Wednesday, February 10, 2016

B-29: The Ultimate Bomber?

Wartime Wednesday: B-29: The Ultimate Bomber?

Retired now, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress was a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber flown primarily by the United States during World War II and the Korean War. The Boeing website indicates the plane was one of the largest aircraft operational during World War II and very advanced for its time. Its guns could be fired by remote control, and two crew areas, fore and aft, were pressurized and connected by a long tube over the bomb bays, allowing crew members to crawl between them. The tail gunner had a separate pressurized area that could only be entered or left at altitudes that did not require pressurization.
The Boeing site also reports that the earliest B-29s were built before testing was finished, so the Army established modification centers where last-minute changes could be made without slowing expanding assembly lines. Those associated with the B-29s were well aware of the lack of testing conducted on the planes.
In World War II Remembered, intelligence officer John M. Jenkins says “The veteran pilots distrusted and feared the B-29s. With good reason. The planes had several engine problems that could lead to sudden fires and, all too often, to the crash of the planes. A few times I arrived at the airfield to find a huge crashed plane on fire at the end of the runway. Sometimes the crews escaped. Sometimes they did not. The problems were not entirely resolved before the planes departed for Asia in the spring of 1944.”
It is these kind of stories and impressions that are often missing from official reports, and why projects that capture the memories of “The Greatest Generation” are so important.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mystery Monday: Vera Caspary and Laura

The 1944 movie “Laura” was based on the book by the same name authored by Vera Caspary. The movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1999. It was named one of the ten best mystery films of all time by the American Film Institute, and Roger Ebert included it in his “Great Movies” series.

However, according to Wikipedia, Vera didn’t consider herself a "real" mystery writer. She began her career as a copy editor in an advertising agency then eventually moved into journalism then playwriting.

 An article in The New Yorker claims that the writing of “Laura” was a kind of accident, done for money. The writer indicates Caspary did not like murder mysteries herself, and she saw in them a structural flaw. “The murderer, the most interesting character,” Caspary wrote, “has always to be on the periphery of action lest he give away the secret that can be revealed only in the final pages.” If she was going to write one, she decided she needed to do it differently.

And different it is.

Detective Mark McPherson investigates the murder of Madison Avenue advertising executive Laura Hunt in her fashionable apartment. The detective reads her diaries and letters, and interviews her friends, eventually becoming obsessed with the Laura. When she returns from a trip, the police realize the victim is one of the advertising agency models. This casts suspicion on Laura who denies any knowledge of the murder.

The film was nominated for five Academy awards, and won for “Best Black and White Cinematography.”

Vera continued to write publishing nearly twenty novels after “Laura.” A fascinating aside about Vera’s writing surrounds the claim she made in her memoir that she rewrote and resold the exact plot of her story Thicker than Water eight times over her career. Who says formulaic writing doesn’t work?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Selah Saturday: But God

Selah Saturday: But God

I wrote this devotional for the ABC-VT/NH online newsletter. I'm reprinting it here for followers of my blog.

We all have favorite passages in the Bible. Perhaps you love the 23rd Psalm, Mary’s Magnificat, John 3:16 or Paul’s writings about the Fruits of the Spirit. As much as I treasure those verses, the words I cherish most in the Scriptures are “but God.”
The phrase occurs numerous times throughout the Bible. A situation is going a particular direction, and then God intervenes, often quite dramatically.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish now what is being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph is speaking to his brothers who came to Egypt for help during the famine. Even though Joseph had been wronged by his brothers, God used the incident as part of his plan to save the Israelites.
But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.” (Acts 7:5) Have you ever received a promise from God that you thought was absolutely outrageous? Abraham must have felt that way when God gave him this promise – yet it was fulfilled when Abraham least expected it.
"You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:14-15) If not for the fact that God resurrected Jesus, none of us would have a personal relationship with him. Because of our faith in a risen Savior, we are saved from death and destruction. 
Try to remember that it doesn't matter if we are being opposed or threatened, or waiting an interminable time for something to happen, or it seems that the task ahead is insurmountable, we can rest in the words "but God." 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Terri Wangard

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Terri Wangard

I am very excited to introduce you to debut author Terri Wangard. Terri has won numerous contests, and her first novel Friends and Enemies came out on January 5, 2016. It is a fascinating story with characters who will stay with you long after you've turned the last page. You can pick it up on Amazon.

LM: Terri, you've been writing for a while! Your website indicates your first Girl
Scout Badge was the Writer. When did you realize you wanted to write
Christian fiction?

TW: I read a lot of the early Christian romances that came out in the 80s. Many seemed so similar, like they were written according to a formula. I decided to see how I could do. My first manuscript was with Heartsong for a year in the early 2000s before they said, “No thanks.”
LM: How did you get interested in WWII?

