OUR TRIGG COUNTY
WORLD WAR ii
CHASTINE VANCE MAXFIELD
Chastine Vance Maxfield was born March 7, 1926, son of Isaac Newton and Ina Ialeen Adams Maxfield. His grandparents were Jonathan Redford and Mary Francis "Fannie" Jagoe Maxfield from Between the Rivers.
When he reached the age of 18 years, he volunteered to serve in the United States Marine Corps June 24, 1944. He met another young man from Kentucky, Tom Porter, and both shared a home state, as well as a strong desire to help their country. Basic training was received at the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California. During this time, he was able to see his brother Vernon who was serving in the U. S. Army and stationed at Riverside. Chat received a ten-day leave at the end of basic, and was warned that would not provide time to attempt to visit home. However, he felt compelled to take the opportunity to visit his parents, as this was the first time he had been away, and he was quite homesick. It took 4 ½ days of travel by bus, car, foot, and taxicab before arriving at his parent’s house in the middle of the night to awaken them to pay the cab driver. There was barely enough time to enjoy one of mother’s home-cooked meals, before beginning the trip back to California to continue training. He received amphibious and advance infantry training at Camp Pendleton, Ocean Side, California. His unit embarked by ship to the South Pacific Islands November 12, 1944, reaching Guam they were the 28th replacement regiment and later joined the 3rd Marine Division, Ninth Marines, Commanded by Brig. Gen. Graves B. Erskine. Further training was received which included intricate details of combating heavily fortified positions.
Chat shared the following with regard to his tour of duty:
“We loaded and boarded a ship with unknown destinations. After two days at sea, we were shown maps, and told we would be landing on Iwo Jima, a volcano island, full of volcanic ash. The island was eight square miles and very important to the United States for the use of constructed airfields, made by the Japanese for landing and reinforcement of B-29 bomber aircraft. On the island, the enemy was virtually unseen due to underground tunnels, four stories deep and the total length of 16 miles. They were fortified with every need; hospital, living quarters, artillery, mortars, automatic weapons, all installed with only the tip of the gun barrel to the outside and peer holes to see the invading U. S. Marines. One hundred thousand men battled one another for 36 days making this one of the most intent and closely fought battles of any war. Eighty thousand Americans above ground, and twenty two thousand Japanese below ground claimed 25,851 US casualties including nearly 7,000 dead, 22,000 Japanese fought to death. After seeing our men fight to defend their country, giving their all, sharing the fear, being surrounded by injured and dying, did I realize that I was no longer a naïve boy, but was suddenly a man who had witnessed the worst of war, and time would never be able to erase those pictures. At the southwest tip of the island was 556 feet high, Mount Suribachi, the point of the first flag raising on February 23, 1945 (famous phone by Joe Rosenthal). The courage and indomitable will of every man there won the battle of Iwo Jima. “
The U. S. dropped the powerful atomic bomb on Hiroshima August 6, 1945; the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945. This was a turning point for our marines. Instead of additional combat duties, we were now training for duty in an occupied country. My assignment was China from January 5, 1946 to July 12, 1946. The Great Wall of China and their culture so different from ours overwhelmed me, as well as the people overpowered by government that would never know the freedom that so many in the United States take for granted. I now proudly wore my Marine dress uniform with my medals: U. S. Marine Corps, M1 Rifle, Browning Automatic Rifleman in Combat, Sharp Shooter, Asiatic Pacific War and Iwo Jima Battle Star.
I returned to the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California with the rank of Corporal and received my honorable discharge on November 3, 1946. On my journey home, I reflected on my past experiences, not the turbulence, but the good, and all the men who touched my life. I shall never forget my 19th birthday, March 7, 1945, our commanding officer, Second Lieutenant John H. Leims, rescued casualties under machine gun fire, for the third time. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. My friend, Tom Porter was injured this same day, and was taken to the hospital, and shipped back to the states. My fellow marines came from all walks, rural, inter city, educated, non-educated and all those men who gave the ultimate sacrifice. My heart was full of thanksgiving for life, the freedom we cherish, and the honorable feeling for the privilege of serving my country. It was evident my life would be changed forever and I felt the need to serve my fellow man in all walks of life.
