And If I Perish

And If I PerishAnd If I Perish was recommended to me by the nurse re-enactors of the Conneaut D-day event as a source of information on American medical staff during World War II. I needed to place my protagonist, Dr. John Welles, in the European Theater as a surgeon, but I truly had no idea how to incorporate a civilian doctor among the ranks of military personnel.

Thanks to Evelyn Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee’s thoroughly researched book, I not only had a way to place Dr. Welles in the war, I had firsthand accounts via actual medical staff of what he would have encountered.

And If I Perish is a treasure trove of information not to be missed. I highly recommend it to students of nursing and history. While the contribution of doctors is also noted, the focus of the book is on the nurses who responded to the call to tend American soldiers fighting in North Africa, Italy, and at the Normandy landings through to the end of the war in Europe.

Often without footwear and uniforms in their sizes, yet an abundance of nylons, lipstick, and face powder supplied by the military, the nurses who participated in World War II made tremendous sacrifices and improvised on the spot to ensure that American and Allied soldiers received the best in medical care. They even gave the best they had to offer when working on German POWS who, with the exception of SS officers, were often grateful for the care they received once they overcame the fear of being captured.

It was no small challenge for the nurses to assist doctors while only a couple of miles from the front lines, often in horrible weather, and sometimes during retreats with the threat of being left behind hanging over their heads. And they did it without the benefit of weaponry to fight back.

The nurses endured bombing, strafing, and even evacuation from a hospital ship that had been attacked by unscrupulous pilots of the Luftwaffe contrary to the Hague Conventions. Occasionally they lost one of their own, a fact that further solidified their sense of family. All this they endured at less pay than their male counterparts.

With the equality that women enjoy today in many fields of work, it is difficult for me to comprehend why, for so many years, the nurses’ stories were overlooked and why they didn’t receive as many promotions and awards as the men serving. Hopefully, Mrs. Monahan and Mrs. Neidel-Greenlee’s book came in time for all of them to know how loved and appreciated they were and are for the sacrifices they made in serving their country.

Lest We Forget

While researching World War II for several chapters of my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, I came across three books I’d like to share as beneficial reference materials.

 

World War II DK PublishingWorld War II Day by Day, published by DK, is a collaborative effort by several former military personnel, researchers, and lecturers. The information is presented as news clippings from the various countries involved with or affected by World War II and the events leading up to it. A small calendar appears on each page and the days and weeks during which the events took place are highlighted. This allows one to isolate a particular event much easier. The book is replete with pictures, maps, and posters from the era. The numerical cross reference, timeline, and Who’s Who section lend ease to fact checking.

 

Campaigns of World War II

Campaigns of World War II Day by Day, edited by Chris Bishop and Chris McNab, is similar to the above-mentioned book but is laid out slightly different. The various campaigns are broken down into sections depending in which theater they occurred, whether European, Pacific, or African. Within each section, the daily and sometimes hourly timeline is most thorough. There are more maps in this book indicating troop movements as well as a focus on military weaponry, vehicles, and aircraft for the era.

 

World War II Donald Summerville

World War II Day by Day, written by Donald Summerville, presents many of the features mentioned in the first two books. This book is broken down into yearly sections with daily or monthly events listed within. The country in which each event took place is presented in boldface. The book concludes with a post war section.

I found each book to be extremely interesting, but together they presented a wealth of information I could check and cross check for accuracy. History buffs, reenactors, students, and writers alike will appreciate reading these books whether for enjoyment or research.

A Wish for Snow

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I wrote the following flash fiction based on the picture to the left.  I immediately thought of Band of Brothers and decided to write my story from the German point of view.  It was also based on an account my husband, William, mentioned.  He watched a documentary where several members of Easy Company met with their former German enemies, all of them very old men by that time.  The soldiers of E Company asked their German counterparts why they didn’t overrun the American position.  The Americans admitted they were fewer in number and without supplies.  The Germans’ response was that they knew the “Eagle Heads” were over there.  So impressive was the reputation of the 101st Airborne Division that the German soldiers were hesitant to attack.

I post this in honor of Veterans Day.  God Bless every member of the American Armed Forces, both retired and currently serving.

