Living History: Remembering Camp Harmony

Meeting Elsie Taniguchi, whose family was interned at Camp Harmony in 1942.

More than 1 million people attend the Washington State Fair every fall. Thousands of those fairgoers enter or exit through the Gold Gate, or main entrance. They’re welcomed by a large water fountain and the sites and sounds of a Puyallup tradition.

If you look for it, near the Gold Gate sits a sculpture that serves as the “Harmony” monument, dedicated in 1983.

Seventy-three years ago the fairgrounds served as the location for the Puyallup Assembly Center, a temporary facility used in the system of internment camps that held more than 7,000 evicted Japanese Americans as a result of Executive Order 9066.

Japanese American residents living in Western Washington and Alaska were relocated to what was dubbed “Camp Harmony,” before being transferred to camps in Idaho, California, Wyoming and Arkansas.

The Camp Harmony Committee’s mission is to preserve and educate the public on the history of Camp Harmony. Committee members include local citizens who were interned, or whose parents were interned.

The committee educated the public at a Puyallup Library event as part of the library’s Festival of Books. With the theme WWII: Memories of Valor, the library has scheduled numerous events to revisit the history of the war.

At the Camp Harmony presentation, an audience of all ages heard first-hand accounts of life behind barbed wire, just a few streets down from the fairgrounds where it took place.

Elsie Taniguchi shared her experience of growing up on a farm in Fife and being transported on a bus to the fairgrounds, where her family was interned. The Taniguchis were lucky in that they had Caucasian friends who harvested their farm during their internment and were able to pay the taxes. The Taniguchis had a home to return to upon release.

Another gentleman in attendance grew up on a farm in Fresno before his family was interned when he was 12. They did not return to the farm.

Another gentleman was 15 when his family was transferred to three different camps. He went on to serve in military intelligence for the U.S.

One of the Festival of Books events includes an artist in residence.

I’m grateful for the Camp Harmony Committee, who keeps the memory of the past alive. The committee is busy planning several projects for 2017 to observe the 75th year of Camp Harmony.

The Camp Harmony presentation is just one of several events happening this month at the library. Visit the library’s website for a full list of events.


What I’m Reading Wednesday

Sarah Sundin’s Wings of the Nightingale series wraps up beautifully with the finale, In Perfect Time (released Aug. 1). World War II-era fans will appreciate Sundin’s attention to detail from Lt. Roger Cooper piloting a C-47 in enemy territory to Lt. Kay Jobson’s role as an Army Air Force flight nurse.

Sundin’s latest series centers around a trio of flight nurses who become friends and find love while serving during the war. After touching briefly on Kay’s character in the previous two novels, In Perfect Time delves deep into a past in which she was constantly put down and disappointed by her father.

Kay runs away to a life of servitude as a nurse and freedom from her cruel family. But Kay believes she’s in control juggling multiple boyfriends, never letting a relationship develop further than dating.

Meanwhile, Roger has also escaped a past that disappointed him and left him to believe he was of little value.In-Perfect-TimeThe two broken people find the encouragement and love in each other, but life goals and misconceptions keep them apart and fighting against God’s will for their lives.

While the story focuses on Roger and Kay’s relationship, the novel is also rich in historical detail. Sundin writes of the 802nd Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron, as well as an incident based on the true account of 26 flight nurses and medics of the 807th MAETS who crash-landed in Nazi-occupied Albania in late 1943. Sundin aimed to highlight some of the unsung heroes of World War II.

Sundin has stopped by A Writer’s Purpose a few times the last couple of years to promote past novels. Check out this Q and A after the release of the first novel of the Wings of Nightingale series, With Every Letter.

Sundin is celebrating the release of In Perfect Time with a fun giveaway. Check it out!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy of In Perfect Time. For more information about Sundin, visit her website.

What I’m Reading Wednesday


Let me introduce you to my new favorite book. Well, it’s at least in the top 5.

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a historical novel written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published in 2008.

If you judge this book by the title you might be confused, but trust me on this, it’s worth the read. I could not put it down and was sad when the story came to an end, because I wanted to continue to read the correspondence between the eccentric and lovable characters of Guernsey.

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” — The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Shaffer had traveled to England to research another book when she learned of the German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II. She writes a beautiful and bittersweet story post-WWII through letters and telegrams between the characters — a small group of friends and neighbors who find comfort and support during a time of war through literature.

“The thing about books — and the thing that made them such a refuge for the islanders during the occupation — is that they take us out of our time and place and understanding, and transport us not just into the world of the story, but into the world of our fellow readers, who have stories of their own.” — Afterword

Shaffer’s novel was accepted for publication in 2006 but her health began to deteriorate during the rewriting process. She asked Barrows, her niece and children’s author, to finish the project.

This book found me nearly a year ago when my sister-in-law let me borrow it. Like many books placed in my hands, it went straight to the bookshelf, while I read more recent releases from the library.

Where-You-Go-BernadetteThe book’s style is very similar to the more recent release “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple. It also includes similar humor and sarcasm, but with a much more serious tone during wartime.

The subject of Guernsey and WWII reminded me of a novel I read a couple years ago, “The Soldier’s Wife,” by Margaret Leroy. Both novels address the trials of falling in love with the enemy.

When I’m asked for book recommendations, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” will be one of the first titles I’ll suggest. And my hope is that this beautiful story will make it to the big screen!

What I’m Reading Wednesday

16099189When I’m highly anticipating the release of a novel, I put a hold on the book at the public library before it’s even on the shelf. Unfortunately, when I’m highly anticipating a book, a lot of other people are as well.

As was the case for “The Light in the Ruins” by Chris Bohjalian. I was behind more than 40 other WWII-era, historical fiction-loving readers. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I walked into a library on the military base I work at and it was on the “New Arrivals” shelf! I snatched it right up and enjoyed every page of the whodunnit mystery with a side of romance set in Italy.

The story bounces back and forth between 1943, as war rages across Europe, and 1955, as Serefina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department tries to catch a serial killer. In between each time period, the unknown serial killer tells his/her story in the first person, to give the reader a chilling glimpse into their mind and motives.

“The Light in the Ruins” is rich with art history, war-time forbidden romance, family ties and tragedy. You will want to speed read to solve the mystery, but savor the details and the scenery in between.

‘On Distant Shores’ Weekend Getaway Giveaway, Facebook Party and Blog Tour

Sundin - On Distant Shores(2)The Wings of Nightingale series by Sarah Sundin continues with “On Distant Shores,” the second book in the three book series. Sarah shares her talent of Christian historical fiction with yet another page-turning World War II-era romance. Purchase a copy here!

Sarah visited “A Writer’s Purpose” about a year ago when I wrote a post about her Wings of Glory series. This time around I received a free copy of her latest novel to review and share with you all. To celebrate the release of “On Distant Shores” Sarah is offering a weekend getaway giveaway (contest ends Sept. 2!). The winner will be announced Sept. 3 at Sarah’s Facebook party! Click on the image below to enter!

In her trademark fashion, Sarah develops her characters to allow her readers to relate to their success and struggles. Lt. Georgie Taylor and Sgt. John Hutchinson become friends while stationed in Sicily. Georgie is a flight nurse who longs for the comfort of home and feels unsuited for her duty while Hutch is an enlisted pharmacist determined to become one of the Army’s first pharmacy officers.

The two friends become each other’s encouragement and support as they strive to fulfill God’s calling for them as both of their lives back home start to fall apart. But obsession and false idols shake up their relationship and lessons in humility humble both her characters and readers.

“On Distant Shores” is a must read for fans of WWII-era historical fiction, because Sarah knows the era so well. I asked Sarah a few questions about some of her WWII-era favorites:

Q and A with Sarah Sundin

Q: What is your favorite song from the era?

A: I love String of Pearls” by Glenn Miller. It’s so romantic and really evokes the era to me.

Q: Favorite plane?

A: I’m very fond of the B-17 Flying Fortress — not only does it have graceful lines, but it was a reliable bomber and very rugged. It could withstand lots of damage and bring its crew safely home.

Q: Favorite military uniform?

A: I do love the Army Air Force pilot’s uniform — the khaki and olive drab, the leather flight jacket, and the “crush” cap. But I also love the naval officers’ uniforms and the WAVES uniforms — blue is my favorite color, and the designs are smart."SundinQ: Favorite historical event?

A: Favorite? How about most interesting to me? That depends on what I’m researching at the time. Right now I’m doing research for my next series about the Battle of the Atlantic in 1941, before the U.S. was actually at war — but our ships were escorting British convoys and battling U-boats. Really interesting.

Q: Favorite movie about WWII?

A: It’s a tie between “The Longest Day” (for combat) and “Mrs. Miniver” (for the home front).

Q: Favorite book about WWII (fiction or non-fiction)?

A: I read Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War when I was in college and couldn’t put it down, which was bad because I was reading it during midterms. He covered areas of the was through one family, and I was riveted.

Rosie’s WWII


Meet Rosalind Sinclair. She’s a 22-year-old newlywed from Portland who lives in West Seattle — 70 years ago.

Kathryn Schipper, a resident of Vashon Island, had the brilliant idea to write about the contributions of the Pacific Northwest during World War II through “Rosie” one tweet at a time.

Inspired by the Twitter feed @realtimeWorldWarII, Schipper created @RosiesWWII. The former Boeing employee was always interested in WWII history and airplanes and also enjoys storytelling. Put it all together and you have a neat historical fiction story that nearly 1,400 people follow on Twitter.

Schipper writes her story with a fictional cast of characters, including Rosie, in a historical setting. When Rosie’s husband enlists after Pearl Harbor, Rosie takes a war job in Seattle, building B-17s at Boeing. Men from the Seattle area who enlisted reported to Fort Lewis and  Women Airforce Service Pilots flew out of McChord. Those are just some of the connections Schipper’s story tells about the Northwest.

Rosie shares her experiences of waiting at home and includes recipes of what she makes for dinner on her war rationed food. Everything Schipper tweets is done so in character and relevant newsreels and archived news articles are added to help tell the story.

“I really like interacting with people who are interested in the project,” Schipper said. “I have also enjoyed people’s interests in learning more about the Northwest’s contribution to the war.”

Schipper plans to tweet through the end of the war in August of 1945. Afterward she is thinking of gathering the tweets and blog posts to possibly fashion the story into a book.

Follow Rosie on Twitter or on her blog.