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Lawrence C. Vincent papers

Identifier: COU:1644

Scope and Contents

The Lawrence C. Vincent Papers consist primarily of documents, manuscripts, memoirs and photographs relating to Vincent’s service as a Japanese language officer in the Marines during World War II. Scholars of World War II and the Marine campaigns on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima will find this collection useful.

The collection is divided into six sections. I. BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION is filed in a single folder and includes Vincent’s curriculum vita, copies of clippings, and copies of correspondence. II. CORRESPONDENCE is contained in a single folder. III. SUBJECT FILES includes folders labeled by person or topic and arranged in alphabetical order. Contents of the folders are arranged chronologically. IV. MANUSCRIPTS AND PUBLICATIONS include unpublished manuscripts (typescripts) and early drafts of Vincent’s memoirs. Also present is a bound copy of Vincent’s completed memoirs, Semper Fi: Memoirs of a Japanese Language Officer with the United States Marine Corps in World War II. V. CLIPPINGS contains clippings of articles related to World War II and the death of Vincent’s younger brother in a training accident. In addition, this section holds clippings of articles published on the occasion of Vincent’s retirement from Cuyahoga Community College. VI. PHOTOGRAPHS contains photos taken while Vincent was a Japanese language student in Boulder, as well as photos taken during his service as a Marine.


  • Creation: 1942 - 2003

Biographical Note

Lawrence C. Vincent (b. 1920) graduated in 1943 from the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Before attending the language school in Boulder, he attended the University of Michigan where he met Margaret Cotton, his wife.

After graduating with a certificate of competency in Japanese, Vincent received a commission as 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps and subsequently served in the Pacific campaigns of Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. Looking for some occupation that did not involve guns or combat, Vincent arranged for his appointment as mess officer.

On Guam, Vincent made use of his knowledge of Japanese. In the former headquarters of a Japanese commander, he discovered the battle orders for Iwo Jima which were immediately forwarded to Pacific command headquarters in Hawaii. The discovery was timely, for Vincent’s unit would soon be sent to Iwo Jima, and it was during the Iwo Jima campaign that Vincent’s language skills were put to extensive use. As the final stages of the battle unfolded, Japanese soldiers retreated to caves they had transformed into fortified bunkers. Vincent was among the language officers sent to cave entrances to call out to enemy soldiers and persuade them to surrender. Vincent narrowly escaped being hit by a grenade. The man who saved Vincent’s life was a Japanese soldier whom Vincent had convinced, for the sake of world peace and post-war Japan, to assist the American language officers in their mission. With his help, Vincent became the first American to accept the surrender of Japanese officers. Two officers surrendered together, handing over their swords to Vincent. For gallantry on Iwo Jima Vincent was awarded the Bronze Star.

After Japan surrendered in August of 1945, Vincent volunteered to go to Japan with the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey team. His task was to help interview Japanese civilians by contacting survivors of Hiroshima, as well as residents of more remote communities where bombing raids had not occurred. Vincent arranged for Tomiko Tamia to give a recital of Italian Opera for American troops at the Red Cross. Vincent also reconnected with his long time love for the theater when he interviewed two women kabuki actors.

In 1946 Vincent was relieved of active duty and returned to his home state of Michigan. He resumed his studies at the University of Michigan. In August 1946, Vincent graduated with a B.A., cum laude, in oriental languages. Vincent then devoted his life to the theater: as an actor, a stage manager, director, and teacher. Vincent began his long career by working as an apprentice, and then a staff member, with The Play House in Cleveland, Ohio. He returned to school at Western Reserve University and, in 1949, received an M.A. in Dramatic Arts. He taught English and theater for a year at the junior high school level and then accepted the position of associate professor at Edinboro State Teachers College in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. He left that post in 1962 and performed in an off-Broadway production in New York City. He also worked in summer theater. In 1965 Vincent returned to teaching and became an associate professor and Director of Theater at Cuyahoga (Ohio) Community College. Vincent continued to spend most of his summers acting, stage managing and directing at professional regional theaters.

In 1982 Vincent retired from CCC and moved to New York City to become a full time actor. He performed in numerous films, television and stage productions. Vincent retired from acting in 1995.


.5 linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Lawrence C. Vincent (b. 1930) graduated in 1943 from the U.S. Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and participated in the World War II campaigns of Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. For his gallantry as a Japanese language officer on Iwo Jima, he was awarded the Bronze Star. At the end of the war, Vincent volunteered to serve in Japan with the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. From his base in Tokyo he traveled to Hiroshima and other locations in Japan to assist with interviews of Japanese civilians, an experience that confirmed his life-long aversion to war. Shortly after his return to civilian life, Vincent graduated with a B.A., cum laude, in oriental languages from the University of Michigan. In 1949 he received a Master’s degree in Dramatic Arts from Western Reserve University. Vincent devoted his professional career to the theater as an actor, a stage manager, director, and teacher. The collection contains materials primarily related to Vincent’s war time service. It includes Vincent’s memoirs of his time as a JLS student and his experiences as a Marine Japanese language officer, as well as photographs of Boulder, the war in the Pacific, and the aftermath of bombings in Japan.

Processed by Katherine Harris, 2009
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States