Lessons from the 1940s – Discretion

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

During World War II, posters like these decorated storefronts, train stations, and other public places. Spies were present. An innocent conversation in the barber shop, the grocery, or a phone booth could be overheard and passed to the enemy. Information about troop movements, sailing schedules, and strength of the armed forces was especially guarded. One careless comment could lead to thousands of deaths.

Free speech is one of the cornerstones of American society, but during the war, limits were accepted in order to protect lives – and ultimately those very freedoms. Citizens understood that free speech without discretion could be harmful.

Lives may no longer be on the line, but a lack of discretion causes a new realm of problems unimagined seventy years ago. The speed of Twittering, Facebook, and blogging, coupled with the popularity of full self-expression, can lead to great hurt and damage. In the past year, I have seen on-line…

  • Spouses trashing mates or ex-mates.
  • Employees griping about jobs and bosses – on work time.
  • Parents posting pictures from Disneyland – when they called the children in sick from school.
  • Comments about hangovers and getting wasted.
  • Students sniping about teachers by name.
  • Unpublished writers lamenting the drivel on the bookshelves – published by houses they’d like to write for.
  • People requesting prayer on very personal matters for other people.
  • Citizens wishing harm or failure to politicians or celebrities.
US poster, 1943

US poster, 1943

Perhaps a return to self-censorship is warranted. Before hitting “share,” if we all took a few seconds to consider the possible impact of our posts, a lot of damage could be prevented. I run through a mental checklist – would I want these people reading this post – my husband, parents, children, boss, pastor, neighbor…and the person I’m writing about (even celebrities have feelings)? I have failed. I’ve posted things I regretted and removed. But if we all tried, civility could replace anger on the Internet.

Loose lips may no longer sink ships, but they can sink families, reputations, and careers. Thoughts?

Lessons from the 1940s – Liberty and Justice for All?

US poster, 1943, honoring Dorie Miller, recipient of the Navy Cross for his actions at Pearl Harbor

US poster, 1943, honoring Dorie Miller, recipient of the Navy Cross for his actions at Pearl Harbor

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Mess Attendant Second Class Doris “Dorie” Miller (pictured in the poster) was collecting laundry on board the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attacked. The alarm for general quarters sounded, and Miller reported to his battle station, an antiaircraft battery amidships. It had already been destroyed. A heavyweight boxer, Miller carried wounded sailors to safety, aided the mortally wounded captain, and manned a .50 caliber machine gun – a weapon he’d never been trained to use – and was credited with downing a Japanese fighter plane. For his bravery, he received the Navy Cross on May 27, 1942. Sadly, he perished when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine on November 24, 1943. (Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq57-4.htm)

Dorie Miller was the first African-American hero of World War II, and not the last. There would have been even more if the US armed forces hadn’t been segregated, with black troops in separate units under white officers, usually assigned to the mess or to manual labor behind the front. The reasoning was that black men weren’t capable and that integrated services would “offend the sensibilities” of white Southerners. Both justifications are appalling.

Racial tension came to a boil during World War II due to unprecedented mobilization that introduced northerners – black and white – to conditions in the south, and exposed the cancer of racism in American society. Race riots erupted in Detroit, Philadelphia, Birmingham, and many other cities. Black troops fumed when German and Italian prisoners of war received better treatment than they did, and they wondered why they should fight for freedoms abroad that they didn’t enjoy at home.

On July 17, 1944, an explosion blew apart two munitions ships at the Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California, killing 320 men, most of whom were black. The black sailors had been loading ammunition under unsafe conditions and indifferent white leadership. Fifty of the survivors refused to load ammunition again. Instead of being convicted of insubordination, all fifty men were convicted – after eighty minutes deliberation – of mutiny, a capital offense. The convicted included two men who had medical excuses for why they refused to work.

The unexpected benefit of the Port Chicago Explosion, the largest US Home Front disaster of the war, was that it opened the eyes of the general public. Outrage grew to such an extent that the US Navy, the most segregated of the services, became the first to become truly integrated. Injustice had been exposed, and seeds were planted that would lead to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and the end of legal segregation.

