Friday, January 23, 2009

Level of Historical Accuracy / Amount of Research

When is enough?

For example, it made sense in my current novel to have a flashback to the bombing of a German city in WWII. Firebombing is especially unpleasant, so that'd be a good touch. Dresden's probably the most famous, but that'd put our character in East Germany later, and less likely to emigrate to the USA in the 50s. So I poked around and found Darmstadt, thoroughly fire bombed on September 11, 1944. Right side of the Iron Curtain, and in southern Germany, which got me to poking around about Christmas traditions in the area, for another scene (see previous entry on Knecht Ruprecht), which was a nice bonus.

So I'm curious about any further details of the ordinance used (not that our characters would know what's being dropped on them, of course, but it might help with the description of how the things go off and the damage they do). So I find that a 4000 lb bomb called a "cookie" was often used during these raids. It had no shrapnel, but just made an enormous blast to blow the roofs off buildings, so the tiny incendiaries (4kg) would then land inside the building and not set the roof on fire (where fire crews would have a better chance of extinguishing them). "Cookies" were used during the time period, the one photo I saw of one being dropped was even dated November 1944. But I have no direct corroboration of "cookies" being dropped on Darmstadt.

Thorough enough research, to put "cookies" in the description of the raid? Or no "cookie"?

5 Comments:

Blogger wscottfield said...

You've got a city that was actually firebombed, and a weapons that was actually used in similar firebombings. In the absence of any contrary evidence, I'd call that close enough IMO.

4:04 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

That sounds about right: it's not like putting in a city that was not fire bombed, or using a weapon that didn't come into service until after the event. Either of those flubs could be easily checked.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Gestalt said...

I would use the descriptions of the fire bombings liberally, they have become so ingrained into our psyches that playing off of the theme would help create a sense of realism. I wouldn't mention any specifics of munition. The people suffering from those atrocities wouldn't know that, and as we all know naming a demon takes its power away. I wouldn't mention cookie, besides its a US Military term. Even if it was used I wouldn't have a average German talking about it. Many of the German cities were devastated. I used to live in a small city named Braunschweig. 90% of it was destroyed, and the industry was primarily canning at the time. The allies were ruthless. Pretty much any town or city would be a good bet. Darmstadt is a Hessian city and Knecht Ruprecht was a Bavarian version of the folk tale. I would choose a Bavarian city if possible, if not double check to see if the Hessians observed Ruprecht as well. I don't know what percent of Hessians were catholic, but if its high enough you could probably pull it off. I know it seems like it's close enough but Germany was very divided into little city states for so long that customs from each Bundeslande do vary quite a bit. I speak fluent German and even I have a hard time understanding certain southern dialects when traveling from town to town down there. I hope this helps. If you have any questions feel free to email me. I can help with any German research, I used to do that for my professor all the time.

2:57 PM  
Blogger 50 Foot Ant said...

A quick way to check if it was used is to check what kind of ordnance they've find while doing construction in the last 30 years.

5:14 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

oh boy, that would ruin your whole day, digging up a UXB of one of those bad boys.

5:22 PM  

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