Legacy Tidbits

 

My Inspiration

In 2006, after seeing a portion of the “Great Escape”, I was talking with my brother, Del, about American POWs in Germany.  Something in our conversation sparked my curiosity, and I decided to do a little research.  As I began to dive into the deep subject of World War II, I realized how very little I knew about this period of time in our country’s history.


What I found, fascinated me.  What I found also reminded me of something.  At one of the German Club meetings in college in 1994, I heard my German professor talk a little bit about her life under Nazi rule.  I remember her saying that while she and her mother were fleeing from the Russians into Germany, her future husband was up in the sky bombing Germany into rubble.  You will know exactly what went through my mind next, if you pick up my book and start reading.

The Setting

By the time the United States entered the Second World War, England was an island fortress.  At the end of the war, it has been said that England was one big runway.  American air bases were plastered over the English countryside.  Some of these airfields show tell-tale signs of American presence to this day.


Germany, in 1944 was a war weary country whose cities had been targeted and heavily bombed by Allied forces.  There was a lack of basic necessities for living.  And yes; it was nearly impossible to find a toothbrush.  Yet, the farmers seemed to be the only ones beyond the reach of the Third Reich.  They could grow their own food and were not as dependent on their government as those in the cities.


There is no place like the United States of America and this was true, even during the war.  Americans pulled together, sacrificed and supported their fighting men.  After the war, America shifted from war industry to domestic, and there was a slow but steady move from the rural to the urban.

The Research


Army Air Corp Heavy Bombers of the European Theatre


Far and away, the most informative and fascinating information you will read about the war comes from the eyewitness accounts.  These stories are treasure packed bundles of insight into what life was like during the war.  If you are interested in learning more about the experiences of heavy bomber crews, American POWs in Germany and bravery at its best, please visit my favorite site:


B-24.net

Strategic Bombing Plan


One thing leads to another when you start your research.  The crew that I originally had in mind for the story would have been British!  They would have been British because I originally envisioned them doing bombing runs at night.  Do you know why the British bombed by night and the Americans by day? I didn’t, until I started looking into the subject.  It was a hotly debated decision according to these sites:


Wikipedia.org - Strategic Bombing During World War II


Word IQ.com - Strategic Bombing During World War II


Anesi.com - United States Strategic Bombing Survey


Germany During the War


My main source for learning about what life was like in Germany during the war came from personal accounts that I read on numerous websites, from written articles, personal accounts of what family members went through and books.  There isn’t an easy source on this topic to recommend.  Start digging and you will find some interesting, sad and, at times, unbelievable stories.


Farming in the 1940s


Actually, my best resources on this topic were my own parents who were born during this time period and both grew up on farms.  I was surprised to learn that many rural houses did not have indoor plumbing or refrigeration until after the war.  The great depression was the immediate predecessor to the war.  This meant that farmers were still plowing with horses.  Did you know that only a handful of new cars were manufactured during the wartime years?  The large factories were converted to turn out tanks, jeeps and airplanes.  There is some good information at the following sites:





Living History Farm.org


Minnesota Historic Farms Study






The Main Characters


My husband thinks the main character of Legacy of the Brave is Leyna (whom he affectionately calls ‘Lenya’).  I have a hard time choosing between Rand Kellam and Leyna Künzel because Legacy is really about them both, in equal deference.


My husband, again, thinks that Leyna is really me.  I can tell you for certain that she is not.  Leyna is petite.  I am – not.  Leyna is cool under pressure and always has something pertinent to say back.  That is definitely not me.  In my mind, Leyna is brave when she must be and determined, and the kind of person you would want as a friend.


My husband says that Rand is a cross between my brother and my grandfather.  After giving it some thought, I cannot disagree with him there.  If that is the case; however, it was done so unintentionally.  But I won’t apologize if Rand is handsome, thoughtful, careful, and dedicated.  Many men, who fought in World War II were just like Rand, and I can’t think of a better word to describe them than brave.


Tante Zelma is not really, as one friend described her, a women laden with sparkly jewels and a fur collared coat.  In my mind, she is a higher class, but practical lady whose very sad past has given her the courage to take unusual risks.  Her husband was her hero.  He was a French freedom fighter, but he did not last long, once Hitler invaded France.  There is some information, but it is not known how many people in Germany or its occupied territories risked their lives to save those who were being hunted down by the Nazi government.


You may get a different impression altogether, but Captain Metzger is not all evil.  He is one character that I always handled with kid gloves.  I saw him as having the best intentions at heart and, after all, as striving to be a good example of what a civilized German soldier ought to be.

The B-24 Crew Picture on the Front of the Book


My thanks to Doug Collar for his permission to use his photograph of his father’s crew on the front page of the book.  His father, George Collar is seated on the front row, on the far right hand.

The Bombing of Shaffhausen on April 1, 1944


Although the neutrality of Switzerland has always been in question, there is no doubt in my mind that the United States did not have any intention of bombing Switzerland during the war.  But we did, more than once, and we had to pay for it - in the tune of over four million dollars!  I have been to Shaffhausen, and it is one of the most charming towns I have ever visited.


Wikipedia.org - Bombings of Switzerland in World War II


B-24 Stories - Col. Myron Keilman


Getting out of Switzerland During the War


Switzerland was a “neutral” country during World War II.  If you were an airman and you were on a plane that was able to make a safe landing in Switzerland, the authorities would inter you for the remainder of the war.  These internment camps were much like the German POW camps, except that they were not so rigorously guarded.  With a little ingenuity, it was possible for some to escape from Switzerland and to make their way back to England.  Some interesting accounts have been written by those who did.


Conscript-heroes.com - Escape Stories


Air Force Print News Today.mil - Airmen Recall Swiss Internment


B-24 Stories - George W. Michel





































London During the War


A glimpse into London during the war from an American perspective is often offered in the journals and diaries of Army Air Corp men.  The prize to be had for many of them was the pass to London.  The Red Cross was instrumental in making it possible for American airmen to get some rest and relaxation while they were on leave to London, by providing hotel rooms, meal tickets and recreational events.  There are a handful of interesting stories posted on this site:

Eye Witness to History.com

War Brides


Did you know that over 50,000 British women came to the United States as war brides after the war?  Many of them came with infants.  The stories of these women and what they encountered once they got here is both tragic and heart warming.  I found the following sites to be particularly informative on the subject:

U.S. War Brides.com


American WWII.com - Stories on War Brides

Have you ever seen a B-24?


I’ve seen two.


In May 2006, I had just started writing Legacy of the Brave.  I was standing in the living room one Saturday morning talking with my mom, when I heard the sound of an airplane.  We were living in a rental unit while our house was being gutted and remodeled.  The rental unit had a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean and stood directly under the take off flight path for all of the international flights out of SFO.  But the engine sound I heard was unusual.  I looked out the window and soon I saw the imposing twin tailed Liberator.  Yes, the only remaining, flying B-24 in the world was passing by our house on the way to an air show in Santa Rosa, California!

Collings Foundation.org


I had to go just north of London, England to the Royal Air Force Museum to see my second B-24.  It was a newer J model Liberator that had seen service in India during World War II.  She was still a wonderful thing for me to behold.  It was the first time I really got to see how big those heavy bombers are up close.


Royal Air Force Museum.org.uk