BRIDGEPORT, Ohio (WTRF) – When he enlisted in the Army Air Force, Fred Melnick probably wasn’t expecting the heavy combat he would encounter.
At just 19-years-old in 1944 he found himself on the Island of Morotai, an Allied base that he calls the “jumping off point for Okinawa”.
You may not have heard of it, but Melnick hopes people never forget it.
“I was scared from day one,” Melnick said that’s how he felt serving in the Army Air Force.
Melnick said he was what you’d call a “fixer-upper man”.
“We worked on anything,” he explained. “We did ground work, we fixed runways.”
That was his job even while fighting on the Island of Morotai in the Pacific. Even before facing combat there, Melnick had a close call with death when he shipped out.
“We come to get on that plane that took off without us, and in the meantime it crashed and killed all them guys,” he remembers.
Melnick recalls fighting was almost immediate when he arrived.
“We dropped the doors and jumped down in the water running up the beach and they starts bombing us and strafing us again,” he said. “We didn’t have no place to go, just hit the ground hoping nothing would hit ya.”
He and his fellow soldiers following one order above all others.
“The lieutenant said we gotta hold this at all cost,” Melnick said. “I put four God darn socks around my neck full of ammunition. I had a careen around my shoulders. I had five clips around my belt.”
Melnick saw a lot of loss, and a lot of brave men.
“If you could see the white crosses we had there, you’d really believe me,” he said of the island. ”
Some of that loss still sticks with him now at the age of 95.
“I was there till the end,” he continued. “What you’ve seen, what you’ve heard, what you did, it’ll never leave you. It’ll be with you forever. At times even today I’ll even wake up and I’m shaky. Can’t help it.”
Melnick had brothers who also served their country, one of which died during World War II, but he said through it all he is proud of what he did.
“You had to do something for your country, and that’s how you felt,” he added. “I’d imagine most of the guys my age would feel the same way.”