Author Note: Please do not read this until you have read the book, as there are spoilers!
The real Lucille “Molly” Pitcher was born in Minnesota in 1925. She lived with her mother Lillian, her father Clarence, her two brothers Wayne and Milton, and her sister (maybe cousin?) Rose.
In early drafts of “The Crash of Hard Water,” I kept true to life and had Molly in a Naval Nurse Cadet program at the University of Minnesota. According to a newspaper clipping she kept, Molly left university after a tragic accident had befallen her mother. This accident was also in the first draft of the book, however, after much editing and advice from others, I removed it. I wanted to talk about it here, though, because it is a compelling story. Apparently there was a mental institution not far from the Pitcher home in Minnesota. The article states that an unstable woman broke out of this institution and attacked Molly’s mother – which led to her being wheelchair bound of the rest of her life.
This all happened in I’m guessing 1944 or 1945. At the same time, Molly’s brother Wayne was reported missing in action. The article also makes mention of Milton’s high school football injury which rendered him unable to join the military.
In reality, Wayne lived through the war and returned to Minnesota. With the urging of my advisor and other readers, I decided to up the stakes and place Wayne at Pearl Harbor. This detail would make Molly’s decision to go to Japan more conflicted and personal.
I am not entirely clear how Molly obtained her job in Tokyo, as she had not completed her college degree. I can only guess that, yes, those things were easier back then and she was able to secure a job. I know that she did work in a Social Security office for a time in Minnesota, so perhaps she had the government job “in” through that position.
I can only imagine that the Pitchers were struggling financially with the grown children at home and the parents not working. Molly must have had a real drive and initiative to secure her position in Tokyo in order to help her family out (or so this article alludes.)
From the clippings and photos she left behind, I still do not know what Molly did as a job in Tokyo. I know that she most likely worked for the Army Signal Corp. In an early draft, Molly worked on cryptanalysis – as her obituary states that she did indeed do this job, although most likely during her time in Washington DC.
There is much mention in Molly’s scrapbook of “her first love,” George. There are also various clippings concerning his death. It seems Molly also used her government position to obtain official military reports about his accident and death.
Throughout the scrapbook, there are various photos of Molly having a good time in Tokyo with friends and GIs. Later, Bob appears and it seems they spent quite some time together and even went on mini-trips together. Bob was indeed awarded for a mission during in time in Korea.
Molly included a clipping from The Stars and Stripes of her being a stand-in for Betty Grable in “Call Me Mister” . After this experience, Molly kept her newly blonde hair and seemed to enjoy more popularity amongst the occupation crowd in Tokyo.
I wanted to talk a little about Mitsuko, as she is a fabricated character. I didn’t want to write a story devoid of any American-Japanese interaction. I’d read letters and accounts from this time period and location and discovered that many Americans working for the military or occupation government had “room boys” or “room girls.” I began to wonder how Molly would have interacted with a young Japanese girl in light of all that had occurred.
Accurately representing the Japanese and the Japanese experience was extremely important to me. I did as much research as I could so that I would not offend anyone – and I still hope that I will not offend anyone. Yes, there were Americans who were still racist against the Japanese during this time. However, I do not believe Molly was one of them. She included several pictures of the Japanese people in her scrapbook, and even filmed a little boy and his mother on a playground in Tokyo (her 8MM film reel from Tokyo.)
I know the opinion of the Japanese was very divided at that time, as was the sentiment of the dropping of the bombs. I wanted to include both sides as to not project a presentist view on the time.
After Tokyo, Molly moved on to Washington DC and then, onto Rio De Janeiro where she met my grandfather.
If you have any questions about the real Molly, or would like to interview me about how I mixed fact and fiction, please feel free to contact me!