While World War II showcased the best in the American character, it also highlighted the worst. The war trumpeted our national ideals, and showed where we fell short. We still fall short today. Segregation is gone, blatant discrimination is illegal, but subtle racism exists – often subconscious – in attitudes and thoughts. And in all races. Looking to our past shows us how far we’ve come – and where we have room to grow. I have faith that the US can someday become a land where a person’s race leads to neither discrimination nor special privileges, and where all people can achieve if they have the character, ability, and drive to do so.

Lessons from the 1940s Mother – Work and Play

Today’s parenting magazines trumpet the necessity of playing with your children, and mommy blogs gush about the joys of floor time and entering the child’s world.

If a 1940s’ mom time-traveled to 2010, she would be confused by this. She had work to do. Play was for children. Not that she ignored her children, but instead of becoming a part of the child’s world, the mother drew the child into her world – teaching, shaping, and establishing her authority. In this poster, the mother is showing her daughter how to buy war bonds.

Traditionally, mothers needed all the help they could to run their homes. Children were expected to do their share, which gave them a sense of purpose and taught them skills and responsibility. Play was the reward for a job well done – or a convenient way to keep kids occupied when they couldn’t help. Children played alone or with other children, developing their creativity and imagination. If a mother had time to play, it was a rare and precious thing.

For many moms today, play is a job. If a mom doesn’t spend a certain number of hours playing with the children, she feels guilty. However, I would argue that too much time in play skews the parent-child relationship. The mother becomes a playmate rather than an authority figure. In all playmate relationships, someone takes the lead. If the mother guides the play, the child doesn’t get to use his imagination or figure out on his own how the toy works. And if the child takes the leadership role, he bosses the mother around. Also by making play a high priority, a child may learn that her desire for attention and entertainment is greater than her mother’s needs.

In the 1940s, when a child said he was bored, it was an invitation to do chores. Today, a bored child means the mother has failed in her duty to entertain.

Am I saying a mom shouldn’t play with her children? Of course not. But do so cautiously. Maintain your authority. Make sure your kids know that your need to get work done is more important than their wish to play. Consider drawing them into your work – yes, I know it takes longer, but it’s worth it in the long run. And remember that boredom is a fertile breeding ground for creativity.

How do you handle playtime with your children?

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – “Grown-Up Culture”

US poster promoting canning, 1943

US poster promoting canning, 1943

The more I look at this poster, the more I see how our culture has changed. In the 1940s, mother-daughter outfits were popular – the daughter wanted to dress just like her mother. Nowadays, middle-aged mothers dress like their teenaged daughters.

Something has flipped in recent generations. In traditional cultures, children couldn’t wait to grow up and have adult responsibilities, and people hoped to live long enough to have gray hair and the wisdom that came with it. But now we have a culture obsessed with youth.

Youth are held up as the ultimate example in how to dress, how to use technology, and what music to listen to. Youth believe their primary job is “to have fun” – I’ve even heard this from my own children. So why grow up? Where’s the motivation to move into adulthood, where they’ll be obsolete, uncool, and unable to play video games?

But our world needs old-fashioned adults to function. Twitter, texting, and Wii won’t build homes, put food on the table, or heal the sick.

As one person, I can’t change American culture, but I can watch my own attitude. Do I communicate to my children the joys of adulthood? Do I tell them of the satisfaction I get from a job well done? Do I pretend to be a teenager, or am I comfortable in my age? Do I make my children’s lives unpleasant enough that they long for adulthood?

Celebrate your adulthood! Listen to the music you like! Wear your mom-jeans with pride! Know enough technology to get by and don’t apologize about it! Perhaps some day your children will say, “I want to grow up to be just like you.”

Okay, then, so I’m a dreamer. That’s why I write fiction.

How about you? Do you see yourself buying into youth culture? How can you celebrate the wonderful age you’ve earned?

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – Support Your Man!

