World War II veteran continues to feel the pain and pride of his military service


Facebook. Skype. Twitter. The proliferation of social media provides instant access to those separated by time zones and bodies of water. It is a much different world than World War II veteran Chuck McGuire faced when he served in the Army in 1944-45.
During that era, McGuire said he and other servicemen often waited weeks to receive correspondence from family.
“As far as the logistics, with the mail and communication it is night and day,” said McGuire, adding that there was little consistency when it came to when and how often letters arrived.
“It was nothing to get like five or six letters at a time,” he said.
While there is no comparison between current technology and when he served, McGuire feels the strain distance created in his era is not much different from contemporary soldiers.
“I know exactly how these guys feel like that come back from Afghanistan and their wives divorced them,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened to me. We had no support to reorient ourselves to civilian life. Those guys over there coming home are going through the same stuff I went through 70 years ago. The government hasn’t changed in that one bit.”
McGuire, 89, is not sure whether modern technology would have made a difference at the time.
The path toward reconciliation was arduous. She remarried and had a daughter. McGuire said they had a mutual friend in Idaho Falls, Idaho, they traded messages through. She divorced her husband and eventually married McGuire. He estimated that they were separated for 15 years.
“We had a good life out here,” said McGuire, whose wife, Doris, died in 2003 from a brain tumor.
McGuire might not have ended up on the Kitsap Peninsula if he had reenlisted, as he originally planned. That changed when he was stationed in Oregon, though. He said cadre of national guardsmen from Alabama came to Camp White in Oregon and “made life miserable for you,” which instead led him to Montana to work on the “Milwaukee Railroad.”
Through a friendship he established there, McGuire learned that an apprenticeship program opened in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He described the two-week wait as tense as he feared he might be forced to continue work on the railway.
“It was cold, dirty, heavy work,” said McGuire, an Idaho native. “I hated it.”
McGuire wanted to work as a welder, but accepted a position as a rigger knowing he eventually could change to his preferred career. McGuire, who settled on a 5-acre lot in South Kitsap, eventually did that.
“The shipyard was very good to me,”he said. “It couldn’t have been better.”
While McGuire settled into PSNS, his commitment to those he served with never wavered. In 1986, McGuire set out for a “foxhole tour” of Germany with his wife. It was about more than reminiscing, though. McGuire wanted to honor four soldiers who lost their lives at the same time in Germany.
He procured government approval with the understanding that the plaque to honor four soldiers who were killed would be bronze and the writing would be in both English and German. He enlisted the help of a South Kitsap woman who was born in Germany to assist him with the translation. McGuire then was referred to a foundry in Williamsburg, Va., for the project, which lasted two months. McGuire said it was a worthwhile wait.
“It was absolutely flawless,” he said.
And pricey. McGuire said the plaque and six-week tour cost him $10,000.
“Once I got going there was no stopping,” said McGuire, who traveled with his wife and the woman who helped with the translation and her spouse. “I got too many people involved in it.”
That entailed more than his traveling party. McGuire said his biggest surprise was seeing scorers of spectators when the plaque was presented.
“It seemed to capture their imagination for some reason,” he said, adding that there were parades in three separate towns. “There were officials from Belgium, Luxembourg and West Germany at the time.”
McGuire said he met someone who recently visited the sight when they attended last summer’s Olalla Bluegrass Festival. Even with advances in technology, McGuire has not seen the plaque since it was placed in Waldfeucht, Germany.
“This couple I met at the Bluegrass Festival brought me up to speed on my plaque,” he said. “It was nice to know that everything was still okay with that. I put a lot into that.”