About Sherwood Ford Moran, 1885-1983

Missionary and social worker,
US Marine and pioneering WWII PoW interrogator,
Asian-art scholar


Memorial Day 2005

This site has been constructed by the family of Sherwood F. Moran in response to numerous inquiries about him following the article in the June Atlantic Monthly on his humane interrogation work on Guadalcanal.

Soon USMC links and selected other materials will be posted having to do with this most interesting individual. In the meantime, here is a brief biography:

The Life and Work of Sherwood Ford Moran, 1885 - 1983

by Frances H. Moran with Sherwood R. Moran
(The authors are Sherwood F. Moran’s 88-year-old daughter-in-law and his eldest son, Sherwood Reeves Moran, who live in a retirement center in Madison, Wisconsin. Their children, four of Sherwood F.’s ten grandchildren, assisted.
Copyright 2005 David R. Moran; all rights reserved.)

Foreword
In the summer of 2003, Douglas Brower, an active-duty Marine who teaches interrogation for the USMC and USN and also is historian for the Marine Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association, posted on www.mcitta.org a 1943 memo well-known in his field. Entitled “Suggestions for Japanese Interpreters Based on Work in the Field,” it had been recently retyped by the association’s Mitchell Paradis (retired Master Gunnery Sergeant USMC). The posting drew attention because of the document’s clear, emphatic, and persuasive explanations of why sympathetic, familiarly grounded prisoner interrogation was altogether preferable to its opposite.

In December 2004, the Japan Times published a review by freelance correspondent Richard Halloran of the new book The Anguish of Surrender: Japanese POWs of World War II, by Ulrich Straus. (Straus, who lived in Japan as a child, was a US Army language officer there after the war, participating in war-crimes trials, and has been a faculty member at the National War College.) The widely syndicated review mentioned that a “Maj. Sherwood Moran of the U.S. Marines lived in Japan … and spoke fluent Japanese, and was a particularly effective interrogator because he treated each prisoner as another human rather than as the enemy.” Straus had discovered S.F. Moran records in the WWII archives of UColorado-Boulder.

In June 2005, the Atlantic Monthly ran an article by the military technology and intelligence historian Stephen Budiansky, entitled “Truth Extraction.” He wrote:

"Six months before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison broke into public view, a small and fairly obscure private association of United States Marine Corps members posted on its Web site a document on how to get enemy POWs to talk. The document described a situation very similar to the one the United States faces in the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan: a fanatical and implacable enemy, intense pressure to achieve quick results, a brutal war in which the old rules no longer seem to apply.

"Marine Major Sherwood F. Moran, the report's author, noted that despite the complexities and difficulties of dealing with an enemy from such a hostile and alien culture, some American interrogators consistently managed to extract useful information from prisoners. The successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subjects. They were nice to them.

"Moran was writing in 1943, and he was describing his own, already legendary methods of interrogating Japanese prisoners of war. More than a half century later his report remains something of a cult classic for military interrogators. The Marine Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association, a group of active-duty and retired Marine intelligence personnel, calls Moran's report one of the 'timeless documents' in the field and says it has long been 'a standard read' for insiders. An MCITTA member says the group decided to post Moran's report online in July of 2003, because 'many others wanted to read it' and because the original document, in the Marine Corps archives, was in such poor shape that the photocopies in circulation were difficult to decipher. He denies that current events had anything to do with either the decision to post the document or the increased interest in it."



* * *

In response to numerous inquiries following these developments, the daughter-in-law and surviving son of Sherwood F. Moran, along with their children, have undertaken a brief biography explaining who this unusual individual — clergyman, missionary, Marine, PoW-interrogation expert, Asian-art scholar — was, and how he got that way.
(Readers should remain aware that researchers have sometimes confused Sherwood F. Moran with his son, Sherwood R. Moran.) — David R. Moran, grandson

* * *
Biography
Sherwood F. Moran was born on 8 October 1885 in Covington, Kentucky, where his father, William Joel Moran, was stationed as a clerk for the US Army Quartermaster Corps. There Joel had met local belle Margaret Ford, a beautiful young woman with whom the handsome clerk fell in love. While Joel was one generation removed from Ireland, Margaret Ford proudly traced her ancestors back through the early settlers in Virginia, who often had been members of the aristocracy of England and Scotland; in fact she believed their and therefore her ancestry went back to the Robert Bruces of Scotland and the signers of the Magna Carta.

Believing she was marrying a distinguished Northern army officer, Margaret Ford was soon disillusioned both about Joel’s status and about his religion. He was by family background a “black Irish” (dark-haired) Catholic who labeled himself agnostic, whereas Margaret was a devout Baptist. Soon the couple had three children: Margarita, and then twin boys, Sherwood Ford and Ford Moran. (Margaret’s father, who died she was nine, had been named Sherwood. Sherwood F. Moran’s wife, Ursul, later reported that disagreement over names was the reason for the odd naming of the twins.)

The family moved at some point to Flatbush, New York, and Sherwood F. graduated from the Brooklyn Latin School. He often described his father as an intelligent and well-read man of considerable strengths. Joel was also a great walker, traversing more than once the route from New York to Washington DC and back. Sherwood F. said of his father that he never took a drink and was a man of strong moral principles.

Also, according to Sherwood F., the couple were incompatible most of their lives. But as divorce was mostly unheard of, they put up with what they had got themselves into. One of the results of this dysfunction was that the three children took very different life paths in their maturity, two of them extreme. Margarita grew ever more possessed of religious fervor, becoming a very strong Baptist and eventually an evangelical missionary in India, who greeted everyone with “Are you saved?”, including on visits to her nephew Sherwood R. and his wife, Frances. Grandson Ted Moran recalls a “visit by [great-]Aunt Margarita and how we closed the windows for fear that the neighbors and passersby would hear how loud she was about religion.” Twin Ford took the opposite tack: he became a bitter atheist, sarcastic, anti-politics, anti-everything, and at some point alienated himself not only from his siblings and parents but from his own wife and their two children. He had earlier been a serious fisherman and sailor, living with his family on a boat and plying fishing waters between Rhode Island and Florida. But at the end of his life he lived and died alone in a trailer in Florida, out of touch. Sherwood F. once went to visit him but never had much to say about him, and Ford’s situation remained a sad, undiscussed subject.

After Brooklyn Latin, Sherwood F. was at loose ends, without plans for a career, and for a while, having taken expensive tap lessons from the outstanding dancer of the era, seriously considered going onstage. There is a family photo of him doing part of his buck-and-wing routine, and the kick leg is completely vertical over his head; it looks like a standing split. A woman friend dissuaded Sherwood F. from this vaudeville path, however, saying, “You do not want to associate with the kind of people you would meet in the theater.” At this same time Sherwood F. became interested in the YMCA, which over the preceding decades had become exceedingly popular, and regularly emphasized how much he enjoyed the moral and upright men he met there. He also found a mentor, a prominent NYC businessman active in the Y movement, who persuaded Sherwood F. that he ought to go to college and broaden his mind — both his understanding of the world and his academic knowledge. This man recommended Oberlin College, in Ohio, a Congregational, religiously oriented but venerably liberal institution that he thought Sherwood F. would benefit from attending.

In 1911, then, at age 26, Sherwood F. enrolled in Oberlin. He worked for his board and also received some financial help. Neither of his parents had gone to college. He majored in philosophy, and his most impressive professor was Edward Franklin Bosworth, a Congregational minister (and later dean of students through 1955) who taught New Testament studies. Influenced by Bosworth, Sherwood F. decided that after Oberlin he would attend Union Theological Seminary, at Columbia University, and get a divinity degree. In the meantime he had met a beautiful young woman from California, Ursul Reeves, who had come to Oberlin as an organ major.