TW: The first Christian WWII stories I read were in Davis Bunn’s Rhineland Inheritance series. Loved them! I also enjoyed Michael Phillips’ Secret of the Rose series and Judith Pella’s Daughters of Fortune series.

LM: I loved those books. Where did you get the idea for your story?

TW: When I decided to write again in 2008, I thought of those WWII books. MyFriends and Enemies. I used what I gleaned from the letters: they lived in Hagen, owned a factory that made heating and air conditioning apparatus, the ancestral town of Bickenbach, and a brother who was a POW in Russia.

LM: Are any of your characters based on real people?
grandparents had been sending care packages to distant cousins in Germany, and a series of postwar letters from them gave me the idea for

TW: The letters came from a brother and sister. He and his wife had three children, one son and two daughters. I used that family, but made the children older. The sister and her husband spent three years in Canada in the mid-30s. That allowed my family to spend three years in Milwaukee. I gave them a stronger reason for returning to Nazi Germany; his father died and he had to take over the business. In real life, the couple returned because she was homesick. An editor said that wasn’t believable that they would go to a worsening police state for such a flimsy reason.
LM: The age old question about writers - are you a plotter or a pantster?

TW: Mostly pantster. I’ve been trying to start out with better plotting, but then I reach a point and just start writing. A fully plotted outline would have helped with my current work in progress due to the interruptions as I edit the books in my series now being published or work on promotion.
LM: I was intriqued to hear that part of your research included flying in a B-17. Tell us about that.

TW: I was the only woman in the group. Two of the men were WWII veterans who flew on B-17s. My biggest impression was the noise. In TV or movies you see the men casually talking to each other without headphones. Forget it. I couldn’t hear someone who stood right in front of me. The second impression was how cramped those planes are. To get into the navigator’s compartment in the nose, you have to crawl in. I banged my head. The airmen must have suffered lots of bruises to their heads, shins, arms, everywhere. I went home and changed my manuscripts to reflect the true nature of flying in B-17s.
LM: What an amazing experience! Besides writing, what other passions do you have?

TW: Sea shells. I love going to the beach, particularly Florida’s Gulf Coast, and searching for shells. I’ve done a bit of craft work with them. I used to do a lot of cross stitch, but in my pre-bi-focal days, I had to give it up. Now I could manage again if I had the time, or more wall space to hang my “masterpieces.”
LM: You've got two more books coming out this year - what are you working on

TW: It’s another WWII story about a sailor, his Rosie the Riveter wife, her WAC sister, and a grasshopper pilot.
LM: Anything else you want folks to know about you?

TW: Since I don’t have a family of my own, I’ve been sponsoring children for years through Compassion International. Presently I have three girls in Central and South America. And one former sponsored child is now a Facebook friend. I wholeheartedly recommend Compassion.

LM: Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing a bit about your yourself and your books. I look forward to your next release in May! To find out more about Terri and her stories visit her website.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: Picatinny Arsenal

Traveling Tuesday: Picatinny Arsenal

A thirty minute drive from the house in New Jersey where I grew up is the Picatinny Arsenal, originally called the Dover Powder Depot when it was established on September 6, 1880. (Factoid: Four days later, the arsenal was renamed Picatinny Powder Depot. Makes me wonder why it wasn’t called that immediately – must be some kind of story there!)

Before the Civil War most of the powder facilities were located in the South, and hence confiscated by the Confederate Army at the beginning of the war. At the conclusion of the war, the U.S. Army searched for a more centralized location and settled on Morris County, NJ. In 1907 a manufacturing plant was constructed to produce gunpowder and heavy munitions. Around 1911, a school was started that instructed officers in weaponry sciences. Testing laboratories were added during WWI and by 1919 a small facility was constructed for research and development. By 1921, the arsenal was experimenting on fuzes.

With the advent of WWII, research was set aside when the facility was converted to a large-caliber-round loading plant. At its height, the location ran three shifts and employed over 18,000 people. Today, covering ten square miles, the arsenal develops new technologies for all the U.S. Armed Forces and builds various munition, weapons and armor systems. According to the Arsenal’s website there are 1,000 permanent structures including sixty-four laboratories. More than 5,000 civilians, 1,000 contractors and 160 military personnel are employed there.
Check out the arsenal’s Facebook page for more information.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Forensic Friday: Human Memory and Eyewitness Testimony

I manage the dining hall at a boarding school that has nearly 400 students. Periodically, we have issues with the kids not taking their soiled dishes to the dish room or other such minor infractions. We have one young man who is a chronic offender, and he tends to sit at the same table for each of his meals. A couple of weeks ago, one of my staff discovered that “his” table had been left particularly messy after lunch. In order to confirm which student was responsible I had her look through the pictorial directory to identify who had been sitting there. She selected this young man.

