MANDEVILLE, La. (WGNO)- For some, there was no choice but, to serve and for others, they jumped into action. One of those young men eager to fight for his country was Champ Vinet. He was fresh out of high school when he enlisted and that’s when his story began.
“WWII began for us in 1941, December. You had to wait to be drafted or, you had to select your service. I always wanted to fly and flying was offered through the Navy and the Army Air Forces,” said Champ Vinet, WWII veteran, Retired Lt. Colonel.
Hoping to get his wings, Vinet set his sights on the Navy but, it was his sight that stopped him from getting in.
“I flunked their physical. They told me I was color blind,” explained Vinet. “So, I walked across the street and went to the Army Air Forces.”
That’s where he learned to fly.
“So, I left in January of 1943,” recalled Vinet.
First stop, Shepard Field, Texas. It was off to training he went but before he could fly he had to pass three extensive phases.
“That’s when the hell began,” laughed Vinet.
Vinet started flying a B-24 bomber as co-pilot also called Liberator. The plane came with many nicknames. To the crew, it was the “Flying Coffin.”
By the time Vinet made it to Italy, the year was 1945 and he flew until the war ended.
“So, where we’re in combat for about 6 months,” said Vinet.
When we talked about what he remembers from those days, he described his missions as long, hard, and terrifying.
“I’m no hero but, you did what you had to do and this was a tremendous adventure,” Vinet told us.
His adventure was far from over when the war ended. A few years ago, he took on a new mission. A mission to teach the next generation about WWII.
Twice a week, he would come here to the museum as a volunteer, until Covid-19 swept across the country.
Full of stories and still full of life, Vinet will be 99 on June 23 and this year his wish is to make it back here to the WWII Museum when the pandemic is over.