When my brother-in-law, Chuck Vining, 85, sent me the following newspaper clipping this week I was considerably enlightened. I had not even known he was once a Marine. Chuck’s family and my family have always lived on opposite coasts and have met rarely. Because this story of his Marine adventures will be news to the rest of my family, I thought I’d include it on my blog.

MARINE HELPED RECLAIM JAPANESE-OCCUPIED ISLANDS

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When 18-year-old Chuck  (Charles) Vining boarded a train in Chicago bound for Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego he looked up at the platform where his father was waving and saw tears streaming down his face. Vining says his dad, who served in the Army during World War I, was a real tough guy. “It was the first time in my life I ever saw my dad cry,” Vining said. “It really surprised me.”

After training,  the Marines were shipped across the Pacific Ocean to retake the islands that had been invaded by Japan, Vining said. From Guadalcanal to Guam, Vining said his Marine division stormed the islands in pursuit of the enemy .– running, ducking, shooting, and bombing over and over again,  one island at a time.   “We had to jump out in the water and climb up the cliff as best we could and keep from getting shot…They could see us coming and we could see them,” Vining said.

Machine gun fire from U.S. ships offshore into enemy positions covered the Marines during the invasions. “That’s how it was all over the Pacific,” he said. One night, while sitting with three of his buddies by an unlit campfire – to prevent the enemy from detecting them – they watched as shells were being shot back and forth across the night sky. “You could see a bomb coming down was going to land pretty close to the men,” he said.

“I saw the bomb and said ‘Duck,’” said Vining, who was lying on his back at the time the shell hit. After the tremendous crash and explosion, a horrific scene surrounded Vining. “The guy on my left had his head blown off, the guy on my right was splattered, and the guy in front of me was split open,” he said. “I didn’t have a scratch.” All three were dead. “The bomb came down unexpectedly.” he said. “It was so sad, so sad, to see your buddies go like that.”

Another close encounter awaited Vining on the island of Guadalcanal. He was lying in the bushes with a gun in his hand while Japanese soldiers came walking toward the Marines’ position.    One of the soldiers stepped on Vining as he walked through the brush. “He didn’t realize it at first,” Vining said, “That’s when I turned around and got him – bang! – You just never know what is going to happen until it happens.”

In Guam, Vining’s final battle stop of the war, he and several Marines were checking some caves in the mountains near the edge of the water. “A Japanese soldier jumped up out of the ground and started shooting but, thankfully, the gun didn’t go off,” he said. “It was a thrill and a half to hear the gun go ‘click, click, click.’” he said. “You’ll always, always remember that!”

The enemy’s weapon was pointed right at Vining, but his Marine buddies had his back. “The other guys took care of him,” Vining said.

After Guam, Vining was sent home on furlough. His next assignments were stateside. He worked guard duty in Miami, Florida, followed by a trip to Camp Pendleton on the coast for more training before shipping back to the Pacific. Vining was at Camp Pendleton when the war in Japan ended. He and his buddy had enough points to be discharged, but top brass had other plans – they were assigned occupation duty in China

They were sent by landing craft to Hawaii, where they would catch a ship to China.   On the way across the Pacific, the giant flat-fronted vessel got hammered by a big storm that ultimately delayed their arrival. “We were one day late,” he said. “The ship for China left without us. We had to stay in Hawaii three months, watching the Hula girls and eating poi.” His time on Oahu – he had no military assignment – was spent enjoying the sights and sounds of the islands. “I fell in love with Hawaii in those three months,” he said. “I’ve been over there hundreds of times.”
– – – – – – – – – – -Denise Goolsby, The Desert Sun