THE LOST VALENTINE
TEACHER'S LESSON GUIDE
Includes overview, lesson guideline, discussion questions about the story, project-based
study and website reference list.
Teachers presenting the subject of World War II and its human toll for the first time in
conjunction with THE LOST VALENTINE will want to refer to the websites below to
refresh their knowledge and understanding of this complex subject. THE LOST
VALENTINE is a fictional story, but at its heart it also is the story of a wrenching
separation by war of two people in love, an event repeated millions of times in the more
than 25 countries involved in World War II combat. Activities you offer students should
reflect that seriousness, especially in light of the possibility that most of your students
will have had a relative or family friend who served and was perhaps even wounded, lost,
or killed in the global conflict that began in Asia and Europe in the late 1930s, was joined
by Americans on Dec. 7, 1941, and ended in August 1945.
More than 16 million Americans served in the United States' armed forces during
World War II. More than 400,000 U.S. men and women died in Europe and the Pacific
while fighting against the Japanese and Axis Powers, primarily Germany and Italy.
Currently there are 74,191 World War II Americans listed as Missing in Action (MIA).
As Caroline Thomas said in THE LOST VALENTINE, their loved ones never forgot
them and never gave up on finding some trace of what happened to them "because love
never dies." Every American was touched by the war. Even if they did not lose a loved
one, their vital supplies were rationed to support the war effort. All citizens were
encouraged to mend and "make do" with what they had so factories could focus on war
materiel production. Millions of women entered the workforce to replace fighting men
abroad. It was a time of unity and dedicated national purpose as Allied Forces led by the
United States, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union ultimately achieved total victory.
WWII's Missing American Service personnel:
Origins of a Search: The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) at
Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii, is responsible for finding, identifying and
returning to loved ones any traceable remains of Americans missing in action in all wars.
JPAC says that currently 74,191 World War II soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are
unaccounted for. Its official research is by JPAC historians and analysts. They gather
correspondence, maps, photographs, unit histories, medical and personnel records about
POW/MIAs from sources such as outside researchers, the national archives, and records
maintained by U.S. and foreign governments. Veterans, private citizens, families of
missing Americans, and amateur sleuths, such as THE LOST VALENTINE's Susan
Allison and photographer boyfriend Andrew Hathorne, also provide leads. JPAC experts
put all information together in a 'loss incident case file' for each unaccounted-for person.
At any given time there are more than 1,000 active case files under investigation by
Field Search: JPAC researchers travel to a potential recovery location to
interview potential witnesses, conduct on-site reconnaissance, and survey terrain for
safety and logistical concerns. They frequently turn up new information that may help
with eventual identifications. Teams operating in countries with active media outlets or a
strong community network often gain valuable new information about additional sites
simply by talking with residents. The main goal of reconnaissance missions is to gather
enough facts to link a specific site with a missing person. Then one of JPAC's six field
investigative teams (commonly referred to as an 'IT') composed of four to nine specialists
visits the site located anywhere in the world. An average field trip is 30 to 45 days. Team
members include a leader, assistant leader, analyst, linguist and medic. Sometimes an
anthropologist, explosive ordnance technician, or life support technician (for identifying
aviation life support equipment) goes along. If enough evidence is found a site is
recommended for recovery.
Recovery and Return of Remains: When field research is completed and a set
of remains is received at JPAC's Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam AFB,
physical evidence such as bones, teeth and other material is studied and correlated with
historical evidence. Lab experts identify on average six Americans per month from all
wars, not just World War II, but it sometimes takes years to close certain cases. All
reports undergo thorough peer review, including external inspection by independent
experts. If DNA is involved, a search for family reference samples for DNA comparison
may significantly extend the identification process. Completed cases are forwarded to the
Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine mortuary affairs office and a team from the appropriate
service personally notifies next-of-kin family members. The procedure is accurately
portrayed in THE LOST VALENTINE when a two-officer Navy team comes to Caroline
Thomas' door to inform her that the remains of her missing husband, Lt. Neil Thomas,
have been recovered close to where his plane was shot down 65 years ago near Manila
Bay in the Philippines.
THE LOST VALENTINE's fictional heroine Caroline Thomas never gave up
hope of finding out what happened to her husband, Navy pilot Lt. Neil Thomas. Do you
know anyone who still has a loved one missing in World War II, or in Korean, Vietnam
or Gulf wars? Why do you think Mrs. Thomas visited the Union Station on the
anniversary of her husband's departure for war? Do you think she would have found out
what happened to her husband if she had stopped making her annual trips to the train
station? Do you think fictional journalist Susan Allison's determined search for
information about Lt. Thomas's fate would happen in real life? Would you be as curious
to find out what happened as she was? Do you think Susan Allison would have been as
committed to her story if she had not been falling in love with the missing pilot's
grandson Lucas Thomas? If so, why?
World War II Veterans: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says
16,112,566 individuals were members of our armed forces between Pearl Harbor in
December 1941 and the Armistice in August 1945. There were 291,557 confirmed battle
deaths, 113,842 confirmed other deaths in (non-theater) military service, and 671,846
non-mortal woundings. It is estimated that about 1.8 million veterans are still living;
approximately 850 of them die every day. The median age of a World War II veteran is
86 to 87 years. Health care facilities for veterans, such as the one THE LOST
VALENTINE's Caroline Thomas had visited every Saturday for 20 years, include 171
medical centers; more than 350 outpatient, community and outreach clinics; 134 nursing
home care units, and 2,500 contracts with community nursing homes. Forty-seven states
operate a total of 120 veterans' home programs; 51 state domicilliaries; five state home
hospitals, and two state home adult day care health programs. VA health care facilities
provide a large array of rehabilitative, surgical and medical care. Survivors associations
include American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, the Philippine Scouts Heritage
Society, Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, Normandy Veterans Association, U.S.
