Tag Archives: World War II

The Flying Boat by Chuck Thurston

The PBM Martin Mariner was a flying boat that saw considerable action in World War II. It was a long-range sea plane that provided escort duty for convoys headed for Europe and was credited with sinking 10 German U-Boats during the course of the war.

After the war, a number of these planes were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard for search and rescue service. The Coast Guard phased them out in 1958, and I expect I was one of the last aircrewmen to have a ride in them. These planes were built to stay in the air a long time, and they were outfitted accordingly. They normally had a crew of nine, so you could be relieved after a four-hour watch – as a radioman, in my case. Off duty, you could go to the small galley in the belly of the aircraft and get something to eat. Then, maybe, take a nap in an available hammock.

I would go for the sandwich and drink, but I was more into sightseeing, and I found the perfect place for it. Although the .50 caliber guns had been removed, the gun turrets were still in place, and the tail gunner’s seat provided a view like no other. I had to crawl on my hands and knees through the long tail boom to the back of the aircraft. I would squeeze into the plexiglass bubble, hunker down in the tailgunner’s seat and watch the world go by.

I would have my sandwich and drink and watch the ocean roll below. I could imagine the battles planes like this engaged in – the sight of a U-Boat just breaching the surface, or alerted to danger, preparing to dive. I could feel the course change, the big plane wheeling over to line up on the target, and the thump as the depth charges were released. I could imagine the tail gunner manning the hand-aimed machine gun, and alert for danger from the skies.

Or I could daydream. It was peacetime. We were actually in-between wars. Korea was over, but Viet Nam was not yet on the horizon. In any case, the action was over for these old flying boats. Their exploits were honored, their duty was done. There is one in the Smithsonian now. There are a few others, scavenged for parts in a sunbaked bone yard in Arizona – far, far from the rolling ocean.

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Reading? Why not?

Henry E. Vallely did the cover art for this 19...

When I was growing up In Central Africa in the 30s and 40s reading was the only entertainment we had. Nobody even had a radio to listen to such things as Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy. The government post must have had cable communication of some kind because Lt. Lebray brought my father a cable telling us my grandfather had died.

Radio 4We were the first to have a radio on our station. It was a short-wave radio, dark grey, almost black in color. It sat in the corner of the living room close to a window. The copper wire that acted as the antenna was almost invisible where it ran out through the bottom of the window.

Outside the window, it ran up the wall, across to the nearest porch pillar and then from pillar to pillar halfway around the house. I helped my father string that antenna and we tried several different ways until we thought we had the best reception.

Half an hour before the news came on we started the 12-volt generator located on the back porch. It was allowed to run for half an hour to charge up the batteries. At five minutes of four it was turned off so the loud putt putting of the two-cylinder engine would not interfere with hearing the radio. Continue reading

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Connections

By Laura S. Wharton, Author of The Pirate’s Bastard and Leaving Lukens

I struggle with internet connection at my rural home. Some days, I can get online easily. Other days, I feel like I’m standing on a hill far, far away from civilization trying to decide whether sending smoke signals would be better than using a mega horn to get my message across. Some days, I have a connection before it’s dropped … never to be made again while I’m sitting in front of the computer, trying my level best to get messages out.

We’ve switched cables, computers, internet providers … everything imaginable except our location. Still, the lack of connection goes on (or off, depending on your point of view), and with the current economic conditions, we certainly won’t be able to move anytime soon to get better, or more constant, connections. So what’s a writer to do, besides having another cup of tea, hoping that “eventually” the connection will come back? Short of packing up my laptop and going to a wifi hotspot, not much.

Since I have a good deal of down time waiting for internet connection, this issue naturally leads me to think about connections writers make with readers in stories. My father says he’s watched books transform from “who-done-it” to “where-done-it” stories – focusing so much on place, on description of flora fauna, or surroundings, or what the victim wore on the night of the murder. He points out that if all the adjectives were taken out of current books, there might be four words left to tell the story. I suppose that’s okay, as long as those remaining four words actually do the job of 70,000 plus words and connect with the reader for a memorable experience. But which four words would work? It depends on the kind of connection a writer wants with a reader.

I’m guilty of putting a great deal of emphasis on a story’s place. In The Pirate’s Bastard, the tale is set in colonial coastal North Carolina. A tale of history, piracy, blackmail, and ships, what resonates most with reviewers is the lush emerald green marsh grass from which the lead character Edward Marshall takes his name when he comes to the new world, escaping his past and his pirate father’s deeds. Readers also comment on the way I’ve described the grounds and waters near the grand mansion that Orton Plantation was going to be, where Edward served as an agent for the wealthy land owner.

In Leaving Lukens, I set out to write an adventure story filled with a little romance. According to my editor, it’s a romance filled with lots of action. I could connect with readers on the romance level, or the action level. The place connection could be strong, too, since the story is set in the small North Carolina village of Lukens on the opposite shore from Oriental and features New Bern prominently. But what about the history angle? That might be the greatest connection with readers. It’s honestly my favorite part of the story. The impact of World War II was felt hard along our coast: German U-boats sank many American tankers filled with goods bound for England in the lend-lease program. Oil, debris, and even sailors’ bodies littered our otherwise pristine beaches. The black stench of war hung in the coastal air for days after a sinking, according to eyewitness accounts. Pleasure boat-building companies stepped up their production capabilities to supply minesweepers and other ships for the war effort. And little towns like New Bern swelled with military men, or vanished from existence thanks to the “last straw” effect of a war like no other.

My characters experience all this (and so much more) in Leaving Lukens. I wonder how the story will connect with readers and reviewers when the book comes out this fall? Assuming I get a connection today, I’ll upload this blog posting, and look forward to the feedback readers might offer.

Laura S. Wharton is the author of The Pirate’s Bastard and the upcoming novel, Leaving Lukens. Learn more about her and her work at http://www.LauraWhartonBooks.com, http://www.LauraWharton.blogspot.com, or connect with her at http://www.twitter.com/LauraSWharton

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