US recruiting poster, 1944

US recruiting poster, 1944

Here’s a poster that would never be printed today. To the eye of the 2010 woman, this girl looks a bit…daft. The doting little woman fawning over her man’s accomplishments. Doesn’t she have a life of her own?

Maybe she’s not as stupid as we think.

Though our culture has undergone a gigantic shift, the basic nature of a man has not. According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in Love and Respect (Thomas Nelson, 2004), while the primary need of a woman is to be loved, the primary need of a man is to be respected. Eggerichs conducted a poll of four hundred men, asking, “If they were forced to choose one of the following, which would they prefer to endure? (a) to be left alone and unloved in the world (b) to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone. Seventy-four percent of these men said…they would prefer being alone and unloved” (p. 49).


In 2010, male bashing is hip. Homer Simpson is considered the typical male, dumb and useless without his smart, long-suffering wife. College enrollment for young men is actually decreasing. And recently, my teenage son was told he isn’t supposed to be smart because he’s a white boy! It appears that society is trying to force men into the same second-class citizen role women fought to escape.

Now that women have earned respect, isn’t it time we gave some back? Men are more successful when they know their wives support them and take pride in them. Men who feel respected respond in a loving manner (just look at that sailor’s face in the poster!), so ironically, when we deprive our men of respect, we end up depriving ourselves of the love we most crave.

Modern marriages would benefit from some old-fashioned doting and fawning, and our entire society would benefit if both men and women lived up to full potential.

OK, ladies – bragging time! What do you admire about your man? And be sure to share this with him! I’ll start…my husband is a steady rock for me. He makes sound and prayerful decisions, he’s a man of integrity, and he has a generous heart. Your turn!

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – Make It Do!

US poster urging mending clothes, 1943

US poster urging mending clothes, 1943

In our green times, we say, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but the 1940s woman puts us to shame. For her, “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do” was more than a slogan, it was a necessary, patriotic lifestyle.

Many consumer goods, such as rubber goods and some spices, were scarce because they were produced by Japanese-occupied countries. Metal goods, clothing, and leather were rationed to take care of higher needs in the military or to allow factories to convert from civilian to military production. Coffee and sugar were rationed to save shipping capacity for military purposes. Canned goods were rationed to reduce metal packaging. The famous stocking shortage was caused by the need to save silk and nylon for parachutes. And gasoline was rationed primarily to save rubber – the less you drove, the fewer tires you wore out.
US poster, 1943

US poster, 1943

These shortages and a complicated rationing system led women to creative ways of meeting their families’ needs. Women adopted fashions with knee-length, gently flared skirts, with few fabric-wasting ruffles, pockets, and pleats. Cloth espadrilles became fashionable since women were limited to two to three pairs of leather shoes each year. Women shared recipes for meatless meals and reduced-sugar desserts, and found creative uses for Spam. They planted Victory Gardens to supplement their rations. And – like my grandmother – they washed diapers by hand and line-dried them when they couldn’t buy new appliances.
US poster encouraging tin can collection, WWII. Read more: "Make It Do--Metal Shortages in World War II" on Sarah Sundin's blog.

US poster encouraging tin can collection, WWII


This generation knew how to recycle! They collected leftover cooking fats, which provided crucial ingredients for explosives. They peeled tin foil off the back of chewing gum wrappers. They turned in old toothpaste tubes in order to get new ones. Paper drives, rubber drives, and scrap metal drives brought in tons of materials for the war effort. Their hard work helped win the war.
How about you? Whether you’re motivated by a desire to conserve resources or to save money, what are some new ways you could “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do?”

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – Work Is Fulfilling

US poster by J. Howard Miller, WWII

US poster by J. Howard Miller, WWII

World War II was a turning point for women. Before the war, few married women had jobs – in fact, most men considered a working wife a shameful sign that he couldn’t provide for his family. Unmarried women found few careers open to them, namely in nursing, teaching, and as secretaries.

