Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
MOUNT VICTORY — When Pete Britton joined the Marines in 1943, his parents didn’t want him to fight in World War II.
Rodney and Lillian Britton already had three sons serving in the Pacific. They didn’t want a fourth in harm’s way. It wasn’t until Britton watched his own son join the Marines and face an enemy’s bullets that he fully appreciated what his parents endured.
There were 12 children in the Britton household and times were tough for them during the Depression years, recalled Pete. His dad sought farm work when he could find it to put food on the table, but often the rent came due and there was no money to make the payment.
“We had to move,” said Pete. “Dad had to feed seven kids at that time and things were rough.”
The family lived in Mount Victory, Ridgeway, Rushsylvania, Meeker, LaRue and many other communities in the area, he recalled.
To help his parents, Pete took a job at the local ice factory when he was only nine years old. He saw his older brothers join the military, starting with Bill, who signed up for the National Guard unit in Kenton when he was 17 in 1937. Bill was followed by Bob, who was drafted in February 1941, just a few months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
The Britton brothers were soon on their way to fight in the Pacific Theatre and were joined by their brother, Jack, who entered the Navy. Don tried to join the service, but didn’t pass the physical, recalled his younger brother.
Pete was anxious to get into battle, he remembered. He was a student at Rushsylvania High School and set his mind on being the fourth Britton boy to go to war.
“One day, I got off the school bus and hitch-hiked to Lima to join the Marines,” said Pete. Sine he was only 17, Pete needed his parents’ permission to join and they weren’t willing to sign the necessary papers.
“I really don’t know why they wouldn’t sign or what changed their minds,” said Pete.
After graduation, he was sworn in and was just out of boot camp at Paris Island when word came the commanding officer wanted to see him.
“I wondered what he wanted,” said Pete. “They told me Bill had been killed. It bothered me, but all I wanted to do was fight. I was too young to know anything else.”
Bill was the first person killed in World War II from Mount Victory, said Pete. He, along with the other members of Company E of the 37th Army Division, were killed in the Battle of Munda Point in the Solomon Islands.
“There were about nine men killed from the Hardin County area in that battle and several were wounded,’ said Pete.
After the war, Pete, Bob and Jack returned to their parents. The Mount Victory VFW Post was named in honor of Bill.
“That was an honor,” said Pete. “It was hard on Mom and Dad to have four kids in the war. There were no cell phones like they have now. They didn’t know if we were OK or not.”
He learned firsthand the mental torture his parents suffered several years later, when his son, Mike, was in Vietnam, serving, like his father, as a U.S. Marine.
“We watched the news on TV every night,” he recalled. “It was a struggle.”
Mike, in turn, watched his own son, Ryan, continue the tradition of joining the Marines and defending the U.S. He was stationed in Iraq at the prison which housed Saddam Hussein. In many ways, both men agreed, it is harder for those at home than it is being in the battle.
“It’s always tough,” said Mike. “You think about it all the time.”
Looking back, said Pete, he has never regretted his decision to join the Marines.
“I’d do it again in a minute,” he said, “but my knees are bad now and I can’t get around like I used to.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer