When I met Charlie, the inspiration for my book, The Secret Eye, I was just 2 days old. In fact, it was Charlie who loaned my father his car to take me to the hospital while my mother was in labor. You see, I was born in January, a bitterly cold time in Minnesota and many cars during that time did not start easily when the temperature dipped below zero.
Charlie became my step-father when I was 16 years old. It was there he shared stories of his childhood and his time serving in the navy during World War II. Charlie was one of the first Radar operators in the Pacific but he did not brag about the people he helped save or the Japanese planes he discovered just in time to save the ship from certain destruction. Charlie was humble about his service.
Charlie chose to enter World War II when he turned 18, something the character Charlie did at age 17. So many men volunteered for war before they turned 18, I consciously chose to have the character enter the war at 17 in honor of those men. The story of Charlie deciding which branch of the military he wanted to serve actually happened. You will need to read the book to find out more.
The Secret Eye follows the lives of Charlie Brand and Hadaki Yamatsumi as they struggle with their decision to volunteer for service during World War II. My book is an historical fiction novel based on real battles and the people who fought in the Pacific Theater. Charlie served on the USS Lexington CV-16 and the USS Yorktown CV-10. For those who know the history of these 2 ships during 1944 will remember the use of Kamikaze planes to inflict the greatest amount of damage to the US fleet and terrorize the US servicemen. This is where the secondary character of Hadaki and Charlie meet.
I thought it would be interesting to look at 2 men from different sides of the war, destined to meet in battle, not knowing who would survive the engagement. What motivated Hadaki to become a Kamikaze pilot? How did the Japanese culture determine his destiny?
I also thought it would be interesting to look at the military effect Radar had on the US war effort. How was Radar used during the war and how did it finally turn the tide for America? When Radar entered the war, it was classified top secret and only a few people knew of its existence. The book follows how the lives of the pilots were drastically changed because of Radar and how a gift from Great Britain changed the course of the war and lives of every person in the world.
Over the many years I knew Charlie before he died in 2013, I saw an inner strength in this man, a wisdom beyond his years. I believe he represents the wisdom many men took home from their service. Freedom is not free and often comes at great personal cost. Serving others is the highest calling a man can do and I hope this story gives you a glimpse into the daily struggle to stay alive many men faced while serving their country.
The Secret Eye is not a biographical story of my step-father, but an archetype of the young men who sacrificed so much to keep America safe. Many of the stories about Charlie as a young boy did happen, not even John Grisham or Tom Clancy could dream up stories like these.
Charlie did experience some fame because of his war service. He related the story of the Kamikaze attack on the Lexington for a documentary about WW2 Carriers and was interviewed by the staff historian on the USS Yorktown. However, my best memory of Charlie was when he accompanied me, my son, and our Cub Scout Pack to Corpus Christie where we stayed aboard the USS Lexington for one night. Charlie was honored while on the ship where he accepted the colors as they were retired that night.
He was loved by so many and lives in the memories we discuss over family dinners. It is my hope that the character Charlie lives up to the man we knew as Charles Edward Stainer Jr.