Submarine Veterans of World War II, and Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
Did any members of your family serve in the U.S. military in World War II? If
so, were you able to talk to them or read any of their writing about their wartime
experiences? Would you like to find out about what they did in that war? Do you have
other relatives or family friends who lived during that time who can talk to you about it?
What questions would you ask them? Do you have friends or family members currently
serving in the military? Are any of them in a war zone? Do you keep in touch with them
through letters, e-mail or social media sites? Would you like to?
Do you think Caroline Thomas kept going to visit World War II veterans at the
hospital because it helped them, or because it helped her, or a combination of both? Why
do you hold such views? Do you think you could make a positive difference in any
veteran's life if you visited him or her in a hospital or retirement home? Would you
volunteer to do it, then follow through?
The Home Front:
Rationing: By the spring of 1942, the Food Rationing Program was deeply
affecting Americans. In THE LOST VALENTINE, Caroline Thomas says of those days
"Everyone seemed to have something to do behind the scenes for the war effort because
all of us had someone we loved 'over there'…We planted victory gardens, collected scrap
metal and rubber for recycling. Everyone was united—bound together in a sense of
During rationing, the federal government needed to control supply and demand
to avoid public anger over shortages, and to prevent wealthy citizens from getting
preference to purchase commodities. Sugar rationing began in May 1943. Families
registered, usually at the local school, for coupons based on family size. A coupon book
permitted a set amount of sugar, and later other commodities such as meat, butter, fat,
oils and cheese. Possession of a coupon book did not guarantee allotment of a set amount
of rationed food, only that a coupon-holding family was allowed a specified amount.
Sometimes limited foods simply were not available; families had to learn to make do with
what they had, or do without. Ration stamps became a currency unto themselves. As the
war dragged on, clothing, shoes, coffee, gasoline, tires, and fuel oil also were scarce.
Each coupon book had specifications and deadlines. The distance and importance of jobs
determined who got gasoline and tires, and how much. The top speed limit was 35 miles
per hour to save gasoline. Social visits were rare and precious.
Victory Garden: Nearly 20 million Americans, including Caroline Thomas in
THE LOST VALENTINE, supplemented the national food supply by growing their own.
They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots, window boxes, baseball fields,
schoolyards, parks, roadway medians and even city rooftops. Neighbors pooled their
resources and formed cooperatives, all in the name of patriotism. The Smithsonian
Institution's oral history of victory gardens reveals that federal and state agencies, private
foundations, businesses, schools and agriculture companies collaborated to provide land,
instruction, and seeds for individuals, families and communities that banded together.
The goal was to fertilize, weed, water and harvest enough fresh vegetables to eat during
the summer, and can and preserve any excess crops to get gardeners and their family and
friends through the winter and spring until next summer's produce was ripe. In 1943,
families bought 315,000 pressure cookers with which to can food, compared to just
66,000 the previous year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the annual
vegetable harvest in victory gardens to be between nine and 10 million tons, an amount
equal to the nation's commercial vegetable production.
Just as it did during World War II, our government is now urging Americans to
eat healthy meals by growing our own food. First Lady Michelle Obama, who heads the
"Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity, leads this bipartisan effort.
Americans also are strongly encouraged to prevent waste and conserve natural resources
by reusing and recycling materials such as glass, plastic and aluminum, and by "going
green." These national movements are gaining momentum in homes, schools, government
and private businesses. Does your family grow its own food? Do you think it is important
to grow your own food? Where would you plant a garden? Do you recycle? If so, what do
you recycle and how? Does your school have a garden? Does your school recycle?
Would you help start a garden and recycling program at your school if it does not have
one? How? Why?
Western Union: What was to become a revolution in electronic
communications began in 1851 when several telegraph companies joined together to
create Western Union, builder of America's first transcontinental communications line a
decade later. Connecting east and west coasts by telegraph was as astonishing an event in
the 19th century as the 20th century's invention of the computer. Western Union's heyday
came in the 1920s and '30s when the company's ubiquitous yellow envelopes delivered
by couriers on bicycles cost less than telephone calls. After the outbreak of World War II
in 1941, the arrival of a courier at the door was terrifying because the War Department,
forerunner of today's U.S. Department of Defense, used Western Union to notify families
of the disappearance or death of loved ones in uniform. Twice during THE LOST
VALENTINE, Caroline Thomas stands fearful and silent on her front porch as she
watches a Western Union courier come toward her. The first time, he visits another
house. The second time, he stops at hers. The telegram says her husband is "missing in
action while in the service of his country." She lifts her tear-filled eyes from the telegram
to the delivery man's face and says: "he's not dead—they don't know—missing isn't
dead!" Sixty-five years later, she said that was the day "the real waiting began…"
Teachers may want students to research different historical aspects of the THE
LOST VALENTINE www.hallmark.com/online/hall-of-fame on the Internet, then have
them connect those events to current circumstances and report on their discoveries. For
those students, here is a partial list of websites:
• National World War II Memorial on The Mall in Washington, D.C.
www.nps.gov/nwwm and www.wwiimemorial.com
• U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs www.va.gov
• Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command www.jpac.pacom.mil
• Smithsonian Institution www.si.edu
• Western Union www.westernunion.com