Daughter Fulfills Late Father's 60 Year Old Promise - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

6/12/04

Daughter Fulfills Late Father's 60 Year Old Promise

His word was his bond and his daughter says that caused World War II veteran Alvin Shipman to go to his grave with one regret.

As a young Army sergeant, Shipman made a promise to share what he knew of the atrocities and war crimes committed during the Holocaust, but he did not.

Now some 25 years after Shipman's death his story is finally being told.

Shirley Shipman-Johnson calls Poplarville home just as her parents did. No one in this small town had any idea that her father, Alvin Shipman, knew the secrets of a Nazi officer.

"My dad actually put the confession inside a pillow, sewed it up, sent it home to his mother in Vernon Texas and it laid in the trunk at the foot of her bed from 1945 to 1973."

In 1945 Army Sergeant Shipman helped liberate the Mauthasen Concentration camp in Austria.

There he met a former prisoner who'd had taken the Nazi commander's death bed confession.

Shipman guaranteed his friend he'd make the story public but in 1979 that promise was still unfulfilled.

"He was dying with cancer and he told me 'I've always been a man of my word and I've tried to do right but I made a promise to a man in 1945 that I never kept, " said Shipman-Johnson.

Johnson says her father's dying wish was that she make good on his promise.

She's doing just that with a published book, a Hollywood movie in the works, and a documentary due out next year.

Marvin Baker makes documentary films who felt compelled to take on this project.

"When you look at the death bed confession, it just tears your heart out. It's part of a small town and not coming out of the major cities. It's a Southern story that deals with a major situation like the atrocities over in Germany and Austria," said Baker.

The 60 year journey from small town secret to national exposure seemed complete when Johnson got a special phone call from someone who called her dad a "hero".

"My first thought was well, Daddy, now everybody knows because I felt like if Steven Spielberg knew we had reached the core and that the story would grow.

The name of Shirley Johnson's book is "A Soldier's Promise: The Alvin W Shipman Story".

by Danielle Thomas

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