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thedrifter
04-02-08, 08:21 AM
April 1, 2008
Muncie Marine blew 'Taps' at last WWII battle

By JOHN CARLSON
Muncie Star Press

Muncie, Ind. -- As musical instruments go, Bud Hindsley's bugle isn't terribly impressive in appearance.

Made of brass that has dulled over time, its tightly curled innards are a little banged up, while its stubby shape makes it seem toy-like.

Still, it's something of a magical horn, one that can transport its owner back to 63 years ago, when Hindsley was a 19-year-old Marine corporal taking part in the last American battle of World War ll -- the invasion of Okinawa.

It began on April 1, 1945.

April Fool's Day.

"We thought that was kind of neat," said Hindsley, who at 82 remains tall and fit enough to bring that tough young Marine to mind.

A father of three, grandfather of four and great-grandfather of five, he was seated at the kitchen table in the southside home he shares with his wife of 61 years, Carol.

Tracing a map of Okinawa with a finger and consulting the words he'd jotted on pale green paper ripped from a notebook, he reminisced about the battle that resulted in the deaths of 13,000 American soldiers, sailors and Marines.

"The guys that deserve all the praise are lying in their graves over there," he said.

In discussing his role in this pivotal battle, Hindsley -- who moved here with Carol in 1962 from Union City, spending most of his career as a warehouse manager for J&J Supply -- takes pains to explain that he was no hero.

"When I saw my first Japanese dead, I vomited," he admitted.

During the early part of the campaign, he further explained, he was among a force of Marines held on ships offshore in reserve. They were afloat there when his ship's captain came on the public address system and said he had bad news and good news. The former was that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died. The latter was that, due to the threat of kamikaze attacks, they were sailing back to Saipan.

It wasn't until about 60 days later that they returned to Okinawa to relieve the battle-weary forces that had fought so fiercely to take the island. Hindsley spent about 10 days in "mopping up" operations, clearing out the last of the Japanese resistance.

A general at the front

It was one morning during this time that he found himself about 40 feet from where a group of officers on a rocky ridge surveyed a battlefield below. One of those men was a three-star Army general, Simon Bolivar Buckner, who was the campaign's commanding officer.

The sight of him impressed the teenage Marine.

"You never saw generals up in the front line," Hindsley recalled, adding that Buckner, who was eating cheese and crackers, had just declared himself satisfied with the area.

"He said, 'Everything's going good here. I think I'll go someplace else.'"

Only moments later, after a picture was taken of the officers, Buckner was killed instantly by a Japanese artillery shell that landed nearly at his feet.

"He was gone right now," the Muncie man reflected.

For Hindsley, however, the general's story didn't end with that blast.

A trumpet player in high school, he had learned to play a bugle as a Marine. Now, he was asked if he could play Taps at the general's makeshift funeral.

"I said, 'I don't have a bugle. I can't do that,'" he recalled.

Hitting the high note

Soon, however, his captain presented him with a Japanese bugle that someone had snatched as a souvenir. He tried it, learning that the instrument was tuned a little lower than what he was used to, but was otherwise fine.

"You've only got about six notes on a bugle," Hindsley recalled. "I kept thinking, 'I've gotta get through this. I want to hit my high note.'"

And he did.

"To my surprise, it sounded pretty good," he said.

That day, to the tune of Taps played by the 19-year-old Marine, Buckner and a second officer unknown to Hindsley were laid to rest under a fluttering American flag in two hastily dug graves.

Last week, at a visitor's request, Hindsley lifted the same bugle from his kitchen table and blew a couple exploratory notes. Then, unselfconsciously, his lips pursed and with a surge of breath, he played Taps on it again, all 24 notes, a few of them wavering in spots, but mostly rich, mournful and clear.

Listening, you had to swallow a lump in your throat.

"That was," Hindsley said, when he put his bugle down, "a long time ago."

Ellie