World War II veteran experiences from 70 years ago are fresh in their minds
COTTONWOOD — Retirement communities across the U.S. frequently have residents who served in combat in the service of the nation.
Cottonwood Village, a retirement community in Cottonwood, has had many veterans through the years, and three World War II veterans who reside there shared some of their experiences with the Verde Independent.
Robert “Bob” Quin
At age 101, Quin still remembers when knowing how to fly an airplane wasn’t necessarily a marketable skill.
“Around 1939, I had a license to fly a plane, but there were jobs in that, really,” said Quin, a native of Southwick, Mass. “And Charles Lindbergh told President (Franklin) Roosevelt enough about German airpower to rouse the need for more pilots and flight instruction, and so I took a course and became an instructor.”
Quin’s time in the Army Air Corps started working at a flight school, moving up to what he calls an “upscale flight school,” teaching instrument flying and other complex aspects. Many washed out of flight school, but after the Pearl Harbor attacks and the U.S. Declarations of War, pilots with lesser skills were needed, and made the grade.
By 1943, Quin found himself in California, working with Consolidated Vultee, flying experimental planes. On Jan. 7, 1945, Quin was test-flying a bomber when fire and smoke swept through the cabin and cockpit, with flames nearly touching Quin while he had others bail out ahead of him. Quin was the last to leave the aircraft, surviving.
Quin flew planes to and from Pacific islands throughout the rest of the war, delivering planes to islands occupied by heavy Japanese forces.
He flew for Continental Airlines for many years before he and his wife built a home in Cottonwood for the retirement years.
Quin has lived at Cottonwood Village for about five years.
Kleinz, 95, a native of Philadelphia, upon finding out the draft was about to involve him, decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I was 19, and had a job, but I didn’t want any part of the Army,” Kleinz said. “I wanted to ride. I didn’t want to walk.”
Kleinz managed to avoid being wounded in action, despite witnessing heavy U.S. casualties in many battles, spanning nearly the length of all American action in the Pacific Theater. He saw action at Tarawa, Saipan, Tinlan and Nagasaki, among other locations.
“I was able to duck,” Kleinz said, regarding escaping without major injury.
Kleinz said some of the landing phases were quite harrowing.
“That’s when both sides shot at you — fire from land, and trigger-happy ‘friendly fire’ from behind,” he said.
After finishing his duty to the Navy, Kleinz had three careers: He started two trucking companies and was a partner with two friends in a commodities partnership involving fish shipped in from Alaska.
Kleinz spent parts of each winter at a home in the Surprise, Ariz., area, renting it out the rest of the year. His daughter took a hospital job in the Verde Valley, which is what eventually brought Kleinz himself to Cottonwood.
Joining the U.S. Army at age 16 — lying about his age to get in — was how Brandt started his military career in the early 1940s.
After basic training, Brandt found himself as a replacement moved to several units that were in northern Africa.
“I was a marksman — a pretty good shot, with a rifle,” Brandt said. “And I could handle the heavy water-cooled .30 machine gun. I thought I was going to be a sniper, but I ended up behind the machine gun.”
Serving with the 15th Infantry, Third Division, Brandt’s unit made it to Bamberg, Germany — about 250 miles from Berlin — in the spring of 1945, in the final days leading up to the German surrender. He was hit in the back with shrapnel as he hunkered down in a hole, with one piece of hot shrapnel striking and denting his “dog tag” ID plate.
“If the shrapnel wouldn’t have hit my dog tag, I might have been gone,” Brandt said.
Brandt received a Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice. A native of North Dakota, he ended up learning refrigeration mechanics at a technical school in Minnesota, then, eventually, ended up as a service representative for International Harvester machinery. He later spent 25 years in the commercial insurance business in Minneapolis, wintering in Sun Lakes, near Chandler.
His daughter and son-in-law lived in Cottonwood, and Brandt built a “casita” onto their home for himself and his wife. He moved into Cottonwood Village early this fall