A Wish for Snow

Private Franz Stieber refuses to open his eyes. He huddles in a machine gun nest in the Ardennes with three other soldiers, trying his best to fend off the bitter cold. He can hear two of them, Emil and Poldi, blowing on their hands to keep warm. The fourth, Corporal Kneller, kicks Franz’s boots.

“I know you’re awake, Stieber. Get up,” he orders.

The otherwise peaceful morning is disrupted by the corporal’s constant litany of barked orders. One would think the man a General the way he swaggers around regaling them with heroic war stories. No one has ever witnessed one of his deeds. They laugh behind his back, wishing an American sniper would take him out.

Franz opens his eyes to pale winter sunshine piercing a blanket of thick fog. What would normally be a welcome respite from the gloom of overcast days is a curse to the German troops hunkered down in the Ardennes. He has yet to decide if waking each morning is a blessing or a curse.

For weeks they’ve been fighting over this God-forsaken stretch of land. Much to the German Army’s shame, little headway has been made in this particular battle. For just over the rise, just across the open field, just through the bomb-blackened trunks of splintered pines are the Eagle Heads, formally known as the 101st Airborne Division.

No amount of shelling or machine gun fire can unearth these demon warriors. Their ranks never seem to diminish, their spirits never flag. Now, with the advent of a sunny day, Franz is sure they will be given the order to attack the American Army’s position

“I will storm their ranks, kill one of their officers, and cut out his heart for a trophy,” the Corporal brags around a mouthful of brown bread and cold coffee.

Emil and Poldi stare in disbelief as Franz spits at the Corporal’s feet.

“No, fool, you won’t. You’ll be lucky to not piss yourself at the order to charge,” he says.

He turns away, unwilling to meet Corporal Kneller’s eyes. Giving him the attention he craves only encourages him, and his youthful bravado will get them all killed. Franz steels himself, expecting to be shot for insubordination once Kneller recovers from embarrassment. The cowed Corporal simply shoves the rest of his bread into his mouth.

As they finish their meager breakfast, the sun retreats behind a mantle of clouds. Franz breathes a sigh of relief as snow begins to fall. There will be no offensive, only more shelling. Today he will not die in the Eagle’s talons.

The Pleasure of Unexpected Surprises

I married into a family of car lovers. My only requirements for a vehicle are automatic transmission, air conditioning, and reliably get me from point A to Point B. For them, the purchase of a car is met with the same excitement one feels when bringing home a newborn for the first time.

One Sweet Ride

One Sweet Ride

My husband’s family loves to watch NASCAR, a sport devoted to cars. They sit glued to the television as the parrot-colored cars speed around the track over and over and over for hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles. After the National Anthem reverently sung by a country singer, impressive military jets soaring past, and the thrill of the classic line, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” you only need to watch the first and last lap to get the gist of what is going on. My in-laws would remind me there are spectacular crashes not to be missed.

So, if I have completely failed to understand their love of cars, how is it that one of the best days of my life was spent with my husband, Will, at a car show? The answer is that it had nothing to do with the cars and everything to do with the man who loves the cars.

This past Saturday, my best fella and I attended the annual car show hosted by Holy Cross Lutheran Church. The crisp fall day was perfect for walking around the church parking lot looking at a variety of vintage cars. The small sized ensured that a non-lover of cars like myself wouldn’t be bored.

A silver and black, 1969 Camaro was the first vehicle to catch my eye. Instead of the grease and oil smell of a garage that I expected, I leaned in through the open window to inhale the sun-warmed aroma of the pristine interior. Like old-book scent, to which I am addicted, the smell of the car exuded history.

Baby You Can Drive My Car

Baby You Can Drive My Car

William, whose automotive knowledge obviously exceeds my own, kept walking away from the cars before I was ready to leave. I had to examine the front, each side, the back, the inside, and any little detail that caught my eye before I could move on. He laughed at me when I told him to either go on without me or slow down.

Our afternoon included delicious free food, a raffle of automotive-themed prizes, and the friendliest church members I have met in a long time. Still, the best part of my day was the fact that I spent it with Will. A couple child-free hours with the man I love doing what he loves best went a long way to recharging my own batteries.

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