It was humid and hot inside the courtyard of The Chateau at Harveston, so 92-year old veteran Charles J. Kundert sat in the shade and watched as the color guard from 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion presented the colors.
Kundert was visited by members of 1st Marine Raider Battalion on June 11, 2019 to honor his service as a Marine Raider during World War II.
“Mr. Kundert embodies Spiritus Invictus, meeting one of the original raiders of World War II was both an inspiration and truly an honor,” said a Marine Raider present at the event who asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns.
In preparation for the visit, Kundert laid out a display of all of his World War II memorabilia, including notebooks where he wrote his experiences every day during the war. He explained each one in detail to the 10 Marines present.
At the start of World War II, Kundert was still in high school finishing his senior year.
“We quickly realized that we were very vulnerable. On the west coast we had nothing. It didn’t look very good,” said Kundert.
A Temecula, California resident, Kundert enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1942 at only 17 years old.
“I went to boot camp in San Diego, infantry training at Camp Elliot and on July 1, 1943 I set sail for the South Pacific.”
While going through infantry training, Kundert volunteered to become a part of the newly founded Marine Raiders. The Marine Raiders were established during World War II to conduct raids behind enemy lines in light amphibious craft. They are often considered to be the first United States “special forces” of the war.
Kundert served honorably in World War II with 3rd Marine Raider Battalion. He reminisced on major events of World War II he was a part of.
“Bougainville was nasty, dirty, wet. It rained all the time and we were living in a swamp which makes it very uncomfortable. “
Alison Jordan, his daughter, and Anaya, his great-granddaughter watched along proudly as he talked passionately about his time to fellow Marines.
“He was very excited about this meeting,” Jordan said. “When he ended his enlistment they disbanded, The Raiders were no more. I think that always bothered him a little bit. When they brought The Raiders back he was excited about that. He was very excited to be able to share his stories and the memorabilia with the new Raiders. He was really looking forward to this.”
In 1944, the Marine Raiders was disbanded. Men who previously served in Raider units went on to serve with distinction from 1944 to 1945. In 2006, the activation of United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) paid homage to the Marine Raiders by incorporating the Marine Raiders famous knife, the Marine Raider Stiletto, in their detachment’s insignia.
In 2014, MARSOC announced that all units within MARSOC would undergo a name change. This changed Marine Special Operations Battalion to Marine Raider Battalion. Thus reviving the Marine Raider legacy.
“Meeting any military member of the greatest generation is an experience in itself, meeting a Raider hits just a little bit harder knowing he’s one of us,” said another Marine Raider present at the event who asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns.
Kundert waited over 30 years before he began reaching out to those who served alongside him and telling his stories.
“Not until probably 30 or 40 years later did he reconnect with them. He closed that chapter and moved on. It wasn’t until much later that he started being interested again,” said Jordan.
Now, Kundert is extremely proud of his service. His photo hangs on a wall in the lobby of his retirement home alongside all the veterans who reside there with him.
“There’s only one branch,” Kundert said. “United States Marine Corps.”