As a student, I seldom took an essay test I didn’t ace. I had a knack for putting my thoughts on paper, if not elegantly, then, at least, understandably. But, I was in my thirties with a husband and three young children before I discovered how much fun writing can be. Deciding to finish my truncated education, I took a creative writing class at the junior collage. The class was 3 credits and cost $11 per credit hour, and that gives a clue to how old I am.
I grew up in the post World War II years. My grandfather and grandmother were nurses. My mother was trained as a nurse, and though she never worked outside the home, she was the “go to” person in the neighborhood when someone needed patching up. My many uncles had served on battleships and overseas, and pictures of them in uniform serving in faraway places were carefully preserved in albums. Steel helmets, scratchy army blankets, and canvas cots were common in most homes in my neighborhood as were foreign coins, German buttons, and military patches. My friends and I dug foxholes and played War complete with an arsenal of cap guns, jack knives, and hand grenades (empty soup cans.) We all knew whose uncle hadn’t returned from the war, whose father was having a problem with alcohol, and which families had broken from the strain of battle fatigue—the yet unrecognized post-traumatic stress disorder.
Though the war was over, the country feared Russian aggression, and communities prepared for it by building bomb shelters. My parents contributed hardtack (think dog biscuits) to help supply the shelter underneath my elementary school. Periodically there were air raid drills, when we, as students, descended a metal staircase into the cool, weirdness of the shelter to sit with our backs against the wall. When we were settled, the janitor turned out the lights, and we were plunged into blackness. This memory came back to me when I first read about the nurses living and working in the Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor.
I finished my education and became a working mom, first as a biochemical researcher, and then as a healthcare analyst, sitting long hours at the computer mining data. I never forgot, though, that creative writing class and the joy and wonder it brought to me.
The morning after I retired, I booted up the computer and typed, “Chapter One.” For a long time, the cursor blinked at me on an otherwise blank page. I needed a storyline and a heroine. While researching for ideas online, at the library, and in bookstores, I found numerous nonfiction books and first-person accounts of the nurses who served in the Philippines during World War II. And then I ran across a little-known fact that military POWs were required to sign a document forbidding them to talk about their experiences without official clearance. I became enamored by this slice of history and knew I had found the story I wanted to write.
***I hope you enjoy reading A Pledge of Silence as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it.***