Saturday, August 22, 2009
Some of the best fiction comes from real life experiences. I grew up in Los Angeles during World War II. My father, a teacher, decided to "join up" and "do his duty." He served aboard the SS PETER SILVESTER in charge of the Naval Armed Guard.
On February 6, 1945 while traveling unescorted in the Indian Ocean, torpedoes struck the hull of the Liberty Ship.
Also on board were 317 mules bound for work on the Burma Road. In writing this book, I discovered a lot about myself, my family, the war years, and the enemy.
While the story is fiction, it is based on fact. All the events surrounding the sinking ot the Liberty ship are true. To the best of my ability, I've tried to be accurate in regards to the events before, during, and after the sinking. I've heard from some of the survivors and family members of survivors. I've read and reread the letters my father wrote home. I've sorted through books and previously classified information, and I've studied photographs and other memorabilia.
This book is centered on growing up at 10827 Woodbine Street in West Los Angeles during "the great war." People living in that house now would be surprised to know we had a vegetable garden in the backyard and chickens, too. Everyone did. It reflects a patriotic time when people did not lock their front doors, shared whatever they had from their backyard gardens, salvaged scraps, mended clothes instead of buying new, and looked out for their neighbors. It was a more innocent and trusting time. While we were suspicious of anyone of Japanese descent and careful not to disclose any secret information about ship departures, we trusted our families and close neighbors. We believed posters in shop windows depicting the enemies in cartoonish exaqgerations, and we listened to the discussions on the radio and watched with riveted attention to the newsreels shown in the local theater before the double feature.
My mother was German in a war against Germany. She idolized President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. The highlight of her life was when Mrs. Roosevelt came to dinner. My father was president of Harbor College at the time and the great lady had been invited to speak before the student hody. Somehow it was decided she would come to the house for dinner, and my mother made lemon merinque pie from scratch.
Events of the war years altered their lives and mine. I grew up during a time when all we wanted was to grow up. Teenagers did not have the power they have now and children had even less. We watched the adults in our lives, endured the air raids and searchlights, overheard snippets of news, and we waited and watched, fearful always.
Douglas Aircraft Factory had camouflage netting with fake trees over the buildings. There were gun emplacments in the bluffs along the coast. America was at war and war was on our minds night and day; our playtime consisted of collecting scraps, playing war, hating the enemy, and writing airmail letters on tissue thin paper.
We were a united front, Americans, and we did our patriotic duty. No one doubted our cause and our goal because we were the good guys.