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Journal gives account of late Aggie's time in the military - The Eagle: News

Journal gives account of late Aggie's time in the military

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:31 am, Thu Nov 29, 2012.

Charles "Jim" Newman was known by his friends and family as a remarkably kind man with a talent for making friends everywhere he went.

The Aggie graduate, who had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, fought bladder cancer for about a year and a half before succumbing to the disease and dying at age 87 last week.

Newman and his wife Frances, who survives him, were married for 64 years and lived in Bryan. His only son, Frank Newman, 63, said that his father loved doing things for people, including giving them figs from his fig tree.

"[He would do] anything he could do to help you. That was just something he loved doing," Newman said. "I think my dad has more friends than anyone I know."

Newman attended Texas A&M University at a time when participation in Corps of Cadets was mandatory for all students. His love for A&M was a lifelong passion. Frank Newman, who also graduated from A&M, said that he remembered listening to A&M football games over the radio with his dad as a child.

"His eyes would tear up when he would hear The Spirit of Aggieland," Newman said.

During World War II, Newman served in the U.S. Navy as a quartermaster aboard the USS Tilefish. While touring the Pacific, Newman kept a journal that was later edited and now resides in the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, perpetuating the veteran's legacy.

Through the combined efforts of Phil Grant, a fellow Aggie, and Newman's granddaughter, Claire, the nearly 100-page chronicle was installed in the National Museum of the Pacific War. The history tells of Newman's enlistment and details his journey through boot camp, quartermaster school and three years of service in the Navy.

Newman described his training aboard the USS Tilefish to earn the right to wear the "Dolphins on your sleeve" and become a submariner as one of the hardest tasks he faced in the Navy.

"When we submerged, every sailor's job has to be carried out with perfection. Failure of any duty could result in a big problem," Newman wrote.

After graduating from high school in Falls County in 1942, Newman had wanted to enroll at A&M as an animal husbandry major, but he had only about a hundred dollars that he had saved from 4-H projects. He was 16 at the time.

Frank Newman said his father's older brother paid for the teenager's school fees for the first semester and got him a job on a pig farm. This was a "huge factor" in why Newman was able to go to college, his son said.

During the summer and fall terms that Newman attended A&M before enlisting in the Navy at age 17, he was a member of the Machine Gun Troop Cavalry.

About two years ago, Phil Grant, a member of the A&M graduating class of 1963, contacted Newman while compiling a history of Company D-1, an outfit that Grant was a member of as a student at A&M, which had roots in Newman's MG Troop. 

"I love hearing stories of how A&M was," Grant said. When Newman was at A&M, Grant said, the school had a greater emphasis on the Corps, and the Corps had a greater emphasis on drills. Newman was asked to report for active duty in February 1943. Though a member of the cavalry at A&M, he told Grant he chose to be in the Navy because the horses had always tried to bite him.

Among other things, Newman's submarine was tasked with rescuing fighter pilots who had to abandon their planes and had fallen into the ocean. One such pilot, Joe Hooks, kept in touch with Newman and the rest of the rescuing crew following the war, Frank Newman said.

In a recollection of the rescue written by Hooks, he told of how his plane had been hit by Japanese ground fire and had to land on the ocean waters.

"The next thing I remember, I was in the water, kicking ... I felt like I was swallowing all of the Pacific Ocean, one gulp at a time," Hooks wrote.

The USS Tilefish came to Hooks' rescue. The submarine's crew had to fish Hooks out of the sea because he was too dazed to grab the rope that was thrown to him three times.

Fifty years after the rescue, Hooks got a call from Newman, which he described as the best call he had ever received.

"One of his favorite things to do was to stay in touch with the people who served in his submarine in World War II," Frank Newman said.

After the war, Newman returned to A&M and graduated in 1948.

"I have a great admiration for him and all men like him, who did service for our country, and then came back and went about their business and made a life for themselves," Grant said. "He was a determined man to get his degree from A&M."

Post-graduation, Newman worked in the ranching business and for Central Freight Lines until he retired.

In 2011, Newman was diagnosed with stage four cancer.

"He was a member of "the greatest generation" and fought valiantly to defeat this illness," Grant said in a recent letter to The Eagle.

A memorial service celebrating Newman's life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 220 Rock Prairie Road in College Station. The service will be followed by a reception at the church.

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