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U.S. Navy allowed WWII vet to see the world

Posted: September 18, 2014 5:41 p.m.
Updated: September 19, 2014 6:00 a.m.
Provided by Benny Martin/

Benny Martin, in his Navy uniform during World War II.

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With his 90th birthday barely a month away, Benny Martin looks back over the decades on a life that has taken him around the United States and the world. Martin was born Oct. 28, 1924 in Buhl, Idaho. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served three years during World War II starting in 1943.

“I’m no war hero,” Martin said. “I spent two years overseas in the Pacific. We were based in Hawaii. I was part of an amphibious unit, a communications unit. I was a radio man. We went to islands and established communications after invasions. In my unit there were 15 to 20 of us. We spent a lot of time in Hawaii, because we wouldn’t be gone very long.”

Martin said he was involved in securing Japan following that country’s surrender.

“We landed there and set up radio communications in Yokosuka, which had been the Japanese Naval Academy. Part of our group went to Tokyo and were on (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur’s staff,” he said. “So we were part Army and part Navy at that time. It was an interesting experience. We didn’t know what to expect. We saw very few civilians. As time went on they began to come out more. I liked Japan and I’ve been back twice since then.”

Martin said military service matured him and allowed an Idaho farm boy to see the world.

“I joined as a 17-year-old kid and came out as a 21-year-old man,” he said. “I enjoyed it and had a lot of good friends. As far as I know, there are only two of us alive now from our unit.”

Following his discharge from the Navy, Martin went to college on the G.I. Bill, earned a degree from the University of Idaho, then worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Soil Conservation Service in his native Idaho; Colorado; Kansas; Pennsylvania; Nebraska; and Washington, D.C. He led a USDA technical team on a trip to China in 1981 and, after retiring to Camden, he spent a year as a conservation consultant in the Philippines.

He was married to his late wife Margaret, nicknamed Marty, for 55 years. She passed away in 2004.

“I spent seven years in Nebraska and my children all grew up there. When I retired in 1982, our children were all in the eastern U.S. so we looked for a place in the east and accidentally stumbled into Camden,” Martin said. “We didn’t know anybody. I’ve been here ever since.”

Martin said he had four daughters, but one has passed away. The family also includes four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Although he knew no one when he first came to Camden, he quickly made friends through a job. He now lives in Lugoff.

“I’ve worked at the (Camden) Country Club for over 25 years, part time. I’ve worked in the snack bar and the pro shop. Right now I’m still working as a starter on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said. “One of the reasons we came here was my wife and I both played golf and we liked the golf course and it was the kind of small town we wanted. We didn’t want to go to the coast.”

 

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