Bio: Vine, Gordon (Military Honors - 2015)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Vine,

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co, WI) 7/22/2015

Vine, Gordon (Military Honors - 2015)

Vine Family’s Military Roots Run Deep

Gordon Vine relaxes at his rural Granton home. He carried on the military tradition set forth by his father, Ernest, serving in the U. S. Army Air Corps from 1943-1945. (Contributed Photo)

By Todd Schmidt

Gordon Vine and his father, Ernest Vine, both served their country in distinguished fashion.

Much of their military service time is chronicled in the book “A Young Man’s Life” printed in 1996.

Ernest served in the U. S. Army during WWI, fighting in the trenches in France next to Otto Haugen, who the Neillsville American Legion Post 73 is named after. Haugen was killed in action.

In later years, Ernest served as the second commander of Post 73.

Ernest lied about his age and enlisted in the local National Guard unit at the tender age of 16. Shortly thereafter, the local Guard unit was called into service as the Third Wisconsin Regiment. The unit was shipped to Waco, TX, to protect the border from raids by the scoundrel Poncho Villa and his men.

They returned to Neillsville for a short time and were then called to duty to protect the ore docks on Lake Superior. By that time, WWI was raging in Europe.

The 33rd Michigan Regiment was joined with Third Wisconsin to form the 32nd Division when war was declared on Germany in April 1917.

The division began shipping overseas in January 1918. The Headquarters Battalion shipped out on the ship Tuscania, which was sunk by a German submarine.

Ernest shipped out later on the Leviathan, which carried 10,000 men. The division landed at Havre, France, and then went by train to Prauthoy, Haute Marne, France.

Ernest was soon promoted to to corporal. The 32nd Division was known as the Red Arrow, later nicknamed “Les Terribles” by a French general because of the ferocious way they fought.

Patrol duty often consisted of soldiers from both sides probing through the darkness. At time they would run into each other, resulting in vicious combat with knives and bayonets.

Artillery attacks also proved deadly. Ernest described how a heavy artillery shell would blow a hole in the ground large enough to buy a horse. The concussion was terrible, but the flying shrapnel was worse.

A battle near Verdun wiped out nine villages, killing nearly 1 million Frenchmen.

“My father was not an openly religious man from what I knew of him, but I am sure he prayed and asked for the help of the ‘Big Boss’,” Gordon recalled. “I still have the Bible he carried with him while in service; the pages look well used.”

Ernest was hit by machine gun fire in a battle near the village of Dravegny. The stretcher-bearers carried the 18-year-old soldier to the rear of the battle line. He spent two months in a hospital in Paris and was then transferred to another hospital in England. His wounds left him with a leg that was considerably shorter than the other.

Ernest’s military service left quite an impression on his son.

In 1941, Gordon graduated from Neillsville High School. He then attended UW-River Falls, majoring in agriculture.

After attending college for two years, Gordon entered the U. S. Army Air Corps. He was stationed in Italy and was primarily a top turret gunner.

Much of his training in the B-29 bombers occurred in Pratt, KS, which had several three-mile landing strips. The B-29 started coming off the assembly line in July 1943.

The advanced bomber was specifically designed for long-range bombing runs. Its range was up to 3,250 miles, while carrying a bomb load of over 20,000 lbs. It also had an air speed of 350 mph and could be operated at a ceiling of well over 30,000 ft.

Over 700 of the B-29s were produced from 19443 until the end of WWII. One of them delivered the atomic bomb, which signaled the en d of Japanese resistance.

Gorden shipped overseas on the West Point, one of the largest and fastest liners afloat.

“I was not a war hero,” Gordon said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The time flying combat was, to say the least, damn uncomfortable.”

Flying combat was also very dangerous, as proven when the final tally was taken after the last mission was completed April 16, 1945. The tally was 79,265 Americans, 79,281 British and an undetermined number of German airmen killed.

Many U. S. Bombers were shot down or badly damaged in the Air campaign at Regensburg. Tactics were changed after that sortie.

P-47 and P-51 fighters were developed which had longer range and could fly to protect the bombers far into Germany. Other technology was improved.

“Our Norden bomb sight and highly trained crews could put a bomb inside a pickle barrel from 25,000 feet,” Gordon said.

Prior to one mission over Munich, Gordon completed his desire to send a salutary message to the German people from his father.

During pre-flight preparations, Gordon crawled up into the bomb bay and used a piece of chalk to scribble this message on one of the 500-lb. bombs, “With best regards from Ernest J. Vine. Take that, you bastards.”

After serving his country from 1943 to 1945, Vine returned to UW-River Falls to finish his education. He taught for six months in Melrose.

His father asked him to come back to Neillsville. Gordon still lives on the farm he bought approximately 70 years ago.

For six years, Gordon taught veterans from the Granton area that were back from WWII about many facets of agriculture, including g recordkeeping, milk testing and soil testing. For every month the veterans served in the military they received a month of training under the GI Bill.

Gordon moved on to represent the American Dairy Association in sales, covering 11 counties. His career expanded into banking, as he spent 14 years as agriculture loan officer for the Neillsville Bank.

Gordon married Faith, a prominent Neillsville schoolteacher. She passed away in 1986.

They had five children: Jane Nelson, Virginia Fennema, Paul Vine, Jeff Vine and Kristine Kirschaffer. The family has expanded to include 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“I have indeed been very lucky living a good and long life, being blesses with a fine wife, five wonderful children and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Gordon said. “Many servicemen of the world never got the chance to fulfill this dream. There were millions of them.”

This display case at Gordon Vine’s home honors the military service of Gordon and his father Ernest Vine. (Contributed photo)



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