Interview of Charles Compton-Sept. 2012
Charles Arnold Compton was born in 1922, starting his life on his parent’s dairy farm in Shelbyville, Illinois. The disciplines of farm life served him well in later endeavors. When Pearl Harbor was struck in December of 1941, Charles was an accomplished Caterpillar driver and his employer worked to get him a deferment. After a time Charles’ conscience made him decide to enlist.
Classified in Chicago, the newly minted Marine was sent to San Diego, California. First to Recruit Depot, then to Camp Elliot and then to Camp Matthews for rifle training. It was inevitable that Charles was put on board a ship bound for the South Pacific and suffered the experiences of seasickness.
After several moves Charles reached Guadalcanal, that area having been secured by earlier fighting. While he was there, a solitary Japanese torpedo plane nicknamed “Washing Machine Charley” , successfully hit an America ship in the harbor. Charles was assigned to an 81mm mortar platoon, serving with the 3rd Marine Division.
Charles was then moved to Guam where he witnessed repeated efforts of Americans to eliminate Japanese artillery located on high cliffs. Charles earned his Corporal stripes there and trained with flamethrowers. When his superior officers learned of Charles’ skills as a carpenter he was assigned to various construction projects. One was to build a moving target for target practice.
Iwo Jima had become the biggest goal for the Americans. Going in on a troop carrying landing craft enemy bullets strafed the metal hull. Conditions being very bad on the beach caused Charles’s craft and many others to return to the ships.
Once on land, one of Charles’ jobs was to transport satchel charges and flame-throwers to the frontline troops. A great deal of his time was spent doing Battalion carpentry work and leading details. While on Iwo, Charles was at the airstrip and was looking towards Mount Suribachi just as Marines mounted our flag there. (Pictured is Iwo Jima with Mount Suribachi in the foreground)
While Charles was on Iwo near a Command Post, an enemy mortar shell landed close by and gave him a blast concussion. He woke up on a medical ship with an intense headache and ringing in his ears. After resting for a while on Guam, Charles was moved via plane to Honolulu. Years later Charles had a piece of shrapnel work it’s way out of his leg.
It wasn’t only a battlefield putting Charles at risk. The plane carrying the Marine to Hawaii lost an engine and made an emergency landing on Johnson Island many miles away from Hawaii. Overnight the plane was refitted with replacement engines and then took off for the future fiftieth state.
Charles was boarded onto a new Hospital Ship, the USS Repose, which he described as state of the art. Here Charles was pressed into duty as a Censor, one who blacks out information in soldier’s letters that compromise military operations.
The day after Charles arrived in Oakland, California, the Japanese surrender was announced. Charles was sent to for R & R in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Having earned enough “points” Charles was discharged. He returned home to Illinois and got married.
He spent many postwar years building commercial and residential buildings in Decatur, Illinois. In 1971 Charles and his family moved to Brooksville, Florida. He continued his construction work here. Not one to remain idle, Charles now builds and sells collectible Post Office door banks.
Charles Compton received the Purple Heart for injuries during combat and represents the typical American spirit that made the Allied forces victorious. We express undying gratitude to Charles and all who served in World War II.