“There are a lot of things I won’t talk about. Some things are so horrible that no man in his right mind wants to get back to [them]…”
Cooking Up a Victory
-An oral history of Charles Inglis

Home | Table of Contents | Previous Story | Next Story
Personal Profile | Student Perspective | Audio Interview

In 1942, nineteen-year-old Charles E. Inglis was drafted into the Army. Although most conscripted men were sent to the front to fight, Mr. Inglis received a different kind of assignment—he was to be an Army cook, a job that took him half way around the world. Mr. Inglis was first stationed at Fort Sam Houston where he trained other Army personnel to cook and bake. In September 1942, he volunteered to go overseas as a part of a special cadre. With this group, Mr. Inglis traveled to Hawaii, the Aleutian Islands, and eventually Guadalcanal, where he first fought the Japanese. Mr. Inglis explains that he had “to get out there on the line with the troops and fight” before he could set up his kitchen.

From Guadalcanal Mr. Inglis’s cadre moved to New Britain where there was less fighting. While stationed on New Britain, he was able to cook more and was even invited to bake for General Douglas MacArthur. He fondly recalls that General MacArthur enjoyed his cherry pie in particular. “He would come in and say ‘Sergeant, you got any of that cherry pie today?’” Mr. Inglis reminisces. “I’d give him a cup of old, stale coffee and a slice of cherry pie, and he was happy, but he always came to my kitchen . . . because he knew I was gonna have that cherry pie.”

After some time, Mr. Inglis and his cadre were relocated to the Philippines. There he had a dramatic and terrifying encounter with what he calls, “Japanese brutality.” When a patrol failed to return to camp after two days, the soldiers grew concerned, and additional patrols were sent out to find the missing GIs. The lost patrol was found, “buried alive, head first and . . . all that was sticking out was their feet.” Mr. Inglis’s hurt and anger become more evident as he continues, “That’s something I very seldom talk about because one of them was a very close friend of mine and all I could see was his feet sticking out. So that’s one reason . . . that I tried to stay away from as much fighting as I could because . . . after I [saw] that, I was angry, and it didn’t make any difference what I [saw]—I was ready to shoot.”

Despite the “Japanese brutality” that Mr. Inglis encountered in the Philippines, he was also able to recognize the detrimental effects Japan’s aggression had on its own people. He explains that at night he “would hear [the Japanese] . . . scrounging in the garbage” in search of edible food. “We threw away so much food,” he recalls, “that the Japanese could survive with [what] we threw away. . . . That’s something else that’s horrible . . . but it’s a fact.”

As the war neared its end, Mr. Inglis was ordered to take part in the Invasion of Japan, but when his ship was just eight hours off the coast of Japan, the enemy surrendered. “Had we gone into Japan, we would have lost thousands of men because the Japanese were dug in and waiting for us,” he says. Mr. Inglis was then rerouted to Korea where he helped disarm the occupying Japanese. Shortly after peace was declared, he was shipped back to the U.S. and discharged in Seattle, Washington. He remained in the Army Reserves at home, but was not called back to active duty during the Korean War.

Today, Mr. Inglis is proud to have served his country, but is reluctant to share all of his wartime experiences. “There are a lot of things I won’t talk about. Some things are so horrible that no man in his right mind wants to get back to [them]. . . . They were so devastating.”

Home | Table of Contents | Previous Story | Next Story