Where the Yellow Violets Grow

Last year my sister-in-law handed me a stack of letters, news clippings, and memoirs and asked me to tell her mother and father's stories. 


Her mother, Janet Castner was a Red Cross nurse stationed in England during WWII. I learned much from the letters, and equally as much from the newspaper clippings, most of which were daily events of the war written by the most beloved war correspondent.


Articles from The Stars and Stripes were journalized by Ernie Pyle, who marched alongside Allied troops in the thick of the battles both in the European Theater and in Japan where in 1944 he was killed by enemy fire near Okinawa.

"No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told", wrote Harry Truman. "He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen."


The victory could only be measured in lengths of bandages and in quarts of blood. -Ernie Pyle, Stars and Stripes, 1944

Where the Yellow Violets Grow begins in 1944 with Janet arriving in Petworth, a little coastal town in West Sussex England with 25 other nurses. There they are to staff the 104th General Hospital. A newly erected village made of humble Nissen huts.

Map by John Renehan

Where does the title come from? Janet's hope so beautifully penned in one of her letters.


Maybe we’ll be home by Christmas. It’s so lovely in Pennsylvania at Christmas time. And then you and I could walk in the woods. The forest is beautiful in the winter. I’ll show you where the yellow violets grow. We’ll dig in the snow and find the trailing arbutus. They have a lovely fragrance.  

-Lieutenant Janet Castner



I have taken her letters and fictionalized them on the foundation of fact. The book reads like a novel, but I have tried my best to keep the spirit of their story alive.