They became engaged, but in the middle of his college career Sherwood F. got the opportunity to travel as secretary to Sherwood Eddy, the well-known pacifist and founder of YMCAs overseas, specifically in Asia. The two Sherwoods went around the world, crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian railroad, a journey of more than a week across that pre-Revolutionary country. After this adventure Sherwood F. returned to Oberlin, graduated, and he and Ursul were married in 1915. They moved to NYC and Sherwood F. attended UTS, where he was strongly influenced by the writings of the pragmatic liberal philosopher-psychologist William James.

Following UTS, Sherwood F. and Ursul became involved with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), the Congregational body out of Boston’s Beacon St. that was extremely active in the mission field. They signed on and became missionaries, thinking they were heading to India. At the last minute they were switched to Japan, bound for Tokyo. Having been strongly impressed with the social-settlement mission philosophy, the couple arrived in Japan ready and eager not so much to preach as to set up institutions delivering, Jane Addams-style, services and education to Japanese communities and neighborhoods: from family life and mental health issues to nutrition, hygiene, and preschool classes, and including recreation such as basketball and square dancing. It was in Tokyo that their first child, Sherwood R., was born, in 1917, but presently Sherwood F., Ursul, and child moved to Osaka, bought or built a house, and with fellow missionary Alice Cary set up Yodogawa Zenrinkan, the Yodo River Social Settlement Center, perhaps the first such in the country. Granddaughter Susan Harvey today observes that “although I always admired the story of my grandfather's military service and success as an interviewer of PoWs, his interest in social justice and social service as the highest value in life shaped my own life as a girl and influenced my later focus as a social worker and pacifist.”

Son Sherwood R. recalls daily life: “Halfway between Osaka and Kobe was Nishinomiya, where we lived. A typical day would see my father go one way to Osaka to work and me to Kobe to school, to the Canadian Academy, a mission school, still thriving, in the Shukugawa neighborhood. Also in this area were a number of other American families, from GM, GE, National Citibank, and so on. There were lots of tennis courts, I recall. I learned Japanese from everyday activities, on the train, etc.; for example, I talked nothing but Japanese with the maid.”

Two more children, Donald and Barbara, were born over the following years. Ursul worked with mothers and children at the Social Service center. Sherwood F. came to develop a great interest in art, taught himself and then his family art history, and this developed into a lifelong passion, including serious scholarship in the study of Oriental art, specifically visiting buddhas throughout Japan and China. (Buddhas are a realm unto themselves in Asian art; he later published monographs on them and other subjects in the scholarly journals Ars Asiatique and Artibus Asiae.) Every seven years, mission families would receive a sabbatical furlough, heading back to Boston and New York, arriving from around the world either way. Thus during their formative years Sherwood F. twice took the family to visit Rome, Florence, the Louvre and museums in England, with father lecturing children all the way (Sherwood F. was an indefatigable talker, and also wag). To study the Sistine ceiling, he had the family lie on their backs. (Decades later Susan Harvey visited him and Ursul and spent “an afternoon with him walking me around their little bungalow, which had numerous art reproductions on walls in every room. He gave me a spontaneous lecture on both Western and Eastern art as he described the artist, the style, the context in history, and what he most liked about the piece — without leaving their four rooms or my paying an admission fee. I listened, questioned, took notes, and absorbed a wealth of nuanced and personalized information.”)

Sherwood R. recalls one sabbatical year spent at the Lincoln (middle) School in NYC and befriending David Rockefeller there. The children also attended Newton High School in Newton, Massachusetts, where the Walker Missionary Home, used on retreats and for retirement, is located.

From 1918 to 1941, then, Sherwood F., Ursul, and a Japanese assistant ran the Social Settlement Center. Over these decades Japan changed politically, and Sherwood F. developed very strong feelings against the rising militarism, becoming a vocal critic of Japanese behavior toward China and Korea. Grandson Ted Moran remembers "Ojisan once telling about the time he was traveling through China, before the war actually started, and saw Japanese soldiers terribly mistreating the Chinese. He accosted one of the officers in perfect Japanese and said, ‘You call yourselves the offspring of the Sun and yet look at how you behave — you should be ashamed.’ The officer really lost face and came close to attacking Sherwood.”

