Thursday, October 8, 2015

Talkshow Thursday: Sweets for the Sweet

Hello. Ruth Brown here. When anyone is talking about WWII, one of the first topics of conversation is rationing, both food and fuel. But frankly it seemed folks in England adjusted better to the lack of fuel more so than the lack of food. As someone who loves a good meal, I can understand.
When I arrived in London in June 1942, rationing had been in place for nearly three years. During the war bread, potatoes, vegetables, fruit and fish were never rationed (although interestingly enough bread was rationed after the war). Since the war’s end, I have read conflicting reports as to the over all health of the population. Some accounts indicate the British people were underfed and undernourished, and as a result illness was on the rise. Other reports indicate the population was “healthier than before.”

I would imagine the truth is somewhere in the middle. A somewhat active thirty-year old woman requires an intake of 1200-1500 calories per day. A man requires 1900-2100 calories. Because higher caloric foods such as processed sweets (cakes, cookies, scones, etc.), and beef and chicken were eaten with less regularity during the war, it would take a lot more food to make up the missing calories. Was the food available? From what I could discover, the answer to that question depended on where you lived.
Folks on the coast had access to fish. The inland population had access to potatoes and bread. Fruits were difficult to find anywhere; and in fact, bananas disappeared for the entirety of the war. Some children saw their first one at aged 10 or 12.

I often wonder if children raised during the war never developed a “sweet tooth.” As someone who loves dessert, I think that would be a real shame.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Traveling Tuesday: Where are the Marshall Islands?

Most of my knowledge of WWII involves the U.S. and British home fronts. Thanks to the Wright Museum where I am a volunteer docent, I am learning a tremendous amount about the battle fronts and various theatres of war. The museum is currently hosting an exhibit showcasing the art of Pvt. Charles Miller who was stationed in the South Pacific, specifically on the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. His art, comprised of pen and ink and water colors, is a pictorial diary of his time during there.
I was intrigued by his pictures and did a bit of research into the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign that occurred from November 1943 through February 1944. Located near the equator and slightly west of the International Date Line these islands are approximately 2,400 miles southwest of Honolulu, Hawa’ii.
The country is comprised of twenty-nine atolls (a ring-shaped coral reef, island or series of islets) and five islands. Initially recognized as part of the Spanish East Indies, the islands were sold to the German empire in 1884. After WWI, they were awarded to the Empire of Japan who considered them the outer perimeter of their territory.
By 1943, Japan had scored countless victories in the Pacific. After much debate, Admiral Chester Nimitz suggested a strategy that consisted of a series of amphibious assaults on selected Japanese-held islands toward Japan. This island-hopping strategy hinges on the idea that isolating Japanese troops on the islands and letting them “wither on the vine,” would be as effective as destroying them through a direct attack and have less cost to Allied forces.
Differing opinions divided the Allied commanding officers over which islands to attack. Some felt that Tarawa should be bypassed, while others thought that retaking the Gilberts to provide an air base for the next step (the battle for the Marshall Islands) was crucial. Eventually, the battle of Tarawa did occur with heavy casualties on both sides.
The Battle of Kwajalein (one of the main Marshall Islands in the south, and the main focus of Miller’s work) took place from January 31 through February 4, 1944. The battle was a significant victory for the Allies because it was the first time the Americans had penetrated the “outer ring” of the Japanese Pacific sphere. The success of the Marshall campaign gave Allied troops a major anchorage point and staging area from which to continue their operations in the central Pacific, and to their ultimate goal-Japan.
Today, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the U.S. providing defense, subsidies and access to U.S. based agencies such as the FCC and the postal service. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.
Time to do some more studying.





Friday, October 2, 2015

Forensic Friday: Who's Got the Goods?

Colonel Mustard did it with a knife in the library. Mrs. Peacock did it in the ballroom with a candlestick. But what if the evidence is contaminated, and the deed cannot be proven? That’s where chain of evidence comes in.

Chain of evidence, also called chain of custody, is the “chronological documentation showing the seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence.” The key to this process is for the chain to remain unbroken.
In order for evidence to be used in court to convict someone of a crime, it must be handled in a manner that prevents tampering. The handling must establish that the alleged evidence is in fact related to the alleged crime, rather than having, for example, been “planted” to make someone appear guilty. If there are discrepancies in the process, and it cannot be proven who had the item at a particular point in time, then the chain of custody is severed, and the defendant can ask to have the resulting evidence declared inadmissible.
An identifiable person must always have the physical custody of a piece of evidence, and each transaction involving the evidence must be recorded. Typically, a police officer or detective takes charge of a piece of evidence collected at the crime scene and gives it to an evidence clerk for storage in a secure place.
For those of you who watch CSI or any of the other police dramas on television, you may already be familiar with the process of evidence collection. Documentation begins at the crime scene where a technician photographs the item in its place. Then measurements are taken to indicate the exact location of the item at the scene. A common method to do this is for the technician to select a fixed point at the scene (e.g., the south side of the living room) then measure the distance to the evidence from that point.
Television often portrays police work as fast-paced, glamorous, and exciting. I’m sure it can be, but more often than not a criminal has been convicted because of a tiny anomaly brought to light by meticulous attention to some detail related to the case. (Think Sherlock Holmes or Monk.)
Who is your favorite TV detective?




Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wartime Wednesday: Do I Have to Go to School?

I lived much of my childhood in northern New Jersey, an area prone to long winters. As a result, school was often cancelled because of inclement weather. I loved missing school until we exhausted our allotment of snow days, and we had to attend classes until the end of June. Made for short summers.
The children of wartime Britain missed school for very different reasons.

