For a limited time, when you sign up for my Newsletter, I will send you a special gift. My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, created a 2022 Calendar with book covers from many of their recently published books. You just might find a new favorite author. My novel, A War Apart, is on the February page.
To me a spooky movie is not a scary movie or a horror movie. I can’t watch those. But I do enjoy something spooky. So in honor of Halloween and to continue my movie theme, I have chosen my favorite spooky movie to share with you. (No top five this time.)
The Uninvited (1944)
Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp and Gail Russell star in this spooky film mislabeled as a horror story. And no, it is not about World War II, though it was made during the war. You could say the setting plays a major character. An abandoned house built on the cliffs of Cornwall, England, overlooking the sea, provides an atmosphere filled with mystery and danger.
Milland and Hussey, brother and sister, purchase the house and learn it has a past. Soon after moving in, the two experience strange and frightening happenings such as unexpected chills and a woman sobbing in the night. Russell is drawn to the house where she lived as a child and where her mother died even though her grandfather has forbidden her to go there. To discover the identity of the sobbing woman Milland and Hussey hold a séance. As a result Russell becomes possessed by the spirt or ghost. At the end all is explained but it’s a dangerous journey to solve the mystery and reveal the truth.
Another spooky movie that I like is Rebecca (1940). It stars Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine and is directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Again, the house or mansion overlooking the sea sets the stage for mysterious goings-on. They call it a romantic psychological thriller. It is fascinating but it’s not quite as spooky as the ghost in The Uninvited.
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Although I tend to focus on the European Theater in WWII, the world war was fought all around the globe. One theater of war that tends to be forgotten was the “CBI” or China-Burma-India Theater. Not many movies were made about this theater. “Objective, Burma!” starring Errol Flynn is set in Burma and “Flying Tigers” starring John Wayne is set in China. These are good movies, but they aren’t my favorites. My list includes non-navy films set in Hawaii, The Philippines, Burma, and islands in the Pacific.
5. From Here to Eternity (1953)
Set in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, “From Here to Eternity” is an iconic film that everyone should see. The ensemble cast consists of Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Cliff, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed and Ernest Borgnine. There’s no way I could leave this one out of my top five.
4. Father Goose (1964)
Cary Grant (one of my favorites) plays a coast watcher alone on an island when Leslie Caron and a dozen young girls are stranded there. Grant and Caron clash as Grant has to take responsibility for a group of females. Although there are Japanese attacks on the island, this fun film could be called a Rom-Com. A very enjoyable movie.
3. Never So Few (1959)
You may not be familiar with this film, but it is one of my favorites. It stars Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen along with Paul Henreid, Gina Lolobridgeda, Peter Lawford, Charles Bronson and Dean Jones. Set in Burma, Sinatra leads a special operations group that joins with the locals to fight the Japanese. The fighting in the jungles of Burma may remind some of Vietnam.
2. They Were Expendable (1945)
Set in The Philippines when the Japanese invade right after Pearl Harbor, it stars John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed and Ward Bond. Wayne and Montgomery command torpedo boats who attack the Japanese as well as serve as messengers between the islands. Reed, a nurse and Wayne’s love interest, evacuates to Corregidor. As the Japanese take over the islands, the torpedo boats are ordered to transport General MacArthur and his family to a waiting submarine. As the title suggests, these men were expendable, left to fight a guerilla war alongside the locals.
1 Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)
Some of you may not be familiar with this film. I highly recommend that you find it and watch it. Filled with drama, action and poignant personal relationships, The movie stars Robert Mitchum as a stranded sailor who washes up on the beach of a South Pacific Island to find Deborah Kerr, a nun, its only inhabitant. Mitchum hides and protects Kerr when the Japanese occupy the island again. The movie is almost a love story except that Kerr remains loyal to her vows and Mitchum respects her decision as he sabotages the Japanese installation. Now I want to watch it again.
Movies, Movies, Movies! I’ve been on a movie kick lately, especially the old ones that I love. This month I’m talking about my top five favorite WWII Air Corps movies. Love those fly boys.
5. A Guy Named Joe (1943)
Starring Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne, and Van Johnson, in his first major role, this movie is romance within a romance with some flying and a ghost thrown in. Tracy, a B-25 bomber pilot, loves Dunne, an American flying with the British Air Transport Auxiliary. Tracy goes down with his plane after bombing a German ship. Then Tracy finds himself in heaven. A year later Tracy is sent to help a new pilot, played by Johnson, when he encounters a still grieving Dunn. Johnson and Dunne gradually fall in love (the second romance.) I’ll skip the exciting and danger-filled ending so you will have to find the movie and watch it for yourself.
4. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
Depicting the famous Doolittle raid in 1942 is an all-star cast with Van Johnson, Phillis Thaxter, Robert Walker, Robert Mitchum and Spencer Tracy as Doolittle. Asked to volunteer for a secret mission, the men train to take off on very short runways. When their B-25 bombers are loaded on an aircraft carrier they know why. At sea they learn that they will bomb Tokyo. Spotted by a Japanese ship the planes must take off early. When they drop bombs on Tokyo the Japanese are completely surprised. Running low on fuel the crews must ditch in China and hope to reach allies. Despite severe wounds, the Chinese manage to get them out to return home. It’s an exciting and heart-wrenching movie.
3. Memphis Belle (1990)
Based on a documentary made by William Wyler during WWII, Memphis Belle depicts the 25th bombing mission for the crew – the the first to reach the number of missions required to go home. Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, and Harry Connick, Jr., and several other young actors play the pilots and crew. The movie is an exciting, nail-biting ride depicting an actual bombing mission over Europe and what the men went through. Like I said earlier, love those flyboys.
2. The War Lover (1962)
In the War Lover Steve McQueen plays an arrogant bomber pilot who, when not flying, goes to London to party. Despite his antics and ignoring orders, McQueen is the best pilot in the squadron and trusted by his co-pilot played by Robert Wagner. The love interest is Shirley Ann Field who chooses Wagner over McQueen. Wagner becomes disillusioned by McQueen’s attitude and actions. After their falling out, McQueen tries to force his attentions on Field who rejects him. On a long bombing mission their bomber is shot up badly and crew members are wounded or killed. They limp back toward England. Over the channel McQueen orders everyone to bail out. Wagner waits for McQueen to jump. Instead McQueen pushes Wagner out of the bomber, then tries to fly back to base alone. He crashes into the white cliffs. A sad ending which depicts the stress on pilots and their belief in inevitable death.
1. Twelve O’clock High (1949)
The absolute best Air Corps movie ever made, bar none. Even WWII veterans say it is an accurate depiction of what a Group leader, played by Gregory Peck, went through. The cast includes Dean Jagger, who won the best supporting actor Oscar, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, and Millard Mitchell. Sent in to straighten out a poorly performing Group, Peck’s strict rules and abrupt manner have everyone requesting a transfer. Using delaying tactics, Peck whips the Group into shape and earns their respect by flying with them in the lead plane. Like his predecessor Peck becomes to involved with and attached to his men. The stress of leading so many to their deaths finally causes him to break. A great movie that everyone should see, even if you aren’t a WWII buff like me.
Do you have a favorite WWII Air Corps movie? Let me know in the comments.
Some of my favorite WW II films are set in the United States or on the “home-front.” These helped inspire me to write stories set on the “home front” as well as overseas. On the “home-front” almost everyone contributed to the war effort so there are many, many stories to be told. Here are my top five favorites in reverse order.
5. Saboteur (1942)
This Alfred Hitchcock thriller is a wartime, “home-front” movie as well as a romance. In the film Robert Cummings tries to clear his name by chasing down an arsonist only to become entangled with a spy ring trying to blow up Hoover Dam. Priscilla Lane and her uncle help him, and she becomes caught up in the action. Cummings suspects Norman Lloyd as the German spy. In New York the German sympathizers attempt to destroy a new battleship and are foiled by Cummings and Lane. They chase the spies through Radio City Music Hall. The climactic scene at the top of the Statue of Liberty is incredible, especially considering the technology of the time. Of course, Cummings and Lane get together in the end.
4. The Clock (1945)
This movie is definitely a wartime love story. Judy Garland accidently trips over Robert Walker’s foot in Pennsylvania Station. He’s on 48 hours leave before he has to ship out. He asks her out that evening, and they agree to meet under the Clock at the Astor Hotel. After dinner they end up spending the night delivering milk then have breakfast with the milkman and his wife. Garland and Walker become separated in a crowded subway and desperately try to find each other without knowing last names. Back at the train station they reunite and Walker asks Garland to marry him. They spend his last day of leave fighting red tape to get married before he leaves. Then they must say good-bye until he returns from the war. (Tear-jerker time)
3. The Human Comedy (1943)
Mickey Rooney stars as a teenager in a small town who delivers telegrams for Western Union. The poignant drama depicts the human side of war as Mickey delivers the news of a loved one lost in battle, while his own brother is serving overseas. A romance between his boss and a local girl stalls when he joins the military and leaves for service. Over time the whole town feels the effects of the war. This is my favorite Mickey Rooney movie.
2. Since You Went Away (1944)
Claudette Colbert’s husband leaves wife and daughters (Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple) to fight the war. Life quickly changes – from taking in a boarder to losing their cook to war work to Jones working in a hospital full of wounded soldiers to Jones falling for a soldier to Colbert learning to weld. The family evolves and grows and learns to cope with all the changes brought on by the war. I love the depiction of strong women on the “home-front” not only keeping life going but also contributing to the war effort.
1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Absolutely my favorite WWII movie. Three men, a soldier (Frederic March) a sailor (Harold Russell) and an airman (Dana Andrews) return home together and try to adjust to civilian life. There’s awkwardness between March, his wife (Myrna Loy), daughter (Teresa Wright) and teenage son and trouble returning to his banking job. Russell must adapt to life without his hands and decide whether to marry his long-time girl friend. Andrews struggles to find work while his war-time bride (Virginia Mayo) wants to party all the time. The film won several Oscars including Best Picture.
Some other “home-front” movies I recommend are: Miracle in the Rain, Tender Comrade and A League of Their Own.
I love old movies! Black and White or Color, doesn’t matter to me. And there are some old but excellent comedies set during WWII that I love. The Second World War is usually a very serious time yet some crazy things happened. I am certain that the men and women of the time couldn’t have survived without a little comedy. Even after the war, some situations were just too funny to ignore so film makers went to work.
I had a hard time narrowing the list to five, so….here are my top five, with a couple of ties.
#5 – Buck Privates with Abbott and Costello. Actually made in 1941 before the war started, it’s about two men who accidently enlist in the Army. They think they are signing up for prizes. If you’ve ever seen Abbott and Costello you know that their slap-stick comedy is hilarious, even now. They bumble their way through basic training including a great routine with the drill instructor. The cast includes the Andrews Sisters who sing several numbers including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” If you haven’t seen this one, it is an absolute must.
#4 (Tie) – The More The Merrier with Joel McCrea, Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn. Based on the shortage of hotel rooms and apartments in Washington, D.C., in 1943, Jean Arthur wants to rent out half of her apartment. Coburn, an older man, rents the room, then turns around and rents half of his room to a soldier waiting to ship out. Without telling Jean, of course. This is when the fun begins. At that time it was definitely improper for a young woman and a young man to share an apartment if they weren’t married so she tries to kick the soldier out. One thing leads to another hilarious situation. Definitely a Rom Com for those fans with a set up that could only have happened during the war.
#4 Tie) – To Be Or Not To Be with Jack Benny and Carol Lombard. 1942 dark comedy with Jack Benny impersonating Hitler. Can you imagine? Maybe you have to be a Jack Benny fan but his deadpan looks paired with Carol Lombard’s perfect comedic timing make this a truly funny movie. Not for everybody but I love it.
#3 – Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. As you can see from this list, I love Cary Grant comedies. Operation Petticoat (1959) is the story of a badly damaged WWII submarine that, after scrounging parts for repairs, rescues a group of nurses from a Pacific Island. Unable to get rid of the nurses and badly needing to put a primer coat of paint on the barely seaworthy vessel, they mix red and white primer and paint the submarine pink. Their intention was to cover it with gray but a Japanese air raid sends them to sea, still pink. Grant and Curtis play off each other perfectly. And the nurses add more comedy. You’ll love this colorful film as much as I do.
#2 (tie) – I was a Male War Bride with Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan. The title of this 1949 comedy explains it all. A French Army Captain marries an American female soldier (WAC) while both were stationed in Germany right after the war. Trying to comply with Army regulations for transporting War Brides to the U.S. proves almost impossible but love and comedy find a way. I love this movie. Even if you don’t like black and white you need to watch this one.
#2 (Tie) – Father Goose with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron. Still another Cary Grant comedy (1964). This time he is a coast watcher on a deserted Pacific island. A hermit with a radio until he rescues a French woman and seven young school girls. Stranded on the island together until the Navy can arrange to pick them up the situation turns hilarious. The fastidious French woman and the slovenly hermit have enough friction, then throw in curious and/or frightened young girls and the laughs multiply. Another for you who like color in your Rom Com’s.
#1 – Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda and Jack Lemmon with William Powell and James Cagney. My favorite of all. Made in 1955, this ensemble of characters are on a supply ship somewhere in the Pacific far from the actual fighting. Mister Roberts (Fonda) keeps requesting a transfer so he can get into the war, but the grouchy Captain (Cagney) refuses. The Captain takes out his frustration on Mister Roberts who tries his best to protect the bored and lonesome crew from their superior officer’s rants and quirks about his palm tree. Lemmon, who plays the Laundry and Morale Officer, avoids the captain at all costs while Powell the “Doc” provides solace to Roberts. After many antics Roberts gets his transfer from a grateful crew who forged the Captain’s signature. This movie has fun and drama. Bored men stuck on a ship in the pacific create their own brand of comedy.
Okay, so I cheated a little. I could have included these: Don’t Go Near the Water with Glenn Ford; No Time for Sergeants with Andy Griffith; Catch 22 with Alan Arkin; or Kelly’s Heroes with Clint Eastwood. Watch some old movies and have some fun.
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Film posters are used under the “fair use” doctrine to review the films and encourage the public to view the films.
The American Red Cross served so many needs during World War II. On the home front volunteers performed many of the tasks. Paid staff organized and supervised the activities but volunteers were the mainstay of the organization. At its peak in 1945 the Red Cross had over 36 million members and over 7.5 million volunteers, while paid staff peaked at just over 36,000. There were over 3,700 Red Cross Chapters spread across the country.
The Red Cross Canteen Corps set up on docks, in railroad stations, in airports, and on military posts to provide meals and snacks to military personnel while traveling or upon arrival at military bases. They also provided food to civilians at blood donor centers, child care centers and schools.
Home Care services assisted families of service members in many ways. One was assisting family members trying to communicate with their military loved one stationed overseas or at a distant base or helping service men and women communicate with family back home. This might be happy news, such as the birth of a baby. Or it might be notification of a death or serious illness in the family. In these cases, if necessary, the Red Cross would help the serviceman arrange leave and transportation to go home. Other services included financial assistance and counseling for military families.
The Red Cross in coastal cities assisted seamen who had been rescued at sea. These merchant marines were not in the military yet they were responsible for shipping millions of tons of supplies to the combat zones. Thousands of ships were sunk by our enemies leaving the rescued seamen far from their home ports. Also the Red Cross assisted evacuees from the war zones. Some, like the seamen, had been rescued at sea. Others arrived in this country with little more than the clothes on their backs. Red Cross volunteers provided food, temporary shelter and clothing while they got settled in the states. This service was similar to the Civilian War Relief provided by the Red Cross in war-torn countries around the world.
Prisoner of War relief included assembling, packing and shipping more than 27 million packages containing food and personal items to the International Red Cross who distributed them to 1.4 million American and Allied prisoners of war. Facilities set up in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, were manned by 13,500 Red Cross volunteers. These Red Cross parcels contributed to the survival of many prisoners of war in Germany where the Germans cooperated in distributing the packages. In my novel Kitty’s War, the prisoners received Red Cross parcels. Unfortunately, Japan did not work with the International Red Cross to provide packages to their prisoners.
Another interesting Red Cross service was helping the thousands of “War Brides.” During the war many American service men married women in the various countries where they were stationed. The Red Cross kept track of these “Brides” and when transportation became available gathered them at ports and accompanied them on the journey to America. Along the way the Red Cross arranged for food and housing, held classes to teach the foreign “Brides” about their new home and even escorted many of the young women and their children to their final destination.
In addition to all these things the Red Cross set up shelters for civilians in case our country had been attacked. As they do now, the Red Cross responded to a myriad of disasters, from fires and explosions to hurricanes and tornados. Finally, one of the most important achievements of the Red Cross during World War II was their fund raising. After an immensely successful fund raising drive in 1941-42, when they raised $66 million, President Roosevelt declared March 1943 as “Red Cross Month” with a goal of raising $125 million dollars. By June of 1943 $146 million had been raised. Roosevelt called it the “greatest single crusade of mercy in all of history.”
One of the missions of the Red Cross was to keep up the morale of the military. The Red Cross achieved this mission in numerous ways.
Overseas the Red Cross set up service clubs, some big and some small. Rainbow Corner Club, probably the most famous of these service clubs, occupied a building on Piccadilly Circus in London. It never closed and provided meals and recreation for service men and women. Overnight accommodations as well as barber shops and laundry facilities were also available in the bigger clubs. Anywhere American soldiers were stationed overseas a service club met their needs. In England Aeroclubs provided services to the many Eighth Air Force bases scattered across the English countryside. For the Navy there were Fleet Clubs. The Red Cross set up these clubs in the Pacific Theatre, too. All these clubs were manned by Red Cross “girls” and local civilians.
A new idea became reality when the Clubmobiles, converted busses or half-ton trucks, began driving the English backroads to reach American camps. Manned by three Red Cross girls and a driver the Clubmobiles provided real coffee and freshly-made doughnuts. Most were equipped with a record player and loud speaker to play a wide variety of popular records. The Clubmobiles were so successful they followed the troops onto the continent after D-Day.
All the Red Cross “Girls” who served overseas had to meet rigorous standards. These young women had to be at least 25 years old and college graduates. The intensive interview process essentially determined if the women had the right personality for the job. After passing physicals they went through extensive training in a short time which included, of course, learning to make doughnuts.
If you want to learn more about the Clubmobile girls, read “Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys” by James H. Madison who uses the letters and diary of Elizabeth Richardson. Richardson was a Red Cross Clubmobile hostess who served in England and Europe. She was killed in a military plane crash in France in July, 1945.
And there’s much more the Red Cross did during the war. I’ll cover the rest in my next post.
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While researching WWII, I kept seeing the American Red Cross involved in a number of areas so I decided to look at what the organization did during that time. I found so much that it will take more than one post to cover everything.
First, a bit of background. The American Red Cross was founded in 1905 and charged with providing “volunteer aid in time of war to the sick and wounded of the armed forces” and with providing communications between the people and the military. The ARC was also to provide relief from suffering “caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods and other great national calamities.”
That’s a tall order. And it encompasses a wide range of activities. In this first post I’m going focus on some of the Red Cross activities in the medical field.
Red Cross Nurses
The American Red Cross trained and certified nurses for service in the military beginning before the First World War. World War II created a shortage of trained nurses in the United States as civilian nurses joined the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. More were needed as the casualties increased, not only overseas but also in the numerous military hospitals established across the country. On the home front the nurses trained by the Red Cross filled the vacancies caused by military service and took on the medical care of civilians. Also Red Cross Volunteer Nurses Aides and Volunteer Dietitian Aides provided assistance to both military and civilian hospitals. Again, the Red Cross trained these volunteers.
Blood and Plasma
Even before the U.S. entered the war, the American Red Cross began to collect blood and process it into liquid plasma to send to England where the fighting and bombing had created a shortage. Under the direction of Dr. Charles Drew, the African-American blood specialist, that effort succeeded. After that the military asked the Red Cross to set up a Blood Donor Service to collect blood donations and process the blood into dried blood plasma that could be more easily stored and shipped overseas. Dr. Drew headed this up and before the Japanese attack in December 1941 blood donation centers had been set up across the country including a number of mobile units. The dried blood plasma saved many lives on the battlefield and the program served as a model for post-war civilian blood collection.
Gray Lady Corps, Recreation in Hospitals and Additional Supplies to Hospitals
Nurses weren’t the only Red Cross presence in military hospitals. The Gray Ladies were Red Cross volunteers who provided whatever services the wounded men needed. They might play a game of cards or write a letter home, they might run an errand or simply listen to a lonely soldier. The Gray Ladies organized ward parties, set up art exhibits or brought in theatrical performances to hospitals where men were recovering from wounds. The Red Cross set up local councils in the cities where hospitals were located to provide supplies not available through the military. Requests from the hospital went to these local councils who worked with local businesses to provide things like musical instruments, sports equipment, furniture, magazines and newspapers.
In my next novel Kitty’s brother Milton, who was wounded in Normandy, is recovering in a state-side Army hospital where he encounters nurses (many trained by the Red Cross) and Gray Ladies who help him and other soldiers. He also helps with obtaining sports equipment from local businesses for rehabilitating the wounded. In A War Apart after Guy was wounded the medics started an IV before his surgery, most likely from the blood plasma produced by the Red Cross. So you see, my research often included the Red Cross in some way.
My next post will continue with services provided by the Red Cross during World War II.
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Movies can inspire and get the creative juices flowing. That’s what Twelve O’clock High did for me, creating a fascination with the 8th Air Force and their part in winning World War II. It is one of my favorite WW II movies, even though there’s no love story. Never the less, parts of my novel, Kitty’s War, were inspired by the movie.
Made in 1949 and starring Gregory Peck, Twelve O’clock High tells the story of an American bomb group flying daylight raids over German occupied Europe early in the war. The characters depict the personal struggles of the pilots and crew who flew these dangerous missions day after day. After the war ended the need to bolster the home-front morale gave way to a need to understand what had happened during the war. Many of the films made in the late 40’s and in the 1950’s were more realistic about the human cost of war.
Twelve O’clock High showed the devastating effects of continuous losses on the morale of the airmen and their leaders. To get morale and performance back on track, General Savage (played by Gregory Peck) took command with such a strict attitude that the men hated him and the pilots all requested transfers. But Savage stalled the transfers because he knew they needed discipline to face the job they had to do. While pulling the outfit together Savage became so personally involved with the men and the missions that he eventually suffered battle fatigue.
In 1942, the American Air Corp bombed German held Europe in the daylight, something the British would not do because it was too dangerous. The RAF bombed at night. The Americans faced intense anti-aircraft fire as well as deadly attacks by German fighters. Neither the Americans nor the British had fighter planes that could fly as far as the bombers so the bombers had no protection from the German fighters except their onboard guns. Later in the war, the P-51 Mustang flew as fighter protection to the target and back.
Although nominated for Academy Awards, the film and Gregory Peck failed to win the coveted award. Dean Jagger won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Major Harvey Stovall, the Group Adjutant who helped Savage win over the men, as well as introducing and ending the film with his reminiscences.
If you love war movies filled with action and tension, then Twelve O’clock High fills the bill. It is truly entertaining and informative. If, like me, you enjoy a little romance mixed it, this may not be what you are looking for.
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