Glen K. Slaughter and Glenn W. Nelson were Marine Corps Japanese Language Officers who met at the US. Navy Japanese Language School at the University of Colorado Boulder. They served together on Okinawa in the 6th Marine Division. Together with Seiichi “Tony” Komesu, an Okinawan volunteer they recruited, they spoke and broadcast messages to civilians and Imperial Japanese troops in caves and on cliffs contemplating suicide, saving many lives.
According to Slaughter's 2012 obituary, he applied to attend the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School, which had just relocated from the University of California Berkeley to the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated in 1943, a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps Reserve and a Japanese Language Officer. Slaughter's Pacific duties as a Language Officer began with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, which was followed by service in the Emirau, Guam and Okinawa campaigns, eventually with the 29th Regiment, 6th Marine Division. His responsibilities included combat intelligence, translating and interpreting Japanese captured documents, and interrogating Japanese POWs. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1944.
During the Okinawa Campaign, Lieutenants Slaughter and Nelson, along with "Tony" Komesu, manned an offshore PA system, attempting to halt Japanese and Okinawan military and civilian suicide attempts from a cliff on the island. Nelson described how the Japanese army had told the Okinawan civilians that the Americans would kill them if they surrendered. The efforts of the three men saved many lives and created a life-long bond. Slaughter and Nelson maintained a life-long fellowship with their fellow Marine veterans and Japanese language school classmates from World War II. Captain Roger Pineau, a fellow graduate of the US Navy Japanese Language School, arranged a reunion between Marines Glen Slaughter, Glenn Nelson, Jim Jefferson and other veterans of that campaign with Komesu in Okinawa in 1990. Many of the people they had saved turned out to greet them in Naha, Okinawa (source: Washington Post, 2009)
Komesu was one of the few Okinawan residents who worked with the troops for the entire three-month campaign, hopeful that he could help to spare lives and bring peace to the island. Komesu's appeals in "hogen," the Okinawan dialect, were crucial in persuading many to abandon the caves. In the 1991, Komesu, a great baseball player in his own right, was hosted to an Baltimore Orioles game by Pineau and other former veterans. In the 7th inning stretch, Komesu’s baseball statistics and war contributions were put up in lights to a huge ovation.
This image is from the Roger Pineau Collection in the CU Boulder Archives. Both Slaughter and Nelson also have materials related to their time in the Japanese Language School, and Pineau went on to become a naval historian. He was the author, translator or editor of ten books on naval history, many of them about Japan and operations in the Pacific Ocean in World War II.
The University of Colorado Boulder Libraries will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Archives on June 6, 2018. This is story #14 in our series: 100 Stories for 100 Years from the Archives!