In December 1941 the Moran family were once again on furlough in Boston. Japan launched the surprise air attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Back in Japan, missionary and other American families were interned in the Philippines, while in this country Japanese families were also rounded up and moved inland. Sherwood F. realized he was perhaps the most fluent speaker of Japanese in the United States, at least idiomatically, and also knew the culture deeply. He immediately traveled to Washington DC and went straight to Marine headquarters. In spite of his liberal ways and independent mind, he very much admired the style, vigor, discipline, and goal-setting of the USMC, some of whom he had come to know in Japan. (He and Ursul often had visitors from the US who were specifically brought to the household to meet this missionary family, e.g., Jesse Owens.) By this time, their son Sherwood R. and Frances Harvey, who had themselves graduated from Oberlin two years earlier, were married, and young Sherwood R. also went to be commissioned, in the Navy as an language officer and codebreaker.

Inasmuch as Sherwood F. had kept up with his tap-dancing and was otherwise vigorous, he was accepted by the Marines and on the spot made captain. He was 56 years old. He was told to go back to Boston to say goodbye and then report for duty. This was a matter of grave dissension with Ursul, in large part because it was presumed they would never be able to return to Japan after serving. No one thought we would win this war; it had been going badly in Europe and we had not even joined, and now the Pearl Harbor sneak attack. But Sherwood got leave from ABCFM, departed Ursul and daughter Barbie (who was about to enter college), and soon the Navy began transporting the First Marine Division for an invasion in the Solomon Islands. The US had claimed victory at Midway, and the Solomons, “owned” by Japan although populated by Melanesians, were the next step, the first land offensive of the war. Amphibious invasion was a new form of assault warfare: navy and air force combined with one mission.

In 1942 the First Marine Division started for New Zealand to stage the joint activities. Aboard ship Sherwood F. learned Marine protocols, rules, and regulations. He was issued a .45. In turn he gave lectures to the crew about Japan and its people (eventually writing a monograph on "The Psychology of the Japanese" as part of the training materials). He knew very well that the Japanese idea of the perfect death was in battle, achieving honor; getting captured was not to be an option. Such a suicidal ideal thrived as the war wore on. It was entirely contrary to the American idea and practice of saving as many men as possible. With his decades of cultural knowledge and witnessing of Tojo's increasing influence, Sherwood F. tried to prepare the troops (no one knew yet where they were ultimately going) for what they would encounter. The invasion date was moved up and the FMD were not as fully prepared as they had hoped to be.

The First Marines landed on Guadalcanal on 8 Aug 1942, with senior language intelligence officer Sherwood F. in the first wave. Granddaughter Susan was born two days later, in Boulder, Colorado, where her father, Sherwood R., was attending the Navy’s Japanese Language School. Her birthday headline in the Boulder Daily Camera reads “US Forces Land in Solomon Islands To Drive Out Japanese in First Big American Offensive of War.” Richard Tregaskis’s vivid masterpiece, Guadalcanal Diary, tells of ships as far as the eye could see, new kinds like light cruisers, and overhead an armada of air power. Ranking interpreter Sherwood F. himself described it:

As we sailed straight north day after day from Wellington, New Zealand (no radio communications or lights allowed) it was a good sight to stand on the top deck and see this fleet as far as the eye could function. Far in front and far out to the side were destroyers. Within this protecting line were heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers, one of our largest and newest battleships, and miscellaneous craft. Leading them all, but inside the ring of destroyers, was an Australian heavy cruiser (sunk by the Japanese one day after the landing on Guadalcanal). Just behind this cruiser was the flagship of the Commanding Officer of the First Marine Division. It was a show of terrific interest though also of terrific solemnity.

