A legacy born in the Pacific
On Sept. 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland without warning, sparking the start of World War II.
The events in Europe drew the attention of some, but it didn't hit home for many Americans until the Japanese got involved. After Pearl Harbor was bombed Dec. 7, 1941, my grandfather was one of many who enlisted in the United States Army in 1942 at the age of 21.
Until the day before he passed away, Barney Jenkins King talked about the war continuously. When he was in the hospital, he talked about the war and would tell stories about it — just as he did throughout the many years before he fell ill. He was very proud of what he did.
Stationed across the Pacific in the southern Philippines, Aleutian Islands, Kinawa, Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Marshall Islands and South Korea, he was a gunner who fought with Battery B of the 48th Field Artillery Battalion. He later switched to become a technician and attained the rank of sergeant.
Looking through all his pictures at all the things he did as a gunner, I don't see how he made it out alive. At night, they were on the ships and they had to go invade Japanese camps. He shared with me some incredibly gruesome stories of hand-to-hand combat with enemy soldiers and so many experiences I hope my son never faces.
My grandfather decided to go of his own accord. He was not drafted or coerced in any way to do what he did. Instead, he enlisted with a sense of duty and honor that was typical of men from that generation.
For a civilian like myself, it's hard to understand all that he accomplished while he was over there. I don't know anything about guns, but I was impressed by his expert marksmanship. I marvel at all the places he visited while at war, some places I had never heard of. Every place he went, he got postcards and sent them to his mom and dad.
As I look at the memorabilia he held onto from the 1940s, I am amazed that it is still in such pristine condition. Of the host of medals he accumulated, he was most proud of receiving the Good Conduct and Victory Medals, as well as the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Medal with four Bronze service stars. He also garnered the Philippine Liberation Medal with one Bronze star.
The artifacts remind me of not only how very lucky he was to have survived this war, but how lucky I am that he made such a sacrifice for me.
After returning home from the war he went to work at Standard Chair Company, where he met Minnie Bullins. They later married and had six children, my mother among them.
As I recollect all of the things my grandfather did for my family and my country, I can't help but imagine what it would have been like if he hadn't put his life on the line.
Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, to end the war, but the story doesn't end there for me. With each Memorial Day that passes, his memory will remain etched in my mind in the way World War II forever lingered in his.