Lt. Winnia’s body was never recovered.
His name is engraved on
the tablets of the missing,
[Thanks to Erick Eastes].
NOTES ABOUT THIS TRANSCRIPTION
This document was transcribed from the original diary of Lt. Charles C. Winnia, USMC. The diary had been in the possession of Lt. Winnia's mentor and frequent Division leader, Lt. (later Capt.) Alonzo B. "Brew" Treffer, who is often referred to in this diary as "Tref."
Lt. Treffer had spent his teen years with a barnstorming pilot, and had moved to Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force to be able to fight in Europe. Upon the outbreak of the war with Japan he resigned his commission and returned to the U.S. to fly with the Marines. He was a very experienced pilot in a time when there were so very few. After the war he spent time as a civilian test pilot. He retired from an engineering position at Kennedy Space Center. He was killed in a home invasion on November 11, 1994.
The possession of the diary came to David Treffer, "Tref's" son, with the untimely death of his father.
During an after-church discussion with David just before Christmas, 1999, I mentioned I had been in Marine aviation. He told me that his dad had been a Marine pilot, and had flown from "some little island in the south Pacific in W.W.II." He said his dad would never talk about his experience there, so he knew little about that time. He asked me if I could find out about his dad's squadron, which I later identified as VMF-213.
A couple of Sundays later David handed me a small, old diary, which he had found while going through his dad's possessions. The diary had been in the garage, behind a drill press. He entrusted the diary to me in case it might help me in researching his father's past.
I transcribed this copy, and while doing so researched the period to add pictures to the code names, acronyms and slang of the time. I acquired an immense respect for the men who carried defeat to the enemy while enduring the abhorrent conditions of the battle of Guadalcanal and the subsequent offensive in the Pacific.
I have found no historical errors in the text, at least so far as was the knowledge of the time. For instance, Admiral Yamamoto's death is reported on the correct day, under the correct conditions. However, Lt. Winnia reports three bombers shot down, which was accurate according to the reports of the time but later proven to be wrong - there were only two bombers involved.
I attempted to convey the flavor of the diary by copying the format and notes of the diary itself as well as Lt. Winnia's daily writings.
The diary is, of course, a small piece of a story about a big war. In it duty and death are spoken of in short, generally unemotional, statements of fact. It is a story of relationship between those who fought the war together, though with different tasks assigned to each of them. It is also a story of the effects of war on the families left behind, and it is a tragic love story.
Having read the last entry before beginning the transcription I dreaded the addition of each day to my text. I grew to like Lt. Winnia, to have a full sense of the camaraderie which I had shared with my peers while I was in the Corps. I knew his death had happened over 50 years before I even became aware of his life; nonetheless I had a true sense of foreboding as I copied on and on towards July 18, 1943, when this tired, sick, malnourished, overworked marine gave his life while following orders - just like thousands of others had done in the previous year and others were to continue to do for two more years. Though his death was just one of thousands this diary not only gives life to him, but also gives insight into the others who were just as well loved by their families, had just as many dreams and plans, and who left just as big a hole in the fabric of our society with their passing - though the fabric itself would not exist were it not for the sacrifice they made.
As there were no references to his father in the diary I assume that his father had already passed away, which probably explains his faithful correspondence to his mother. I have been unable to find any Winnias in the United States at this time - Lt. Winnia may have been the last. His sister, Kit, was due to deliver a child in August of '43 after losing her husband and her brother in that terrible year. One can scarcely imagine the anguish in the household.
As I continue to fill in the details of the lives of Lt. Winnia and Brew Treffer, I ask that anyone having information - photos, documents, etc. - which will help in this task to please share these treasures with me.
The Treffer family, owners of the diary, have given me permission to share this document with others.
Carl S. Richardson
1605 Neptune Drive
Merritt Island FL 32952
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Final Note: the story of this diary and of the wartime romance between Lt. Winnia and V.J. Watkins was the subject of a recent
National Public Radio feature story. To read the story, and to listen to V.J. Watkins reading the final letter to her from Lt. Winnia, click here.