Cornelia Clark Fort

STORIES FROM DRAMA: Writing in Role (2 hours)

Choose a character from the past (it doesn’t have to be a famous person). Research that character and the time that they lived. Use the drama convention visualisation to explore what it would be like to be that character. What would they hear? What would they see? Smell? Experience? Write a diary entry in role as your character.

My diary entry is not from a famous person but of someone who may have had a significant role during the time that I have chosen. I have researched into a character called Cornelia Clark Fort who was a WWII civilian flight instructor working in Hawaii.

Woke up at 0605 this morning. Such a restless sleep during the night. I have had constant busy days but today was going to be an early start anyway. Today was the final lesson with my advanced student flying at the controls before he receives his pilot licence.

Something in the air felt strange when I left my room this morning. I took the short 5 minute walk to where the plane was kept at John Rodgers Civilian Airport and met Andrew Smith who is on the final day of training. Such a handsome and confident young man. I’m not sure why he wants to take part in this war but I just have to do my job. We did our usual checks of the plane taking in the khaki green colour of the wings and body, turning the heavy propellers to make sure there was no damage and then testing the controls within the plane. We took off at 0730 this morning and it wasn’t long after that, that we witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbour. 

I think I was one of the first American’s to witness such a devastating sight. The huge, black, shiny object fell with ease from the fighter plane. We are lucky to be alive ourselves. If I hadn’t taken over the controls as quickly as I did, I simply wouldn’t be writing here. Another plane was on a collision course towards us. I could see the look of panic on Andrew’s face, so I took the controls at the last minute and pulled the plane in the other direction, narrowly avoiding the collision. It was only once we had passed that plan that I had noticed the rising sun insignia on its wing – a Japanese war plane. As I looked out of the plane, there were bombers flying in from all over the place and smoke billowing up towards the sky. Everything was starting to disappear.

I told Andrew that we needed to land back at John Rodgers as quickly as we could. As we did, we were pursued by a Japanese Zero. I’ll never forget those big red marks coming towards us. Andrew and I ran for cover and luckily we survived but as we emerged from where we were, we soon realised that the airport manager had been killed. There was blood all over the place from others who were in the area. I can’t begin to explain the horrific sights I was seeing. Andrew had gone pale in the face and looked terrified. In fact we were both terrified by what was happening. 

I waited most of the day to find out about the other two planes that were bringing back more students but they have not returned. We will never know what happened to them. Everything has been destroyed here. Pearl Harbour has been bombed. We are at war with Japan…


I enjoyed writing this diary entry as it made me really think about and try to imagine what it would have been like to have been a female flight instructor who is going to have gone under a lot of criticisim to be where she got to. But also to consider that horrific day that was witnessed by many people who were killed or had disappeared.

This is a great drama convention to use in the classroom as it allows your pupils to consider what it would have been like for someone in that situation. It allows them to think about various different senses and to also consider the period that they are studying. What was it like then? I think you could get a lot of meaningful and well-thought out pieces of work from an exercise like this.

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