World War 2 History: Sobibor

Author’s Note:  My first book:  Long Way Home: A World War II Novel has made me an interested researcher about the Great War.   From time to time, I stumble across information about this global event which I will share on this blog.

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In October 1943 the prisoners of Sobibor death camp in Poland planned and carried out a revolt against their Nazi captors.  It was the most successful escape from a concentration camp. 

 

 References

The Times of Israel.  “70 years after revolt, Sobibor Secrets are Yet to be Unearthed.” http://www.timesofisrael.com/70-years-after-revolt-sobibor-secrets-are-yet-to-be-unearthed/

Blatt, Thomas Toivi. From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1997.

Caplan, Richelle Budd. “Escape under Fire: The Sobibor Uprising.” 2004. Yad Vashem On-line Magazine. Yad Vashem The Holocaust

Piccirillo, Ryan. “The Sobibor Revolt: ‘Death to the Fascists’. http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/285/the-sobibor-revolt-death-to-the-fascists

Long Way Home


 

It is 1943 and America’s involvement in World War II is at its heights.  The paths of two young dreamers cross on a segregated army base near Tucson, Arizona where they fall in love, fight personal battles and complete their journeys of self discovery.

Book Cover

Nearly one million black soldiers served in WWII and most never faced combat.             Long Way Home imagines the daily lives of these men and women, far away from the front lines, whose struggles and triumphs paved the way for America’s civil rights movement.

Available in the Kindle Bookstore.

Introducing: Private First Class, Georgette Newton (Part 1)

One of the two, key protagonists in my novel Long Way Home:  A World War II Novel (formerly Home Front) is Georgette Lillian Newton a twenty-one year old, North Carolina farm girl who leaves home to become one of only about 6,000 African American members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACS).

Maj. Charity E. Adams and Cpt. Abbie N. Campbell inspect women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first Negro WAACS to be sent overseas

The WAACS played an integral and successful role in America’s military presence during World War II but the path to their involvement was a bumpy one.  Public opinion about female soldiers was initially negative and the initial bill authorizing the WAACS failed in Congress.  It was not until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 that American military leadership saw the wisdom of adding new personnel to the war effort.

The law activating the WAACS was passed in May 1942 “for the purpose of making available to the national defense the knowledge, skill, and special training of the women of the nation.”  A recruitment goal of 25,000 was established but enrollment quickly eclipsed that goal and a final ceiling of 150,000 was authorized by Secretary of the War Henry L. Stimson. 

The first Director of the WAACS (later shortened to WACS when the corps traded its auxiliary status for a permanent one) was Oveta Culp Hobby, a former War Department employee who advocated for the WAAC Bill.  Hobby’s general idea for the WAACS was that they be trained as non-combatants to take on positions that would free a male soldier for battle.

July 20, 1942, 440 women began officer candidate training at Fort Des Moines (over 35,000 women applied for the training).  The four-week basic training of the first auxiliaries (enlisted women) began in August.   Note: Forty black women trained as officers were placed in a separate platoon.  They attended classes and ate with the other officer candidates but base facilities were segregated. Continue reading

Long Way Home: A World War II Novel – An Excerpt

1944

The day after our sweet reunion, we boarded a bus to a beautiful port town in Sonora, Mexico.  For five days we lounged on the beach in the early morning sun watching the local shrimp boats go out with empty nets and return hours later with nets full, inching their way to the wharf where their fresh catch was unloaded for market.  In the afternoons, we explored the beach and the small shops filled with beautiful, handmade crafts painted with brilliant oranges, yellows and blues.  At night, we ate wonderful seafood and rice dishes with olives, peppers and blue corn tortillas at outdoor cafes.  We drank lots of red wine and enjoyed the wharf lights dancing across the black water.

We laughed with the patrons at one or another of the cafes that lined the village; all of us temporary escapees from the war that held countries on several continents in its grip.  We spoke of music and art, we learned of the weather’s impact on the pristine coastline and we showed appreciation for photos of beautiful, brown children and smiling sweethearts with flashing eyes and long, dark hair.

No one held questions in their eyes about two men traveling together and sharing a small apartment with one bed; we were simply accepted.

Excerpt: Long Way Home:  A World War II Novel (formerly Homefront)  

 Cheryl A. Head   (NOW AVAILABLE in the Kindle bookstore)

First, Black WWII Marines Receive Honors

On June 27, 2012, the Montford Point Marines (the first, black WWII marines) were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony at the U.S. Visitors Center.

