History Read-Along: Gunner’s Run, Chapters 15-17

The story takes yet another surprising turn in these chapters, but we won’t give you the spoilers. Instead, you’ll simply find some background history in this evening’s blog post to be enjoyed with the historical fiction novel Gunner’s Run (by Rick Barry) or on it’s own as World War II trivia.

Chapter 15 – Extra History

One of the characters’ concerns in this chapter centered on the German’s search dogs. This video created during World War II by the United States shares some of the duties done by “war dogs.”

Though other countries had been using dogs in the military and on battlefields, World War II was the first time the Americans started fully exploring the opportunities and innovations while using canine warriors.

Chapter 16 – Extra History

Jean de Selys Longchamps – mentioned in the book – was a real historical figure. Originally a Belgium cavalry officer, he fled the continent via Dunkirk and the British evacuation in 1940. Later, he returned to France but was quickly imprisoned by the Vichy French supporters who were collaborating with the Nazis. After a second escape, he returned to Britain and volunteered to fly combat missions. On January 20, 1943, he flew a solo attack on the Gestapo headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, killing four Nazi officers. For his patriotic attempt, Longchamps was demoted but also received the Distinguished Flying Cross before his death in an aircraft accident in August 1943.

One of the busted dams in Germany after the British raid

Although Jim questioned the reality of “bouncing bombs,” it actually happened. Between May 16-17, 1943, the British flew Operation Chastise. This mission used a new “bouncing bomb” – now called Dam Busters – to blast away portions of large dams in Germany to cause devastating flooding in the Ruhr and Eder Valleys. The new bombs were designed to skip over the water’s surface when leased at the right altitude, thereby avoiding the anti-torpedo defenses placed in the water and dam. Though it seemed like a miraculous undertaking or something from science fiction, the raid succeed and captured the imaginations of military men and civilians.

Chapter 17 – Extra History

Though not centralized in their organization, the Belgium Resistance consisted of individuals determined to resist the Nazi occupation from political or religious motives. Both men and women resisted and used different methods in their underground, patriotic endeavors. Sabotage of the infrastructure and German systems, underground newspapers, information gathering, escape networks, and “mysterious disappearances” of collaborators were some of the activities of the Belgium Resistance. Estimates suggest that 5% of the Belgium population participated in forms of resistance, but some research estimates that 25% of those resistance members died.

One of the most effective contributions of the Belgium Resistance to the Allied war effort was the network of members and safe houses to shelter downed pilots or airmen. Individuals involved in the Belgium Resistance also took a stand again against the Holocaust and helped to hid at least 20,000 Jews from the Nazis.

How It’s Written

Raise the stakes. That’s what they say in writing classes and in books about story plotting. These chapters are a good example of raising the tension in the story and the “stakes.”

Basically, that means making the conflict tougher and giving the fictional character additional challenges and surprises to overcome. It’s especially important to do this at the point where the character thinks everything is “okay” and working out the way he/she wants. Gunner’s Run has a good plot and good examples of continually adding tension and raising the stakes.

This is one way that writers can keep the readers interested in the story and glued to the page. Are you ready to keep reading?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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