Sherwood F. and all of the other First Marines were on Guadalcanal from 8 August to 9 December, with no leave, relief, or rest, lucky to get two meals a day, no laundry or toilets, living in the jungle and clearing their way and fighting. As he put it,

Marines have a psychological advantage in that they expect hardships and expect fighting. Every Marine is a Marine. … That [first] night we slept scattered over the ground under coconut trees. The next day we advanced to the airfield, our objective. That night it rained as heavily as it was possible to rain, for hours. We just lay on the ground like mud turtles and took it, trying to keep at least our weapons dry. (The ground was uneven and I remember I lay in a mud puddle all night.) During the rain we heard a terrific bombardment at sea. We were elated thinking the Navy had routed out some Japanese sea forces. Just the opposite proved to be the case. A powerful Japanese fleet had headed for Guadalcanal on receipt of news of our landing and had attacked our fleet point blank under cover of darkness. We got the worst of it. Among our numerous casualties four of our heavy cruisers, including the one Australian cruiser, were sunk. Many tales of unbelievable heroism on the part of our Navy personnel afterwards came to light.

The first goal was to capture Henderson Field, so planes could be landed for supplies and reinforcements. It was won and then lost. The Marines were relieved in December by the Army. Everyone had malaria, dysentery, and/or wounds or cuts or infections; Sherwood F. had had a heavy palm branch fall on him and hit his back and hip. The seriously wounded were evacuated.

Guadalcanal was where Sherwood F. began his assignment of interrogation, informed by his pioneering and now legendary style. Today it seems a combination of pragmatic psychology and moral — Christian — values, joined together in, and practiced by, this one individual. Sherwood F. never experienced any ambivalence in what he did; there was little disconnect between social work in Japan and “social work” in Guadalcanal, except that the goal was to get useful information. He immediately went down to the level of the prisoner. He began by asking what village he was from. He would say, I know the river, and that bridge in your neighborhood; and so on. Each prisoner had a tale he wanted to tell. To be heard, and have our personal story understood: these are elementary needs, a fact Sherwood F. knew deeply. He got these young men’s tales. Other interrogators modeled their efforts after him, and certainly the BiJ (born in Japan) ones, like missionary child Otis Cary, already had in common with him the basic understanding, acceptance, and love of the Japanese people. They were universally deemed a charming nation — friendly, polite, generous, hardworking, admirable in all other respects — when they were not killing others.

All the while, Sherwood F.'s family did not know where he was, although it could be guessed. On 18 December 1942 the Chicago Tribune ran a photograph of an interrogator on Guadalcanal. It shows a young man with a beard sitting straight-backed on a folding canvas stool at the entrance to a tent; attending him carefully, leaning forward on an identical stool almost knee to knee, making sympathetic eye contact, is a bald, older officer, his hands folded. A third person, seated beyond them, is indistinct. The Tribune caption read “Wearing a beard, Jap Zero pilot, captured on Guadalcanal after dogfight, talks to his captors.” The interrogator’s posture, clearly interested expression and attitude, as well as the prisoner’s being seated, fully embody the Sherwood F. Moran philosophy. No one is identified in the photo but it was obvious who the interviewer — his preferred term — was. Sherwood F. was called “Pappy” in the Marines; only his commander was of the same generation. The Tribune photo was sent to Ursul, and it was the first the family knew of where he was. Ursul had moved to Washington DC, where she got a job working for the Red Cross, living in Arlington, Virginia.

Sherwood F. participated in at least one other landing. He afterward looked back on the Guadalcanal experience:
No other armed forces in all probability had ever been continuously under fire for so long with no respite. Day after day went by with no “rest periods” as they had in Europe, fierce as that fighting was, without even time for a “coffee break.” Everyone was on the job all the time. The Marines left for Australia on December 9, 1942, thin, worn out and full of malaria every one of them, for a rest before their next landing operation assignment.

