Entire families of brothers shipped out during World War II to multiple fronts in Europe and the Pacific, by land and sea and air.
The Martin family of Stockdale was no exception, with three boys — Oscar Bain Martin, known as Bain, Alton Martin and Elmore Martin — all called up to serve their country.
Elmore Martin, a Navy man, served aboard the USS Lexington aircraft carrier.
Alton Martin, a Marine, served in the Pacific, including at Peleliu in 1944. At Peleliu, Japanese Imperial Army soldiers battled Marines from fortified positions on the Pacific island for months in an operation the National Museum of the Marine Corps called “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines,” with the highest casualty rate of any amphibious operation during the war.
“Uncle Alton sat down with the family and talked about his war experience once after he returned, then never spoke of it again,” said his niece, Wanda Dinklage, of La Marque.
Dinklage, whose mother was the sister of the three Martin boys, grew up close to her grandmother, Eva Ellen Martin. The experience of World War II never left the family, especially the loss of Bain, the uncle she never knew, Dinklage said.
‘CRIES FOR PEACE’
Bain served in the 9th U.S. Army, 102nd Infantry Division on the western front where Belgium and Germany converge.
He died on Feb. 25, 1945, following the Battle of the Bulge, after crossing the Roer River along with multiple infantry divisions of the 9th Army. He was 26.
That was in 1945. Bain’s father, Dinklage’s grandfather, wanted his son’s body returned to Stockdale from where it was initially buried in Europe.
“He was sick then, and Uncle Bain’s body wasn’t returned until 1948,” Dinklage said.
Her grandfather died two months after his son’s return.
For most of her life, Dinklage was aware of letters her Uncle Bain sent home to his mother and father while he was overseas. Her grandmother treasured them, and when they were passed down to her, she treasured them, too.
Several years ago, she handed the letters down to a cousin, Paul Bain Martin of San Antonio, Alton’s son and Bain’s namesake.
‘WAR, PEACE, RESTORATION’
The younger Bain, an educator, put the letters together in a slide presentation he titled “Cries for Peace,” a reflection of their candid content. The final slide is a photo of four extended family members, all with the inherited family name Bain. The inscription on their photo states:
“Uncle Bain didn’t want to go to war. He asked for peace. I think we who have his name would’ve preferred to have simply known him as our peace-loving, living uncle.”
This Memorial Day, Wanda Dinklage wanted to honor her uncle’s memory by sharing the message of his letters — thoughts likely shared by many young men at war but rarely so openly spoken.
“To me, those letters are as new today as they were at the time of the Battle of the Bulge,” Dinklage said. “They are about war, peace and restoration.”
Growing up, Bain Martin was an avid horseman and an athlete who’d won a football scholarship, Paul Martin said in his presentation. According to Bain’s mother, Eva, her son had a great zest for life and people.
Bain Martin tried to avoid going into the military during World War II, and even rushed into marriage in an attempt to avoid the draft, according to the presentation.
He was stationed first at Fort Bliss in 1942. From there he wrote his parents, lamenting the 18- and 19-year-olds he saw going off to war.
‘SO MUCH DESTRUCTION’
“It seems a shame for kids like that to have to be going across, but I don’t guess it would be any worse than men with children,” he said. Bain Martin and his wife Norma had only been married briefly and had no children.
From western Europe in 1944, Bain wrote his parents:
“I do wish that every man, woman and child in the world could see some of what goes on over here. If they did it would be a long time before we had another war. I hope and pray there will never be another.
“It sure is a shame that so much destruction must go on because people are not civilized enough to settle things peacefully.”
In January 1945, he wrote his family his thoughts about the damage war does to loved ones left behind:
“So much has been said about what is going to be done for the boys when they return, but I wonder if anyone ever thought of the damage that is done to the hearts of the parents of these boys,” he said. “That is one damage that will never be repaired.
“It is hard to ask a man to give up his life for something that he doesn’t understand exactly, but I wonder if anyone ever thought how much they were asking of a mother to give up her own flesh and blood and the tears and hardship she went through, something that could never be replaced.”
THE LAST LETTER
Bain Martin told his parents he knew they were tough and urged them to trust that they would soon have their three sons back where they could watch over them again.
In February, he wrote once more, saying he understood the work that had to be finished before he returned home, and said he prayed that time wouldn’t be too long off.
In his last letter to his parents before he died — the exact circumstances of his death remain unknown — Bain Martin said, “War is nothing like what you read in the paper or see in the movies.”
He described how he lived and what he had to eat. He talked about how capable the officers and strategic planners of the war were.
“If the peace is planned as well as the war is, we should never have this to go through again.”
Two days later, he died, leaving behind fond memories, a grieving family, photographs of his handsome face and a handful of letters that captured his spirit.