I arrived home to family and a community with a high rate of unemployment; however, nothing deterred my desire to make a difference. I took many jobs to earn my keep, including working in a mineral spar mine. Next I traveled to Detroit, Michigan where more jobs were available, and begin work in a steel mill, later as an insurance salesman, and finally with strong determination reached for my dream. I sought the help of the G. I. Bill to complete my education and receive training to become a licensed Mortician. I served my profession for forty-one years, beginning February 1951 with Goodwin Funeral Home in Cadiz, Kentucky and continued until I retired in January 1992. During those years, my desires were fulfilled, working and serving my community and all who came my way. It was with pride that I became Service Officer for American Legion Post No 74, Cadiz, serving for twenty-eight years. I also participated in other civic, fraternal, and business organizations. I married Iva Martha Doom on September 28, 1947; we have lived, and worked together for fifty-three years. We are members of the Cadiz Baptist Church. Our greatest blessing is our daughter Judith Catherine Maxfield Bilyeu. She and her husband Steve live in Nashville, Tennessee. Tommy Porter, my friend from basic training lives in Madisonville, and we are still friends to this day.
In my aged years, I continue to have special respect and deep personal feeling for our military. Should I be asked, “What has been your greatest achievement?” I would have to reply “Having the privilege of serving my country in the United States Marine Corps.” Through my Marine Corps experience, it gave me courage and motivation to work and serve others, a true American Dream.”
This article was originally written in 2000. Chastine Vance Maxfield, one of “The Greatest Generation” passed away on February 4, 2002, and is buried in Cadiz, Kentucky. Following is the Eulogy prepared by a dear family friend. It embodies the emotion and feeling that Chat inspired in others.
Eulogy for Chastine V. Maxfield
Col. M. Thomas Davis, Ret. U. S. Army
February 7, 2002
I stood at this place 23 years ago this very week and paid final respects to my father, Carey, who left the living far too young. And at that time I asked the Almighty to grant me the wish of not returning to this respected old establishment under such circumstances for many years. That wish was granted. But as Shakespeare noted, “Death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” And it has, as it inevitably must, come again – gathering us together to both share a great loss, and celebrate a wondrous gift.
I must thank Martha and Judi for allowing me this great privilege. They have both remained throughout this ordeal what they always are: gracious and grateful, patient and poised, comforting and calm. Chat loved them both dearly, and counted among his great fortunes that they were as committed to him, as he was to them. And as for Martha, one must add that many can fill the role of wife, mother, friend, and elegant companion, but Martha Maxfield does more: she defines them and for all who have been blessed to know her, hers is the standard by which others are measured.
We gather here today to honor and remember Chat Maxfield. But by being such a joyous presence in all our lives, in truth he has already honored us much more.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was a veteran of the Civil War. He always attempted to attend the annual reunions of his Army regiment, and being a man of great stature in his day, and perhaps as the son of one of America’s best-loved poets, he was always asked to offer a few words. On one such occasion he concisely provided thoughts that I believe we should adopt for today. Looking out at his old colleagues, Holmes said, “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. We have lived – we still live – the passions of life to its top. For in our youths, our hearts were touched by fire.”
“Our hearts were touched by fire.” Chat Maxfield was a genuine member of an increasingly select group of Americans labeled a few years ago by Tom Brokaw as the “Greatest Generation.” Others of you here too today share that title, yet as a group you discount and even dismiss the label declaring it unneeded and inaccurate. But as one of your honored sons, allow me to state that the only thing lacking in the description is that it was awarded too late and remains woefully insufficient.
I have heard many of you protest that your record is no different from what others would have done under similar circumstances, and in the face of similar challenges. Maybe so. But the unalterable historical fact remains clear – what others might have done, you actually did. You were, and will remain the “greatest generation.” Live with it. President John Kennedy, himself one of your generational colleagues stated in his inaugural address that those of his generation were, “Tempered by war; disciplined by a hard and bitter peace; proud of our ancient heritage; and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those rights to which this country has always been committed, and to which we remain committed today, at home and around the world.” Touched by fire; tempered by war.
But all groups no matter how distinctive have their various strata and hierarchies. And for the greatest generation this is no different. Those that stand somewhat apart are those who, having survived the ravages of an economic disaster, took up arms in a great crusade to rid the world of monstrous tyrannies, in the words of Winston Churchill “never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crimes.” And among those who marched to the sound of the guns, two smaller groups occupy the highest rungs on the ladder of legend. One group is the 70,000 young American Marines who in February 1945 stormed across the black sands and volcanic ash of Iwo Jima. Chat Maxfield was one of those young Marines.
And their hearts were touched by fire. Fire of a type whose searing heat and arcing light was then unknown and today unimaginable. Consider the record. On Iwo Jima 26,000 Marines were casualties. Although the Marine Corps fought across the Pacific, beach-by-beach, island by inhumane island, for 43 months, a third of its casualties were suffered in three weeks on Iwo Jima. Throughout World War II, 84 Marines won the Congressional Medal of Honor; 27 of them were awarded on Iwo Jima. And on his 19th birthday, Chat Maxfield, Browning Automatic Rifleman, and others in his platoon, provided covering fires while his platoon leader, 2LT John H. Leims, won his Medal of Honor.
