One of the most exciting moments in the writing of a novel comes when people tell you stories connected to it. This week, I heard one from a new technician at our vet’s. She lived in German until she was eighteen near Schweinfurt, which I recognized immediately as a major target for Alllied bombers during World War II. The factories there produced ball bearings for the Nazi war machine. The young vet tech told me that her grandmother told stories of the townspeople building huge bonfires across the river from the real sites to make the bombers think that the factories were there. Of course, the Allies used precise navigational techniques and intelligence from numerous sources to guide the aircraft to their targets so this ruse didn’t work.
The tech’s grandfather was conscripted into the German army under pain of death for refusal. He ended up at Normandy on D-Day commanding an antiaircraft battery, but he gave his gunners wrong coordinates so they would miss. He was captured and spent th next seven years in a British POW camp, in which conditions were a sight better than in a war-torn and slowly recovering Germany.
Stories such as these remind us of the effects of war, no matter how “good” or “justified” one might be. May we live and work in such a way that men, women and children never have to experience these terrors ever again.