No retreat, no surrender
James Blaine Wines Jr. lived many lives and shed many tears when he left his ranch home in rural Nevada in the 1940s.
Wines, his friends call him Blaine, graduated from Elko Nevada High School in 1941. And then the war came along.
He was starved nearly to death, weighing in at 85 pounds, when he was held captive as a prisoner of war (POW) during World War II.
“I was 18 the first time I was shelled by the Germans,” Wines, now in his 90s, recalled in his Kingsbury Grade home. “It was a great awakening. I wasn’t going to let them beat me — the Germans,” he said.
All he knew before the war was the homestead that his family settled in the 1850s in Nevada. His great-grandfather was on the Pony Express.
The worst part of his nearly six-month imprisonment was passing the German prisons coupled with his inability to let his mother know that he was alive, he said.
He learned to say goodbye to dying soldiers. He learned to make fast friends. He saw big cities for the first time and heard foreign languages as he was shuffled from place-to-place.
The torture ended as the troops walked down the middle of a dusty road waving their arms to planes overhead. Wines was going home. The Germans didn’t beat him.
He was taken to Camp Lucky Strike in Paris and then to England. He remembers seeing Gen. Eisenhower in a mess hall. He remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty.
“It was a great deal to see. There was a universal feeling on the ship as we were waiting to disembark. We were home. Everybody wanted to get to a phone,” he said.
Traveling back, the USO provided cookies, lots of cookies, he recalled and laughed.
“I drank more beer that night when I got back than I had my whole life,” he said. “Everybody was buying us beer. I couldn’t buy a beer.”
The young Army Sergeant returned to civilian life after 33 months.
Wines moved here in 1951. He married his wife Joni in 1952. She was the first woman Sheriff of Nye County, Nev. The couple built the home where they raised their six children, who all attended George Whittell High School. Joni died in 2012.
Wines still lives in the family home.
It is a home Robert Chapman, a childhood friend of Wines’ son Kevin, fondly remembers.
Chapman, now retired Naval Master Chief, R. J. Chapman, recently came back to Tahoe for his 40-year reunion bearing gifts.
Chapman donned his dress whites to honor Wines with the presentation of a POW/WWII challenge coin.
The widowed Wines gratefully accepted the coin, along with a Command Coin from the USS Rhode Island and one from the USS Tennessee.
Wines’ life has not been without trials and devastation. From 2001 to 2010 he moved to Alameda to take care of his ill daughter, Kelly, until her death. He humbly said, “You do what you have to do.”
He said his parents taught him to always “do what you think is right.” He has no regrets.
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