The war changed that. In 1940, 132 million people lived in the US. and during the war 11 million men and women served in the armed forces. Even if the economy had continued at pre-war levels, this would have represented a significant drop in the workforce. But US production skyrocketed to supply planes, ships, guns, ammunition, uniforms, and food for the Allies. Women needed to work for the sake of their country.
US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, 1945

US Army Nurse Corps recruiting poster, 1945

More nurses were required, and 67,000 women joined the Army Nurse Corps and the Navy Nurse Corps. Nurses also expanded their traditional roles. Five hundred women served as flight nurses when the Army Air Force pioneered medical air evacuation. Each evacuation flight was staffed by a nurse (an officer) and a male surgical technician (a technical sergeant). She outranked him. She gave him orders. And without a physician on board, she made the decisions in flight. These were revolutionary roles for women.
Women were also recruited into the military. Two hundred thousand American women served as WAVEs (Navy), WAACs (Army), Spars (Coast Guard), or in the Marines. By placing women in noncombat positions, more men were available for combat duty. “Free a man to fight” was the slogan.
Recruitment poster for US Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, WWII

Recruitment poster for US Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, WWII

Also, 19 million women in the United States followed Rosie the Riveter’s example and took jobs, a third of them in factory work. By 1943, women formed one-third of the civilian workforce. While they faced opposition on the job site and in society, they proved themselves able workers. In fact, some jobs benefitted from women’s smaller fingers and attention to fine detail.
Poster for the US 6th War Loan Drive, 1944

Poster for the US 6th War Loan Drive, 1944

While the 1940s woman went to work for the sake of her country, she found unexpected personal benefits. She learned she could do things she never thought she could do. She earned her own money and discovered the freedom that gave her. She found satisfaction in her work.
This is a lesson today’s woman has learned well. All of us who have a career outside the home – full-time, part-time, or for a season of life – owe a lot to the nurses, WAVEs, and Rosies of World War II.

My Second Book Cover!

A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin

A Memory Between Us, by Sarah Sundin, showing the US Army Nurse Corps dress blues uniform from WWII

It’s official! Here’s the cover for the second book in the Wings of Glory series, which will be available September 2010. A Memory Between Us is now featured on Revell’s website at http://www.revellbooks.com/

Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge–until he meets army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth’s heart a top priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she carries a shameful secret that keeps her from giving her heart to any man. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?

A Memory Between Us is the second book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

This has been an exciting week for me, with A Distant Melody now in stores, and now the cover for A Memory Between Us. I thank all of you – family, friends, and new e-buddies, for your support, encouragement, and prayers. There needs to be an asterisk after my name on the cover to include all of you, because I couldn’t do it without you!

Lessons from the 1940s Woman


US poster by J. Howard Miller, 1943

US poster by J. Howard Miller, 1943

Rosie the Riveter is the icon of World War II women – strong but feminine. She’s got biceps, but she curls her hair and does her nails. She can do a man’s work, and don’t you dare tell her she can’t. She is woman; hear her riveting gun.
Today I’m starting a series of posts on lessons we can learn from the women of the 1940s.
The World War II time period was a pivotal time for women, a hinge between the traditional home-based women’s role and the modern career-based role. Wartime posters show the fullness of a woman’s place in society and reveal the values that drove this generation to victory.
Through these posters we’ll see lessons we can learn from women of that era: be involved, be productive, be thrifty, be supportive, love your family and home, and have faith.
What do you admire about women from the 1940s?

Bay Area Revell Authors’ Booksigning

Bay Area friends! Would you like to meet five authors at one event? (Sorry, but one of them is me.) Come to The Door Christian Bookstore in San Carlos on Saturday, November 21 from 2-4pm for fun, music, and book talk. In addition to signing books, we’ll be chatting about “The Story Behind the Story,” how we each got started writing. Granted, I have nothing to sign yet, but my publisher, Revell, will be providing excerpts from A Distant Melody. And I’ll have bookmarks!! Interested? Check out the link for The Door at: http://www.thedoorchristian.com/featured.html
or contact me for more info. Please feel free to send this to anyone who might be interested, or I can send you postcards to mail to your friends. I hope you all can come!