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One Marine's War

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By Gerald A. Meehl

An unusual account of a young American in combat in the Pacific during World War II, this book describes the experiences of a Marine language officer who was decorated for saving enemy lives, not taking them. Author Gerald Meehl recounts how Robert Sheeks overcame his initial bitter hatred of the Japanese, formed after seeing firsthand the brutal actions perpetrated by the Japanese military against Chinese civilians in Shanghai years before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Meehl traces Sheeks’ extraordinary humanitarian quest to prevent the needless deaths of Japanese soldiers and civilians while serving as a combat interpreter during the intense fighting on the islands of Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian.

When his studies at Harvard were interrupted following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sheeks was recruited and trained as a Japanese-language interpreter. During intense training at the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School, first at the University of California-Berkeley and then at the University of Colorado-Boulder, he was deeply impressed by the kindness of his dedicated and cultured Japanese American instructors. He began to reconsider his negative attitudes toward those he had so long despised. Later, during combat on Tarawa in 1943 while serving in the 2nd Marine Division, he became frustrated by the virtual impossibility of communicating with the defending Japanese troops. Deep inside fortified bunkers, attempts to persuade them to surrender were hopeless, since they could not hear voices calling above the din of battle. Following the fighting on Tarawa, Sheeks combined multiple means of communication ranging from voice-amplifying equipment to air-dropped leaflets in an attempt to persuade enemy soldiers and civilians to surrender rather than fight to the death or take their own lives. Ultimately, Sheeks was awarded the Bronze Star, winning the respect of his peers and countless Japanese for his successful efforts that resulted in the surrender of large numbers of enemy civilians and troops during the savage battles on Saipan and Tinian in 1944.

Hard cover. 244 pages. Book measures approximately 6 inches by 9.25 inches.




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