Archived Story

WWII veterans learned life lesson during war [UPDATED]

Published 9:14am Monday, November 12, 2012 Updated 11:18am Monday, November 12, 2012

While he wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, Kenneth Cline had more experiences than most people get in a lifetime during his four years as a solder in World War II.

Cline grew up on a farm in rural Morris before he was drafted at age 21. He already had a wife and two kids when he took off to begin his military journey at Fort Snelling. From there, he got on a train that took him to Texas where he went through basic training. From Texas, his division went to San Diego, Calif.

While Cline stayed in San Diego, half of his division went to the foggy, mountainous island of Attu, which was occupied by the Japanese.

In 1941, Cline left the U.S. for the first time and took a ship to the Aleutian Islands to assist the other half of his division on Attu.

“The (Japanese solders) went up into the mountains but came out at night when it was foggy,” Cline said. “A lot of my friends were in their sleeping bags when they were bayoneted in their sleep.”

When the Americans took Attu, Cline went to Hawaii and the Marshal Islands before being shipped off to the island Lati, where he saw some of the worst of World War II.

One night, Cline was left with only a short amount of time to dig a fox hole in the hard, rocky earth to protect himself. He was only able to get a few inches down before he had no choice but to get down, he said.

“At about 10 o’ clock that night, the (Japanese solders) shelled us,” he said. “There was rocks and dirt flying all over us, and I’m on my belly praying, and the guy next to me is on his belly praying. I’m a Protestant, and he was a Catholic. That’s one thing I learned in the service. There is no difference between you and me. We both want to go to the same place, but we have different sayings and different ways of getting there.”

After seeing how many solders were killed, Cline said he was “luckier than lucky” that night.

Cline returned to Minnesota in 1945, and his brother asked him what he was going to do. When Cline said he wanted to farm, his brother told him about a man who lived near their home town who wanted to rent his farm out to a veteran.

After 16 years of farming, Cline decided to make a career change and become a truck driver. He hauled beef throughout the upper Midwest until one day his truck caught a snow bank, hurling him into a spin. He barely survived the accident, and that put an end to his truck driving career.

Looking back, Cline said he didn’t like anything about the war, but his experiences in the military have helped him throughout his life.

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