CHARLES CLINTON ALFRED MARMORINE
Branch: Army Air Corps
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Status: Died non-battle
Date of Service: World War II
Home Town: Pine Lake Township
Charles Marmorine’s headstone in Samhold Lutheran Cemetery in Gonvick
Charles Clinton Alfred Marmorine was born February 19, 1922 to Charles “Charley” and Mary Louise Hetland Marmorine in Clearwater County, Minnesota. Charley was the Minnesota-born son of Swedish immigrants who settled in Jessenland Township in Sibley County, Minnesota. Mary’s parents were of Norwegian heritage. Charley’s older brother John had homesteaded a farm in section 31 of Greenwood Township and another brother Adolphus was homesteading in Leon Township 3 ½ miles north of Clearbrook. Adolphus operated a country store and post office and also taught the first term of school held in Leon Township. The brothers convinced Charley to move up from Sibley County and do the same. Charley began farming in section 14 of Pine Lake Township. He soon met Mary Hetland, a local girl, and they were married on November 26, 1912 in Gonvick, Minnesota.
The Marmorines had three boys and two girls: Warren, Marvin, Charles, Ethel and Cleo. They grew to adulthood in Pine Lake Township. Charles graduated from high school and went on to college. He signed up for the draft on June 30, 1942 in Bagley, noting that he was 20 years old and spending summers working on the home farm. He was a tall young man of 6’, weighing 165 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair.
Charles enlisted in the Army Air Corps Reserve on October 15, 1942. He was called up to active duty in February of 1943 and was sent to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri for induction. Charles was commissioned as an officer and trained as a pilot. After training he was assigned to the 27th Troop Carrier Squadron, part of the 443rd Troop Carrier Group.
He joined his unit at Dunnellon Army Air Force Field in Florida, where he helped to train transport and glider pilots and later replacement crews. Twice the unit was alerted for overseas duty but their orders were aborted by Washington because they were deemed to be far too valuable as a training unit at home. In late 1943, however, Japan invaded India and Allied forces submitted an urgent request that the 27th be assigned to the theater due to its outstanding record of night flying in all types of weather and over all terrain.
After flying to Indiana to pick up 13 new Douglas C-47 aircraft, the formation left Florida on Christmas Day, 1943 for Sylhet, Assam, India. When they arrived in mid-January, 1944, they immediately began flying combat missions around the clock, over and behind enemy lines giving assistance to the surrounded forces – often landing on grass strips behind the lines to evacuate wounded personnel. When the Japanese were defeated at Imphal, India, the 27th was assigned to partake in “Operation Thursday,” the invasion of Burma from central east India. This involved establishing airstrips in the middle of the jungle to facilitate air support short landings, often surrounded by Japanese forces. When north Burma was opened by the Allied forces, attention was turned to Eastern China offensive operations.
While in college, Charles had met a woman named Garnette Emma Nichols who was also a student there, albeit in bookkeeping. She was the daughter of Lloyd Nichols, a state oil inspector, and she had a twin brother Gerald. Garnette had a beautiful voice and sang with the Bemidji State College Choir. They married in 1944 when Charles was home on leave.
Charles moved to China with his unit in August of 1945 and gave support to the O.S.S. (forerunner of the C.I.A.) in guerilla activities. The 27th also helped to transport a Chinese army of more than 30,000 men from Chihkiang to Nanking in September.
It was the 27th of September, 1945 when Charles was piloting a C-47-B named Able Sugar on a medical administrative mission to Hsian, China, that disaster struck. The plane with its four crew members left the airfield at Liangshan, China on a course of 20 degrees. The weather was overcast and visibility was 1 ½ miles with light rain falling. They were flying over a field in Hsian around 4:00 p.m. when they last made radio contact with base. That was the last anyone heard from the crew. A search was made by L-5 looking for wreckage and survivors.
None of the crew had survived, however, including 1st Lieutenant Charles Marmorine. The wreckage site was eventually found in the Himalayan Mountains of India and Charles’ body was sent home to his family. They buried him with military honors in Samhold Lutheran Cemetery, Gonvick. He was 23 years old.
A grief-stricken Garnette, living with her parents, worked as a secretary for her brother-in-law Harold Dickinson and also taught at the Bemidji Business College. She eventually remarried and moved to Montana where she lived a full life.