Country Boy to Military Training

Postwar and Reflections


Charles Brightman Skinner was born in May 1926 in Jacksonville, Florida. He had an older brother who served in World War 2 and a younger sister. During the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: The Great Depression, a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1945], his father worked in the timber and turpentine businesses, but later got into the dairy business. He lived in the country. He received hand-me-downs from his brother, including clothes and bicycles. He would often head to the coast because the ocean was only 15 miles away from him. When he was not hanging out with his friends, fishing, or hunting, Skinner was working on his dad's farm. His mom took care of the home and brought the kids to town when they needed something. After World War 2 started, Skinner's brother enlisted and earned his commission through Georgia Tech [Annotator's Note: The Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia]. Skinner was attending Bolles Military Academy [Annotator's Note: now The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida] during Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. It became a huge topic of discussion at the school. He graduated in 1943 when he was 16 years old. He attended college at Clemson College [Annotator's Note: now Clemson University] in South Carolina, which was a military school at the time. After his first year of college, he returned home for a few months to help his father with the dairy business. Later, he received his draft notice. Although his parents were not happy about Skinner receiving his draft notice, they knew it was necessary. Skinner's father was in the Navy during World War 1. Skinner wanted to enlist in the Navy too, but his eyesight was bad. In February 1945, Skinner was inducted into the Army at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia. He was sent to Camp Blanding [Annotator's Note: now the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Florida], near Jacksonville, for his basic training. After he completed basic training, he was sent for advanced infantry military training in Texas for four weeks. He was then sent to Salem, Oregon to be outfitted with all his supplies. He then was sent to Seattle [Annotator's Note: Seattle, Washington] and boarded a Liberty ship [Annotator's Note: a class of quickly produced cargo ship] for overseas deployment. Because of his previous military training at school, he was able to excel at the training camps. He could handle various weapons with ease. Since he was close to home during basic training, he often went home during the weekends. He believes that because he was from the country, he was better prepared for the military training than the city kids. Skinner liked to work with the M1 Garand [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber M1 semi-automatic rifle, also known as the M1 Garand], but he also trained on bazookas [Annotator's Note: man-portable recoilless 2.36-inch anti-tank rocket launcher weapon], BAR [Annotator's Note: M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle; also known as the BAR], rifle grenades, and light machine guns. When he boarded the Liberty ship in Seattle, he was told that they were headed to Saipan [Annotator's Note: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands] to train for an amphibious invasion on Japan. His ship had only been out two days when they heard that the atomic bombs were dropped [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945]. After they heard that the Japanese surrendered, the ship was diverted to Hawaii. Skinner was glad to hear the news of the surrender because he thought he had little chance of survival if they had invaded Japan. When their ship first departed from the United States, many of the guys were seasick. They were all stuffed down below the ship. They took saltwater showers and were given vaccinations. He thanks Truman [Annotator's Note: Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States] for dropping the atomic bombs and ending the war.


Charles Brightman Skinner was aboard a Liberty ship [Annotator's Note: a class of quickly produced cargo ship] heading to the Pacific when the atomic bombs [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945] were dropped on Japan. Skinner's ship was rerouted to Hawaii because the rumor was going around that Japan was about to surrender. He arrived in Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii] and stayed in Schofield Barracks [Annotator's Note: Schofield Barracks, Oahu, Hawaii] for a couple of days. Skinner received orders to remain in Hawaii, which he enjoyed immensely. The Army bases that he lived on had lots of recreational activities for the service men including horseback riding and baseball fields. He was assigned to a headquarters company and his duties were to publish orders and other military documents. He learned to type on a typewriter. During his down time, he explored the island using the bus system, and he also enjoyed swimming at a swim diving facility. He stayed in Hawaii for one year and returned to America in August 1946. He was discharged at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. When he returned home, he enrolled at the University of Florida [Annotator's Note: in Gainesville, Florida] using his G.I. Bill [Annotator's Note: the G.I. Bill, or Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was enacted by the United States Congress to aid United States veterans of World War 2 in transitioning back to civilian life and included financial aid for education, mortgages, business starts and unemployment] benefits. He also used the G.I. Bill to purchase a house. He thinks the G.I. Bill helped many veterans get back on their feet. Skinner had no trouble transitioning from a serviceman to a civilian because he was not in combat. Skinner majored in agriculture at the University of Florida and pursued a career in dairy. In 1985 he switched to the timber business. The discipline that he learned from his military experience helped him later in life. He lost contact with many of his friends from the Army. Skinner served in World War 2 because it was his duty to his country. He is unsure how the war changed his life, except that it interrupted his education. He is proud that he served but was relieved that the atomic bombs were dropped because he was about to head into combat. Skinner thinks that World War 2 is relevant today, but that most young people do not have a clue. If Americans could come through the Museum [Annotator's Note: The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana], it would be a wonderful thing to educate them about the history of the war. He believes that it is important for institutions like The National WWII Museum to teach to future generations. If we did not win World War 2, we would not know what kind of situation we would be in today. We would be subject to someone's will. Skinner's most memorable experience in the service was training. Skinner was discharged as a staff sergeant. When Skinner reflects on his experience, he was glad that he trained near his hometown of Jacksonville [Annotator's Note: Jacksonville, Florida]. He was excited to see the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California] when he returned to America. He arrived in Oakland [Annotator's Note: Oakland, California] and was then put on a troop train to San Antonio [Annotator's Note: San Antonio, Texas].

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