Marianas Variety

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    Tuesday, September 26, 2017-11:21:12A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

‘Freedom is not free’ (Part II)

ALTHOUGH it didn’t occur to them that what they did was special, visiting WWII veterans Jesse Loma and Claude Bryan Martin Jr. claimed they only did their job.

Claude Bryan “C.B.” Martin Jr., left, as a young Seabee on Guam with his friends.And it’s a job that truly made a difference in the world, according to their children and to the many other Americans who appreciate their service to the nation.

“The price of freedom is not free,” said Martin, 87, in a conversation with this reporter last week at the Pacific Islands Club’s The Magellan restaurant.

Fellow veteran Loma could not agree more. “Freedom is not free. You got to earn it and you got to live it and share your thoughts.”

The two had left for Hawaii for the remainder of their historical tour.

Martin, and his daughters Jan and Jody and son-in-law James Rabon, left Friday for Guam en route to Hawaii.

The others followed the following day.

The conversations Variety had with WWII veterans was telling: humility binds them.

They never considered their military service as extraordinary. They thought they only did the best they could to finish the job.

Martin, who will turn 88 on Sept. 24, said, “We just knew it had to be done. We’re needed. We didn’t think much of it really.”

He told Variety he was 19 when he volunteered to take part in the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion or Seabees.

Residing in Lubbock, Texas, Martin graduated from high school in May 1942 and was on his first semester at TexasTech.

A Japanese official from Rota surrenders to the Americans on Guam. “I had a friend that I had known for years that would join the Navy Seabees so I bumped into him one day. I had never of heard the Navy Seabees and he told me what it was,” he said.

He joined in the middle of 1943.

Martin said he knew he would be drafted soon and having heard his friend’s experiences with the Seabees, he chose to be in it.

“My buddy told me how great it was,” he said.

In the early days, he said, all of the Seabees were volunteers.

He said he chose to be in it because “I want something different.”

Martin became part of the 56th Seabees Battalion.

According to online sources, the 56th Naval Construction Battalion was commissioned in on December 24, 1942 in Norfolk, Virginia. It was shipped out to Pearl Harbor on April 2, 1943.

While in Hawaii, Martin said he knew his battalion would be sent to Guam.

As they were heading to Guam, Martin told Variety the American forces invaded Saipan.

Martin recalled, “They ran into more resistance on Saipan than they had anticipated. So the taskforce that I was in, they came in and pulled out half of those ships, and sent those ships to Saipan to help there.”

He said they had to buy time until they could regroup and go to Guam.

“We were about a month late going into Guam, later than we had anticipated,” said Martin explaining that the Battle of Saipan pushed the schedule by a month.

Martin stayed on Guam for about 15 months until the war was over.

“They sent me back to the U.S. and I had a month leave and I got married,” he said.

He added, “Then I had to go back, it was April 1, 1946 when I received my discharge.”

Now close to 70 years later, Variety asked Martin Jr. how he felt about his serving the nation.

“Well I am proud that I did. It had to be done. All of my buddies were going into service. With all of them going I wanted to be part of it,” he said.

Asked how many of his friends are still remaining, he said, “Not many.”

He said there were about 1,200 in their battalion.

Since 1947, they have been holding reunions every year.

In the last gathering on Memorial Day, he said, there were only four present.

Martin told Variety there could be 25 to 30 of his fellow 56th NCB men still around.

According to his daughters Jan and Jody, their father does watercolor painting, enjoys coffee with his friends, walks in the mall and watches his diet.

Their mother, they said, passed away two years ago.

Jody said, “She’s a wonderful artist and very supportive of dad.”

She said her father wrote his experiences and published a book in 1998, “C.B. in the Seabees.”

“He wrote short stories of his experiences on Guam and mom did the sketches. He did some of his photographs,” she said.

The Martin patriarch told Variety, “I only had I think 70 copies made for friends and family.”

Moreover, the trip to Saipan wasn’t the first for Martin as he brought his wife with him the first time in 1994.

Martin vowed he would come back and visit Tinian which he finally got to do this time.

Prior to coming over here, the Martins were on Guam participating in the Liberation Day activities.

While visiting the Pacific Historic Parks museum there, Jody Martin Rabon told Variety that what she found moving was local folks approaching her father and thanked him for his service.

For WWII veteran Martin, “I was amazed. I felt good.”

While watching the Liberation Day Parade on Guam on July 21, she said, “We saw the Guamanians celebrating. It really struck me — that dad was part of the reason that they were able to do that — and Jesse [Loma]. It was incredible to make that much a difference.”

All these years, Jody said she would call her father on Veterans Day and thank him for serving the country which the Martin patriarch would say he didn’t do much.

“It never occurred to him that what he did was important. That was the impression I got,” she said.

But for C.B. Martin Jr., “I never thought much about it really. We did our job. Then we got home, worked and raised a family.”

For C.B., it was only recently that he got to thinking back on what happened in the war.

“We just knew it had to be done. We’re needed. We didn’t think much of it really,” he said.

He even showed Variety some reprints of photos he kept all these years.

He showed photos of Japanese officers from Rota taken to Guam where they officially surrendered to the Americans.

There were also photos of  the young C.B. and his fellow Seabees doing their work and assisting the Marines.

He said they were very much appreciated by the Marines whom they had worked with.

As to the young generation of service members now serving the country, C.B. has this advice, “You just do the best you can, get the job done and come home.”

View more photos in our gallery