War II veteran from Wheeling reflects on his military police career

Photo by Emma Delk 98-year-old World War II veteran Bob Rine was stationed as a military police officer in Kunming, China when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

World War II veteran Bob Rine enlisted as soon as he turned 18 to avoid being drafted. Now at age 98, looking back at his time as an Army Military Police Officer during one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history, Rine can recall pivotal moments in the country’s history he was a part of.

Born and raised in Wheeling, Rine graduated from Triadelphia High School in 1943. After turning 18 in November of that year, Rine enlisted in the Air Force, then known as the U.S. Army Air Corps.

“Obviously, I was going to apply because if I didn’t enlist, I would be drafted,” said Rine. “Rather than be drafted, I thought, ‘I want to be a pilot,’ so I enlisted in the Air Corps for pilot training.”

Rine’s feelings as he enlisted were not of excitement or nervousness but rather that he was fulfilling a necessary duty to his country.

“I obviously wanted to serve my country,” said Rine. “I figured this was something I had to do when the war was going on.”

Rine’s strategy of early enlistment to get him a spot in the Air Corps did not pay off. Due to his faulty depth perception, he did not pass the psychomotor test during pilot training. After flunking out of pilot training, Rine took an array of aptitude tests to determine where he would serve.

Rine scored well enough “listening to dots and dashes” to become a radio operator and was sent to a radio mechanic school in Wisconsin. However, his lack of knowledge and desire to work in the field resulted in him instead becoming an M.P.

Rine began his service performing guard duties in Barksdale Field, Louisiana, which is near Shreveport. Rine then got on the “troop train” and headed to California. From there, he served in Melbourne, Australia then Calcutta, India. Rine finished his service in China, first in Shanghai and then in Kunming.

As a young man fresh out of high school, Rine had never been outside the country before his service. He recalled India being a “fascinating country,” along with areas of East Asia.

Despite his service beginning 80 years ago, Rine has no difficulty remembering where he was during two pivotal moments in U.S. history — President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death and the first atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

When President Roosevelt passed on April 12, 1954, Rine served as an M.P. in Melbourne, Australia. Rine recalled he and his fellow servicemen being “shocked” when they heard the news.

“Roosevelt was a great leader, so we were all saddened when he died,” described Rine. “We didn’t know anything about President [Harry S.] Truman then, but of course, he turned out to be a good president.”

The second moment of Rine’s service he will never forget the first atomic bomb being dropped in Japan on August 6, 1945, while he was stationed in Kunming, China.

Rine had been moved to China from Calcutta, India, in preparation for Japan’s planned invasion of China in September 1945. As soon as he heard the bomb had been dropped, Rine knew this invasion would not come to fruition and that the war would end.

“The Japanese would have fought to the last man,” described Rine. “I’ll never second-guess Truman for ending the war with that second bomb because he probably saved thousands of lives on both sides, probably including mine. Obviously, I wanted the war to end and to get out like everybody else.”

Rine left Shanghai in the spring of 1946, heading to California and then to Camp Atterbury in Indiana, where he was discharged in June. Following his service, Rine signed up for the Army Reserves.

“After three years, my Army Reserves term was up, so I wised up and didn’t sign back up because the Korean War was starting,” recalled Rine. “I probably would have gone to Korea, so I was done being in the reserves, and my service was over.”

After he closed the chapter of his military career, Rine became a Mountaineer, entering journalism school at West Virginia University with help from President Roosevelt’s G.I. Bill.

“I just did what I was told in the military, and I got through it all right,” said Rine. “I then went and got on with the rest of my life. The G.I. Bill enabled me and a lot of veterans to go to college.”

Rine withdrew from school in 1946 to pursue a career in the love of his life — baseball umpiring. Rine attended George Barr’s baseball umpiring school in Florida to fulfill this dream.

Rine’s passion for calling the game eventually led him to Hiroshima years after the atomic bomb had been dropped to teach umpire clinics. Though there were “no signs” that an atomic bomb had been dropped only 10 years prior, Rine said he was still shocked by “just the idea” that he was now teaching where the bomb had dropped.

“I worked in the Western Association for George [Barr], and the highlight of those years was they took me to Japan twice in 1954 and 1956,” said Rine. “They took me to Japan to conduct clinics because they needed umpires for baseball. Those were great trips that I won’t forget.”

Rine’s 50-plus-year-long career in baseball umpiring coincided with his writing career. Rine spent two years as a reporter for the Huntington Advertiser. After the Huntington Advertiser folded, Rine returned to his hometown to work at the Wheeling News-Register under editor Harry Hamm in 1955.

In 1956, Rine was recruited to work for Weirton Steel Corp. as the writer for the company’s speaker’s bureau, a position he stayed in for 25 years.

Though he found it a noble cause to serve his country, if Rine had to pick between civilian and military life, civilian life would be his choice. He explained that the regimented military lifestyle did not offer much freedom. Still, he and his colleagues in the military “got by” by listening to their higher-ups and simply doing “what was needed.”

“When you’re in the military, you do what they tell you,” said Rine. “Being a civilian is better than being in the military, although we need troops in the military. I’m glad young men go in today.”

Rine met his wife, Joan Rine, in Wheeling in 1953. The couple had two children, George and Susan Rine. Rine also has a stepson, Bill Hall.

Today, Rine relives memories of his service through trips to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial with his daughter. He has visited the memorial four times, including right after it opened in 2004, and always enjoys seeing the “very interesting” display.

During Rine’s most recent trip to the memorial in April, which Uniglobe sponsored, he recalled seeing the marker for the China-Burma-India theater, where he served.

As he enjoys living in Wheeling and taking trips with his children, Rine says he “tries his best” to remain sharp in his old age.

“I do my best (to stay sharp) but Robert Burns’ quote, ‘But at my back, I always hear Time’s wing’d chariot hurrying near’ is true,” said Rine.


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