Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trivia Uncovered When Doing Research for Writing

I’m currently writing the biography of a World War 2 veteran. When he tells me stories of his experiences fighting the Germans, in a prisoner of war camp, behind Russian lines when liberated from the camp, and back to the American lines, I research the times and parallel events in history. After the war when he was in Paris, he bought Lifebuoy soap at the PX, He later went to a park and sold soap and cigarettes to get spending money.

In researching this, I came across a story about Lifebuoy soap. During the 1920s, an outfield wall advertisement for Lifebuoy at the Philadelphia Phillies stadium stated, "The Phillies use Lifebuoy." One night a vandal added to the ad, "And they still stink."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

More World War 2 Trivia

In writing about an infantryman who was captured by the Germans during World War 2 and put in a prisoner-of-war camp, I’ve learned some interesting facts. He was in Stalag IV-B in eastern Germany. This camp had prisoners from many countries, and he was with other English-speaking prisoners in one section of the camp. The British had been there the longest, starting to arrive after being captured in North Africa. One of the self-governed forms of punishment among these prisoners entailed having a violator be “put in Coventry.”

This saying comes from approximately 1648 when Cromwell sent some Royalist soldiers to be imprisoned in the town of Coventry. The local parliamentary supporters shunned them.

In Stalag IV-B, the British used this same form of shunning to punish a prisoner who had disobeyed rules, such as stealing from other prisoners. It proved very effective. To be further isolated without communication from your fellow prisoners served the person of enforcing discipline.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

World War 2 Trivia Continued

In my current writing project, the first nonfiction book I’ve written, I’ve been learning about World War 2. This was my parents generation, and I had heard interesting stories before but not to the extent as I have from the veteran I’m interviewing who was also a prisoner of war and liberated by the Russians. Here are a few pieces of trivia I’ll share.

There are numerous definitions of the acronym GI including “Government Issue,” “General Infantry,” or “Galvanized Iron,” since it at one time referred to equipment made from galvanized iron.

To provide logistics support for the Allied army, the Red Ball Express became a twenty-four hours a day supply line of trucks. The system operated from August 25 to November 16, 1944, when the port facility at Antwerp, Belgium, reopened. The name comes from the red balls that marked the routes for these trucks (and not civilian vehicles) and the red balls on the trucks themselves.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

World War 2 Trivia

I’m currently writing the biography of a World War 2 veteran who was captured by the Germans and liberated by the Russians. He has many fascinating stories about his war and post-war experiences. He is also an amateur historian and has taught me many things about the World War 2 era.
Here’s one I didn’t know before. After the Normandy landing, the American troops had a problem getting through the German hedgerows. The Sherman tanks couldn’t destroy the hedgerows and became vulnerable when their weak underbellies were exposed in trying to mount the hedgerows. An American sergeant came up with the idea to turn the Sherman tanks into bulldozers by welding scrap iron blades on the front of the tanks. Using leftover metal from the German defenses against landing craft, the modified tanks nicknamed “rhinoceros” tore through the hedgerows.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Promise of the New Year

This is a time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead. 2013 was a year of ups and downs, both personally and in the world. My downer was a heart attack in September, but the upside is that I’ve bounced back with no permanent damage to my heart. Other than that, our family stayed healthy. On the writing front, I had  three new novels published: the fifth book in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series, Care Homes Are Murder; and two paranormal mysteries, The V V Agency and The Back Wing.

Looking ahead, we have visits to our kids and grandkids in California in February and the rest of our family in Iowa in March. The sixth book in my series, Nursing Homes Are Murder, will appear in May, and I’ve signed a contract for a new novel titled, The Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse.

I wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year!