Fact: Conscientious objectors worked as smokejumpers and fire lookouts during the war at camps like the one in the book. The harassment they faced was well-documented, though not nearly as severe as WWI conscientious objectors, who went to prison for their beliefs. As mentioned in the novel, COs also led protests of segregation, the internment of Japanese Americans, and terrible conditions in asylums for the mentally ill. They worked for little pay as laborers on federal worksites, caretakers at hospitals, and even test subjects in scientific experiments. The National WWII Museum provides a helpful overview of the different ways they served.
Fiction: Flintlock Mountain is a fictional location, a decision I made because several of the events and all of the characters working there are fictional. Its culture and layout were based on actual smokejumper bases, including the fact that many of the projects that COs worked on were former CCC camps built during the Great Depression.
Fact: The Triple Nickles and the story of their founding is true, though there are many other fascinating details I wasn’t able to include in the book. To learn more about these heroes, visit this website dedicated to preserving their story, or read Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone.
Fiction: As far as we know, none of the Triple Nickle officers were aware of the details about their Pacific Northwest special assignment until they took a train to Oregon in May of 1945. An officer like Lieutenant Leland, therefore, wouldn’t have been present at meetings or inspections prior to that point, but I included him because I knew the novel wouldn’t extend into the spring, and I wanted readers to hear the Triple Nickles' story.
Fact and Fiction: The incendiary bombs revealed in the ending of the novel were very real, as was the U.S. government’s censorship of their existence. The actual tragedy, though, was that one of those bombs killed a woman and five children who went over to investigate it. The cover-up of this event and the subsequent outcry caused the army to release information about the bombs on a local level to prevent future deaths, as well as deploy the Triple Nickles to fight fires and respond to bomb threats. However, Japan didn’t send a second wave of bombs over the Pacific, thinking the strategy had failed, so there were few incidents of bomb-related fires in the spring of 1945.
Fact: Captain Dora Petmencky was the Women’s Army Corps commanding officer at Fort Lawton, and she known for being stern and perhaps a bit too restrictive, at least according to Clarice Fortgang, whose memoirs helped me portray details about the Seattle WACs and their hotel accommodations accurately. (Clarice gets a small cameo role as well as the social planner of the Valentine’s Day variety show.) As in the novel, the Fort Lawton WACs were at first prevented from working in the fort’s garage until a protest—and then their excellent auto repair work—allowed them their hard-earned place.
Wondering about a detail of The Lines Between Us I didn’t mention here? Feel free to send me an email via my Contact page, and I’ll let you know what’s fact and fiction.