Tell Me, What Were Their Names?

In my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, John and one of his best friends, Sam Feldman, go to war as civilian doctors assigned to the Army.  Their motivation is the attack on Pearl Harbor, an eye-opening event in the lives of many Americans who believed we could stay neutral in regards to the war taking place in Europe and atrocities such as those that occurred during the Rape of Nanking.

For most Americans, World War II started with Congress declaring war after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  However, for other Americans, specifically sailors in the U.S. Navy, it started in the early morning hours of October 31, 1941, with the sinking of the U.S.S. Reuben James by German Submarine U-552.

The Reuben James, a World War I Clemson-class, four-stack destroyer, was part of an escort for convoys bound for Great Britain carrying war materials from the “Arsenal of Democracy.”  German U-boats (submarines) didn’t hesitate to fire on any ship in the convoy, considering them all to be fair game.  For this reason, it was only a matter of time before America became involved in a “shooting war.”

The Reuben James was torpedoed and sunk while escorting convoy HX-156.  The incident resulted in the loss of 115 of the 160 crewman, including all officers.  Although not the first U.S. Navy ship to be torpedoed before the war, the Reuben James was the first one lost.

When news of the sinking reached America, many concerned people wrote letters to the U.S. Navy trying to determine the fate of loved ones and/or friends.  Unfortunately, most of the country ignored the sinking.  One person who did not was folk singer, Woody Guthrie, who wrote “Sinking of the Reuben James” immediately following the incident.

I mentioned the Reuben James in my novel in an effort to remember all who lost their lives during a dark time in history.  Also, in the spirit of one tagline I came across during my research, friends don’t allow friends repeat history.

Straighten Up & Fly Right

Straighten Up and Fly RightIn my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, Claude Willoughby, one of John’s best friends, has had his share of trials and tribulations. When John and Claude first met, they sized up each other and decided they weren’t too keen on pursuing a friendship. After a few terse words, they overcame their differences, and together with Sam Feldman, forged an alliance that lasted a lifetime. So close was their bond, that when one of the afore-mentioned tragedies sent Claude to self-imposed exile in California, John and Sam felt as if their right arm had been severed.

Claude obtained his pilot’s license as a means of dealing with his grief. He also secured employment at the airfield where he trained and later joined the Navy as a pilot during World War II. I had to research exactly what Claude would have encountered in 1937 when he learned how to fly. In doing so, I came across the most unusual website listing a compilation of airfields, now abandoned but operating during the time period about which I was writing. I really shouldn’t have been surprised; the Internet has a site for just about any subject a writer would need to research.

Abandoned & Little Known Airfields contains descriptions and images of 1,995 airfields in all fifty states and is organized alphabetically by state. I hope you find this information as useful as I did.

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