Today marks 72 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. The surprise attack has been the subject of much disagreement and discussion and was the determining factor that pulled the United States of America into WWII. To commemorate this day, I've asked several Christian historical authors to share what they learned while studying for their WWII novels.
Please welcome special guests, Cara Putnam, Patty Smith Hall, Sarah Sundin and Murray Pura:
What drew you to write about Pearl Harbor/WWII?
Patty: My daughters. When the movie Pearl Harbor came out, both my girls were fascinated by the history of that era, and as a history buff, I wanted them to know how women played a part in the war effort. It was when I was looking through a book on women’s roles in the war that I found a small paragraph on girl pilots. From that moment on, I was hooked!
Cara: I’ve long been fascinated by WWII. As I began to research, though, I became engrossed with discovering homefront stories. Those events that happened here in the United States. In Canteen Dreams, I retold the story of the North Platte Canteen. That effort started two weeks after Pearl Harbor and lasted through April 1946. So Pearl Harbor was a key element of the story. It truly galvanized the country and shook many out of their complacency. That was my first WWII novel. My eighth, Shadowed by Grace, releases January 1st, and this will be my first foray into Europe, but the goal is the same. To bring the history of WWII to life through the power of story.
Sarah: The World War II era has always appealed to me—not just the cute clothes and men in uniform, but the unity and purpose that helped the country work together. I’m also drawn to how ordinary people found the courage to do extraordinary things.
Did you have family that fought in WWII?
Patty: I actually had a second or third cousin who was on one of the battleships that was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, he died. My grandmother shared the write-up from the newspaper when I told her I was writing a WWII novel.
Cara: One Grandpa was assigned to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. for most of the war. Unfortunately, he died before I knew I would be writing books set during that time period. I so wish I could have one more conversation with him about his experiences during the war. My other grandpa was the only son of a farmer. He was drafted four times, but sent home every time so he could help work the farm. He is the basis for my hero in Canteen Dreams, because I wondered what it would be like to want to serve, but not be able to since you were more valuable at home.
Sarah: My great-uncle was a Pearl Harbor survivor. We was a copilot in one of the twelve B-17s that flew into Pearl Harbor during the attack—quite a story! He went on to fly a combat tour out of Australia and then served as a B-17 squadron commander with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Also my grandfather served in the Navy as a pharmacist’s mate (medic) in the Pacific. My other grandfather was unable to serve in the military, but as a professor of German, he helped train American spies.
What was the most interesting fact you discovered during your research for this book?
Patty: While I was researching Hearts in Flight, I met a gentleman who flew bombing missions on D-Day who had been trained by one of the girl pilots. That and the fact that the women served as target practice for the ground to air mission strikes surprised me.
The fact that interested me the most in my research of Hearts in Hiding was the number of Germans in this country who tried to push their children into fighting for Hitler. There was even a pro-German organization that helped parents convince their children to return to the Fatherland.
Cara: In Shadowed by Grace I researched the Monuments Men and their unique role in saving Western Civilization. Since WWII was the first war with wide-spread aerial bombardment, European and American art experts quickly realized they needed a strategy to try to save the grand cathedrals and other buildings. Then they realized art was disappearing into Nazi Germany and knew they’d need a strategy for reclaiming the lost art, too. I found the work of these soldiers who weren’t really soldiers fascinating. Then the heroine is a war photojournalist, so I researched the women who filled those jobs. Everything from their dress to how they worked in the field had to be explored. It’s a good thing I love history and getting the details right!
Sarah: So many! On Distant Shores follows a flight nurse and an Army pharmacist in the campaign in Sicily and Italy—professions and settings not explored much in fiction. As a pharmacist myself, I was stunned to learn that pharmacists, who had college degrees, were enlisted men in the Army, while other professionals with college degrees were commissioned officers. Even nurses, who had three years’ training, but not degrees, served as officers. The pharmacy profession battled for an officer corps during the war. Since enlisted men and officers weren’t allowed to fraternize, an Army pharmacist and a nurse wouldn’t be allowed to date…and there was my story inspiration.I think I pick a different person each time I answer this question. Today I’ll choose Ernie Pyle, a columnist who reported from the front in the Mediterranean (and other locations). He wrote eloquently about high-level generals and the privates in the trenches with great respect, humor, and humanity. His genuine admiration for the common man with all his quirks shines in his writing, and he was genuinely liked by all who met him. I’m sure he’d be fascinating company.
