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Young and old joined the Central Texas Marines in celebrating the 242nd Marine Corps Birthday with a breakfast Saturday at American Legion Post 133 in Temple.

Col. William D. Bauer, USMC retired, said his experience with the Corps began at his birth in Pensacola, Florida, where his father, a Marine Corps lieutenant, earned his wings.

“Marine aviation in the late 1930s was very small,” he said. “There were only about 130 pilots. Then, Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Based on the U.S.S. Enterprise, his father was involved in the war in the South Pacific. The Japanese were building an airfield on Guadalcanal, and the U.S. determined to recapture the island and take over the airfield. On one mission, his father shot down four Japanese planes, and was awarded for it. However, he was later shot down in the Pacific at age 33. In May 1946, Bauer received his father’s posthumous Medal of Honor.

After Bauer grew up, he also became a Marine jet pilot, and participated in a non-stop flight to Japan, made possible by air-refueling.

“In Japan, I had a life-changing experience,” he said.

He and some other pilots were having breakfast when he noticed a group of young people, and among them a breathtakingly beautiful girl with a wonderful smile. He told one of his friends, “I’m going to marry her. Then I thought, maybe I ought to introduce myself.”

He found out she was traveling with the USO show, and would be coming back to Japan.

“I’m out here to entertain the troops,” she said.

“Well, I was a troop,” he said.

He gave her his card, and said he’d be glad to show her the sights of Japan when she returned. She took him up on it, they went on a few dates, and before he shipped out he proposed.

“She was a wonderful military wife,” he said.

Ed Bandas, spokesman for the Central Texas Marines, said the local breakfast celebration started in 2011 at a Salado home.

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