Fire touches the heart in many ways. For some it can singe in a way that makes the heart hard and brittle, that solders its doors shut allowing no warmth to enter and no light to escape. For many, this was their unfortunate fate. But for others, such an ordeal can have a redemptive effect, curing the muscle while softening its interior and creating a warm glow that enlightens, illuminates, and enriches. And this was how fire touched the heart of Chat Maxfield.
His was a heart touched by fire, and it stirred him to make a difference and to “live the passion of life to its top.” Three years ago, Steven Spielberg gave us all a wonderful gift in the form of a motion picture, Saving Private Ryan, a film about the other singular group of the Greatest Generation, the 100,000 soldiers who landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944. And in the films culminating scene a dying Captain John Miller pulls the saved Private James Ryan close and whispers softly and simply, “Earn this.” Chat, at some point, heard that same mysterious voice, and he decided to “earn” the good fortune that was his in coming back “from the jaws of death.”
The motto of this revered old establishment is simply, “In service to others.” None would dispute that Chat Maxfield embodied and animated that phrase. He became an active member in numerous community endeavors and the founding force in others including the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the VFW and the American Legion. And when he feared that young children, such as myself, were at risk from the scourge of polio he organized the local March of Dimes. When those who suffered would cry, Chat would weep; when those who were hungry needed a meal, Chat would provide the food; when simple citizens needed a voice with their government, Chat Maxfield was that voice. When my own father died just prior to my brother Tim’s Vanderbilt graduation, Chat filled the role of patron and proud parent. And all he ever asked of any of us was that we too, “earn this.” And while doing so that we too, “live life to its top.” I believe we have; how could we dare disappoint Chat Maxfield.
Chat’s heart was touched by fire. That was his dramatic story. But the enduring story of today is that our hearts were touched by Chat. And his touch made them grander, warmer, and kinder; expanding their volume well beyond any size they would have otherwise attained. The glow from his heart illuminated our lives, and that glow is now gone. But his light remains; fed by the fire he gently placed within us all.
The final verse of the Marine Hymn declares forcefully, even if for Army veterans such as Tom Maxfield and myself perhaps just a bit boastfully, that: “If the Army and the Navy ever look on heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded, by United States Marines.” We should all take comfort that from this day forward, the streets of heaven will be better guarded and more joyous than they have ever been before. God bless you Chat Maxfield. May you abide in peace. You “earned it
Obituary - Kentucky New Era Tuesday, February 05, 2002
Cadiz businessman Maxfield dead at 75
CADIZ, Ky. -- Chastine Vance Maxfield, 75, longtime Cadiz businessman and civic leader, died Monday, Feb. 4, 2002, at his home following a long illness.
Maxfield was the former owner of Goodwin Funeral Home, and services will be there at 11 a.m. Thursday with the Revs. Phillip Salmon and Andy Buckingham officiating. Retired Army Col. M. Thomas Davis will deliver a eulogy.
Burial with full military honors will be in East End Cemetery. Visitation will be from 4 until 9 p.m. Wednesday.
A native of Crittenden County, he was born March 7, 1926, the son of the late Isaac Newton and Ina Ialeen Adams Maxfield.
He began his career in 1951 with Goodwin Funeral Home and remained there for 41 years, retiring in January 1992 at which time he sold the business to John R. Vinson III.
He was a graduate of the John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science.
A corporal in the Marine Corps during World War II, he fought in the battle of Iwo Jima and the occupation of China. He was a charter member of the Rotary Club and the Cadiz Civitan Club which he had served as president.
He was a 50-year member of the American Legion Post 74 where he formerly served as commander and was service officer for 28 years. He was a charter and lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign War, Cadiz.
He was a former member of the Cadiz-Trigg County Chamber of Commerce, had served on the chamber board and was honored in 1991 as Citizen of the Year. He served on the library board of directors, the Trigg County Draft Board and the Cadiz Federal Public Housing Commission.
In the 1960s he served as chairman of the Trigg County March of Dimes, was a member and past master of the Cadiz Masonic Lodge, was a member of the Eastern Star, the Rizpah Temple, the Cadiz Shrine Club, Swigert Chapter R.A.M. and the Scottish Rite.
In 1973 he received the Conservation Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Conservation, Crittenden County Conservation District.
He was a member of the Kentucky Funeral Directors Association, the Western Kentucky District Funeral Directors Association and the National Funeral Directors Association.
He was a member of the Cadiz Baptist Church.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years Martha Doom Maxfield; and a daughter, Mrs. Steve (Judith C. Maxfield) Bilyeu, Nashville, Tenn.
Memorials may be made to the Cadiz Baptist Church or to the American Lung Association.
Return to the Trigg County Home Page