If you could spend a day with one person from the WWII era, who would it be? Why?
Patty: I would want to meet the group of nurses who followed the boys onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Not much is known about them--I found out about them when I visited the Florence Nightingale Museum in London this summer--but these brave women followed our troops through the Battle of the Bugle and VE Day to the death camps in Germany.
Cara: This is a great question and one that is hard to answer. So many people played important roles. I think I’d lean toward a conversation with Ernie Pyle or Andy Rooney. Their experiences as reporters covering the war would be intriguing to hear first hand.
Sarah: I think I pick a different person each time I answer this question. Today I’ll choose Ernie Pyle, a columnist who reported from the front in the Mediterranean (and other locations). He wrote eloquently about high-level generals and the privates in the trenches with great respect, humor, and humanity. His genuine admiration for the common man with all his quirks shines in his writing, and he was genuinely liked by all who met him. I’m sure he’d be fascinating company.
Did you learn any fun 'expressions' or phrases from that era?
Patty: Not really, but I did fall in love with the music and movies from that time!
Cara: I watch a lot of classic movies from the 30s and 40s. You’ll often see me with a notepad jotting down expressions they use. At the moment I can’t think of one in particular, but I’ll watch those movies to get the vernacular of the time in my head.
Sarah: I’ve been researching WWII for a dozen years now, so sometimes the line blurs for me. I’ve been known to say “swell” in normal conversation. My friends know I’m weird so it’s okay. In On Distant Shores, my hero ends up serving in one of the hospitals at Nettuno on the Anzio beachhead, which were shelled constantly by the Germans. The hospital personnel learned to walk in the “Anzio shuffle”—a low duck walk to avoid losing your head to a shell. And they all half-jokingly talked about developing “Anzio Anxiety” and “Nettuno Neurosis.”
Thank you all so much for sharing about this important time in U.S. History!
The authors have been so generous as to offer one of each of these books to four blessed commenters! Leave your name and email in a comment below to get your name in the drawing. Giveaway ends on December 14th. Winner to be announced on December 15th, so be sure to check back!
About the Authors:
Patty Smith Hal is an award-winning writer and book enthusiast who has a passion to share Christ with others. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her hero of a husband and two daughters who are hopping away from the nest.
Cara C. Putman graduated high school at 16, college at 20, and completed her law degree at 27. An award-winning author of seventeen books with more on the way, she is active in women's ministry at her church and is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. Putman is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Krannert. She serves on the executive board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization she has served in various roles since 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana. You can connect with her online at:
Sarah Sundin is the author of On Distant Shores and With Every Letter, and also the Wings of Glory series. In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. Please visit her at www.sarahsundin.com.
Murray Pura was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just north of the Dakotas and Minnesota. His first novel was released in Toronto in 1988 and was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award. Since that time he has published ten more novels, two collections of short stories, and several nonfiction titles including the Zondervan books Rooted and Streams and the Baker devotional Majestic & Wild. He has been a finalist for several awards in the US and Canada and in 2012 won the Word Award of Toronto for Best Historical Novel. Murray lives and writes in southwestern Alberta and is currently published by Barbour, Baker, Harper One, Zondervan, and Harvest House as well as several other publishing houses – he works with publishers in Canada, America, the UK, and Holland. His releases for 2013 include the novels: Ashton Park, The Rose of Lancaster County, A Road Called Love, Seven Oaks, The Painted Sky, Whispers of a New Dawn, Beneath the Dover Sky, The Name of the Hawk, and An Amish Family Christmas. His diverse writing spans many genres including: historical fiction, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, romance, adventure, western, suspense, fantasy, Amish, and inspirational. Most of his work is available in ebook format for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook as well as in paperback.
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Amber Schamel was born in Littleton, CO and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. She was raised in a family of 11 children, home-schooled through education and currently works with their 10 family businesses. Amber is a multi-published author and currently lives with her family outside of Colorado Springs, CO..
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