A History of Love, War and Family
18-year-old Pvt Dean Sherman goes to church with a friend in Salt Lake City. He meets 16-year-old Connie that will become his wife. After Pearl Harbor Dean applies for pilot training and is accepted. Dean joins Connie’s Mormon Church and they secretly become engaged.
By the time Dean has commissioned a pilot, Connie is 18 and they marry and are together for a year and a half before he ships out as an Airplane Commander of a B-29. Connie is pregnant with their son, Marvin.
A Japanese family is introduced, the Kyoshis. She is an important member of the Community Council he is a builder of water guns used in fighting fires and is the neighborhood fire captain. A son Reo will go off to war and train as a fighter pilot. 12-year-old Son Riku has a reappearing role in the story concerning the B-29’s bombing of Japan. They also have 6-year-old twin sisters that are sent to Hiroshima early in the story for their safety.
The crew of 44-69966 arrives in India after a month of flying. Letters start arriving for Connie. Discussion of the B-29s development of strategic purposes is explained.
In Japan Reo Kyoshi goes off to war and the Firebombing of Tokyo occurs. 15 Square miles burned down to the sidewalks. 100,000 casualties and a million people homeless. The Kyoshi survive the conflagration but lose their home.
Marvin is born. Dean returns to duty and his plane is transferred to the Marianna Islands in the Pacific. Some 67 love letters are exchanged between Dean and Connie.
Dean’s plane is shot down over Nagoya Japan, the crew is captured and sent to Tokai Army Headquarters. Connie keeps writing letters that cannot be delivered. She has no idea he is in a Japanese prison.
Prison conditions are horrible, beatings and interrogations constant. Connie receives the war department telegram listing Dean as MIA.
A sham trial is conducted the crew is found guilty and their sentence is carried out the next day.
Almost 50 years later, Dean comes to Connie in a dream/vision and confirms his love for her and that they will yet have a life together.
Writing Creative Nonfiction
They Called Him Marvin is a creative nonfiction novel set in World War 2. Creative nonfiction is the bringing together of a story for which we have some documentation but one that needs fictional representations to complete the story.
In writing “TCHM,” things like the letters, military records, family histories provided a treasure trove of nonfiction material for construction of this story. The letters for instance came by the hand of Dean and Connie, they are non-edited transcriptions. They appear just as they were written, by real live people caught up in a war.
While military records provided the names of the other crew members and basic information about who they were, their back stories and the interactions they had in the book are fictional. My best guess at who they were and how the conducted themselves. Some were patterned after other “real” people that I came across in my research. Corporal Evan Howell for example in the “Same Damn Movie” chapter interacted with his airplane commander about the movies being shown at their stops on the way to India. This anecdote was my creation based on a character that I learned about in an interview with a B29 pilot.
I learned about Hiyung Pak while visiting the National Archives to research pertinent records there. The Yokohama War Crimes minutes told his story in detail. I found his prayer delivered at the execution of his friends to be very touching.
Riku and the rest of the Kiyoshi family were fictional characters. They were derived from diaries and histories of Japanese citizens during the war. The descriptions of the horrible night of 10 March 1945, were built on individual histories of survivors of the night. Riku actually became my favorite non-Sherman character in the book. I feel a parental type of love for him, like he was my son, even if he is just a character in a book.
I have often been asked about where Therill Hansen post man extraordinaire and distant relative of some sort came from. He is quite the composite of folks I have come across in life. Yes I do know someone who can whistle a duet with himself! I feel like Therill is the most radical creation in the book. It makes me smile to just think about him.
Writing between fiction and non fiction did not feel difficult to me. I did not embellish the non fiction portions of the story and felt I did not get carried away with the fiction sections.
It was an honor to write this book. An honor to let people know of the sacrifices of one family in WW2. We owe so much to them and life does not let us slow down enough to remember them as we should. Lest We Forget!
Thank you, Roger Stark and Pump Up Your Book
About the Author
I am, by my own admission, a reluctant writer. But there are stories that demand to to be told. When we hear them, we must pick up our pen, lest we forget and the stories be lost.
Six years ago, in a quiet conversation with my friend Marvin, I learned the tragic story his father, a WW2 B-29 Airplane Commander, shot down over Nagoya, Japan just months before the end of the war.
Bill Clinton has famously said: “They were the fathers we never knew, the uncles we never met, the friends who never returned, the heroes we can never repay. They gave us our world. And those simple sounds of freedom we hear today are their voices speaking to us across the years.”
Such a man was Marv’s father. A father he never knew. The telling of the story that evening by this half orphan was so moving and full of emotion, it compelled me to ask if I could write the story. The result being “They Called Him Marvin.”
My life has been profoundly touched in so many ways by being part of documenting this sacred story. I pray that we never forget, as a people, the depth of sacrifice that was made by ordinary people like Marvin and his father and mother on our behalf.
My career as an addiction counselor (CDP) lead me to write “The Waterfall Concept; A Blueprint for Addiction Recovery,” and co-author “Reclaiming Your Addicted Brain.”
After my counseling retirement, I decided I wanted to learn more about the craft of writing and started attending classes at Portland Oregon’s Attic Institute. What I learned is that there are an mazing number of great writers in my area and they were willing to help others improve their skills. I am grateful to many of them.
My next project is already underway, a memoir of growing in SW Washington called “Life on a Sorta Farm.” My wife of 49 years, Susan and I still live in that area.
We raised seven children, and have eleven grandchildren. We love to travel and see the sites and cultures of the world. I still get on my bicycle whenever I can.
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