Writing Non-Fiction: Unexpected Adventures

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined where the writing of my last book would take me.

We Bought A WWII Bomber, is a story I felt compelled to write for the folks still alive who had lived it; folks who had achieved something quite remarkable and years later suffered a great disappointment. New information proved they had nothing to be disappointed about and I needed to tell them.

The story began in 1943 with junior and senior high students’ involvement in the “Buy a Bomber” program, a funding campaign initiated by the U.S. Treasury Department to encourage U.S. citizens to buy U.S. War Bonds and Defense Loan Stamps to help pay for WWII. The program promised any group, organization, church, city, county, business or school, if they could show proof of War Bond or Defense Loan Stamp sales of $375,000, they could buy a bomber, name it and have a dedication ceremony in their town. Remarkably, the students at South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, accomplished the task, in nine weeks’ time and bought a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber.  “The Spirit of South High School,” was dedicated on April 6, 1943 and flew off never to be heard from again. In 1990, alumni from that ‘40’s class learned, much to their disappointment, their bomber had been used for training and never saw battle. The story ended there until 2013, when new information, in the form of a military crash report, came to light.

In 2015, I began to write the story. When word got out, alumni came forward contributing over $1200 towards the purchase of the rights to the many photographs and news articles in the book and to help pay publishing costs. For them I am truly grateful.


The adventure began when I called the historical society in the small town where the bomber crashed. Folks at the historical society had no knowledge of a WWII bomber crash in their town on October 1, 1944. For reasons no one can explain, residents from
the time never talked about it. There were no records anywhere of the event. And yet, I had a military report telling me the farmer’s field where the bomber crashed and the names of local residents who came to the aid of the crew.


What was I to do? A radio interview helped as well as well-placed pleas in local newspapers. People came out of the woodwork to share their memories.

The second adventure began when I was informed that the property on which the bomber crashed was sold to the National Park system shortly after WWII for, The Blue Ridge Parkway, at the site of what is considered to be the most photographed spot on the parkway, Mabry’s Mill. Calls to their historian brought forth the same answer as before; what crash? Several months later National Park authorities verified it was indeed their property and classified it as an archaeological site.

The surprises and adventures continued.

From a reliable source I was informed that my little book is believed to be the only one written about the “Buy a Bomber” program, so it is being widely accepted historically as symbolic of the patriotism permeating home front America during that Great War. Publisher’s Weekly/Book Life honored it with a positive review; it received an endorsement from a World War II expert and a Finalist nod at the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 


This little story has taken me to Florida to meet one of the pilots, now one hundred-years old; to Virginia to hear tales of the day a B-17 bomber fell out of the sky from then 6, 8 and 11-year olds, currently in their late ‘80’s and 90’s; to a WW2 Club in  Florida whose leader is a renowned WWII expert; to the Yankee Air Museum in Michigan to meet pilots and aviation enthusiasts; to classes of Civil Air Patrol Cadets, young patriotic teens who renewed my faith in the youth of today; to historical societies, libraries, museums, bookstores, senior communities and even a donut shop. And everywhere I go, people tell me wonderful stories of a time when American citizens worked together and sacrificed to help preserve our freedom.

But the greatest adventure is still to come. Several weeks ago I received a letter informing me that a Historical Marker will be placed at the crash site at Mabry’s Mill on The Blue Ridge Parkway to honor the pre-history of the bomber that crashed there during World War II. South High alumni are already planning a bus tour in anticipation of the dedication ceremony to take place sometime next year. And, as so many years ago, South High School alumni have stepped forward to raise the $2000 needed to pay for the marker.

Did I mention South High school closed in 1968? That undefinable “SPIRIT” of South High lives on.

This story was written to honor the alumni who attended South High School in 1943. In my wildest dreams I could never have predicted how it would resonate far beyond those alumni with Americans of all ages and result in the placement of a historical marker on The Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Writing this non-fiction story has afforded me adventures beyond my wildest dreams.

And yes, I’m from South High School and couldn’t be prouder!

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Leave a comment and I'll put your name in a hat to win an autographed copy of the book. 

To have Sandra Warren visit your school or organization, visit the Contact page on her website: 
www.sandrawarren.com or www.arliebooks.com or email: sandra@arliebooks.com 



3 comments:

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Sandra,
I am very proud of you for writing the we bought a bomber story. Not only that, you impacted history by making people aware of the spot where the bomber crashed and with the help of many people have made a historical marker become a reality.

So neat.

Love, Joan

Georgia Ruth said...

Thanks for sharing the many turns in the road of a remarkable journey with several surprises. I admire your stamina to bring this project to its necessary completion with an historical marker. Keep writing!

Sandra Warren said...

Thank you Joan and Georgia!

The story took on a life of it's own and pulled me along for the ride. The historical marker seemed the logical next step so I took it.

Hugs to both of you writers. I wish for you both a similar magical writing experience.

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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