war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper




Charles Vulyak


Chuck, by permissionWhen American Charles Vulyak Jr (right) was growing up he would often ask his father to tell stories of his wartime experiences in and around Dover.

Corporal Vulyak sailed to Britain in `1944 with the US 127th AAA Gun Battalion, and that summer the men took their position on the White Cliffs, where they were engaged in the defence against bombardment from across the Channel.  For two months the battalion stood guard on the cliffs, where four soldiers were killed and seven were injured, before they were shipped out to France.

The 60-year-old from Illinois, known as Chuck, remembers clearly how Charles Snr used to talk about his time in Hellfire Corner. He said: "When I was a boy I would ask him of his experiences but he would not want to talk about it. But when I was older he would mention how terrible the shelling was on the cliffs. While he was on guard duty he would use high-powered military binoculars to scan the Channel and the air for enemy movement and watch for flashes of fire coming from the enemy's guns. Once he spotted the flashes, he would then alert the Battalion of incoming shells. It took the projectiles approximately  60 seconds before impacting on the cliffs. On a very clear day and a quiet night he said he could see the clock tower in Calais."

Despite the hellish conditions and the ever-present fear of being hit by enemy bombs, Charles Snr was left with treasured memories of a landscape he thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Chuck, who went on to serve in the US Air Force, said: "Considering all of the ugly faces of war around him, he told me that the White Cliffs of Dover was the most beautiful area he had ever seen in his young life. It was a very different vista compared to the sights of his small steel-mill town in Ohio. When off duty he would go and get something to eat and drink at the Red Lion pub. he mentioned that the residents were very kind and friendly to him and the rest of the GIs."

After moving on to the continent Cpl Vulyak was injured by a shell, and he spent the rest of the war in hospital in England.  

Although Charles Snr has since died, his son Chuck still keeps in touch with some of his former comrades, and wanted to pass a message from them to the people of Dover. He said: "My interest in my father's war history is very important to me because of the great courage and sacrifice shown by the battalion during dangerous and difficult times. I am happy people in Dover are keeping up the proud tradition. On behalf of my late father and his battalion, thank you, Dover, for your kindness, friendship, and understanding shown to them so long ago."

* Chuck contacted the Dover War Memorial project after finding its Virtual Memorial on the internet and has used it to help him contact surviving veterans.

This article first appeared in the Dover Express, p10, 4th September 2008
reproduced with permission

See also We Came to Serve

Chuck would love to know more about the 127th AAA Battalion in which his father served; if you have any further information, do please contact us

Copyright 2008 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved