My Favorite Tear-jerker Movies in WWII

Who doesn’t love a good tear-jerker? These dramatic movies draw you into the plot and, when something terrible happens, you can’t help but cry. During the 40’s lots of these emotional movies were made. The few listed here are ones that I’ve watched over and over.

5. The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)

This one is a real tear-jerker and maybe a little too sentimental. Starring Irene Dunn the film begins during WWII, with Nurse Dunn at a British hospital waiting for the wounded to be brought in. While she waits, in a flashback, she remembers coming to England in 1914, falling in love with an English Baronet and marrying him. World War I breaks out and the Baronet goes off to war. He is killed leaving Dunn and their baby son. When the boy grows up, he stubbornly follows in his father’s footsteps and joins the Army. I won’t give away the ending but as I said, it’s a real tear-jerker.

4. Arch of Triumph (1948)

I recently watched this one. I hadn’t seen for years. You may not have heard of it, but it is definitely worth watching. Set in Paris before the German invasion, Charles Boyer plays a doctor who is a refugee with no papers. He meets Ingrid Bergman on a rainy night and helps her find a place to stay. As the movie progresses they fall in love, but when the French deport Boyer, the impatient, flighty Bergman takes up with someone else. Boyer manages to return to Paris. He and Bergman go back and forth. And, of course, the tear-jerker ending. Boyer and Bergman give excellent performances and you’ll love the doorman.

3. Desire Me (1947)

Desire Me is another movie many have never heard of. Greer Garson plays a Parisian who fell in love with a fisherman from Britany played by Robert Mitchum. Garson remains in their cottage by the sea when Mitchum goes off to war. Captured, Mitchum spends much of the war in a German prison camp where he makes friends with the Robert Hart character. When Hart shows up at the cottage and tells Garson that he saw Mitchum killed, the news devastates Garson. Hart wants to stay and help. His uncanny knowledge of her, the cottage and the area, unsettles Garson but he explains that to stay sane in the camps Mitchum talked constantly about his wife and home. As a viewer you will sympathize with Garson, the loss of her love and the loneliness she has endured. Hart’s peculiar words and actions will have you wondering about him. I won’t spoil the ending. I’ll just say you’ll get caught up in the story and characters and you’ll have to watch to the very end.

2. I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)

In another unusual story set during WWII, Ginger Rogers plays a young woman who is serving a prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter. She’s allowed to come home for Christmas. On the train, she meets Joseph Cotton, a war veteran suffering from shell shock (what we call PTSD today). He likes her and decides to get off the train when she does. Rogers’ aunt invites the soldier over for a meal. Rogers keeps her convict status from him but her cousin, played by Shirley Temple, doesn’t like her and ends up telling her secret. The revelation spoils the budding relationship between Rogers and Cotton. Rogers fears no one will ever get past her convict status as she returns to prison only to find Cotton waiting for her. Sorry to give away the happy but poignant ending. I really love this movie because it shows how two damaged people can fall in love. I couldn’t find it available to watch anywhere. You might catch it on TCM one day. Watch it if you can.

1. Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Mrs. Miniver is my all time favorite WWII tear-jerker movie. In fact, it’s one of my favorite WWII movies ever. Set on the English home front, at the beginning of the war, Greer Garson portrays Mrs. Miniver, a beloved English housewife carrying on for her family as life changes due to the war. Walter Pigeon is Mr. Miniver, Richard Ney is their son in the RAF and Teresa Wright is their daughter-in-law. Village life in England during the war, with its cast of characters, makes a beautiful contrast to the bombings, the dangerous rescue at Dunkirk, and the threats of invasion. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve really missed out on a great one.

If, like me, you love romance with a dose of heartache, you will enjoy all of these movies. If you’ve read my books, you know that’s what I write and it’s what I read, too.

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Top WWII Prisoner of War Movies

Continuing with my favorite WWII movies, today I am listing my favorite WWII POW movies, in reverse order, of course. Actually, there are four movies and one TV series. There weren’t many POW films made, probably due to the difficult subject matter. These are, in my opinion, the best.

5. Unbroken (2014)

Unbroken is the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. After being shot down over the Pacific and floating in a lifeboat for weeks, the Japanese rescued Zamperini and took him to Japan as a prisoner of war. The Japanese defied the Geneva Convention by torturing prisoners and using them as slave labor. This movie depicts the brutality of the Japanese toward prisoners. Based on what I have read, the depiction of the B-24 crashing into the ocean accurately portrays the bomber breaking in half when it hit the water. I prefer the book because it covers much more of Zamperini’s life. Still, this movie is definitely worth watching.

4. Hogan’s Heroes (TV Series 1965-1971)

It seems unlikely to have a sitcom set in a German POW camp, yet I loved Hogan’s Heroes. Both funny and intelligent, the show depicted the antics of the prisoners and the incompetence of the German commander. My favorite character was Sergeant Schultz, the good-hearted guard whose famous line was “I know nothing.” I have always believed that the idea for Hogan’s Heroes came from the bits of comedy in the movie “Stalag 17,” on the list below.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Bridge_on_the_River_Kwai_(1958_US_poster_-Style_A).jpg#/media/File:The_Bridge_on_the_River_Kwai(1958_US_poster_-_Style_A).jpg Fair Use

3. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

In Bridge on the River Kwai, English POW’s were forced to build a railroad bridge in Burma by their Japanese captors. Alec Guinness, the English commander, insisted that the prisoners build a proper bridge as a moral builder. Others including William Holden’s character disagreed and preferred sabotage. The Japanese commander, desperate to complete the bridge, let Guinness take charge, realizing more got done than when he threatened and punished the prisoners. Holden escaped and then led a group back to destroy the bridge. Guinness was so proud of his bridge that he almost spoiled the plan. Bridge on the River Kwai has it all, action, intrigue, superb characters and a fascinating plot. Definitely a must see.

By Internet Movie Poster Awards., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7408622

2. Stalag 17 (1953)

Stalag 17, starring William Holden, depicts a German Prisoner of War camp where American airmen are being held. Holden played a cynical entrepreneur who spent his time organizing betting games, distilling alcohol and spying on the Russian women prisoners. The men suspected someone was spying for the Germans. They accused Holden. A new prisoner, who supposedly blew up a German munitions train, arrived. Eventually the spy was revealed and Holden became a hero when he helped the new prisoner escape. Conditions in the movie were not near as bad as the actual prison camps. Never the less, Stalag 17 is very entertaining. Holden received an Oscar for his performance. I definitely recommend this movie. It’s a classic.

1. The Great Escape (1963)

An exciting and entertaining movie, The Great Escape depicts a German Luftwaffe (Air Force) Prisoner of War camp. The Germans had separate POW camps for their Air Force, Army and Navy. The Luftwaffe also separated the officers from the enlisted men. In The Great Escape actors Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn and David McCallum portray prisoners who plan an escape, not of one or two prisoners, but of fifty to one hundred. In addition to escaping, the strategy was to keep German soldiers busy and away from the front. They dug three tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry to increase their odds of success. Steve McQueen’s character tried to escape several times with no luck. He was called the “Cooler King” because each time he tried to escape he was put in the “Cooler.” The POW leadership asked him to escape, find out all he can about the area surrounding the camp, then get caught and brought back. That’s when the famous scene where McQueen jumps the motorcycle happens. The Great Escape is a great movie that I’ve watched several times. It’s one of my favorite WWII movies. If you haven’t seen it, you should make a point to watch this one.

I am an old movie buff as you can tell from my “lists”. I hope you are enjoying these posts and that you have found some excellent movies to watch.

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My Top Five WWII Navy Movies

Continuing with my WWII movie theme, here are my favorite Navy movies, (that is movies about the Navy on the water, not on land). Most of these are set in the Pacific Theatre because that’s where the larger naval battles took place fighting the Japanese. In the Atlantic, the U.S. Navy mostly fought the German U-boats attacking convoys headed for England.

5. The Enemy Below (1957)

Staring Robert Mitchum as Captain of an American destroyer escorting an Atlantic convoy and Curt Jurgens Captain of a German U-Boat. It’s a cat and mouse chase where the American Captain goes after the German Captain each gaining respect for the other. You’ll have to watch it to see how it ends. I’ll just say the end is exactly what you would expect – one sinks the other, but there’s more to it which makes the whole movie worthwhile.

4. Operation Pacific (1951)

John Wayne, Patricia Neal and Ward Bond star in the story of a submarine in the South Pacific dealing with torpedo’s that don’t explode when fired. After two encounters with the Japanese when their torpedo’s fail, the last ending in the death of the captain, Ward Bond, Executive Officer Wayne searches for a solution. My favorite aspect of this movie is the rekindled romance between Wayne and his ex-wife Patricia Neal, a Navy Nurse. There’s plenty of action to see in this movie, but the romance makes it one of my favorites.

3. PT-109 (1963)

The story of Pres. John Kennedy’s heroic actions during WWII. The film, made during Kennedy’s presidency, stars Cliff Robertson as Kennedy, Ty Hardin, Robert Culp, Robert Blake, and Norman Fell. After their small PT boat is rammed by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy rescues a wounded crew member by swimming him ashore. He leads the crew on another dangerous swim before they are finally rescued after many days stranded on an island. Kennedy is a favorite of mine and this true story proves he was a real hero.

2. Midway (1976)

The 1942 Battle of Midway Island proves to be turning point in the Pacific. An impressive cast, including Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, and Robert Wagner, depicts this epic battle at sea. This excellent war movie is one you should not miss.

1. In Harms Way (1965)

This epic naval war movie stars John Wayne, Patricia Neal, Kirk Douglas, and many more. The action starts on Dec. 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor where Wayne, a determined Naval officer escapes with a small group of ships. Relieved from duty and put on a desk, he wants to get back in the fight. Again, the romance between Wayne and Patricia Neal, Navy Nurse. Other complications include Wayne meeting his estranged son, now in the Navy; the son’s romance; and Douglas’ drunken violence. Wayne gets himself reassigned to lead an important operation and the naval battles begin. As you can guess, I like the romance angle in this movie. It’s plot is complicated by complex characters, each with their own baggage. The acting is superb, as is the action, weaving an excellent movie I could watch over and over.

My Top Five Pacific & Asia WWII Movies

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.

My Top Five WWII Air Corps Movies

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.

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My Top Five WWII Home-Front Movies

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.

Twelve O’clock High – The Movie

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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Christmas Movies from the 1940’s

It’s probably no surprise to those who follow this blog that my favorite Christmas movies were made in the 1940’s. Some are known by everyone and others are less familiar to anyone who’s not an old movie buff like me.

Everyone has seen Holiday Inn. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a feel good musical where Broadway performers open an inn in Connecticut with a holiday theme. They put on special musical shows on various holidays while the main characters lead complicated love lives. The 1942 film introduced the famous Christmas song by Bing Crosby “White Christmas.”

Another fun Christmas movie, Christmas in Connecticut, stars Barbara Stanwick as a writer for a home magazine who pretends to be a great cook and homemaker with a husband and baby. When her publisher invites himself to spend Christmas with her at her Connecticut farm, Stanwick must scramble to create her fictional image. To complicate things further the publisher invites a soldier recovering from wounds to join them at the farm. Released in 1945 this film is still a joy to watch with characters like Sidney Greenstreet, Dennis Morgan and SZ Sakall adding to the fun.

For something a little different try 3 Godfathers from 1948. A lesser known John Wayne western tells the story of three outlaws on the run who come across a woman stranded in the desert having a baby. The three are named as the baby’s Godfathers by its dying mother and must get the child to safety in New Jerusalem. You guessed it. It’s Christmas time. This heart-wrenching tale is well worth your time.

Other favorites of mine include The Bishop’s Wife (1947) with Cary Grant as an angel sent to help David Niven, a troubled Bishop, and his wife, Loretta Young. Or watch the feel-good It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) where a good-natured bum sneaks into a New York mansion closed up for the winter, then invites friends including ex-servicemen, who can’t find housing for their families, to stay in the house with him. High-jinx ensue. Holiday Affair, from 1949, is a Christmas love story between Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. In The Shop Around the Corner, released in 1940, two co-workers correspond with a pen pal, not knowing they are writing to each other. The fun romance between Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan inspired the later movie You’ve Got Mail. A little known but touching Christmas movie is I’ll Be Seeing You from 1944. It stars Ginger Rogers, on a furlough from prison, and Joseph Cotton, a soldier on leave from a military hospital suffering from shell shock. They spend Christmas together trying to be normal and not let the other know of their problems.

My absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. The first film Stewart made after his service in the 8th Air Force in World War II depicts a man in a small town who always wanted to go places and do things. Instead he’s stuck running his family business. When financial troubles arise, Stewart’s character wishes he’d never been born. That’s when an angel-in-training is sent to help him. The angel shows him what the town would have been like without him and Stewart realizes what a wonderful life he’s had. Many scenes in the 1946 film show Stewart’s real anguish as he deals with what we now call PTSD. This film is guaranteed to warm your heart and make you appreciate your life.

Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season by staying home and watching old movies

Our Mothers’ War by Emily Yellin

I am always interested in women’s experiences during World War II so I was excited when I found the book “Our Mothers’ War” by Emily Yellin. This book turned out to be the best and most comprehensive book I’ve read on all aspects of women’s participation in helping to win the Second World War.

Yellin covered all the roles we normally think about – from wives and mothers waiting at home to defense workers doing their bit to women in the military. She also included other roles we often forget – like politicians, spies, prostitutes and many more.

