Though he was discharged from the Army in over 70 years ago, 91-year-old Ed Haynack still fits in his Army uniform from WWII with ease.
“I have to button it so people know it still fits,” he says with a laugh as he stands in his kitchen buttoning up the jacket.
Ed Haynack buttons up his Army uniform from WWII.
Barely a teenager when Pearl Harbor was attacked, Haynack had in his mind from a young age that he wanted to join the military to support the efforts of the Allies during WWII.
“I wanted to join the army before I graduated high school, but my dad said, ‘No you’ll get your diploma first.’ Even so, I joined at 17. I had to get my dad’s permission to join, but I did graduate,” says Haynack. “That was my first thought when I got out of high school, ‘I’m joining the army.’”
At 17 years old, Ed Haynack enlisted in the Army in 1946.So, after graduating high school, Haynack joined the army in 1946. He had a little secret going into basic training, though: he had gone through Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) in high school.
“I didn’t put that on my enlistment forms. If I had put that on my enlistment forms, they would have sent me to officer training school. I thought, ‘Now, they’ll just think I’m ordinary. Then when I go to training, they’ll think I’m an ace.’ And of course, when it came to training, I’m standing out like crazy,” Haynack says with a chuckle.
In November 1946, just before Thanksgiving, Haynack landed in Japan as part of the occupation forces. He was on a crew fixing vehicles that soldiers found on the islands. He also volunteered for a tour of duty patrolling the armor front in Yokohama, Japan at night.
“You can probably picture it. They’ve got these walls stacked 10-15 feet high with military equipment. There’s no lighting. The only lights I had were from the Jeep. So, we had to be careful,” he says. “We heard, it was rumored at the time, that the Japanese mafia was being formed and there were always thieves at that time.”
After a 15-month enlistment, during which he worked his way to the rank of Corporal, Haynack came home; however, that 15 months had made an impact.
“I wasn’t in long enough to realize any big changes at home, what changed was me,” he says. “When I got out of the Army, I was only 19. I went in at 17, came out 19. I was still a young kid. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
WWII veteran Ed Haynack shows photos from his time in the Army while he was in Japan.
Without the funds to go to college, Haynack went to work in an auto plant; however, he remained restless until he met his future wife while out dancing.
“There was a period of time I didn’t know what to do with myself. Fortunately, she came along and I was ready for it I guess,” he says.
The couple had two sons and Haynack went to work at a telephone company, where he retired from.
In 1978, Haynack re-married. He and his second wife, Esther, taught ballroom dance lessons at Mid Michigan College for many years before she passed away in 2013.
Haynack still loves dancing and is working on giving his wife Jean, who he married in 2016, a few lessons.
“Wouldn’t you know – with me being a retired dance instructor – Jean didn’t know one thing about dancing. So, I got my work cut out for me,” he says with a smile.
In 2016, the mayor of the city of Clare presented WWII veteran Ed Haynack with a golden key to the city, which is displayed in his living room.
Though he was discharged from the Army in 1947, Haynack continues to find ways to serve. As a member of the local Honor Guard, he helps give military funerals for veterans if the family would like one. For those funerals, as well as other formal ceremonies, we still wears his WWII uniform.
In 2016, the mayor of the city of Clare honored Haynack by presenting him with a golden key to the city, which is framed and proudly displayed in his living room.