stand at the long string of reinforced pillboxes and tank traps along their western border. Edward Arn, in his book “Arn’s War,” describes the grisly death of his commander, Captain Melvin Riesch, that day during the attack on Rimburg Castle which caused Arn’s elevation to commander of Fox Company, 119th Infantry Regiment. Fox Company, along with the rest of the 30th Infantry division would go on to attack the German City of Aachen from the north flanked by the 29th Division and the 2nd Armored Division. The 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions attacked Aachen from the south. The city surrendered on October 16 , 1944 and was the first major German city to fall to the Allies.

On October 3rd, Lieutenant Charles McDonald crossed the German border and joined his new command, Company I of the 23rd Infantry Division in the Schnee-Eifel forest east of St. Vith, Belgium. McDonald wrote of his baptism by fire during the next few weeks in his classic memoir “Company Commander.” His account of the desperate fighting along that portion of the Siegfried line and his shockingly rapid introduction to life in combat as a Company Commander provides such a vivid picture that you feel you are there with him.

From September 10 through October 15, 1944, the 276th Armored Field Artillery, which included my father-in-law, was supporting the 2nd “Free” French Armored Division. They took positions near the Foret du Parroy, east of Nancy, France, on September 23 and remained in that position until October 15 providing supporting fire for the French Division as well as the nearby 79th Infantry Division. The 4th Armored Division was also in this area near Nancy. All were part of General George Patton’s command.

Back behind the lines, PFC Mollie Weinstein, had settled into her quarters in a hotel in newly-liberated Paris. The WAC provided clerical support for the Army and in her free time explored the famous city. Her memoir, “Mollie’s War,” includes letters she wrote home describing her experiences including meeting GI’s who’d landed on D-Day at a USO provided entertainment event and the plight of civilians in liberated Paris. Although news reports predicted the war would be over by Christmas, Mollie joked that she wouldn’t be home until 1946. The WAC’s instincts were right. It was November, 1945, before Mollie was shipped back to the states.

In early October,1944, the news from Europe sounded good to the folks back home. Paris and most of France had been liberated. The Siegfried Line had been breached and the city of Aachen taken. Although the port of Antwerp had fallen to the Allies in September, fortifications along the estuary leading to the sea blocked the port until November. Supplies were still being unloaded on the Normandy beaches and trucked across France by the Red Ball Express. Shortages slowed the Allies advance as the Germans fought to defend their borders. The war in Europe would go on for another seven months.

 

Posted in Old Movies, WWII

The Best Years of Our Lives – The Movie

One of my favorite movies is “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Released in 1946, it’s not about the fighting during World War II. Instead the movie tells the story of three servicemen returning to their hometown after the war. The three main characters are very different yet their journey home together forms a bond between them.

Captain Fred Derry, played by Dana Andrews, was a poor kid who worked as a soda jerk before the war. In the Army Air Corp he rose to the rank of Captain and served as a bombardier on a B-17. While in uniform, he married a pretty blonde (Virginia Mayo) who went to work in a night club after he left and had a high old time while he was away. She still wants to party with her handsome, uniformed soldier while Fred wants to settle down and find a job. Unfortunately he’s not qualified for most civilian positions and can’t compete in a market flooded with returning GI’s.

Sergeant Al Stephenson, played by Fredric March, was an up-and-coming banker until Uncle Sam put him in the Army. When her returns he barely knows his wife (Myrna Loy), his grown-up daughter (Teresa Wright) and his teenage son. The children have grown up while he was gone. He reluctantly returns to the bank with a new attitude about what is important.

The third serviceman is the young sailor Homer Parrish, played by real injured veteran Harold Russell. Homer, who had been a high school football player, lost his hands in a naval battle. He has learned to use the hooks the Navy gave him and dislikes being treated like an invalid. The pretty girl-next-door waited for him and still wants to marry him but Homer doesn’t want to burden her with his disability. Hoagy Carmichael, as Homer’s Uncle Butch, adds color to the story by playing piano in his bar where the three men meet up.

The movie trailer for “The Best Days of Our Lives” bills it as full of romance. There’s Homer and his girlfriend who resolve their differences and get married. The middle-aged couple, Al and Milly, become reacquainted and fall in love all over again. And the main romance between Fred and Al’s daughter, Peggy. Attracted to Fred, she sees that his wife doesn’t really care about him, so she decides to break up the marriage. Fred finally sees his wife for the gold digger she is. He cares for Peggy but without a job he has nothing to offer her. But don’t worry, there is a happy ending for Fred and Peggy, too. You’ll have to watch the movie for the tear-jerker ending.

One of the most visually impressive scenes in the movie shows acres and acres of airplanes, both bombers and fighters, waiting to be demolished and recycled. The sweeping scene is like viewing a vast military cemetery and remembering the former glory of those buried there. All my research on the 8th Air Force makes this an emotional scene for me.

Posted in Historical Sites, History, My Novels, Research, WWII

Elveden Hall as Setting for novel Kitty’s War

The setting in a novel can provide a unique location for events to unfold. Some authors use real places and real historic landmarks in their books. I recently read “At the Water’s Edge” by Sara Gruen and she used Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness as her setting. Other authors create completely fictional locations to suit their needs. And some create fictitious locations based on actual places. This is what I did in my novel, Kitty’s War.

While doing research for Kitty’s War, I needed a fictional location for the 8th Air Force Second Combat Bombardment Wing Headquarters where the main characters got together. I knew that during WWII the English took over large country houses and estates for use by the military and some of these were assigned to the growing American forces. These estates were ideal for the Air Force because they provided enough space for construction of air fields and temporary buildings for housing and other needs. The large homes were perfect for headquarters.

My image of an English country house was something like Highclere Castle used for the setting of Downton Abbey. I couldn’t use that one so I went in search of houses that were actually used by the military. That’s how I found Elveden Hall. It had a fascinating history including that it had been owned by Maharaja Duleep Singh, ruler of the Sikh Empire, during his exile in England. While living there he completely redesigned the interiors of the house to resemble the Moghal palaces in India.

During WWII Elveden Hall served as headquarters for the 3rd Bomb Division, also known as the 3rd Air Division. That made it perfect for my purpose. I made changes so that it is more a fictional location that a real one, such as adding a hospital and air field which were not actually on the grounds and changing the name to Ellingham Castle . For more information about the US Air Force in England during WWII, including a picture of a Women’s Army Corps corporal working at Elveden Hall, follow this link.

I have not been the only one who thought Elveden Hall would make an interesting setting. Several movies have been shot there including “Eyes Wide Shut” where director Stanley Kubrick used the interiors to create a unique atmosphere. This YouTube video of one scene shot there will give you an idea of the interior of this unique house.

Kitty’s War is available online.

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