In 2018, Matthew Mueller wanted to give his grandmother a present: information about her father, who served in World War II. His great-grandfather had eight children, and although they’d all been curious about his years in the Marines, the family didn’t know much.
Mueller decided to change that. What started as a few pages for a Christmas present has now become a self-published book called “The Daniels: From Burma to Black Sand Beaches and the Atom Bomb.” The tale came as a surprise to Mueller’s family, who did not know he had continued research that began at 16.
The author, a senior at Cherry Hill High School East, recalled how the Christmas present came about because fellow family members had decided to look into the clan’s history. Together, the group requested documents from the government, and using the 14 documents they received, Mueller was able to piece together where his great-grandfather was stationed through the war.
From the documents, he compiled a general outline of his great-grandfather’s journey by tracking his Marine division and regiment. That research proved easier than when he began tracking Edward’s brother, Joseph, who was drafted into the war amid the first peacetime draft.
Once he started to delve into both journeys, Mueller became engrossed in his research. He decided he wanted to surprise his family and keep going, and he soon uncovered more about the two men’s time in the Pacific and their connections to the atom bomb.
Eventually the documents ran dry, so Mueller had to figure out a way to dig further. He found books and combed through databases to find stories and pictures based on the two men’s whereabouts at any given time during the war. The more he uncovered, the more he thought the subject wasn’t just a story important to his family’s history, but a unique and important tale about America’s history.
“It gave me a drive to do this and to complete it,” he recalled.
Once Mueller’s research was complete, it was time to write. He came home from school and wrote for about 10 hours a day for two months. He admits taking the research and compiling it into a cohesive story was no easy task.
“Writing a book was the hardest thing I have ever done,” he acknowledged.
Mueller said he wanted the book to be accessible to any reader, no matter their knowledge of World War II. He tried to balance the background and simplicity that those unfamiliar with the history would appreciate with in-depth facts and stories that a historian or someone well acquainted with the time could appreciate.
Mueller decided to self-publish, so it came as a total surprise and delight to his family when he presented them with the book, given they had no idea what he was up to.
While writing proved arduous, Mueller said he’d happily do it again. He is off to Rowan University in the fall, where he plans to major in history. He hopes to continue writing, producing videos or creating some other content in the historic realm. He’s already got one foot in the door with his first book out of the way.
“I can use this experience to get better,” he noted.
“The Daniels: From Burma to Black Sand Beaches and the Atomic Bomb,” is available for purchase on Amazon.