In the early days of WWII, the British government made plans to
evacuate all children (and their teachers) from large cities to rural areas. Part of this plan included closing most schools, two-thirds of which were requisitioned and handed over to the Civil Defense Services. Reports indicate that only about fifty percent of the children actually evacuated, leaving nearly a million students without a school.

Incidents of vandalism rose, and authorities realized a solution had to be found. Alternate buildings such as churches, village halls and warehouses were converted to schoolrooms, but because of bombings, constant movement to new lodging, and other wartime problems, attendance dropped. As one writer it, “Understandably, education sometimes took a backseat to simple survival.”
In rural areas, schools used a double shift system to handle the
influx of evacuees. Local students used classrooms in the mornings and evacuees used the in the afternoon. As the war progressed young male teachers were drafted into the armed forces, causing a shortage of instructors and a swelling of class size. Curriculum was varied, but gas mask drills and air raid exercises were an integral part of the school day for everyone.

What unusual experiences did you have during your school days?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mystery Monday: Classic Children's Stories

Laura Lee Hope. Carolyn Keene. Franklin W. Dixon. Do you recognize the names? You might if you were an avid reader of The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and/or The Hardy Boys. What do the names have in common? I was surprised to recently learn they are all pseudonyms for a cadre of writers who worked for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book packager founded in the early 1900s.
Edward Stratemeyer’s career began as a writer for the magazine Good News. In 1899, he created a series called The Rover Boys. Selling over five million copies, the series was wildly successful. Stratemeyer quickly realized there was an untapped market for children’s books that were primarily entertainment rather than the usual stories focused on moral instruction. The Bobbsey Twins appeared in 1904 and Tom Swift in 1910. The Hardy Boys series was not written until 1927. Nancy Drew followed in 1930. According to several accounts, Stratemeyer felt that a woman’s place was in the home, but he wanted to capitalize on the fact that the Hardy Boys books were incredibly popular with girl readers.

Stratemeyer initially wrote all the Rover Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and Tom Swift books himself, but wanted to publish more than feasibly possible for one person to produce. At that point he hired ghostwriters. He continued to author some of the stories, but was primarily responsible for creating the outline for each book and editing the final product.
I was fascinated to discover that for many decades libraries refused to carry any Syndicate books, considering them to “cause mental laziness, induce a fatal sluggishness, and intellectual torpor.” In fact, psychologist G. Stanley Hall wrote that “series books would ruin girls in particular by giving “false views…which will cloud her life with discontent in the future.”

Interesting viewpoint considering that many well-known women from Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush indicate the strong positive influence Nancy Drew had on them.
What childhood books influenced your life?


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Talkshow Thursday: USO

Hello! My name is Geneva Alexander, and I’m the main character in the new mystery series that Linda is writing. I wanted to introduce myself, and tell you a little bit about the United Service Organization (or USO – the name you’re probably more familiar with). I’ve just joined up, and I’m very excited to find out where I’ll be stationed.

The USO was founded in 1941 when President Roosevelt decided there needed to some sort of organization to provide morale and recreational services to the U.S. military personnel. He was elected honorary chairman. Six civilian organizations came together one umbrella: the Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, National Travelers Aid Association, and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

The first facility was built in Louisiana in 1941, but it wasn’t long before there were centers and clubs
around the world. The club was the place to go for dances, movies, music and social events as well as a quiet place to write a letter or get free coffee and doughnuts. The USO is probably more famous for providing Hollywood celebrities and volunteer entertainers to perform for the troops.

According to historian Paul Holsinger the USO did 293,738 performances between 1941 and 1945. There were 702 different troupes that toured the world. There was even a Liberty ship named SS U.S.O. that was launched in 1943.

USO work wasn’t as glamorous as it seemed. One entertainer wrote that “We’ve played to audiences, many of them ankle deep in mud, huddled under the ponchos in the pouring rain. We’ve played on uncovered stages, when we, as well as the audience, got rain-soaked. We’ve played with huge tropical bugs flying in our hair and faces…”

Despite the danger (twenty-eight performers died in the course of their tours), I’m looking forward to serving the troops as they fight the Axis powers. I hope you’ll follow along as I chronicle my experiences. Maybe I'll get to meet Bob Hope!



Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Traveling Tuesday: Old Man's Well

World War II is aptly named. Skirmishes and battles occurred literally all over the globe. At a time when most people didn’t leave their town, men and women went to countries they had never heard of.

Today we’ll be visiting Libya – a country in North Africa that is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Algeria to the west, Egypt to the East and Chad and Niger to the south. It is the fourth largest country in Africa (about the size of Alaska) and has been populated by Berbers since approximately 3,000 BC. Much of the country is dry in nature.

Between May 26 and June 21, a battle took place at Bir Hakeim, an oasis in the Libyan desert. The 1st Free French Brigade defended the area against the German and Italian forces commanded by General Rommel. It was a difficult battle, and both sides used it as propaganda. Churchill renamed the Free French as the Fighting French, and Hitler called the French the second best fighters after the Germans.

The fortress at Bir Hakeim (Old Man’s Well) had been built by the Ottomans and later used as a station by the Italians to control movement at the crossroads of two Bedouin paths. The wells had long gone dry and it had been abandoned.

The French ultimately lost the battle, but the delay influenced the cancellation of the planned German invasion of Malta. It also gave the retreating British time to reorganize and stop the German advance at the First of El Alamein.
The Paris metro station named Bir-Hakeim, and the bridge Pont de Bir-Hakeim are both named for the battle.