(3) Writing Historical fiction: Jack W. Schwartz, Medicine and Jungle Fauna

Pacific Jungle

Welcome to a monthly post about the research for the third novel. If you are new to my blog, this project is about 20th Century U.S. History featuring underrepresented voices. There are six books in the series moving forward in time by twenty or so odd years. A character jumps forward to the next book, too. Book One, set in 1900, is called The Knife with the Ivory Handle. You will find the link at the right sidebar if you’re curious. Book Two, set in 1928, is called Inside the Gold Plated Pistol. You’re invited to check out the page for each novel at the top of the blog. Thanks to everyone who read them. I appreciate your time and feedback.

Book Three, set in 1942, features two Jewish sisters on the Bataan peninsula in World War II. Barbara Kiss is a nurse and becomes a POW. Zorka Kiss assists “High Pockets” a real spy and smuggler of medicine and food to POWs. Her name was Claire Phillips, and she’s fascinating. If you liked the character Kay from the second novel, she returns and plays an active role as one of the famed “Angles of Bataan”. After much deliberation, I’ve decided to give the third novel a simple title. The working title is “The Lost Sisters of Bataan”.

Research Report

Did you know there were two officers named Jack William Schwartz who were P.O.W.s in WW2?

Jack William Schwartz joined the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps in 1940 as a Lieutenant, junior grade. He was transferred to Guam in January of 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was captured and became one of the first U.S. Prisoners of War, held in various camps until 1945. I found his obituary and video. He lived to be 103 and passed away in 2018. You can read about Mr. Schwartz HERE.

There is another Jack William Schwartz, whose affidavit after the war has been used in various books and articles because it is a primary document. I will be using his facts and details when I create “The Lost Sisters of Bataan”. The following is an excerpt from his report. You can read the whole document found here:  http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/philippines/Cabanatuan/schwarz_jack_l_affidavit.html

“At the time of my capture by the Japanese forces in the Philippine Islands, I was the Chief of Surgical Service, Bataan General Hospital #2. My rank at that time was Lieutenant Colonel, having received that promotion on 19 December 1941. I was captured at Bataan General Hospital #2, which is situated 1 kilometer north of Cabcaban, on 9 April 1942.”

It is a grueling, exhausting report, and instills respect and admiration. Jack William Schwartz will play an active role as a hero in the novel.

What do surgeons and nurses do?

A valuable site I found was the U.S. Army Medical Department Office of Medical History. It contains reports and testimonies about the resuscitation, control of pain, and anesthesia of patients in World War II. It’s the details contained therein that allow me to incorporate the actions of the fictional staff in the novel. The jargon, the cases. The amounts of medicine issued, etcetera. This is invaluable to me since I’m not a nurse or a surgeon. How they operated and the medicine they used is different in 1942. When writing historical fiction, one primary goal is to be authentic. Getting ahold of primary documents to recreate the past is paramount. You can explore the site found here: https://history.amedd.army.mil/index.html

What’s it like to be in the Bataan jungle? 

Describing the setting of a place on the other side of the world where Hospital no. 2 was located poses an obvious challenge. I’ve never been to the Philippines, so how do I describe it? I had to do some research. Another primary goal for me is to create a historical climate–that means using the five senses of the setting.

Ylang-ylang tree smells like Chanel No. 5

I found a random site that had great photos and descriptions of the kinds of trees found in the Philippines. Great names I had never heard of like the ylang-ylang tree (Cananga odorata). Its scent is said to be the major ingredient for the perfume Chanel No. 5.

Neem tree

The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) has the proprieties that keep mosquitos away. That knowledge is going into the novel as many Filipino citizens worked at Hospital No. 2, and I presume they would know that. It is the same for the foods found in the jungle such as the papaya. The medicinal plants found in the jungle can be used in the story when supplies run low at the jungle hospital.

This is the fun part of creating historical fiction. Blending facts with fiction.

Thanks for reading this month’s research report. Next month will be about Barbara Kiss’s little sister Zorka. How does she get from Minneapolis to Manila Bay and become a spy? Stay tuned.

25 thoughts on “(3) Writing Historical fiction: Jack W. Schwartz, Medicine and Jungle Fauna

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  1. I have only scratched the surface of research for my fiction serials, compared to your detailed investigations. But that gives me more respect for your work, as I know how time consuming that can be, and then blending that into the story and characters is almost like mixing paints to make a new colour that nobody has ever seen before. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is crazy how one gets lost. J stared at documents for two hours before I realized I was off topic and had to retrace my steps. I talked about Jack W. Schwartz. There were others but with different middle names. I wonder if their friends called them Black Jack? My Schwartz in the novel will be called that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love to read about medical practices from different eras. It’s remarkable how many things within science that have changed and how many things that have remained the same. That’s the most interesting thing about history–the touchstones of humanity that remain unchanged.


  3. I never plan on doing research. But if you have passion it just happens. For instance, do you have any idea how difficult to find 10 useful versions of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’.
    Now that’s research. LoL!


      1. I intend to do about 10 posts on my current Covid theme and use Heroes for all of them. Yes I have a German version, but not by Bowie. It’s not bad.


          1. Thank you Cindy.I do have this Version. I’ve mainly been looking for some inspired cover versions that show a little inspiration rather than a bunch of heavy hammering. I would say that most interpretations are pretty bad though. But there are a ton.

            Liked by 1 person

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