Chuck Austin signed up for the Marines when he was just 17 years old. You could do that back in 1943, because World War II had been going on for four years at that time and they were desperate for fresh troops. He says he didn’t want to get drafted, so he enlisted instead.
He was shipped to the Pacific, where he served in Okinawa and Guadalcanal. More than 7,000 Americans died on that island, and 19,000 Japanese. By the time Chuck arrived, most of the fighting was over, and he worked as a driver. He came home to Yakima, and then the Korean War began. He said he was bored, so he signed up again.
“I went back in 1950 ... I was single, there wasn’t much to do, so I thought the heck with it. Made a career of it.”
He also served in Vietnam, “before it got real bad,” he says. Old photos show him riding a rickshaw and standing on a beach with a coconut plantation behind him.
He says World War II was the worst of the three conflicts, but insists his military service “didn’t change me much.” When he got out, he came back to Yakima, got married, and got a job with the Post Office. He is one of the lucky ones.