In time, Sherwood F.’s superior, Lt. Col. Edmund Buckley, sent word of his interview style and impressive results back to headquarters, and he was pulled out of action and called back to Washington DC. Sherwood F. was awarded a Citation and a Bronze Star by Admiral Halsey. In DC he lectured, retrained interrogators, and revised the manual, which had required that every PoW stand at attention with two guards aside. Part of his rewrite effort was the newly transcribed memorandum mentioned above, “Suggestions for Japanese Interpreters Based on Work in the Field,” available on the Internet at http://mysite.verizon.net/vze6kt7j/id1.html via the MCITTA website. This 62-year-old document is still being taught today within the US military for its intended purpose, and, as has been pointed out by many others, is in the present climate perhaps more important than ever.

Both of the Sherwood Moran families lived in Washington DC for this stretch. Sherwood R., back from Pearl Harbor, and wife Frances had twins (one of whom, also named Sherwood, died a couple of weeks after birth). While there were visits between the families, gas rationing affected all social life. By now the tide had turned in the Pacific, yet the progress was island by island, and very costly. The First Marine Division became famous, the most decorated unit of any of the forces in WWII. Sherwood F. always wore his Guadalcanal badge proudly. Eventually the invasion of Japan was prepared. Sherwood F. got as far as San Diego, where the FMD were grouping, with September 1945 the invasion date. But in August the two atomic bombs were dropped and the war ended.

The codebreaking work by the naval intelligence group of which Sherwood R. was a member was directly responsible for the surprise shooting-down of the plane carrying Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, killing the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack.

After the war, father and son were each sent to Japan for the occupation. On Sherwood F.’s first leave, he headed for Osaka to see what had happened and what he could find. Even though the occupation was going smoothly, he was advised against going, but he persisted, in Marine uniform with the Guadalcanal badge. Osaka was badly bombed, and he started on foot to head toward the settlement house, when he was recognized. People came out of their houses, welcoming him back and saying, “Moran-san has returned!” And there the settlement house was, unharmed, under the assistants he and Ursul had trained. It was a triumphant moment. The family house was also unharmed, with others living in it, and in the attic in a box was a Tang Dynasty horse, which is still in the family, that Moran-san the Asian-art lover had collected on one of his many art excursions.

Eventually Sherwood F. was demobilized, at the rank of lieutenant colonel, was rehired by ABCFM, and in 1948 returned with Ursul to Japan as a missionary for another seven-year term. They resumed their social work, and in the mid-1950s retired to Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California, a community for retired missionaries and educators. They lived there and in 1965 celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Ursul died in 1967, while Sherwood F. lived 16 more years, all the while continuing his Asian-art researches, writing numerous scholarly monographs on temples, buddhas, and swordguards. Grandson David Moran remembers spending a long afternoon with him in the spring of 1969, when Sherwood F. was visiting Boston and staying at the Walker Home. They talked about the purpose of his visit, his dawn subway rides downtown every day that week to the Museum of Fine Arts, where the guards would let him in the back door to sit alone and study the Asian collection for hours before the institution opened.

As always with Ojisan, awful rapid-fire vaudeville-era jokes punctuated the discourse:
“I have a brother who’s a cop in Chicago.” “Oh really?” “No, O’Reilly.”
“A man walks up to the ferry to buy a ticket. Loud music is playing. He asks, ‘Offenbach’? ‘No,’ emphasizes the ticket-taker, ‘all fares are one-way!’ ”

The draft-imminent college senior grandson and his 84-year-old ex-Marine grandfather did not discuss the Vietnam war that day; Sherwood F. was hardly persuaded, at the time anyway, that again combatting Asian military aggression was such a bad idea.