There was only one problem. He hadn’t been at school that day.

So much for eyewitness testimony.

Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a forensic anthropologist, and an instructor at College of Mount St. Joseph, has  issued two video courses about forensics through The Teaching Company. Here is a paraphrase of what she says about human memory:

·         Memory is not a video recorder, where everything is seen in the mind’s eye objectively and exactly as it happened. A memory is more of an impression of an event.

·         Depending on our past experience, our brains put different things we’ve experienced into different categories for future recall. When an event occurs that fits one of our schema, our brain pulls out all of the bits of that schema to process the new information and the overlap can mix things up a bit.

·         There are two stages of memory: 1) short-term memory involves the information our brain doesn’t process for future recall because it’s seen an unimportant, and 2) long-term or permanent memory where information is seen as important and therefore stored for future recall.

The key to whether or not we remember an event or person depends on how our brain dealt with the relevant information at the time of the event, and there are many variables that affect this processing such as our beliefs, motives, stress, stereotypes, and environmental factors. In addition, studies have shown that some faces are easier to remember than others. Also, some people are simply better with faces than others. You might not be surprised to discover that the amount of time between the event and when it’s recalled affects the way something is remembered.

Currently, the federal standard for eyewitness testimony in court is that if a witness is very sure of his or her testimony, it is admissible in court. If there is any amount of uncertainty, it’s up to the judge to decide whether it’s allowed or not.

However, studies have shown that the degree of certainty of a witness doesn’t necessarily correlate with the reliability of his or her testimony!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: Conscientious Objectors

As long as there have been wars, there have been people who objected to them. Some for religious beliefs, others on moral grounds. These folks eventually became known as Conscientious Objectors (COs). Until World War II, the government dealings with COs were ambiguous and inconsistent, but typically harsh.

According to, the World War I draft law recognized the peace churches {those churches such as Quaker, Brethren, and Mennonite, that historically took a stand against war}, but prosecuted anyone else who objected on the basis of their own beliefs. Five hundred objectors were court-martialed – seventeen received death sentences for refusing to fight. Although none of death sentences was carried out, almost 150 objectors were jailed for life, and others were harassed and beaten.

As the U.S. moved closer to entering World War II, Congress, for the first time in history, recognized "CO Status" as a legitimate moral stand. Under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, objectors had two choices — they could go into the military but serve in the medical corps or other non-combat duties, or they were required to do "alternative service" here at home that was "work of national importance."

Of the 34.5 million men who registered for the draft, 72,354 applied for conscientious objector status,  25,000 of whom served in non-combatant roles and 27,000 who were exempted because of their failure to pass the physical exam. There were over 6,000 men who rejected the draft outright and chose to go to jail instead of serving the war effort. And then there were 12,000 men who chose to perform alternative service. Their work was supervised by the Civilian Public Service (CPS) program.

The CPS program called for work camps to be established for assignees to labor in soil conservation or forestry projects. Initially, men dug irrigation ditches, planted ground cover, and built dams and irrigation system. Others served as fire lookouts and smoke jumpers. As the war progressed the program’s opportunities expanded to include dairy and farm labor and mental hospital attendants. Others volunteered to be test subjects in scientific experiments administered by the federal government. Known as “Guinea Pig Units” these programs studied the effects of starvation, climate, hydration, disease, and other issues.

One of the most controversial aspects of CPS was that the assignees served without pay. This was a decision undertaken early in the negotiations for CPS by the Selective Service as they feared the program would not be approved if men received a wage. This proved to be an increasing source of frustration for many of the men and their families as the men received no allotment for dependent care either, leaving many of their families in a difficult economic situation.

Many COs struggled with their decision:

“Alone, I did not know any other conscientious objectors in my community. I don’t think there were any others. I was a na├»ve young man, and I thought to myself, ‘What if I’m wrong and all these millions of other men are right? What if I’m wrong about conscientious objection?’ So in that respect I compromised and agreed to be drafted into the military, as long as I wasn’t required to bear arms." (K. Roy Bailey, Schuyler Rural school teacher who later served as a U.S. Army medic in the Pacific theater.)

"At that time, I registered as a conscientious objector...well, my background was Mennonite. We were in a Mennonite community, and it's one of the 'peace churches.' It was our way of saying we don't agree with violence. We would rather got to work for several years doing alternate service. Well, there was some problem with it. And there would be again today. Probably not as much as there was at that time. But it was considered as being non-patriotic. That was not the case, but it was perceived as such. We were very patriotic people." (Anonymous Mennonite).

What do you think?