In my first novel, Kitty’s War, my heroine joined the Women’s Army Corps and served in England and France. My next novel, A War Apart, which will be available later this year, the heroine worked in a ship yard and then a secret defense plant. In my third novel, the heroine is an Army Nurse. As you can see, I have covered several roles women took on during the war. What others will I choose?

“Our Mother’s War” has given me some ideas for future characters. Examples might include women who worked for the Red Cross, which offered many opportunities. Women worked in canteens providing companionship and dancing partners as well as food and drink. Others volunteered in hospitals helping with the wounded. The Red Cross sent packages to American prisoners of war as well as to soldiers and refugees. Women put these packages together, much like the workers in food banks today. Red Cross workers could volunteer to go overseas where they set up clubs on American bases overseas. Others worked in “club mobiles” which were vehicles equipped to make coffee and donuts and to play American records to troops close to the battlefield.

Another possibility might be a young woman working on her family farm while most of the men were off in the military. In her book, Yellin points out that the United States had their own Women’s Land Army. We’ve heard of the English version, but I didn’t know about the American one until I read Yellin’s book. Women made a sizable dent in the labor shortage on the farm.

You’ve probably seen the movie “A League of their Own.” That’s another way women contributed to the war effort. When men’s baseball couldn’t field a team, women stepped up in parts of the country to provide that athletic entertainment. And speaking of entertainment, women did everything from movies to radio broadcasts to all-girl bands to entertaining the troops in USO shows.

Women were also used as spies both in the United States and abroad. Women were dropped behind enemy lines to help resistance forces. Many others served in the government in various capacities from Congresswomen to code breakers to linguists.

The more we look the more roles we find that women took on. In my writing I lean toward the ordinary women who did extraordinary things, yet remained out of the spotlight. Almost every woman in the country did something to help the war effort.

Communications With Loved Ones During WWII

In today’s age of technology we have a variety of ways to instantly communicate with our loved ones, even those who are serving overseas in the military. We have cell phones that allow us to communicate by phone call, by text, by social media apps like Instant Messenger, Snap Chat or Instagram. We can even communicate face to face using programs like Skype.

Not so during World War II. In the 1940’s the most used form of communication was the letter. Yes. Actual hand-written, paper letters. Many a romance blossomed through letters written over the long months and years of separation.

The telephone did exist, but long-distance telephone calls were expensive. You couldn’t dial the number and have your loved one answer, not if you were calling someone out of town. You had to get a long-distance operator and have her place your call. Yes, I said “her” because all the telephone operators were women. This wasn’t a wartime thing. Women were always used for telephone operators.

It would have been rare and extremely expensive to place an overseas telephone call during the war, although these were possible due to the undersea cables. But they were very limited. Roosevelt may have called Churchill in England but the average person could not call up their son stationed over there.

Another mode of communication used in the 1940’s was the telegram. Western Union operated telegraph offices in practically every town in America. If someone wanted to send an urgent message to a loved one far away, say a son stationed at a military base in another state, then they would go to the Western Union office and send a telegram. Western Union employed delivery boys or girls or older men to deliver telegrams from the telegraph office to the addressee’s home or office. Mickey Rooney earned an Academy Award Nomination for his role as a telegraph delivery boy in The Human Comedy. It is a little known film well worth watching.

Although telegrams could deliver joyful news, like the birth of a baby or a loved-one’s pending arrival, telegrams often conveyed bad news, like a death, so many people dreaded receiving one. The U. S. Government used telegrams to notify families when a soldier was killed, wounded or missing in action.

Telegrams and telephone calls weren’t instantaneous but, for the time, they were quick forms of communication. On the other hand, letters could take anywhere from days to weeks to reach their destination. Mail sent to soldiers or sailors overseas might take two weeks each way. And they might not arrive in the order they were sent. Pretty hard to carry on a conversation at that rate. And if the mail bag was blown up or sunk the letter never got to its intended recipient.

The military devised a method to both speed up the mail and to cut down on the bulky shipments. They called it V-mail or Victory Mail. The person at either end would write their letter on a special, V-mail form. After mailing the V-mail form would be photographed and put on microfilm. The microfilm would be transported overseas, to Europe or Australia or wherever, and at the other end the microfilm would be printed. This printed “V-mail letter” would then be delivered to the addressee.

So be glad you live in this modern age of instant communication. Or maybe not. Back during World War II when you wrote a letter you had to think about what you were going to say, weigh the words your loved on would read far away on some battlefield or home worrying about you. The letters were often saved and cherished for years, especially love letters from someone special far away.

My mother saved a box of letters my father wrote to her during World War II. Reading them not only told me about the events of the time but also gave me insight into who my parents were as young people, their thoughts and feelings. It’s the kind of thing this current generation won’t have thanks to our various technological modes of communication.