Businessman reflects on WWII

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
From this Nov. 6, 2015 photo, Harold Cline, left, of Marshalltown is shown with a plaque honoring participation in the Veterans History Project presented by Col. Gregory Hapgood, right. The award was made during ceremonies at the Des Moines Area Community College campus in Newton. In addition to Cline, 12 other Central Iowa veterans were honored.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO From this Nov. 6, 2015 photo, Harold Cline, left, of Marshalltown is shown with a plaque honoring participation in the Veterans History Project presented by Col. Gregory Hapgood, right. The award was made during ceremonies at the Des Moines Area Community College campus in Newton. In addition to Cline, 12 other Central Iowa veterans were honored.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

Many locals know Harold Cline from his business — Cline Photo and Frame — a State Street fixture — and from years of volunteer work with the Marshalltown Noon Kiwanis Club.

But what be unknown was his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

In 1943, Cline, then of Cedar Rapids, traveled to Des Moines to enlist.

The military would be his life for more than two years.

After boot camp in Farragut, Idaho, Cline was given 15 days leave and then departed for ordinance training in Norman, Okla.

“We had a quick learning session and moved out to California, ready to be shipped out,” Cline said. “We were supposed to be really smart.”

The Illinois native (“I converted to the Hawkeyes.”) was a member of the Navy Air Corps’ Combat Aircraft Service Unit. Cline’s jobs would be to load planes with bombs, arm them with fuses and set cameras.

The latter inspired him to pursue a career now in its 68th year.

Next was an assignment in the Pacific Theatre.

“We shipped out from California and spent Christmas on the boat,” Cline said. “After that, I did all of my traveling by plane.”

He spent time in Guadacanal, New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands.

“We island-hopped,” Cline said.

One was Manus Island.

“It was the location of the largest floating dry dock in the world,” he said. “We used to get bombed by the Japanese.”

Next was Guam and Saipan.

“Crews departed from Saipan to drop the atomic bomb on Nagasaki,” he said.

World War II memories came alive again in August, 2010, when Cline joined several other Marshalltown veterans participating in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Joining Cline were fellow Marshalltown veterans the late Jack Dack, Dale Hicks, Dale Rubenbauer and Alvin Storjohann.

A primary sponsor was a fellow World War II veteran — businessman Bill Knapp of Des Moines.

Knapp was on the same plane with Cline.

Knapp had donated $250,000 to the Central Iowa Honor Flight Network, according to the Des Moines Register.

He wanted to express his gratitude to the “heroes of that war.”

Knapp said their recognition was long overdue.

In addition to sight-seeing, Honor Flight attendees were honored in a parade and dinner the afternoon and evening, respectively, before their flight. They boarded a charter for the trip and returned the same day.

“Everybody was congenial … every place we went they wanted to shake your hand and thank us for our service,” Cline said. “They were thanking us and shaking our hands even as we were going up the ramp to the plane.”

“I really appreciate what Knapp did,” Cline said

Cline paused, again thinking back to World War II days.

He said matter-of-factly, “The real heroes did not come back.”

A frequent testimonial offered by many other World War II veterans.

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Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: jhutton@timesrepublican.com or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: iapost46commander@gmail.com