Sherwood F.’s primary commitment was to the humanitarian aspects of mission work — taken altogether, his life may be seen to prove yet again the practical value of a knowledge of the humanities, even in the unlikeliest of situations — but his true love came to be the US Marine Corps. In his final years, in his room at the nursing home, there was no cross, but over his desk were the presidential citation for the First Marine Division, the Guadalcanal patch, his own ribbons, and a photograph of JFK. Grandson Tom Moran recalls that “as soon as Grandpa Sherwood heard that Alice [wife of Tom] was going to be a lieutenant in the Dental Corps USN, he sent us all of his medals, picture in dress blues, a huge circular USMC namesake, along with an original set of his entire orders during his stint, starting in New River, NC, and concluding at Camp Pendleton.” The Marines loved Sherwood F. too; he got to be a bit of a legend in his last decades, and every year for the annual reunion dinner of the FMD in Southern California, a car and escort were sent to Claremont to pick him up. He was probably the only Marine of his era who never took a drink, never smoked a cigarette, and never cursed. For their discipline and comradeship he loved them like brothers.


Fellow missionary child and interrogator Otis Cary wrote down the names, addresses and parents’ names of every PoW he dealt with. In post-war Japan he went around looking up surviving families to tell them they had a surviving child who would soon be home. This was how son Sherwood R. and Oti met the famous potter / artist Shoji Hamada. A Japanese psychiatrist to whom they delivered the news about his son was so thankful that he said, “Let me introduce you to the most famous artist we have,” and they got in the jeep to drive to the artist’s rural studio and met Hamada. Hamada said, “Let me give you some gifts; please help yourself out in the back shed by the kiln.” Oti and Sherwood R. loaded up a box with rice bowls, covered vegetable sets, sake cups, soy sauce “ashtrays,” ceramic boxes and many other beautiful, elegantly simple serving dishes that remain in the Moran family.

* * *
Upon Sherwood Ford Moran’s death, in 1983, his oldest son, Sherwood R. Moran, delivered the following eulogy (excerpted):

Sherwood Moran was first and foremost a man with a mission, and his missionary work took many forms. He spoke always of his commitment to the Christian foreign missionary field through his 41 years with the United Church Board of World Ministry as being his number-one career accomplishment. His and his wife Ursul’s influence on the lives of the Japanese people they touched extends down to this day. At his death there were still on his desk letters from friends in Japan waiting to be answered, in Japanese. He kept up an active correspondence with them to the end.

His commitment to a Christian and peaceloving Japan and his hatred of the then rising militarism led him to join the USMC and insist on an active overseas assignment. “We will never see a peaceful Christian Japan until its militarism is knocked out,” he often declared. His famous letter to the ABCFM requesting a leave of absence so he could join the Marines is a classic rationale of the Christian who recognized the occasional need to “cleanse the temple” by force in a world filled with thieves.


His devotion to beauty was widely noted — from the colors of a dress to a pretty face to a work of Oriental art. “Without beauty, life is a wasteland,” he often commented. In his later years he contributed over a dozen carefully researched scholarly articles on aspects of Japanese art and sculpture to well-known international art magazines. He published one book on Japanese sword guards and had completed the manuscript of a book on Japanese temple architecture, sculpture and castle restoration. (This last is in the possession of the art department of Scripps College.)

In a tribute, his good friend Martin Weinberger, publisher of the Claremont Courier, described Sherwood F. Moran as possessed of a mission of joy. “His charm and personality contributed to a joyous aura that one almost always encountered when meeting him. That same contribution also accounted for his remarkable ability to strike up an immediate and continuing and absolutely platonic relationship with a small army of women. That beaming face and bald head somehow always added up to the charm.” A fellow pilgrim only slightly younger than Sherwood F. wrote: “Life like his can never end. I believe that he is carrying on in joy and achievement in the very presence of God and all his saints.”

This world is not conclusion.
A sequel stands beyond,
Invisible, as music,
But positive, as sound.

—Emily Dickinson



Please email inquires or additional information to the webmaster:
drmoran@aol.com.

Contents copyright 2005 David R. Moran; all rights reserved.