 

Gunnery Sgt. Mack Haynes Sr Montford Point Marine

 Some 20,000 African American Marines received training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949.   More than 400 of them, mostly in their 80’s and 90’s today got their due.

 

 Read more at:  The Detroit Free Press

http://www.freep.com/article/20120627/NEWS01/120627024/Montford-Pointe-Marines-honored-today

First Waves of Freedom

350,000 women served in the military during World War II, of these 150,000 were members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACS) led by the service’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby.

African American WAACS at Ft. DesMoines

The eligibility requirements were straightforward:  each woman must be a U.S. citizen, 21-45 years of age with no dependents, at least 5 ft. tall and weighing a minimum of 100 pounds.

The service of these women was a critical element of the U.S. war effort.   They took on jobs in the military that would free service men to be on the front lines.  Primarily they worked in clerical jobs, in medical units, in the motor pool, as radio operators, in military post offices and as  cryptographers.

The WAACS were the first of these services to allow Black service women (1942).   Forty black women who entered the first WAAC officer candidate class were placed in a separate platoon; most had attended college.

But the transition of women in the military 70 years ago was not easy or smooth.    By early 1943, the number of women joining the WAACS dropped dramatically due to a backlash of public opinion against women in the armed forces.  84% of letters received by the families of male soldiers were critical of WAACS.

Still, America’s World War II service women played an important role in the war.   Some women served in combat zones, were held as prisoners of war in the Philippines, conducted undercover operations, and sacrificed their lives.

For more information about women in the U. S. military during World War II  check out the National Women’s History Museum “Partners in Winning the War” web page at:

http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/partners/exhibitentrance.html

And the archive at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro The Betty H. Carver Women Veterans Historical Project at:

http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/conflict/?c=2

An excellent bibliography on the WWII service of black women in the military “We Served America Too” is available at:

http://www.howard.edu/library/moorland-spingarn/WWII.HTM

STATISTICS

    • 150,000 WAACs served during WWII; 6,520 African American WAACS
    • 35,000 women applied for WAACS officer’s training school
    • The first WAAC training center was at Ft. Desmoines training began in 1942..
    • Successful service of WAACS led to a permanent corps in 1948 with the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act; but not until the 1970s were women fully assimilated into the army
    • 100,000 women were members of the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency)
    • The Airforce also had a contingent of women service members called Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs.

Cheryl Head’s first novel, Home Front, is the story of two, black World War II soldiers (one a WAAC) serving in a segregated Army base near Tucson, Arizona.    It is a love story.



 

 

The Love Affair

Back in Love Again

I’ve lived with my novel Home Front through several years of writing and editing.  I’ve fallen in love with it, gotten impatient with it, never wanted to see it again, thought about it with excitement at my first waking and crawled into bed exhausted by it.     Like every relationship, my novel and I have had our ups and down.

I’m back in the love stage.  Continue reading

America’s Black Farmer: World War 2

I came across an intriguing, short film Henry Browne Farmer dramatizing the life of a Black, American farm family in the early years of WWII, one of the themes in my novel, Long Way Home:  A World War II Novel.

Canada Lee, Narrator Henry Browne Farmer

Canada Lee, Narrator      Henry Browne Farmer

Black stage and screen actor, Canada Lee narrates this film which, even at 10:42, drags.  The filmmaker is a bit of an auteur (note his overly fond use of the schmaltzy soundtrack and the too-long, panoramic shots) but the landscape of 1942 life in Macon, Georgia rings true. Continue reading

Book Summary

I’ve been writing Homefront for several years.   At its essence, it is a story of discovery of self.  Set in the middle years of World War II, Homefront introduces two main characters: 20-year-old, Georgette Lillian Newton from rural North Carolina and a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and LeRoy Dowdell, an 18-year-old Army enlistee from a small town in Georgia.   We follow these two, young southerners as their dreams and ambitions propel them to join the Army where they meet and fall in love.   Along the way, the reader also meets Private First Class, Pit Turner and his nemesis Staff Sergeant, Robert Moses.  The four cope with the tensions and indignities of a segregated army experience on a base near Tucson, Arizona and, ultimately, find truth and acceptance in their separate acts of courage.

WAACS at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona

More to come…